Single mom? Want to stretch your money and budget? Check out these helpful and practical money saving tips for single moms!
When you are a single mom, you have a LOT on your plate!
Financial concerns are definitely high on that list.
When I first became a single mom, I had to make some serious choices about money and finances.
Every single mom has bills to pay! The key is taking advantage of some great money saving tips for single moms.
Here are some practical, helpful tips for how to budget on one income and stretch your budget!
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Money Saving Tips for Single Moms
Take a look at this comprehensive list of money saving tips for single moms and start saving money today!
Create a Real Budget
I know, it seems that most people don’t like the word budget.
But, honestly, a budget is just simply a plan for your money.
Having a solid plan for your money is especially important, especially if you are barely staying afloat each month.
You need to know where your money goes and what you should be doing with it.
So, create a budget.
Budgeting does NOT have to be complicated. Get a notebook and a pen and get started.
There are lots of budgeting systems and apps out there, but here are 3 of the most simple and basic types of budgets for you to choose from to get started:
- envelope/cash system – This method involves allocating money each month into separate money envelopes (food, rent, gas, entertainment, etc.) and putting cash into each envelope at the beginning of the month. When you run out of cash in an envelope, you can’t buy anything else in that category.
- 50/30/20 budget – This book does a great job of explaining this method in detail. You basically allocate 50% of your after-tax income to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings/investments.
- Zero-based budget – Your take-home income minus your expenses should equal zero. Every dollar has a “job” and should be put into a specific category. If you have extra, that money goes into savings.
If this even feels overwhelming, get a notebook (I use one of these), write the month and year at the top of the first page, divide the page in 2 columns and write income on one side and expenses on the other. Keep track of income and expenses during the month and find the difference at the end.
Start simply and expand from there.
Have an Emergency Fund
The quickest way to go into debt or struggle financially is to have an unexpected expense that you can’t pay for!
- hospital bills
- job loss
- unexpected car repairs
Make sure that you set up a simple emergency fund and build it up to have 3-6 months of living expenses saved up.
Get Out of Debt
You will have a hard time saving up money, if you have large debt.
Aim to pay it off fast, so you can put the money from those payments into an investment or retirement account!
Set Long-Term Financial Goals (and Short-Term too!)
Setting a goal means you are halfway toward attaining it!
Write down 2 – 4 short and long-term financial goals and take steps to reach them.
After my divorce, I wanted to make sure I had an emergency fund and a retirement account (that I would fully fund every year). I started with those 2 goals and made sure to work toward them every month.
You can open up multiple savings accounts – give them specific names and add money, a little at a time, to them each month (like, vacation fund, Christmas gift fund, etc.).
Frugal does NOT mean being a cheapskate.
Frugal people have a plan for their money and prioritize their spending so they are buying things that truly matter to them.
Here are some simple, practical tips to help you live more frugally:
- Pay cash – Paying with cash helps you to be more thoughtful with your purchases.
- Avoid credit cards – you will stop racking up debt and curb your spending
- 24-hour rule – Wait 24-hours before making a purchase, then you can reevaluate whether you actually need that item or not. Sometimes I put things in my online cart for “safe-keeping” and the next day (or later!) I come back and realized that I really don’t need or want that item.
- Buy used – not only will you save money, but it keeps usable items out of landfills
- Cut out extras or non-essentials
- Landline – get rid of it if you don’t use it
- Cable – use a cheaper streaming service or borrow free movies from the library
- Bad habits – smoking, drinking, impulse purchases
- Little expenses – daily lattes, eating out often; small purchases can add up fast!
- Adopt a Zero-Waste lifestyle – Stop buying things that generate waste (and cost money!) – get a reusable items: water bottle, paper towels, sandwich bags, etc.
- Learn to make your own repairs – YouTube is a great source of video tutorials
Try a No-Spend Month (or Two!)
Make a goal to not spend money on anything other than your basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) for a “no-spend” month.
Find fun, free things to do with your kids:
Focus on Free Fun
As a single mom, I sometimes find it hard to refrain from comparing my life to others – like, how some friends of mine can buy their kids fancy, expensive items or take them on lavish vacations, while I worry about the basics.
Still, I know that my 2 kids just love when we simply do things together, just the 3 of us. There are so many options for easy, fun, free activities and they honestly don’t care as long as we’re together.
You can try things like:
- free outdoor activities every season (picnics in the park, backyard camping, hiking trips, beach trips, build a snow fort, go sledding, run through leaves at the park)
- look for child admission discounts or free tickets for kids – lots of museums and parks have these.
- eat out for free (many restaurants offer free meals to kids if an adult pays)
If you run out of ideas, ask your kids for help!
Yes, it can be a pain to take time and search around and compare prices for an item, but you can save a lot of money.
Before making a large purchase (for a car, applicance, insurance, etc.) take some time to compare prices.
Review your Financial Statements Regularly
If you review your financial statements regularly, you can save money by looking for:
- late payment fees
- reoccurring payments on things you don’t actually use (memberships, subscriptions, etc.)
- unusual purchases
You can set up automatic payments for regular bills to avoid late fees.
Save Money on Food and Household Items
Groceries can get expensive!
But, there are also many simple tips that can help you save money:
- grocery delivery – you avoid making impulse buys while shopping because you’re hungry!
- grocery pickup – our local grocery store offers free pickup over a certain dollar amount, easy!
- plan meals – meal planning seems hard, but can help save a lot of money. Check out this article for more tips!
- batch cook & freeze extras – when I became a single mom (of 2 little kids), I found that I always had a lot more extra food after cooking. I started freezing the extra portions and voila, saved myself time and money.
- don’t eat out – If you do eat out, limit yourself to a certain number of meals a month.
- empty the pantry at the end of every month – make creative meals out of leftovers and pantry items!
- grow your own food – if you have space, you can grow some basic veggies in a little garden.
- buy in bulk – save money by buying items you use regularly in bulk.
- Amazon Subscribe and Save – get discounts for items that you use often (like laundry soap, toilet paper, etc.)
Increase your Income
If you have a crafty skill or a lot of vintage items, you can sell on Etsy.
Because of the pandemic, many employers now offer the ability to work from home at least part time. FlexJobs is a great website you can use to look for flexible, remote work. Working from home even part of the time can give you more flexibility in your schedule and help you save money (on travel expenses, etc.).
Check out this list for more creative ideas to make more money.
Great Side Gigs for Single Moms
Use Cashback Apps
There are so many cashback apps that help you save money.
Here are some to get you started:
Ibotta – earn cashback when shopping online or in-store
Rakuten – get coupons and earn cashback for purchases
Shopkick – earn reward points when shopping, redeem for free gift cards
Drop – earn points when shopping, redeem at popular places
Honey – earn gold points you can redeem for cash or other rewards. You can set a watch feature on items you want to keep an eye on to see if the price drops.
Save Money on Kids
- Swap with other moms or look for free items – use sites like Nextdoor, Freecycle, Buy Nothing
- Buy used – Kids grow and outgrow items so fast! Check local thrift stores, Ebay, Craigslist or other places for used clothes, gear, toys, etc. Check clearance racks, shop out of season, and make simple repairs to items with a sewing machine or needle and thread.
- Visit the library – we go to the library ALL the time to get free books, movies, and audiobooks to keep my kids busy.
How to Save Money on Kids and Babies
Save Money on Child Care
As a single mom, one big expense can be child care. There are several things you can do to save money though.
- Child Care Assistance
- Head Start programs
- Child Care Aware of America
- child care assistance programs through your employer
- try a local babysitting co-op or nanny share
You can also try finding jobs working from home, which can limit or eliminate your need for child care. On sites like flexjobs.com, you can search for flexible, remote, and work from home job opportunities, full and part-time.
Save on Travel
Plan ahead for vacations – you don’t have to spend tons!
Here are some tips to saving money on travel:
- travel during off-peak seasons
- use a travel credit card to save miles (but pay it off monthly!)
- take a Cruise or visit an all-inclusive resort (so your kids can enjoy themselves and you can take a break!)
- use Airbnb instead of a regular hotel (it’s cheaper and more cozy!)
I knew someone who used a credit card to pay all his regular bills (and paid off the balance monthly to avoid interest fees) and saved enough miles each year to visit his family in Alaska once a year. With diligence and careful planning, this can be done.
Take Care of Yourself
Illness can cost money (sometimes a lot!), including lost wages from time off work. If you’re a single mom, this can make your life extremely difficult.
Taking good care of yourself can go a long way in preventing illness and extraordinary doctor’s visits or hospital stays.
Some things you can do:
- visit the doctor and dentist regularly
- eat healthy meals
- exercise regularly
- practice self-care daily (even if just for a few small moments a day)
Government Assistance Programs
If you are a new single mom and struggling, there are many government assistance programs available to help you get on your feet:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- WIC (food assistance for pregnant women and mothers with children up to age 5)
- National School Lunch Program
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Child Care Assistance
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
You can visit benefits.gov to see a list of benefits you may be able to receive.
Talk to an Expert
If you feel lost financially, don’t be afraid to talk to a financial expert. If you already have an account, you can call and talk to one of the advisors. You can also call and talk to other financial institutions to get information and compare rates.
Some experts you can reach out to:
- financial planner
- insurance agent
- credit counselor
You can read financial books as well (or listen to them on Audible, if you are like me and don’t have time to read an actual book!)
After my divorce, I felt lost and financially unaware. I made plans to take charge of my money and secure a good future for myself and my kids. One financial book that really helped me is The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins.
Teach your Kids the Value of Money
Set money boundaries with your kids and don’t be afraid to say no.
This teaches child limits around money and the lesson that we can’t just buy anything we want.
Your children learn from your example and will watch what you do with money.
Take a Social Media Break
It’s SO easy to look at everyone else and compare their lives to your own (much easier since the invention of the internet and social media – haha).
Take a social media break (and a tech break!) and do something fun outdoors with your kids (or play a board game!).
Not only will this help your mental health, but you will also avoid targeted ads (and the temptation to buy!), seeing the fancy things that others own, and learn to be happy with your own life.
Don’t compare; be happy with your life.
Prepare for the Future
Last, but certainly not least, you need to prepare for the future. First, your own future, and then your children’s future.
Your teen isn’t ready for college, here’s what they can do instead.
Which of these money saving tips for single moms have you used to save money? Would you add any other tips?