There are so many upsetting things to deal with after a break-up – the last thing you want to be worrying about is money. It can be challenging living on one income at first, but many single parents get along just fine once they’ve made a few adjustments. Getting your finances in order might sound like an arduous and rather boring task, but it can actually be a relief to have something else to focus on.
Adjust… and quickly!
If you carry on spending as previously, before you were a single parent, you will soon end up in financial trouble. Burying your head in the sand is how debt can creep up on you, so it’s important to adjust your thinking and your budget as quickly as you can for the sake of the family finances. A single parent income isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of new habits and careful spending.
Come up with a budget…
Step 1 – Work out exactly how much you spend
You might know how much you spend on paying the mortgage or your electricity bills each month, but what about everything else you spend as a single parent? Sit down with your bank statement and receipts and add up everything you spent last month on groceries, entertainment, clothes and shoes, days out, school expenses, childcare and anything else you can think of. Then, you’ll have an idea of exactly how much you spend each month.
Step 2 – Income vs. spending – what have you got to work with?
Subtract your monthly expenditure from your monthly income, then you’ll see how much you have to work with. If it isn’t very much, stay calm and think of ways you can make changes. Ask yourself:
- What non-essential spending can you reduce?
- What can you cut back on?
- Is there anything you normally buy that you can get cheaper?
- Are you spending money on things you don’t use – such as gym memberships or magazine subscriptions?
- Are there any ways you can increase your income? You could sell your old clutter on eBay, get more hours at work (or even be brave and ask your boss for a raise), or check whether you’re entitled to any single parent benefits or tax credits to supplement your income. You can check this on MoneySavingExpert, which has a handy Benefits Check-Up tool.
To manage on a single parent income, you might have to work just a bit harder and be a little more creative to find ways to make savings.
Now that you know what you spend and what you have to live on, you can draw up a weekly/monthly budget for the family.
Go into as much detail as possible and prioritise your spending – put your mortgage/rent, bills and grocery shopping at the top of this list. Having it all written down makes it easier to stick to, so get organised!
What to tell the kids
It’s all well and good telling yourself that you need to cut back and make savings, but how do you break it to the kids that they can’t have that new game/toy/pair of trainers all of their friends have? This can be really difficult, but remember that good parenting isn’t about buying things for your children, it’s about giving them your love and your time. In time, they’ll get used to the new lifestyle and having to live on less may even teach them some valuable lessons about the value of money. If you have older children, you might even want to sit down with them and explain about the budget you’ve drawn up, whilst for younger kids you could make sticking to the budget a kind of game.
If you’re finding it tough to make ends meet and need some help, or you have some invaluable money-saving advice for other single parents in the same boat learning to live on a single parent income, why not head over to the Single With Kids forum?