As a single mum, responsibility for the family budget lies just with us. This includes both what comes in to our bank account and what goes out on a monthly basis. There is no other adult in the family to contribute so we owe it to ourselves and our chlldren to become financially savvy.
Single parent families have the highest poverty rates amongst adults with 43% of them living in poverty.
This may sound obvious to you but it’s surprising how few parents take this into consideration and have control of their financial situation. Take me for example. I became single about five years ago. My son was 7 at the time. Before that, my partner was the main ‘breadwinner’, his salary being far higher than mine. Having just moved from Canada to England, I had no job and my son was waiting for a school place. It was a turbulent three months. I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have childcare and I could not get childcare as I didn’t have a job. A no win situation.
To say my financial situation was woeful was an understatement. I felt like I was starting again. However we all have to take control. As a single parent, there is a time when we have to take stock. The best way to do this is to first know the state that your finances are in. Once you have done this, you will already have more control and be on your way to being financially stable and developing an awesome single mum budget.
Below are my recommendations, ones that I followed and found successful.
Income and Expenditure
Firstly, we need to know what goes in and out of our bank account every month. An easy way of doing this is to have two spreadsheets, one for incomings and one for outgoings. List each direct debit and standing order and the amounts. Then go through the last few month’s statements, looking at the variable expenses, e.g. food, bills, petrol etc. This will give us a clear view of how much we spend monthly compared to how much we have coming in. Once this is done, we can start to see a picture emerging as to where our money is going and how we, as single mums can budget.
Once we know what is coming in and going out of our accounts, we can start making alterations and cutbacks. Having a clear picture of our finances makes things so much easier to work with.
Santander says the average household spends an approximate yearly amount of £3,329 on water, energy, council tax, electricity and broadband. That is a lot of money and is an amount that can be reduced by being savvy. In order to do this, we need to compare different providers for these bills and regularly switch in order to keep costs down. By doing so, we can save hundreds a year. Just think what you could do with that extra money. Nowadays, there are plenty of comparison sites who will do the hard work for us and will even switch us. After all, when does a single parent have the time?
My tip about borrowing money will always be – be careful. I have, in the past had a couple of loans and it’s taken a long time to pay them off. Mainly because of the crippling interest. If you have a loan, shop around for either a loan with a lower interest rate or a credit card with a zero percent interest rate for a fixed period. If you have more than one loan, then the best option is to amalgamate them. After you have completed step one and two of this list, paying off loans is definitely the next stage to financial freedom. As they have such high interest rates, it is important to pay these off as a priority.
Now we have mentioned loans, I am going to talk about the exact opposite. Having been in the situation of having a tight budget and having a loan to pay back, I can safely say I will never do that again. My suggestion would be ‘don’t buy until you’ve saved the money’. If there is a dress you really want, look at your finances and decide what you can loose from your monthly outgoings in order to save for it. As well as not being in debt, you will have a feeling of satisfaction at the end, knowing that you budgeted and bought it outright. This is an awesome part of having an established single mum budget.
Plan your family meals
It is incredibly easy to spend far more than needed on food. Shopping every day or every few days and buying what you fancy here and there often means food wastage and shopping at a more expensive, local shop. However, if you take the time at the weekend to sit down and budget for the week ahead then you will be able to save a substantial amount. Think about the meals you want for the week, the ingredients needed and how the surplus can be used in other meals.
Also, don’t shop on an empty stomach!
Can you live without a car?
We all know that cars are expensive. What with the cost of buying it, MOT, service, petrol/gas, maintenance, all these things really add up. Firstly, my advice would be to look at whether you and your family actually need a car. If you have debt, it might be a good idea to sell the car and use the money on the debt. However, if you decide you need the car, then think about car-pooling. If your child has activities every day and you know that local friends also go to these, talk to them about sharing the driving. You’ll be surprised at how much money you save.
By the time we have reached stage 7, we will have established a single mum budget that works for us, will know what it coming in and going out each month and what we have to do to budget and get out of debt. Now that we are in more control, let’s look at saving apps. Once you have chosen one and downloaded it, this clever invention links itself to your bank account and work by using algorithms. Every month they look at your regular incomings and outgoings and then delve deeper into the variable bills. You can set up regular amounts to go out or let the app do it for you. You will be surprised how quickly you save.
There are lots on the markets and are a great idea. Before I used one, I convinced myself that I didn’t need it, that if I had any excess money at the end of the month, I would transfer it into a savings account. This never happened. It was very difficult to see what was ‘surplus’ and I judged incorrectly. Now that I use a savings app, I regularly see money being transferred into it and I love watching my savings build.
Lastly, I have a tip related to Covid-19 ! Since the first lockdown, I have noticed there is more money in my account. This is due to not being able to go out, to the pub, for meals, to the shops. Although these are activities most of us enjoy in our daily lives, we also like having money for savings, holidays and other big purchases. My suggestion would be to look at how much money you have saved during this time then decide what you can do without when the shops open back up. Do you need to go to the pub twice a week? If you regularly eat out, think about cutting one or two of these out. You will be surprised at how much money you save.
Let’s grow towards financial freedom together