Working as a single parent can be a trying experience, so you want to make sure that your finances are as streamlined as possible. When unexpected emergencies pop up, your schedule, finances, and life are thrown for a loop. Take a look at these tips to help you strategize your budget as a single parent.

#1. Make a Roadmap

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Whether you’re co-parenting or raising your child alone, make sure you have a roadmap for your new life — both for your schedule and your budget. This will allow you to be conscious of the ins and outs of your finances and help you plan accordingly.

Getting prepared and organized will also help you discover areas of opportunity where you could pay off debt faster.

#2. Create an Emergency Fund

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As a single parent, it’s absolutely imperative to have an emergency fund ready for when something unexpected happens. The rule of thumb is to have at least three months’ worth of expenses saved up, but the more you have in your fund, the better.

#3. Find the Balance Between Budgeting and Having Fun

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Just because you’re living as a single parent on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to expel extra spending that you could use to have fun with your child. In fact, you should be analyzing your budget to add that to your spending. Work a set amount of money in your budget for fun and get creative. Plan around sales and large discounts and think of out-of-the-box ideas, such as enjoying a picnic in the park, having a pizza night at home, or exploring a free museum.

#4. Study Your Financial Documents

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You’d be surprised at how much extra spending is wasted on things like utility bills, phone bills, cable, and internet. Take a look at your monthly utility bills, appliance plans, and other home-related costs and see where you could be saving money. This could be decreasing your data plan on your phone, getting rid of your cable and using television apps like Netflix and Hulu, or even decreasing your internet speed slightly. These tiny tweaks could save you hundreds every year.

#5. Explore Tax Breaks

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As a single parent, you’re eligible for several tax breaks that you may be unaware of. If your income is less than $75,000 a year, you could earn up to $1,000 in tax credit for each child. If you have children in college, you may be eligible for higher education tax credits and tuition deductions.

#6. Discover a New Career

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If you’re a newly single parent, there may be a learning curve in trying to take care of your family with one funnel of income. If you want to discover ways to make more money to provide for your family, consider if now is the time to explore new career paths. Could you take advantage of an expedited technical college to find a new career? Consider speaking to a life coach or a career advisor about different avenues you could take.

#7. Use Your Support System

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Know that you’re not alone in taking care of your child. It’s OK to reach out for help when you need it. Independence is what we all strive for, but in order to take care of your child, you’ll want to use all avenues possible, and that includes your support system.

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