How To Make Ends Meet as a Single Parent: Financial Tips & Resources
Life as a single parent is no walk in the park. From financial planning, to child care arrangements, to day-to-day activities such as cooking and cleaning, raising a child on your own can be overwhelming under even the best of circumstances.
There are tips and tricks that can help single parents thrive in what can sometimes be a difficult situation, however. Below, we cover budgeting, financial goals, and self-care resources that can help parents better navigate raising children on their own.
Table of Contents
- 1 Build Your Single Parent Budget
- 2 Set Financial and Personal Goals
- 3 Plan for the Future
- 4 Get Help: Financial, Social, and Self-Care Resources for Single Parents
Build Your Single Parent Budget
Budgeting is an important part of any family’s financial health. Children can have an enormous impact on your finances, and that’s doubly true for single parents. But setting up a budget can be a daunting task if you’ve never created, or successfully stuck to a budget before.
Get a Handle on Debt
The first step to getting a handle on your own personal budget is to work on minimizing your debt. Debts vary from family to family, but can include anything from student loans, accounts that have gone into collections, home mortgages, car payments, credit card debt, or medical debt. Take stock of debts that you have and work on paying them off.
If you find that your debts are overwhelming, don’t panic. Most creditors are willing to work with individuals who are unable to make payments. In the case of student loans, there are multiple repayment options that you can choose from. For any other debts you may have, you’ll simply have to ask your creditor if there are options to defer payments for a brief period of time, or if you have any other options. You might find that many are willing to work with you
Monitor and Maximize Your Income
You’ll also want to keep track of your monthly income and allocate enough resources to cover necessities, including rent, utilities, cell phone bills, food, any childcare related costs you may have, as well as any other regular payments you might have.
From there, any leftover money can go towards savings, leisure activities, and working to pay off debts more quickly.
Part of the budgeting process is learning how to think about your purchases. Is this a necessity? Or something I simply want? Is this something I need to save for? Or will purchasing this help me save money in the long term?
Once you begin to frame your purchases in this way, you’ll learn how to avoid overspending and be able to successfully stick to your budget.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit
Since the 1970s, there’s been growing evidence to support the conjecture that credit cards encourage spending. In fact, one MIT study suggests that in some cases, people are willing to spend 83 percent more than people who use cash.
If you find that you’re far more likely to spend money on impulsive purchases, it may be best to leave your credit card at home. However, in many cases, it’s a good idea to leave those cards open in order to have a positive impact on your credit.
Set Financial and Personal Goals
Once you have your budget completed, you can begin to look to the future and help set your financial and personal goals. In order to do so, single parents would do well to set up both short and long term financial goals for their families.
Long-term goals as a single parent can vary, but many single parents prioritize the following in relation to their financial goals:
- Saving for your children’s college fund
- Saving for retirement
- Increasing your credit score
- Helping build financial literacy for your children
- Saving for a house or car
Similarly, short-term goals vary depending on your family size and dynamic, but as a single parent, you might choose to focus on the following:
- Paying off debts
- Reduce your credit card balance
- Increase your income
- Change careers
- Work towards a better work-life balance
Plan for the Future
When you find that your finances are in order, and are working towards meeting your fiscal goals, you’ll be able to focus on larger life events. Those goals can be related to your financial well-being, but can also relate to your life overall.
Once your basic needs are met, you’re more easily able to focus on other aspects of your life. For many single parents, once becoming fiscally solvent and ensuring your children have a good future, they choose to instead focus on their social, and emotional needs. This can include dating, meeting new people, volunteering, attending church and other social gatherings, among a plethora of other things.
Get Help: Financial, Social, and Self-Care Resources for Single Parents
For many single-parent families, finances are a huge concern. Luckily, there are resources available to most single-parent homes that have the potential to make a significant impact in making their day-to-day life more affordable.
Single parents can access support in a number of ways, but those tend to vary depending on the state that you live in. Most states do have a number of resources available to aid single mothers, fathers, and other caretakers in order to help them thrive financially, provide affordable child care, and find housing that is within their budget, just to name a few.
Accessing Affordable Child Care
If you’re struggling to afford child care, you may be able to find state sponsored assistance, depending on the state you reside in.
These programs help eligible participants pay for child care while working or attending school. In most states, the program pays for a portion of the child care costs, while you co-pay for a portion based on the size of your family and the amount you make from your current position.
Most states have their own eligibility guidelines, but in many cases, you’ll be eligible if you meet the following criteria:
- You need childcare to have gainful employment, attend school, or receive training
- You meet income requirements
- Your child is under the age of 13 years old
- Your child has a special need and is under the age of 19
Should you meet those requirements, you may be eligible for government assistance on a sliding scale basis.
Searching for gainful employment is difficult no matter who you are, but for single parents, the job search can be especially daunting. When it comes to single parenting, there are two very important factors to consider: flexibility and pay. Those elements vary on a company by company basis, but there are certain industries that typically allow single parents to thrive.
“The most flexible professions include sales, public relations, healthcare and real estate,” writes Forbes contributor Tara Weiss. “As an added bonus, employees who work in those fields have the potential to make decent salaries. Education is also on the list. Although the hours are set, they’re likely to be the same as their school-age children’s.”
Weiss adds later that not all companies are ideal for single parents, however. When job searching, look for family friendly indicators, such as flextime, job sharing, on-site child care, or the ability to work from home.
Single parents might also look for opportunities in the gig economy. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, etc. offer competitive pay and flexible hours that might be ideal for single parents.
Dating as a Single Parent
Dating is complicated even under the best of circumstances. For single parents, especially, casual dating can be a difficult endeavor. But these complications don’t need to prevent you from dating entirely.
If you’re considering starting dating again as a single parent, ensure that your potential partner is aware of your status, that your child feels secure, and that you have a reliable network of people in your corner who can help you with childcare while you explore this new phase of your life.
Since each family has their own unique dynamic, there isn’t a one size fits all solution to dating as a single parent. However, it’s universally important to be sensitive to your children’s needs throughout your dating experience, to be honest with both your child and your partner, and if necessary, solicit the help of a trained counselor or therapist to help you throughout the process.
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This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published June 29, 2018.