Having enough money, even as a single person with no kids, is hard enough as it is in this economy. But when you’re the single parent of a child – or perhaps even more – that becomes an incredible challenge, one that many single parents find difficult to overcome. And as inflation soars along with the cost of living, the issue can only become more challenging.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a little nest egg saved up at least. As the saying goes, make your money work for you, if you can spare it. To help you make that dollar, we’ve prepared some financial planning tips that single parents can utilize to maximize their incomes.
1. Create a budget
This is an important step for anyone, regardless of income and parental status, honestly. Knowing how much money you have, as well as how much money you can afford to spend, is paramount to keeping your income levels and savings stable.
Every month, you should try your level best to understand what expenses you have to worry about. Of course, you should first know your regular monthly expenses – water, heat, electricity, rent, cable, phone, Internet, etc. – the things that are generally unchanging. After you’ve verified the known expenses, you should then figure out what kind of buffer you need to get by.
We can’t anticipate every potential expense, especially with inflation issues and gas prices being so unstable. Not only that, but you need to account for the possibility that your stuff is going to break down at the most inopportune moment. For example, if your car breaks down, you not only have to spend money on it, but you are also out of a ride. Thus, if you’re not accounting for that, such expenses will ultimately need to take from your prior financial obligations.
2. Check out relevant tax benefits
Depending on where you live in the United States, you may be able to receive certain benefits that are meant to be enjoyed by single parents. While child tax credits on a federal level are no longer available, there are some states that still offer them.
3. Get food and income assistance
No matter how much you might think that you’re “better” than receiving such assistance, but I’m gonna be real – you’re not. And that’s not meant to disparage you, but rather, to attack the notion that people who receive these things are not lazy; in fact, people who receive welfare and are of working age have a job.
Not only is it important for you to get these services for your own sake, but your child’s sake as well. Food insecurity for children is a serious concern in the United States, with more than 10 million children suffering from food insecurity. We don’t want our kids to have to be one of those millions.
4. Look into treatment for mental health issues
All too often, people who are suffering from anxiety, depression, and other such issues are reluctant to seek treatment. This is due to an all-too-common stigma surrounding these things, with some people even arguing that these things do not exist, despite all evidence to the contrary, but you can’t let that keep you from working on yourself.
One of the first things you should do is look into getting therapy. Being a single mother comes with a lot of struggles, and a therapist can do a world of good to help you manage to get through your struggles. Now, granted, therapy is not necessarily the easiest or cheapest thing to be able to do, but with financial assistance, as well as virtual therapy sessions, these issues are mostly mitigated.
However, for many people, therapy is not enough to handle their issues. After all, depression and anxiety are often exacerbated due to chemical imbalances, and in that case, the best treatment may be prescription-based. There are different prescription options for anxiety, like Lexapro, Celexa, and Prozac. Meanwhile, xanax is a common prescription medication for depression.
While there are several mainstream treatments, you may also elect to use alternative medication. A lot of people report improvements after using these types of medications, though, as with all other medications, there are potential side effects that you need to take into account. For instance, people using CBD medications may report increased fatigue and drowsiness.
5. Categorize “want” and “need”
Now, let me be entirely clear – I’m not about to advocate that you never indulge in a want. While food and shelter are obviously the most important things to have, single parent or otherwise, it is nevertheless true that entertainment and personal fulfillment go a long way to helping you get through hard times. And yet, you still need to moderate how much money you put towards your wants.
For me, when money is especially tight, I try to limit my leisure expenses to 10 percent of what I have leftover after expenses in a month. So let’s say I make $3000 in a month, and my rent and other necessary expenses amount to another $1000 (not accounting for food and financial assistance I receive from the government). Thus, with my leftover $1000, I try to limit myself to $100 in leisure spending and put the rest away.
That $900 a month goes a long way to saving up, as every year, I’m saving approximately $10,000 per year. Now, this won’t all stay in savings, as when emergency expenses occur, I can rely on my savings to keep us out of danger. Granted, the goal of this fund is to make sure my kid has a stable, happy childhood, and ultimately, will be able to enter adulthood without having to struggle.
6. Be thrifty
One of the best ways to save money is to look for ways to save on your expenses as much as possible. Take advantage of every deal, wait for sales, buy generic when possible (though not all generic food is going to be worth it considering the taste). You don’t have to be as cheap as possible, but it’s nevertheless beneficial to save where possible and reasonable.