As a single parent, you likely face many issues, and money may be one of them. If you find yourself struggling to make ends meet, a solid budget could be your solution. It's easy to end up spending money that you shouldn't if you aren't strictly thinking about what your monthly or even weekly budget should be. Below are a few tips to help you create a budget that works for your family.
Think About Your Total Income
Your income doesn't necessarily just contain your main source of income, like your main job. If you have any money that comes from alimony, child support, or government assistance, you should take that into account as a part of your income as well. Child support is payable until your child is 21, but that doesn't always mean that your child's other parent will consistently pay what the court has ordered them to pay. If the child support payments you receive are less consistent than they should be, make sure not to take them too heavily into account. Instead, that money can go towards things like savings or more "fun" things like vacations or trips to a museum or amusement park.
Track All of Your Expenses
If you don't already track what you pay for in every aspect of your life, it's a good time to start. Your expenses are made up of anything and everything that you spend money on. When you start to look at your spending, you can sort your purchases into set categories, like food, utilities, clothing, school supplies, and anything else you spend money on. Once you determine how much you usually spend on these expenses, you can start to figure out where you can cut back and set a realistic amount that you can spend on each category every month. By tracking your expenses, you can figure out what you're spending too much money on to help you save up for more important things, like saving for your kids' futures or a downpayment on a home.
Keep It Simple
When you're planning out your budget, you should make sure that you're setting realistic goals for yourself. If you're currently spending $500 a month on food, the odds of being able to drop that down to $300 is pretty low unless you're really overspending right now. Looking for deals and places that you can save is important, but you should try to work towards saving more as opposed to suddenly spending significantly less and then being upset when you don't stay within budget.
Make sure that you're being most realistic when it comes to the basics like housing costs, utilities, and food, and you can have more leeway in areas that aren't the basics of life. For other things like clothing, you can save more since you can look for sales and second-hand options.
Save For Medical and Dental Expenses
Depending on the kind of insurance you have, you might have to save up for things like dental, medical, or orthodontics. The best time to start orthodontic treatment is when your child is seven years old, so make sure that you're saving for those types of predictable expenses. On the other hand, certain things cannot be planned for, like emergency dental work or a trip to the emergency room. If you aren't sure about whether your insurance would cover certain things, try to keep a dedicated fund to help in case of emergency.
Think About Home Upkeep As Well
If you own your home, you'll also need to make sure that you have money set aside for any home maintenance you need to do. Many U.S. homes are at least 40 years old, which means they'll need repairs to things like their roofs and HVAC systems. Keeping up with regular maintenance can help save you from costly repairs down the road that are needed because of years of skipped maintenance. If it's in your budget to repair things as soon as it shows that it needs to be fixed, you can avoid having to break into your emergency fund later on.
Look For Side Hustles
If it's possible with your schedule, you can try to supplement your main source of income with a side job or freelance work. If you have an artistic hobby, you can turn it into a business, such as selling jewelry, candles, or other home goods online or at farmer's markets. If there's a certain DIY that you already enjoy doing, you can see if there is a market for it and make some money on the side that way.
One great option is to flip furniture, which many people can easily do -- you just buy cheap furniture from thrift stores or on Facebook marketplace, clean it up and possibly update it, and then relist it online to turn a profit. If you have an eye for interior design, that's a great option, especially because you can just do it whenever you have the time.
If you have a job where it's possible, getting a freelancing job can also be very helpful. Depending on your skills, you can look for freelance work online and make some extra money that way. For example, if you've always been a good writer, you can ghost-write blogs for business' websites.
Be Smart With Credit Cards
Using a credit card is a good way to build up your credit score, which is helpful if you are planning on moving into a new home or apartment any time soon. However, credit cards can create a slippery slope. Make sure that you are only charging what you can actually afford to pay off at the end of the month. You can also look for a card that gives you miles that you can redeem for cash or other rewards.
A budget can help you get your finances on track to help you avoid going into debt while taking care of your kids. Although it can be difficult to stick to a budget when you first make one, eventually staying within your budget will be much easier.
What has helped you create and keep a budget? Let us know in the comments!