Written by Caroline Meyer

Even people in long-term relationships may find financial planning and budgeting quite difficult.  As a single parent, this concern can become even more pressing. In general people have 1 or 2 sources of income such as their own earnings and possibly child support payments. Some people also have access to government grants or help from family. Wherever your income comes from, you will need to ascertain what is coming in and what needs to be paid out. 

Once you know what your income is, you need to sit down and plan a monthly budget. Besides the bills, you need to plan for things such as school supplies, clothing, food, transport, entertainment and so forth. If you have not budgeted before, you may want to get someone you trust to sit with you and help you plan out your finances. You are the one that will ultimately be responsible for your finances, so while it is important to listen to advice, what you decide on at the end of the day is up to you. You get to determine your savings and long-term financial planning and if you want to pay off debts faster. You also get to decide where any excess funds be invested. 

For some single parents, things may be extremely tight and this makes budgeting even more crucial. It may result in a lot less spending on non-essentials. Track your spending to see exactly what you spend your money on to get a good overall view of where your money is going. This may also help you save some funds to put away for a rainy day.  A combined bank account looks very different to a bank account with only your income coming in. You are responsible for what comes in and what comes out. You may also have some shocks along the way that you did not have to deal with before which could include car repairs, medical bills and other unplanned expenses. A leaky pipe can be devastating if you are living on a shoe-string budget.  

Your budget will also need to account for expenses that are not a necessity but may be important to you personally such as buying the children birthday and Christmas presents. A vacation with the kids can break the bank if you haven’t planned well and put enough aside to cover most eventualities. Make sure you monitor your bank accounts well for incorrect charges, fraud and unexplained charges. Make sure you do the same with your loan accounts, credit cards and not just your checking or savings accounts. Look at where you can save and also try and pay off loans with higher interest rates first.  Knowing exactly what is owed, the interest rate and what it costs you to borrow money can go a long way to reducing these types of expenses as quickly as possible and freeing up funds for the household budget and savings accounts. 

Budget for the future. The day to day budget is important to keep the wolf from the door, but it is also important to look to the future. Investing in accounts for your child’s future is important too. Emergency funds in savings is important to tide you over in an emergency, but you also need to look at investing in financial products for your child’s education. Other financial products that are important to have include life insurance, especially those that have living benefits in the case of contracting a dread disease or being unable to work due to an accident.  Shop around for a product that makes sense for you financially that offers as much as possible to protect your children’s future. 

Having a solid budget will allow you to cut down on bad spending habits and invest in securing a better future for yourself and your children. It will also reduce stress if you know you can pay the bills and then breathe a sigh of relief when the finds in your account belong to you and not your debtors.  Even if you can only squeeze a little out of the budget every month to put aside, it will grow over time and give you a cushion when things get tough or there are unexpected expenses.