How to Budget Like a Single Super Mom
Making a Single Mom Budget Does Not Have to Be Difficult
Being a single mother often comes with some unique challenges, especially in the financial arena. After all, raising kids doesn't come cheap. Government statistics say it costs $233,610 on average to raise a child to age 18.
In a two-parent household, there may be two incomes to handle the expense. Single moms, on the other hand, are more likely to be making it work on one income alone. That's where a single mom budget becomes critical.
A budget can be a lifesaver, especially when there are kids in the picture. Here are a few tips on how to survive financially as a single mom.
List Your Income
There are two main numbers you need to make a single mom budget: total income and total expenses.
As you plan your budget, begin with adding up your monthly income. The easiest way to do that, whether you're working a regular nine-to-five gig or checking multiple jobs, is to check your pay stubs. If you're earning the same amount weekly or biweekly, you can use this income as your baseline.
Next, add in any income you earn from a side hustle or part-time work. This may be more irregular, depending on how you often you're doing part-time or side work.
Finally, add in any child support or alimony you're receiving regularly. If you receive these payments but it's not consistent, you may not want to include them in your income total.
Estimate Your Spending
The next step is adding up what you're spending each month. You can divide this into two categories: essential spending to maintain your standard of living and "extras."
So what's essential? Your list may include things like:
- Cell phone and internet service
- Child care
- Diapers and formula if you have a baby
- Debt repayment
- Kid-related necessities like school lunch fees, school uniforms or activity fees for extracurriculars
- Savings (if you're a single mom, an emergency fund is something you can't afford to do without because you need to be able to handle an unexpected car repair or a missed day of work because of a sick child)
Next, move on to the extras list. This is where you'll include expenses you don't necessarily need. For example, you might list:
- Eating out
- Cable TV
- Gym membership
Subtract all of your expenses (essential and extras) from your total income. Ideally, you should have money left over. This is money you could add to savings or use to pay down your debt if you're carrying student loans, a car loan or credit card balances.
If you don't have anything remaining, or even worse, you're in the negative, you'll need to fine-tune your single mom budget by reducing your expenses.
Here are some specific tips for cutting down on spending and freeing up cash in your budget.
Reduce Childcare Costs
The average cost of daycare for an infant runs between $5,547 and $16,549, depending on the state you live in. That breaks down to $106 to $318 per week. Daycare assistance is available for some single moms who meet certain income requirements but if you don't qualify, there may be other ways to cut costs.
For example, you may be able to find a family member who's willing to offer childcare at a discounted price. Or you could set up a childcare swap with another mom whose schedule is opposite to yours. Even reducing your childcare costs by $50 per month could add $600 per year back to your budget.
Use Apps to Add to Your Savings
Whether you're shopping for groceries, clothes or anything in between, there's an app that can save you money.
Ibotta, for example, offers rebates on grocery purchases so you don't have to clip coupons. They claim the average user saves $240 per year. RetailMeNot is a great place to find promo codes and printable coupons for retailers like Amazon, Sears and Macy's. Kidizen is designed for moms who want to buy (and sell) kids' clothes.
Leverage Your Credit Card Rewards
A rewards credit card can be huge when it comes to saving, especially if you're earning cashback. One report found that the best rewards credit cards can yield up to $2,068 in savings value during the first two years. That figure includes rewards earned from purchases, as well as an initial bonus.
So what kind of rewards card is best for your budget? It depends on how you typically spend. If most of your purchases are made at grocery stores, wholesale clubs, department stores or gas stations, you'd want a card that offers the most points or cashback possible for these purchases. On the other hand, if you travel with your kiddos regularly, a travel rewards card may be the better choice.
Just remember to watch out for the annual fee and the annual percentage rate if you tend to carry a balance on your card. Fees and interest can nibble away at the value of your savings.
Consider a Bank Account Switch
Checking accounts often incur fees and overdraft charges that can drain your account. They may not seem like much, but it can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars relatively quickly. If you haven't reviewed your bank's fees lately, take a second to do so. If you're getting nickel-and-dimed, consider moving your money to an online bank or traditional bank that's fee-friendly to boost your savings total.