Real Life Budgeting for Single Moms
You can be a wealthy single mama in so many ways! Every single mom can create and stick to an effective budget. That includes YOU, lady! In all things, failure to plan is planning to fail. So, here are suggestions and tips to set a realistic, complete and effective budget for yourself as a newly single mom. Learn how to make your life affordable and how to discipline yourself to succeed financially as a single mom!
Here is what you need to know:
Budgets must be inclusive- and that includes budgeting for fun and frivolity! Real life matters- and to have a GOOD life, you must have a budget for having fun, looking after yourself AND creating fun and priceless childhood memories for your kids. It doesn’t have to be a big budget- but just taking them out for a family treat or activity once a month or so really matters. You must save every pay as much as you can for a “rainy day”. Or a Disney Vacation. Or a house downpayment.
It does not matter what you choose to save for, as long as it matters and has meaning for YOU. Additionally, it is very empowering to build your savings. Think you have more month than money? Think again, Mom! Your money life must be FUN and you must discipline yourself today to live your dreams tomorrow! The most effective budgets are well rounded and inclusive. Now, here is how you get started:
Write down what you spend and where
Start where you are- be honest.
Start by taking a look at your bank and credit card account statements for the last few months. See where you have been spending money. Although it is tempting- do NOT beat yourself up! Group your spending into categories. Then add each category up. The point here is not to judge yourself, but to become conscious of what your real spending needs are. For the next month, every time you spend cash get a receipt and put it in your purse. Once a week, enter the receipts in each category.
Account for the little things in life.
You and the kids need haircuts. Have you considered dentist visits? With all the little things in mind, do not forget about birthday parties and holiday presents. Next, how about your spending on sports and hobbies? In addition, back to school items and clothes for your growing kids. Consider any babysitting or daycare fees. Do you have to dryclean clothing for your work? How often do you pay for insurance for your home or vehicle? Also, be sure to think about things you pay quarterly or annually, like union or professional fees, church and charity donations. Keep in mind, the more time you invest figuring out where you money REALLY goes, the easier it will be to understand where you can stop the bleeding to get to your goals!
Think like a banker!
It is time to note where you make bank! Effective budgets note both incoming funds and outgoing expenses. Now that you have noted all your spending, begin to think about your income. Write down every source of regular income. For example:
- Your regular pay from work. Do not note down bonuses if you receive them. They are called a BONUS for a reason! That is gravy money!
- Any government benefits you receive.
- Any spousal or child support you receive. Unless you have a bum like my ex who doesn’t pay anything, and who hides his income.
Figure out where you CAN save!
OK, It is time to get serious here Madam! Because I have been “guilty” too, I understand because I am a single mom of two who has never received child support. It is so easy to get busy and grab takeout or grab a quick starbucks for an afternoon pick me up. This makes the effective budget you created as a single mom about as useful as toilet paper. Make a commitment to start making food and coffee at home. Aim for 90% of the time.
Remember how I said you need a fun budget? Around my house we have “Free Fun Fridays”. They can have takeout every other week, and grocery store “junk food” the next. I’m a bit of a stickler about kids eating well especially while growing. You would be surprised how my kids get excited about having cereal, cookies and potato chips and dips for dinner. I never buy these things!
At the store, I buy fruit, vegetable, dairy, eggs and meat. Cheerios are a big deal around here! I go to starbucks once a month when Aunt Flo comes to visit! 😉 Moms need treats too! Meal planning saves you money and helps you and your kids eat much healthier! Just do it! We do Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Sheet Pan/Casserole Wednesday, Crock pot/IP Thursday, Free FUN Friday, Leftover Saturday and Sunday Dinner. On Sunday, I will go “all out” and roast something in the oven and make desert.
I also make soup in my instant pot on Sunday to use up fading vegetables, so there is always soup in the fridge to grab for a quick lunch or snack. We tend to eat leftovers for our lunches. Breakfasts are usually leftovers, yogurt with fruit and granola, or toast with nut butter, egg, cheese or avocado. I make “fancy breakfast” on Saturday. This means pancakes, waffles or french toast with bacon or sausage. Again I cook extra while I am at it, so there is some in the fridge or freezer for during the week. When I am making casseroles, I always make 2, and put one in the freezer. I save time in the kitchen wherever I can, and make sure there is always something easy to heat and serve in a hurry for those crazy nights.
Take out is verbotten more than a few times a month at our house. I also meal plan and clean the fridge out on Sunday, and try to grocery shop on Wednesday. Around here sales start on Wednesdays, and if I hit the store early in the morning, I am in and out in a flash. The store is pretty much empty.
I include in our budget money to do a fun family activity every 3-4 weeks. There are a lot of fun free things to do with kids. But, sometimes it is nice to go to a movie, or visit the zoo. Of course, I save every where I can. If I see coupons, I use them. Any thing we don’t spend in our fun budget rolls over until the next month. I also put aside money every month for birthdays and holidays. OK, maybe its “crazy” to put aside money in January for NEXT Christmas. But I never go into debt for the holidays, and despite being kids of a single mother, there is always lots of goodies under the tree for them and enough holiday food to feed a small army!
Next, make time to plan your trips to the store. Think about what you need around the house. Maybe you need laundry soap, lightbulbs, toothpaste etc. Make a list. Buy ONLY what is on your list. The only exception to my “only what is on the list rule” is IF and only IF I see a wicked awesome sale on some consumable item that I KNOW my family uses regularly. Like pasta, cat food or toilet paper. Then I buy multiples and keep them in my “stores”. This is a bookshelf tucked away in my unfinished basement, but it used to be in a closet at my old home.
When I see consumables my family uses regularly on sale, I buy them. I try to have 3 of each item, when I am down to one left on the shelf start watching for another sale. In this way, I know if I have a financial disaster of some kind (loss of job, car transmission falls out etc) I know I can still feed my family well for a good few months while buying very little fresh food at the store.
I also have a small family garden and grow salad greens indoors in winter. This saves me quite a bit during summer and fall on groceries, and a freeze and can as much as possible. Homegrown food ALWAYS tastes so much better. If the kids pick the seeds and plant them, you would be AMAZED how much more vegetable they will eat!
Utility bills and insurance are huge here! First, shop around! For example, for our high speed internet plan, we do not use the “big three” providers in Canada. We have unlimited data with Teksavvy, and the bill comes to less than $60 a month, tax in! AND our line is provided by Videotron/Rogers. If I went directly with Videotron, for the same service, it would cost me nearly three TIMES as much every month!
Compare your insurance quote every year. See if you can save by bundling your auto and home or renters insurance. Just make sure you ALWAYS have insurance. If it expires on you, not only can you be breaking the law, your rates go up if you have been uninsured.
Around back to school and the Christmas holidays every year, cell phone companies offer deals to attract customers. Call your provider and ask for the deal, and change services if they won’t serve you. While you are at it, do you really USE what you are paying for on your cable tv and cell phone plan? Do you need all those channels and data? Consider, do you really NEED netflix, apple tv AND cable? Remember, a little pain now for a LOT of gain later.
Next, when you are on a budget it really helps to have the same monthly payment for your household utilities. Call your hydro and water company for example. Ask them to put you on a monthly billing plan. While you are at it, save money as much as you can with heating and cooling your home. For most people, that is where they spend the most money on utilities. Turn down the heat, put on a sweater.
In summer, close the curtains with the sun is blazing, open your windows during the cool nights. Try to turn on your air conditioning only when you really need to to make the house comfortable. Where we live in Quebec, Canada- most years, with proper management of curtains, windows and fans I only need to run our air conditioner about 3 weeks of the year during the heat of summer when the nights are hot and humid.
Saving Every Pay
Now the FUN part of your single mom budget! With luck, you have created a budget and lowered expenses. Ideally, you now have found some money to save for a rainy day! Or a vacation! Or a new (to you) car. BTW, I never buy new cars, as far as I am concerned they are a waste of money. I also never finance vehicles. Cash only!
The point is, even on a modest income, you should have enough to save a little every month for things that matter. If you have cut your expenses as much as comfortable for you and you still don’t have money at the end of the month then you need more income. Consider a side hustle (babysitting neighbourhood kids after school, maybe a second job when you little one is with your ex? Figure it out Mom!).
Helpful Ideas to Help You Stick to Your Budget
This is where you take the categories you made when planning your realistic single mom budget, and put the cash you need for each category for each month in an envelope. I pay most of my bills online. I live in the boonies, so most of my gift and clothing shopping is online as well. Of course, for the baby I use the thrift shop as much as possible. I clothing shop every spring and fall, and will buy each girl and new outfit or two at the holidays and birthday. Its all in the budget! There is a much better selection online than in these parts. Because I am building my credit, I use my credit card ONLY at the gas station. I put the receipt in my purse, and pay it off without fail when I pay my bills every other week on Thursdays.
My gas budget, for my small car and the little driving I do, is $40 every two weeks. So I use a modified envelope system. My budget for food, including Fun Free Friday, pet food and personal care products is $150 a week. I go to the bank once a week, take out that amount and ONLY that amount. Once I spend it, thats all there is! You discipline your kids (I hope!), model self discipline by sticking to your budget!
I bank with Tangerine. Free banking, woo hoo! The benefit is that they have budgeting tools and automatic savings programs. I also can open up as many free savings accounts as I like. So I have labeled them with my budget categories. Their automatic savings programs are the bomb! Each pay, I transfer from my chequing account the amount determined by my budget to each account. Instead of envelopes, it is online accounts. I spend ONLY what is in each account what its intended purpose is. No robbing Peter to pay Paul by moving money from one account to another to buy something you did not budget for or over spent on. Any “extra” in an account at the end of a week, month or quarter (as applicable for the category) I move into my long terms savings/rainy day account. Any “bonus” money from work, selling used items, or income tax returns goes smack into that rainy day account.
I will say it again. Make lists of items you need to purchase. COMPLETE lists. Buy only what is on your list! Shop around, use coupons! Save wherever you can!
With absolute certainty, Mom you MUST reward yourself! Your single mom budget will not be effective or long term unless you feel good! Maybe you have a tight budget. You can still treat yourself to a bubble bath and glass of wine. Or a new book or magazine. A cute colour of nail polish! REALLY good chocolate. Fancy tea or coffee! Whatever makes you SMILE! But reward yourself with a nice treat once a week. If you can save more, have a weekly treat and maybe do something really FABULOUS once a quarter or on your birthday.
Putting it All Together-Effective Budgeting for Single Moms
To Summarize-Budget for Single Moms:
- Know where you spend your money and exactly what comes in
- Save money where you can.
- Spend money predictably where you can
- Make a budget that works for YOU, and that has room for rewards. STICK to it. Stay disciplined.
- Always save for emergencies and your big goals