How to Budget as a Single Parent: 10 Money-Saving Tips
One of the hardest things to deal with as a single parent is managing finances. I have been a single parent for about seven or eight years now, and I have picked up lots of tricks on how to budget as a single parent.
Today I want to share my nine budget tips for single parents, but keep in mind that saving money will take some time.
1. Set yourself a financial goal.
Whether it is a family holiday, a better car, or a house, a financial goal is your main motivation in order to save and make money, as a single parent and in general. It will keep you accountable for your actions and help you focus on your progress.
2. Know your money
Have a budget, even if it is handwritten on a piece of paper. You need to know how much is coming in every month and how much you are spending. This will help you plan and manage your finances.
The best way to do your budget is using a financial month rather than a standard calendar month. For me, since I know that I always get paid on the 25th, my financial month is from the 25th of one month up until the 24th of the next. Using the day you receive the money as the starting point helps you see clearly how you are spending it.
3. Shop around for your bills
If you know exactly how much you need to spend each month and know that you can cut that amount, you get a better grip on your finances. One thing that I find really helpful with my bills is to make sure they come out within the first week of my pay.
Since I have a regular payment date, which is the 25th, I get all my bills to come out within the first week of my financial month, so I know that that money is already accounted for and sorted. This means that all that is left for me to pay for throughout the month is gas and food.
4. Create a sinking fund
Have a pot of money for birthdays, Christmas, school uniforms, school trips, and any other things like car repairs. To do that, work out how much you would spend on these things in a year, and then either divide it by twelve and put aside a set amount each month, or put aside the entire sum at the beginning of the year if you are ready.
5. Budget for holidays
Plan your Christmas and birthday expenses. It is so easy to get tied up in Christmas offers and with just a dollar or two at a time end up spending a fortune. Decide in advance what your budget is for decorations and for gifts for each child, and stick to that.
I also found it helpful to actually discuss that with my son. He is now twelve, and we can actually have some of those financial conversations that teach him to be savvier about money.
6. Know your entitlement
Make sure you know your rights as a single parent. If in your country single parents receive financial aid, and if you receive child maintenance, this might give you a bit of spare money even if you are working, so you can have a bit more space to treat yourself and your child sometimes.
7. Avoid phone contracts/devices
The best thing to do here is to get rolling monthly contracts, which give you more freedom. Avoiding contracts means paying less for the phone in the first place because of interest, and you can shop around for deals as well and switch to another provider if you want.
Also, when you get a new phone, I highly recommend getting one second-hand. Many people upgrade their phones every two or three years and sell them in really good condition.
Most importantly, for phones, as well as other devices, If you can try and purchase in one go, it is much better financially than committing to a monthly payment, so save before you buy.
8. Clear your debt
This should definitely be your priority, as debt is a huge financial worry. Try to pay your higher-interest debts first, this will put you in a better financial position. Focusing on clearing your debt may require sacrifices for the shorter term, but the longer-term impact is so worth it.
9. Open a Help to Save account (UK only)
If you're on benefits in the UK, you can apply for a Help to Save account. This is a special kind of savings account where for every £50 you put in, you get a 50% bonus.
You have to commit to saving a maximum of £50 per month for two years or four years, then you will get a 50% return on your savings. You must keep the money in the account to get the maximum bonus.
10. Meal plan
Meal planning is such an easy way to save money. If you can know exactly what you are eating, you will be less likely to buy extra treats or waste food. I do recommend setting days when you make something simpler and are more flexible, for my family that is Monday pizza night.
How to budget as a single parent
I hope these single-parent money-saving tips will help you gain some financial control. If you have any advice of your own on how to save money as a single parent, feel very free to leave them in the comments!
I've just been reading about the help to save. I'm I understanding correctly that you have to be on benefits and working?
My credit union has a "Pay Up" for savings. What happens is this: if I purchase or pay something with my debit card for $10.29, that payment is rounded up to $11.00 and the difference is posted to my savings account. I don't know if this is available anywhere except my credit union but it can be done without the bank's involvement just by rounding up all your transactions and depositing the difference in a savings account. I also use coupons when I grocery shop as well as Ibotta phone app. Those savings also go into my savings account - I simply transfer the amount on a regular basis - for me it is once a month.