What's Your Money Issue: Low Income or Overspending?

Single Mom Money
by Single Mom Money

Welcome to Single Mom Money. This is your place for building wealth, dodging debt, and learning everyday practical money tips for single parents. This money issue is something near and dear to my heart. It’s about whether you have an income issue or a spending habit issue.

What's your money issue?

One thing that sparked my interest in this was Tiffany the Budgenista’s Instagram. She put up a post saying, “Hey guys. There's this huge elephant in the room that we aren’t discussing,” and I was like, “Yes! This is what I’m talking about.”

The elephant in the room is that, at the core, the issue for a lot of people is low income.

How do you figure out what your money issue really is? Where do you lie on that spectrum of 1) I don’t have enough money and 2) I'm spending recklessly and have to get myself on track?

Tracking receipts

1. Trust your gut

First things first, the number one thing I suggest you do is to trust your gut. Listen to your intuition. Do you know that you already get paid a decent salary and have a lot of things you can cut from your budget?

If so, it’s likely you should shift to controlling your spending more. On the flip side, if you feel like you're living bare bones and don’t know what else you can cut, that is indicative of an income issue. 

We kind of have an idea about where we land on the spectrum already, for the most part. It’s still worth looking into and figuring out for sure if it’s really your income or if you are just spending poorly. But, we for the most part have intuition about where we land.

2. Look at other people's budgets

The other thing I would highly suggest is to look at other people’s budgets. You can do this on Youtube.

This will help you gauge what people are spending and not spending on and what their costs for internet, cell phone, car payments, and things like that look like compared to your own. That will give you a good gauge of whether you are meeting the mark or missing the mark.

Finding the fluff in your spending

3. Find the fluff

Next, I want to do something called to find the fluff. It’s a little exercise you can do quickly on a sheet of paper. Grab it right now and list out your expenses.

What this exercise does is really help you literally highlight the fluff or the extra things, you have in your budget that you could possibly do away with.

Once you finish your list, get a highlighter and cross out anything that, if you lost your job today, you would not need. These are things that are not absolutely necessary; the “nice-to-haves.”

My recommendation is that, if you find you have more than ten fluff items, it's very likely you probably have a spending issue.

4. Look up household budget percentages

The third thing I suggest is to look at some household budget percentages. You can Google it and come up with a list or chart that gives you ranges on what you should be spending on your house or vehicles.

Say you make $3,000 net pay a month. Based on these percentages, you should spend about 25% of 35% on housing. So, if your rent or mortgage is more than about $1,000, you are probably overspending on housing.

These household percentages give you a good range to figure out where you fall on the spectrum.

Monthly household budget

Low income vs overspending

When I first became a single mom, I thought: cut costs, control spending, don’t move... everything costs money, so just stay in your house. That was not the quality of life I wanted. 

There is this rhetoric that you hear constantly about cutting costs, but what does that do for a person like me, who at the time was making $12 an hour?

There’s something to be said for budgeting and cutting costs and it’s a great idea. There is also something else that has to be addressed for a lot of single parents, women, and people of marginalized groups.

Historically, we are a group that has not been paid well. We historically get paid lower than our counterpoints. We typically have lower wages and undervalued jobs without perks like working from home or paid time off. 

That’s why Single Mom Money is here. Because we are contending with those sorts of things while trying to live and have a good life.

Figuring out your money issue

Now that we addressed the elephant in the room, you have the information you need to figure out for yourself what your underlying issue is if you are struggling financially, you don’t know why you can’t make ends meet, and you are over-drafting your account.

This will give you an idea of where you are so you know where you can go next. You can start laying the groundwork to get where you need to be in the future.

What do you think is your money issue? What can you do to help yourself solve it? Drop a comment and let us know. 

Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Robin L. Brodkin Robin L. Brodkin on Jun 28, 2023

    My money issue is low income and how to save for emergencies. Because I am single and just have my cat's, I basically have my monthly bills, and am working on cutting out my store credit cards so I only have my debit card and my bank credit card.

    But I really want to work on saving too. That and eating better. And it's not easy.

  • BonDiva BonDiva on Jan 05, 2024

    YOU HAVE NOT REALLY BEEN LOW INCOME UNLESS YOU ARE AT LEAST 200% below the poverty line and lower. There is no fat to trim, you have to cut muscles again and again all of the time. Jus saying.