Are you a single mom wondering how to be financially sound? Here are some basic tips on how to survive financially as a single mom!
Unexpectedly becoming a single mom can be a real shock. It’s even harder if you didn’t prepare at all ahead of time.
I remember when I was faced with divorce. I had 2 small kids under the age of 4 and I wasn’t working at the time. To say that I felt panic, would be an understatement. Not only was the divorce itself difficult, I now had to scramble and figure out how to survive financially while taking care of 2 little kids all by myself.
How do single moms survive financially?
If you are a single mom, or know a single mom, or will soon be a single mom, then there are some things you definitely need to do to help get your financial life together so that you can survive. Not just survive, but thrive!
Here are the basic steps you need to do to get your financial life in order and not stress about money.
Ultimately, it comes down to 2 main things, you need to:
- increase your income
- decrease your expenses.
You want your income to be greater than expenses, because the greater the difference the more you can save (and invest!).
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How to Survive Financially as a Single Mom
1. Increase your income
Ideally, the best way to be financially secure is to find a way to increase your income. Make as much money on your own as you can.
If you already have a stable, well-paying job, great! If not, make a list of your monthly income. Then, take some steps to find a better job, or develop some marketable skills to help you find another job.
Also, look for side gigs. There are a lot of ideas for simple side hustles that you can do.
Related: Great Side Hustles for Single Moms
Just a note, while you should advocate for and receive any allocated child support and such, don’t rely on it to pay your bills. I did and then, sadly, my ex died suddenly and I was without it. Don’t depend on alimony or child support because your ex could lose his job, leave town and disappear, become disabled, or even die. File for and use this money, but don’t just expect it to always be there and find a way to get to a place where you don’t need it.
2. Decrease your expenses
Take a hard look at your spending.
Make a general list of expenses starting with the most expensive each month and find a way to cut costs. Don’t compare your life to others or to what you wish your lifestyle could be, but be realistic about what you can afford now and go from there.
Then, create a simple budget.
Start with the most expensive (usually rent or mortgage) and see if you can reduce that expense (move to a smaller place or another, cheaper location or rent out a room, for example). After my divorce, I moved to a smaller, cheaper 1 bedroom apartment with 2 kids under the age of 5 to save money. I felt sad at first, but I was able to save a LOT of money that first year and became really close to my girls in the process.
There is no shame in using state help or public assistance if you need it. That is what it is there for, but make a goal to work up to getting on your own feet and relying on your own income in the near future.
There are a lot of government programs to help you get on your feet:
WIC – A supplemental nutrition program to help moms with kids under 5 with nutrition advice and food assistance.
TANF – (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) – A program to help families with finances and other needs (such as childcare and job assistance).
LIHEAP – (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) – A program to assist families with energy costs and other related needs and expenses.
3. Get rid of debt
And stay out of debt in the future!
Nothing is worse for finances and building wealth than debt! It’s much easier to build wealth if you don’t owe anyone money. If you have to put it on a credit card, you can’t afford it.
Related: How to Live on One Low Income
4. Save, save, save
If you have little or nothing in savings, start now!
After cutting down your expenses and finding ways to increase your income:
- Start regularly putting money into an emergency fund.
- Open up and contribute to a retirement fund (IRA) every month.
- If your employer offers a 401K, put money into that each month as well. (A 401K is a retirement plan through an employer with a tax break for employees. Many employers match a portion of what you save. This means if you contribute money monthly, they will also contribute the same amount, up to a certain percentage (for example, 3%). If your employer matches contributions, take advantage of this free money and sign up asap!)
5. Set real, clear financial goals
If you set concrete financial goals, then you will have a head-start in reaching them.
Set a few solid financial goals for yourself and write them down.
- pay off all debt (or be more specific “Pay $200 a month until all my debt is paid off.”)
- contribute $200 a month to build up an emergency fund
- set up a retirement fund (IRA) and start putting the minimum in each month
Write the goals down and put them in a prominent place.
Read the daily and stick with it. You will be glad you did!
6. Cut single mom guilt
Don’t let single mom guilt take over your life.
It’s so easy to compare your life with others.
Be happy where you are at.
When I first became a single mom, I lived in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment with 2 little kids. At first, it was hard, but I always tried to look at the bright side and would remind myself of the little blessings:
- The small apartment was easy to keep clean and tidy.
- I became very close to my girls.
- I saved a lot of money on rent.
- We had the basics and were quite happy.
- I was able to put something into savings each month.
- We avoided dependence on buying material things to make us “feel better“.
Childcare can be one of the biggest expenses for a single mom. You may qualify for government assistance to help subsidize the cost, so be sure to check in to this.
Don’t rule out private childcare or even a getting a nanny. You might be able to find a deal. One of my friends had an acquaintance (from the same country as she was) who was looking for a job and it worked out well for her to pay this woman to watch her son without the higher expenses that often accompany a formal daycare.
If you have flexible hours, you might be able to do some work while your kids sleep and save daycare costs this way.
You can work a flexible job from home during odd hours or work several part-time jobs. Right before my divorce, I started working from home with one part-time job and then added a second one. Now I work full-time from home for a company in a different time zone so I am able to work partly when my kids are asleep, which helps quite a bit.
Some moms teach English to Chinese students via companies like VipKid. With many working hours during the early morning or late night, you could work while your kids are sleeping.
8. Build up a support system
Being a single mom can be hard all around, but especially with regard to practical things. Make sure that you build up a support system to help out with child care, and just plain old emotional support.
- join a local moms (or single moms) group
- get connected at your local church
- look for groups that share similar hobbies (through places like meetup, for example).
I often find connections through local churches or Facebook groups (for moms).
If you feel guilty, don’t beat yourself up.
If you feel hopeless, start making steps to changing your situation.
Small steps one at a time.
That is exactly what I did and I have come so far! I used to tell myself hundreds of times a day “I’m going to keep going forward” and I did!
Repeating positive phrases like these can really help you change your mindset and get through difficult times. I had 2-3 little positive phrases that I told myself every day when going through my divorce and connected financial struggles. Saying these phrases over and over really helped me. Check out my positive affirmations for moms cards for some ideas.
Finally, if you want some simple saving/investing advice, check out this book which really helped me get a basic handle on my finances and investing:
How to survive financially as a single mom? Take it one step at a time. If I can do it, anyone can!