Budgeting for Single Mothers

Single mothers are burdened with being the sole breadwinner without the benefit of having a dual earner in the house. Single moms often struggle to make ends meet and need to develop a strict budget to pay the bills and stay on track. Successful budgeting for one income follows the same rules as dual income households: create your budget, reduce your expenses and set money aside for a rainy day.

Create a Budget

Creating a budget is not as difficult as it sounds. Write down your total monthly income and your monthly bills. Using your previous bank statement as a roadmap, estimate how much you spend on groceries and gasoline for a month. Allocate your budget into three categories: fixed expenses, discretionary expenses and savings.

Budget Categories

Your fixed expenses are your monthly bills that are a must such as rent, utilities, child care, groceries and your car payment. Your fixed expenses should equate to no more than 50 percent of your monthly income. Discretionary expenses are for things you don’t need but are still important to you including your cable, movies and video games. Discretionary incomes should come out to around 30 percent of your income. The last 20 percent is for your savings account for emergencies and retirement.

Reduce Expenses

Discretionary income is often what makes or breaks a budget. Prioritizing where your extra money goes allows you total control over your budget. After writing everything down, start chopping expenses that you don’t need. Eating out, extra cable packages and unnecessary cell phone add-ons are often places you can cull the fat on your budget keeping you from overspending. Consider trading child care services with a family member to save money. Use extra resources such as coupons, sales and price matching to reduce your food bill.

Make Saving a Habit

Twenty percent of your budget should go towards a savings account. As a struggling mother, you may look at this number with disbelief. If you cannot save the recommended amount, save any amount that you can manage. It is recommended that you have at least six months set aside for emergencies. Start with what you can and add extra each month. Put aside any found money including gifts and tax refunds into savings. As the sole earner, you especially need a savings account in case of job loss or illness.

Prepare For the Worst

As a single parent, you need to think about what happens to your kids if something happens to you. Health insurance and life insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense but when you are the primary parent, your kids need protection. Starting in 2014, you must have health insurance — for you and your kids –or face a tax penalty on your income taxes. Some employers offer life insurance benefits as part of your health benefits. You can also ask your car insurance provider if he offers a bundle discounts for adding a life insurance policy.


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