As a mom of two, I know just how difficult it is to keep on track and stay within the budget. But as a single mom, I can imagine it’s even harder. Having one income and multiple people to care for means you must spend every dollar carefully. It’s all about being a mom on a budget!
While I encounter plenty of real people’s budgets, some of my favorite budgets to see are ones that come from single moms. Everything in their life revolves around their kids, and I see that present even in their budget. They want to make sure that every penny possible goes towards making their child’s life better and as fun as possible.
Creating a single-mom budget isn’t your typical budgeting case. There are a lot more expenses that need to come into consideration when there’s a child in the picture. And you need to get much more creative in allocating your funds when there’s only one income to rely on.
This is why I want to help as many single moms as possible with their budgeting skills so they, too, can get ahead of the financial game.
While I say “single moms,” just know that this information applies to all the single parents and guardians out there. These tips and budgeting plans are designed for anyone with a single income who takes care of one or more children.
Tips for a mom on a budget
Before you sit down and craft your single mom budget, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. These tips will help ensure you allocate funds properly and get the most out of your income as a single parent.
1. Get out of debt
I’m putting this one first because it’s that important. I don’t have to tell you how scary it is to be in debt. Of course, there are different types of debt. Mortgages and cars typically have lower interest rates whereas credit cards are considered high-interest debt. I’d love for single moms to focus on getting rid of their high-interest debt.
It’s expensive to have debt! Interest from debt accumulates fast, making your debt payments way higher than they were, to begin with. The faster you get rid of debt, the more you save. Then, the funds you normally use to pay off debt could go elsewhere, like your retirement fund or child’s education.
2. Save an emergency fund
Emergency funds are even more important for parents. Doubly so for single parents! If you were to lose your source of income, there would be no other parent to rely on for support. So, you need to have a good chunk of cash saved for these just-in-case moments.
At the bare minimum, you must have at least three months of total household expenses. This is something you should be working towards at the same time as paying off debt. Ideally, you want to get that number to six months worth of expenses, but three is a good starting point.
3. Utilize sinking funds
As a part of your budget, I recommend contributing to sinking funds. Sinking funds are easily accessible savings accounts where you store money you’ll be using in the nearish future. Normally sinking funds are meant for things like car repairs or vacations.
As a parent, you can use these sinking funds to account for things like Christmas presents, back-to-school shopping, family vacations, and unexpected school activities and trips. The idea is that you contribute a little bit each month to the sinking fund so that the money is there when you need it.
Unlike an emergency fund, it’s meant to be used regularly! Sinking funds are great for everyone – not just a mom on a budget.
4. Look for free entertainment
When you’re a mom on a budget, one of the first things to go is entertainment. While you may not be able to have a bunch of money to spend at theme parks, aquariums, or zoos, you can still have plenty of fun while being on a budget.
Check out this list of low-budget activities that you can do to keep you and your kids busy on weekends and weeknights! Also, consider enrolling your kids in low-income activities like Scouts, Boys & Girls Club, and community sports.
5. Write down your bills
As a busy mom myself, I know how easy it is to miss important dates if you don’t write them down. So, I like to keep a calendar just to keep track of bill payments. Write down when each bill is due so you never miss a payment (this can affect your credit score).
If possible, automate the bill payments for as many as possible. This will save you time and stress over missing payments.
6. Save for the future
It’s easy to only think about the present when you’re only dealing with one income, but it’s essential to always put some money towards savings, even if it’s just $20 a month. Once you’ve paid off high-interest debt and have an emergency fund, you can begin to save.
Think about long-term goals for both you and your child(ren). Likely, this will include their education and your retirement.
If possible, automate savings. This is where your bank automatically takes a predetermined amount from your checking account and moves it to savings. It’s an easy way to save a minimum every month.
With long-term savings, it’s a good idea to invest! The earlier you begin investing, the better. Your investments build over time as the money accrues.
7. Find additional income
It’s insanely difficult having multiple people live on one income. If you find you’re just not earning what you like, there are many different ways you can get income.
First, you should be looking for passive income. This is income you earn even while you sleep!
Then you can consider getting a second job or side hustle. These are things you can do in your spare time when you’re not doing full-time work or being a mother.
Another option you should 100% look into is tax credits. Take advantage of everything you can as a single parent with dependents.
Creating a budget that works for you
Now it’s time to roll up those sleeves and create the budget. Here’s exactly how to be a mom on a budget!
1. List income
This first part is the best part – list all sources of income that you have (post taxes). Each source of income should be its own line on your budget. This should include money from:
- Working full-time
- Side hustles
- Child support
- Any government funding
2. List expenses
This is the not-so-fun part. You will list all the categories of your expenses and how much you spend on them each month. Remember, this is for you and your child(ren). It’s important to prioritize your spending to the most important categories.
You’ll need to consider your child’s priorities too. Maybe they don’t need to be a part of the hot lunch program at school, but they can still participate in the field trips.
Below are some of the expenses you should consider when creating your budget:
- Insurance (health, life, rental, homeowners, car, etc.)
- Utilities (water, electricity, internet, home phone, etc.)
- Cell phone
- Subscription services (Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.)
- Eating out (lunch money)
- Childcare (daycare, babysitting)
- School supplies/Activities
- Extracurricular activities
Savings and debt
- Sinking fund
- Emergency fund
- Long-term goals
- Student loans
- Credit card (list each one)
- Car payments
- Medical bills
3. Cut expenses
When you’re first getting started, it takes a little bit of playing around to get all the numbers right. You either want to ensure your expenses are equal to your income or slightly less. If you have slightly fewer expenses than your income, you can leave it as is for buffer room and push any leftover money towards debt or savings.
In reality, there’s so much you can cut down on (especially as a single mom on a budget). Usually, this begins with areas like eating out, entertainment, and subscription services. But you can also try to change your other major payments by doing things like negotiating your bills.
When you’re paying off debt, it’s important to live frugally. Remember that debt is only temporary, and once it’s cleared, there will be more cash flow.
However, if you continue to live below your means, you avoid lifestyle creep. No matter your income, you should continue to budget so your money gets spent in all the right places.
Final thoughts on single-mom budgeting
Now you’re ready to be a mom on a budget and create your own single-mom budget. The first one is the hardest to do, and then it only gets easier over time!