If you’re a typical family with a mom, a dad and two kids, budgeting the combined income is already quite a challenge. You’d have to consider the needs of the children and the parents, the household maintenance expenses and the education of the kids as they grow.
Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be to raise kids if you’re a single parent? Whether you have one child, two kids or more, raising them all on your own might take its toll on your finances. This is especially true if you do not have that much income to begin with. So if you’re a single parent, how are you supposed to save money when raising kids? That is what we will find more about here.
The First Step: Ironing Out Your Finances
Since we’re dishing out tips on how single parents can save money while raising their kids, let us talk about how they can iron out their finances first. Take a look at the following tips:
#1 Take an objective look at your current financial status
Let’s say that you just recently gave birth and you are raising your baby alone. Eventually, you would have to go back to work. How much money are you actually earning? Is this enough to spend for your own needs and the needs of your child? If yes, then you should be in solid financial ground. If not, take a look at your other possible sources of income.
If you are receiving child support or alimony, it’s recommended that you set that aside in a savings account for your kid’s future. However, if the money that you are earning on your own is not enough, you might have to use up whatever amount you’re receiving as a supplement for raising your child.
#2 Avoid debts as much as you can
When you’re a single parent, every dollar that you can save should go towards your child’s expenses. This means that you should avoid incurring additional date. No matter how dire your financial situation looks like, never go knee-deep into credit debt.
Resist the temptation to open up new credit cards. In fact, you should pay off any current debts that you might have so that you can save up for your child’s future expenses. Adding up numbers on your list of bills to pay will not help at all.
#3 Invest in your retirement plan, and your child’s educational plan
How old are you now? You may be a single parent and raising a child, but you do need to set aside funds for your retirement as well. If you’re worried about college money, that will come later – and you can always rely on student loans for that. Your retirement, however, is something that cannot be put off. The earlier you start saving up for your retirement, the better.
Besides, you would not want to burden your kid with worrying about your financial future – so make sure to secure it all on your own. If you have the funds to spare to save on your child’s education after paying for your retirement plan, then allot a certain amount for it.
#4 Make sure that you have an emergency fund
After having a clear picture of what your budget should look like, make sure that you have enough funds to spare for emergencies. You’ll never know when your kids might run into little accidents, if they would need braces, new clothes – the possibilities of the instances when they would need extra funds are practically endless.
By setting aside a fund for emergencies, you wouldn’t have to take money away from all your other essential expenses.
Daily Money Saving Tips for Single Parents
Next, what are the daily money saving tips that single parents should keep in mind? Remember that saving money in little ways can add up to considerable savings eventually.
So when you’re going shopping and an item costs about fifty cents less than another brand, still go for the one with the lower price tag. Here are the specific ways that you can save money when raising kids as a single parent:
#1 Don’t purchase too many clothes, shoes or accessories which your kid would eventually outgrow
If you’re a first time parent, the number one rule that you should keep in mind is that you should never purchase too many clothes for your child. That cute onesie for your daughter is something that she can easily outgrow, especially during the first few months that she is a baby. Purchase just the basics, and don’t put your money on too many pieces for the same item.
Again, these items can be easily outgrown so you would have to go shopping for new clothes before you know it. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is if you have kids who are just one or two years apart. The spare clothes that you will buy for the older child can be handed down to the youngster.
#2 Buy second hand toys
Similar to clothes, toys is another big expense for parents. If you’re a single parent, you cannot necessarily afford to buy your son or daughter the latest toy craze – so consider buying second hand.
Another good idea is to divide the toys of your child into two groups. The first one, he or she can play with for one week. Once your child grows tired of the first set of toys, bring out the second set and it will be like he or she is playing with new toys all over again. This trick will save you a lot on toy buying expenses.
#3 Pay your bills on time
As a single parent, every cent that you can save will help a lot in your budget – so get rid of those late fees and added charges by paying your bills on time.
#4 Put food at the bottom of your budget list
This may sound counterintuitive but you really can put food at the bottom of your budget list. Let’s say that you have already paid all your dues for the month. If you’re left with a $200 grocery money, come up with a menu of delicious, healthy but cheap meals that you can prepare at home.
Go to the local market where there’s fresh produce which can be bought for prices lower than the supermarket’s. Better yet, grow your own food. Even potted herbs by the window sill, a vertical garden in your rooftop or a true blue garden in your backyard will help you save money on food-related expenses.
#5 Know which things you’re spending for are actually unnecessary expenses
Is your cable or satellite TV subscription really necessary? How much time do you spend watching TV, anyway, if you’re a single parent busy raising a child.
Know which things you are spending for which can actually be considered as unnecessary expenses – or luxuries. As a parent raising a child alone, you should know how to prioritize.
Put your child’s needs ahead of your own and if that means living without cable TV and reading a book instead, then go for it. While you’re at it, think of any other unnecessary service that you can get rid of, like frequent dry cleaning, a Netflix subscription, magazine subscriptions, your landline phone, an expensive mobile phone plan, etc.
#6 Take advantage of coupons
Coupons, online discounts and in-store promos are your best friends if you’re a single parent. Knowing how to use these things wisely will turn you into a smart shopper, and save you a lot of money in the process.
If you have a bunch of coupons for kid’s clothes, for example, and you know that your favorite store is about to go on sale, use your coupons once the store goes on sale and not before so that you can save even more money. Over time, you will become an expert at using such coupons and discounts that you can save a lot of money on purchases.
#7 Teach your kids the importance of sticking to a family budget
As a parent, you’d want your child to have the best of everything. But what if what they want is something that you cannot afford? Considering how you’re managing the household and raising your kid with just a single source of income, it really would help if you will teach kids the importance of sticking to a family budget.
The younger kids might feel disappointed at first if you cannot buy them what they want. But once you explain to them that you’re living with very limited funds, they should understand the situation perfectly.
Single parents have more challenges to face than households with both parents, especially when it comes to handling finances. But once you get the hang of it, you should be able to raise your child alone without denying him or her some of the comforts of life. What’s important is to raise your kid in a happy, loving environment – single parent or not.