Are you a single mom wanting to prepare for the future? Here’s how to save money as a single mom.
When I first became a single mom, finances were tremendously stressful!
One thing that many single moms seem to worry about (or struggle with) is money. Being responsible for children and wanting a secure future for them, single moms have to figure out how to balance all the things.
If you want to save money as a single mom, you simply need to do 1 of 2 things (or better yet, both of them):
- Spend less
- Earn more
I know it sounds too simple (or maybe too hard!), but saving extra money means focusing on these 2 basic steps.
If you spend less money, you will have more money to put into savings.
If you find ways to make extra money, you will have more money to put into savings.
So, what exactly do you need to do to make this happen?
Keeping these 2 basic steps in mind, here are several tips on how to save money as a single mom. The easiest place to start is by spending less.
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First, take a month and write down everything (yes, everything!) that you spend money on that month. Don’t leave out the occasional latte or mascara purchase.
When you have your list, start by finding a way to cut some of your expenses. The easiest way to cut expenses fast is to look at your largest expenses and see if there is a way to reduce them. Housing/mortgage is usually the biggest expense.
If that is the case for you, can you:
- move to a cheaper house or apartment?
- move to a cheaper town?
- get a roommate to help bring the cost down?
- rent out a parking space on your property?
What about other regular monthly expenses?
- memberships (get rid of the ones you don’t need or use often: Amazon Prime, gym memberships, etc.)
- monthly fees (ATM, debit/credit cards, banking/checking fees – can you switch accounts or get rid of any of these fees?) If necessary, negotiate bills and switch to another cheaper provider.
- clothing, toys, books (can you buy second-hand? thrift shops, garage sales, Craigslist?)
- items you frequently buy (like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, flour, etc) – Can you buy them in bulk and save money?
- TV or video streaming subscriptions – Do you really need them? (But what will I do without TV?? Go outside, read books, write letters, catch up on hobbies, get free videos from the library)
Pro tips: Wait at least 24 hours before making a large purchase (waiting a week is even better!). You might realize that you don’t actually need that item!
When shopping, use cash only. It’s psychologically more painful to pay with cash than cards!
Remember, you don’t have to give up everything, but there might be some expenses that you can do without. And, this doesn’t mean you will do without these things forever, but maybe just until you can save a bit of money or reorganize your finances or budget.
2. Saving on food
It might take a little planning, but you can certainly save money on food:
- plan weekly meals
- order and pickup groceries (This forces you to make a list and stick with it and not browse the shelves and buy what you don’t need). My local grocery pickup is free for orders over $75 (and a huge help for single moms like me! Order whenever and pickup – easy peasy!)
- batch cook (cook large quantities and freeze portions for quick, easy meals)
- eat at home (limit the number of days you eat out each month)
- end of the month cupboard clean out (at the end of the month make creative meals with whatever is left in your cupboard and fridge – saves money and you use food before it spoils).
- when going out bring your own snacks (so you are not tempted to buy food, which can be expensive!)
3. Try a No-Spend Challenge
Try a no-spend challenge for a month.
What is this?
For one month (or longer!), only spend money on absolute necessities for survival.
What is a necessity? Rent? Yes. Food? Yes. Gourmet coffee? Nope!
Take the money you would have spent and put it into savings! Don’t forget to look for fun free events (or places to visit) in your local community!
Some ideas for possible free fun:
- picnic at the park
- free events at the local library
- visit a museum (Many museums offer free days once a month or so. Check your local museums.)
- hiking through the woods
- splash pads at local parks
- movie night at home with free rental from the library
4. Create a Budget
One great way to keep track of your money (and spending) is to create a budget. This way you know how much money you have coming in and where it is going.
You can try one of these types of budgets:
- 50/30/20 – This budget divides your money into 3 categories: 50% needs, 30% wants, 20% saving/debt repayment. Don’t feel like you need to keep all your money into exactly these categories. Use them as a general guideline and if you are at 80% needs, you can work your way down to 50% over a little time.
- Zero-based – When you use this budget, your income minus your expenses should equal zero. In other words, every single dollar you earn has a place to go (needs, wants, pay off debt, into retirement, savings, college fund, etc.).
Once you know where your money is going, you can cut the excess into paying off debt more quickly or funnel it into savings.
5. Save on daycare
Paying for child care can be very draining on your budget.
Some possible suggestions to reduce expenses:
- nanny share
- see if you qualify for subsidized child care or if your job offers a childcare discount
- work odd hours (when your kids are with their dad or during school hours)
- try jobs where you can take your kids with you
- work from home jobs
6. Save on travel and vacations
Some simple tips for savings on travel:
- fly off-season
- use a travel credit card to earn points and save up to free tickets
- use Airbnb instead of a hotel
- travel with family or friends and share accommodation expenses (like share a large Airbnb, for example)
For some suggestions on how to earn extra money, check out this list of side-gigs for single moms.
Once you have found some extra money to save, what should you do with it?
Pay Off Debt
First, make sure you have a plan to pay off debt and then work toward building up your savings.
Know how much debt you have and make a plan to pay it off (pro tip: pay off highest interest debt first!).
Focus on one type of debt, put as much money (plus extra) as you can toward it each month, and then, when you have finally paid it off, put the same amount toward the next type of debt. Repeat until you are debt-free!
In the future, avoid credit cards and getting into more debt! Nothing makes it harder to save money than to have a mound of debt to pay off first.
Set Financial Goals
With each paycheck, start by paying yourself first each month.
What do I mean? Don’t wait until the end of the month to see how much money you have leftover to put in savings. Start by setting up automatic savings so that a portion of your paycheck goes into savings each month. This way you are paying yourself first and building up your safety net.
Next, set up at least two savings account. Make sure one of those is set up to be a general savings or checking account and designate the other as an emergency fund.
Having an emergency fund is so important! For yourself and for your children! The ideal is to have 3-6 months of living expenses ready in the bank in case of a real emergency (job loss, unexpected long-term illness, etc.)
Related: Emergency Fund: Where to Start
Your overall financial goal should be to increase your net worth (what you own and the money you have minus all of your debts).
You can also set up other savings accounts for specific categories and contribute to those regularly (make it automatic!).
- Christmas gifts
- birthday gifts
- house payment/mortgage
Be sure to check in on your finances weekly (or monthly). Always review bills and bank and credit cards statements to check for errors or any suspicious purchases.
One last thing. Once you start cutting expenses and saving more money, what will you do with it? I felt overwhelmed at the thought of doing more with my money, but really enjoyed this great book on investing and building up wealth.
How to save money as a single mom – it’s not impossible, but it basically comes down to – do you want to? If you do, you will find a way to make it work.