Moms in general are multitaskers who can juggle a slew of household chores, take care of the kids, handle the budget and work – be it full time or part time. For moms who are still part of a married couple, handling the financial aspect of things is manageable because they would have a combined income to pay for all the expenses at home.
But what if you’re a divorced mom? You may receive child support and alimony but the income that you will use for you and the kids’ living expenses will be solely your own. If you don’t have a high-earning job in the first place, you would have to make adjustments with your finances to make ends meet. Here, we will be dishing out tips on what divorced moms can do in order to save money.
What Are the Financial Issues Faced by Divorced Moms?
First, let’s talk about the financial issues faced by a divorced mom. Whenever a relationship ends in separation or divorce, money can be one of your biggest worries. This is especially true if you are not a major income earner when you were still married to your ex.
With most single parents and divorced moms in the US having a low income, what can you do to avoid sinking into debt? How can your money-related worried be eased? What about the college fund of your kids and your retirement money? These are just some of the things that you need to think about as soon as the divorce is finalized.
It makes a world of a difference if you can enlist the help of families and friends. Having a support group to back you up as you get your life back in order after the painful chapter of the divorce is essential. Seek professional financial advice as early as possible, and not when the problem has become insurmountable.
More importantly, iron out your finances post-divorce so that you can create a budget that will easily provide for yourself and your kids, but without draining your finances or putting you in deep debt.
Top 10 Money Saving Tips for Divorced Moms
If you’re a divorced mom, here are the top ten ways by which you can save money:
1. Set up a budget
As mentioned earlier, divorced moms would have to deal with a halved or even lesser household income after being legally separated from their ex-husband. However, there are those who do receive child support and alimony checks.
If you’re a recently divorced mom, keep track of your finances by calculating how much income will be coming into the household. How much salary are you earning after taxes? How much is the child support and alimony check that will be coming in each month? Add all these and then deduct you and the kids’ monthly expenses.
It’s important to prioritize the most important expenses first along with the utilities and the household maintenance expenses. If there are enough funds left, save up for the kid’s college education and retirement. Also, don’t forget to pay yourself and set aside savings for emergency situations. Even a little amount set aside per month for these will go a long way.
2. Adjust your housing situation
What is your housing situation like after the divorce? Were you left with the house that you and your husband bought during the marriage? Assuming that you were given custody of the kids and you were given the house during the divorce settlement, you may wish to stay in the same residence. However, there are some divorced moms who would rather start anew.
If you must move, make sure to choose a house that is not too big nor too small for your needs as a family. If you do have a house that’s too big for you and the kids, you may consider selling the property and moving to a different residence so that you can start anew elsewhere. This will also give you a greater leeway in terms of your finances.
3. Track your spending
As a divorced mom, you do need to monitor your spending. If you were able to afford designer shoes, clothes and bags when you were still married, you might have to give up these luxuries now that you’re surviving on your sole income. Start afresh when it comes to your finances by tracking your spending. Monitor the ins and outs of your finances so that you would know exactly where your money is going.
4. Avoid taking on even more debt
One of the biggest mistakes made by newly single parents is taking on more debt than what they can actually handle. To avoid this, consider your credit card as a debit card.
If you cannot afford to pay the full balance for the month based on the amount of your salary, hold off the purchase. Unlike what is being marketed by credit card companies, paying only the minimum amount against your credit card balance will simply put you in deeper debt.
Also avoid opening new lines of credit, and manage your debts by paying them off as quickly as you can.
5. Learn how to save money while grocery shopping
If you have two or more kids, majority of your budget will go towards grocery shopping. Although there’s nothing wrong in ordering takeout or pizza when you’re not in the mood to cook or if you’re too tired to prepare dinner, doing this often will take its toll on your budget. Go online and look for weekly menus that you can follow so you won’t be stumped as to what to cook during weekdays. Make a list of the items that you need.
If you can, don’t take the kids while grocery shopping because it’s quite difficult to say no to their buying whims when the items are already in the cart. Use coupons – but only for the items and brands that you will be buying in the first place. A $10 coupon adds to your expenses instead of cutting it if the items offered are not what you would usually buy, anyway.
Also, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry because it will make you reach for items that you are craving for right then and there. Make a list of the items that you need to buy, and stick to it.
6. Dress the kids for less
Don’t say no to hand-me-downs or similar gifts from friends and relatives who have kids. Even if you need to buy a new outfit for your five-year-old’s recital, you don’t have to pay full price for the purchase. There are many second hand stores and online stores where you can buy kid’s clothing for way less than what you’d pay for them at the mall.
7. Look for ways to save on child care expenses
If you’re a divorced mom, chances are you are also doing full time work. How are you supposed to juggle your time between the workplace and at home? There will be instances when you would need to hire a nanny to look after your kids while you’re away. How can you save money on child care expenses? Before paying for the services of a babysitter, check around the neighborhood first if there are other moms who can barter services with you.
You can swap schedules for babysitting and get the service practically for free. There are also low-cost child care services available at church, in school or within the neighborhood. Enrol siblings in the same daycare center so you can take advantage of discounts. You can also check on the child care benefits offered by your employer so you can save on this aspect of budgeting.
8. Invest in education and retirement
As mentioned earlier, it is a must for divorced moms to include the kids’ education and retirement in their budget.
Do your kids already have a college fund? If you were putting money on it prior to the divorce, continue doing so now. Ask your ex-husband to contribute, or make sure that it is legally stipulated in the divorce settlement.
As for your retirement funds, the earlier you start, the better. Don’t put it off in place of saving for your kids’ college education because they can always apply for student loans. Retirement is something that you need to prioritize, so make room for it in your budget.
9. Save on monthly bills
The best way to save on monthly utility bills is to conserve water and energy. Replace ordinary light bulbs with energy saving ones. If it’s time to replace a major appliance, look for one with a high Energy Star rating. Teach the kids how to save water and electricity as well.
When it comes to paying your bills, make sure to do so on time and online so you won’t have to pay extra for late fees or penalties. Take advantage of merchants which offer rewards points or perks to customers who pay their bills on time – ask your bank about it.
10. Get your kids in on the act of saving
Finally, get your kids in on the act of saving. Using language that kids their age would understand, explain to them your current financial situation. Give them ideas about how they can help improve things – starting by considering needs instead of wants. You might be surprised at just how easy it is for most kids to adjust, if only you would explain to them what is really happening.
Divorce may be the end of a marriage but it does not mean that your finances have to suffer along with it. By following these money-saving tips, you can gain better control of your financial life after divorce.