When a relationship ends for any reason, finances are probably the last thing on your mind. Despite all the emotional turmoil we need to handle, there is still that essential step of figuring out a new household budget. Becoming a single parent comes with many burdens, including how to manage your money on a single income. Let’s face it, kids are ridiculously expensive! So, how do you manage to run a household with a lot less in the bank? We have some suggestions.
Becoming the boss of your own money is going to give you a sense of control and from that, a greater sense of financial understanding and in time, freedom. Put some time aside, take a look at your pay stubs and bank account, and create a template that will help you navigate your month. Never budgeted before? You’re not alone; only 47% of Canadians use a monthly budget. Many great free budgeting apps allow you to quickly fill out your information and will help you track your spending, such as Mint.com, KOHO, and Wally. Find the one that works best for you and get working on that budget!
Automate as Many Payments as Possible
Being a parent is busy. Being a single parent can be more hectic. With so much on your mind at all times, sometimes things like paying bills on time can slip your mind. Maintaining a functional status with your bill payments not only keeps pesky phone call reminders at bay but also helps your credit. Make sure to work all your bills into your budget, including small ones like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Track when each of them are coming out. Most companies will send a reminder to let you know that your automatic payment will be taken out in a certain number of days.
When working on your budget, make sure to include your groceries. Often we walk into a grocery store with absolutely no plan in mind, then walk out with a bunch of stuff we don’t need. How many times have you purchased something, got it home, forgot about it, and threw it out while cleaning the fridge a few weeks later. That’s money you’re throwing in the garbage.
This is where meal planning comes in handy. Consider it a weekly plan of attack for all meals. Browsing Pinterest is a great way to find new family-friendly and easy meals to fill out the week. Check out the app Flipp for all your local flyers. Then do some comparison shopping. Sometimes going from store to store is worth the savings. Not only will meal planning lighten the load of the amount of money you spend at the grocery store, but it also removes the stress of what to make for dinner each night.
The reality of life is that we are spending money constantly. Life is expensive, and it certainly doesn’t get any cheaper when you have kids to take care of. Capitalizing on the money you’re spending has never been easier, with different cashback apps paying you a small percentage of what you already need to spend. Checkout 51 and Caddle offer you a set amount of cashback for different grocery items each week. These apps are easy to have on hand at the grocery store to compare sales and your potential cashback earnings. Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is the largest cashback app, and offers you a percentage of your purchases at hundreds of affiliates, including Amazon, Etsy, and Old Navy. Purchasing through the app is important though, as they work through their affiliate links.
Like using cashback apps, rewards cards allow you the potential to earn points or money towards your future purchases. It seems just about every store offers some sort of store card these days. Don’t automatically turn these down when asked at the checkout. Ask about the benefits of the card. Does it have a fee? Will it save you money? Does it offer special discount days? Do you build points to use on future purchases? Using these cards can help you save up for something special or just ease the burden of a grocery store trip when your budget is feeling a little tight. A quick scan at the checkout or the gas pump is all it takes to make just a little bit of your hard-earned money back.
One minute you’re purchasing a new pair of shoes for your 6-year-old, and the next minute they’ve already outgrown them. How’d that happen so fast? This kind of thing can put a severe strain on an already tight budget. Don’t shy away from buying used, especially for kids. Kids grow so quickly that clothing hardly has a chance to be worn in before they need something new. Checking out buy and sell groups, the marketplace on Facebook, or consignment stores are all great ways to save a bit of money on your growing kids. Value Village, for example, has many promotional days where they offer 50% off your total purchase. Take advantage of these days, and stock up on some items.
Get Rid of Things
Stuff piles up when you have kids, from toys to clothes. The excess is a real problem. The fact is, most of us have hundreds of dollars of items that are just sitting unused in our homes. Downsizing and selling items can be a time consuming and daunting task though, so focus on one room at a time to lower the stress you may feel doing it. Don’t want to deal the hassles of listing and selling items yourself? Check out consignment stores. Most stores will offer you 30% of the price they are planning to sell your items at or allow you to take store credit for future purchases. By getting rid of things you no longer need, you’re not only bringing in extra money to help your budget but also freeing up space within your home.
Good at Something? Get Paid For It.
If you’re good at something, never do it for free. Perhaps you enjoy knitting or drawing. Maybe you’re just really good at cleaning or like going for long walks. Turning skills and hobbies into side businesses is a great way to bring in extra income. People love handmade items, especially around the holidays. Marketing your items as handmade and local on social media is a smart way to get your name out there. You don’t need to be crafty to start a business though. Walking dogs, babysitting, or cleaning homes are all ways you can help your budget while also still doing something you may enjoy.
Pick Up Small Jobs
Sometimes starting your own business can be too stressful when you’ve already got a full plate as a single parent. Luckily, there are lots of great opportunities with other companies to take on small amounts of work when you have some free time. Uber, Skipthedishes, and Door Dash allow you only work when you have the time, without worrying about schedules or appointment times. Just open the app and work for as long as you would like.
On the app Rover, you’re able to create a profile and set your cost so potential customers can find someone to walk their dog, stop in to check on pets, or even have you stay through the night to care for the animals. This type of job definitely requires more time commitment, but it can be a great way to earn some cash. Unlike starting your own business, the company will take care of most things for you — in exchange for a cut of your earnings, of course. However, you won’t be faced with creating marketing, building a websites, or worrying about payments. All of that may be worth it for a busy parent.
Upgrade Your Education
Upgrading your education is the best money hack out there! If you improve your knowledge, you can boost your finances. Whatever job you work in, there is a good chance that adding new skills to your resume can help to increase your current salary or even find a better paying job elsewhere. If you don’t have the opportunity to take time off work to attend college, there are plenty of online courses you can take. Taking an online course through your local college or other distance education can be a great way to gain new skills to highlight on your resume. This money hack is also the one with a larger up front cost, so budget carefully. Seek out grants, tax breaks, or subsidies, if you can.
Remember, the goal is to spend less money than we make each month in order to maintain good financial health. This doesn’t mean cutting out everything you enjoy or not treating yourself every once in a while. Everyone deserves to have small pleasures in life. Build your budget, but remember you’re going to make mistakes and keep moving forward. Being a single parent is stressful enough, so don’t let money be another cause of your stress.