As a single mom, you know that saving money is essential. Whether you’re trying to support your family by working three mediocre jobs or one high-paying job with long hours, chances are that you’re struggling in one way or another. Even if you have a great job, you may have trouble covering all your expenses plus the full-time childcare you use while you work.
You may feel like you’re too exhausted to even think about ways to save extra money. But consider this: when you save extra money, you may be able to cut back on your hours at work a little bit to spend more quality time with your kids – or to take a small breather for yourself. These six money-saving tips can help you find small and large ways to save as a single mom:
1. Make a budget, and stick to it
This is the number one most essential thing you must do for your family’s financial well-being. To make the most of your income, you need to create a zero-based budget, which means you have to account for every single dollar of your income, whether from your job(s), alimony, child support, or investments. When you use a budget to tell every dollar where to go, you’ll suddenly worry less about covering all your expenses. It may take a few months to work out the kinks in your budget, but the following five techniques will help you increase the likelihood you’ll stick to your budget.
2. Enlist as much help as you can
Too many single moms are afraid to ask for help, or are too proud to do so. It’s time to get over your fear and pride to find resources that can help you. If your income is very low, look into food stamps and other government assistance programs. (Remember: Those programs are there to help hard-working people like you get back on their feet.) Check out the Single Parents Alliance of America to find information on government programs as well as companies that give discounts to struggling single parents. And don’t forget to look inside your personal network for assistance, too, whether it’s a handy friend who will help with car and home maintenance in exchange for a home-cooked meal, or grandparents who will provide part-time care for your kids.
3. Make meals ahead of time
One excellent way to save money is to make meals from scratch. But when you’re a single mom working like crazy just to pay for food, this might seem like an impossible task. One great option is to set aside one weekend a month to make all your meals for the month. Sites like OnceAMonthMom.com have pre-planned, freezer-cooking menus that use affordable fresh ingredients for this task. So your family can eat healthy, affordable, made-from-scratch meals without you having to cook every day.
4. Team up with other moms
Look for single mom groups in your area, or team up with other single mom friends you already know. Rely on these women for support or start swaps to help each other out. For instance, your group of moms might run a childcare swap so that you can each have a Friday or Saturday evening off once a month. Or you can even team up with other moms to do your once-a-month freezer cooking, to carpool, or maybe even to start a sustainable business together.
5. Try to get out of debt
If may seem insurmountable to get out of debt if you’re living on a single-mom income, but being debt-free – or at least as debt-free as possible – is the absolute best way to make the most of your monthly income. Look into options like credit card balance transfers, which can help you save on minimum monthly payments so that you can put your extra funds toward paying down balances. Get rid of your expensive car for one that’s cheaper but still safe. Downsize your home to an apartment (which is easier to get out of in case of a faraway job opportunity or a financial emergency), or a small home with a smaller payment. Paying down debts and getting rid of monthly payments will free up your income for other things.
6. Look for extra income
Obviously one of the best ways to stay afloat financially is to make more money. Look into ways that you can do this from home with flexible hours, though, instead of just getting another job that will require you to pay for more daycare. Love scrapbooking? Create cards after the kids are in bed, and sell them online. Enjoy writing? Start picking up freelance writing gigs. Have a very marketable skill in tech or any other hot area? Consider offering consulting services to small businesses that have questions you could answer. You can earn a side income, if you get creative and work hard to get your business going.
Whether you’re saving money on groceries, finding a few extra bucks to put into a savings account, or teaming up with other moms to start a small business, you can find ways to succeed as a single mom. By being proactive about your financial situation now, you can get out of that hole and learn to love your life with your kids as a motivated single woman.