So, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about money, particularly how to save it, and how to get it, so now it’s time to talk about how to budget it. I actually believe that as single moms, we have the real potential to spend less money than a two-parent family. That is not just because of the lack of another adult who would obviously use the available resources, but because we are always aware of the amount of money and resources currently available. When you’re the only adult in the home who is choosing how to allocate funds, in many ways, it’s easier than when there are two. After all, we’ve probably all heard the phrase “You spend what you earn”. While it may be true, we all could probably stand to put a little more money into savings each month.
The Essentials of Budgeting
It’s very important to have a goal in mind, whether that is paying down debts, paying for a vacation, or whatever else you wish that you could do. The basics of a budget are pretty obvious; you need to figure out how much you have coming in, and how much you have going out. Sadly enough, it’s pretty common for single moms to have more going out then there is going on, which obviously is not a situation that can or should be maintained for long.
If that’s the case, you need to look at what your most basic living expenses are. That includes your rent or mortgage, utility bills, phone bills, food, child care, car payment and insurance, and gas for your car.
If you have credit cards or loans, you’ll need to list them here as well. You might want to remember that if you are fortunate enough to live in an area with adequate public transportation, the fuel for your car could be considered an unnecessary expense. It’s also important to note that cable television and internet service are not essentials unless you or your kids need internet access for school or work, regardless of what your kids might think.
Certain things, like the amount of money you spend on fuel, recreation and groceries, are all variable.
Because of that, there may be things you could do to lower what you spend. If you even think you might be eligible for some sort of assistance, as long as you have no objections to receiving it, I would strongly suggest applying for it. Even just a few dollars a month in food stamps, or a few dollars a month that you don’t have to pay each month for child care could make a real difference in your finances at the end of the month. Wouldn’t you rather put a few extra dollars in the bank each month, as opposed to giving it your child care provider, or the grocery store?
Even when it seems impossible, it is really important to have a little something to put into savings. There are so many times when it is impossible to wait till payday for something, and that’s when we get into debt. Whether it’s a new tire for the car, or renting a set of crutches for your accident-prone child, you just never know when you can’t wait till your next payday to spend some money. And in my experience, I seem to have those expenses at exactly the time that I absolutely have no extra money to pay for them. That’s probably why I was so far in debt for as long as I was.
Ideas To Help You Budget
One thing that was a real eye-opener for me was carrying around a little notebook and keeping track of my daily expenses. It’s a little frightening to think of the extra expenses that I just NEVER thought about, but they do add up. The Sunday paper, a cup of coffee, the candy bars that your co-worker is selling for his kid’s school project….when you are on a tight budget, any of those could be real budget breakers. And when you’re really sticking to that budget, you’ll probably want to decline all of them.
If you see that there are a few things in your budget that you can minimize, this might be the time to do so. If you rarely watch the expensive movie channels, or if you have six different Disney channels, you might be able to save some money by eliminating them. After all, if you call your cable or satellite company, and you really miss them, you can usually call back to reinstate them. I have had to do this, ( yep, my kids really did miss the six Disney channels) and they have been put back on very quickly.
The same would also be true if you have unlimited long distance on your home and cell phones.
Everyone always says to eat at home to save money. And yes, that is a good idea, most of the time. I say that because I don’t feel it’s logical, nor have I ever been able to, eat at home all of the time. I’m not able to say that we should all do this, all the time, when I have never been able to cook and eat at home exclusively. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay full price, you just need to look for the nights that kids eat for free, or for a very low-cost.
When my kids were little, there was a fast food place near our apartment that had kids meals meals for 99 cents on Monday nights, and they had an indoor playground. It was not the healthiest food, but they ate super healthy the rest of the week, so this was when we splurged. They got kids meals, I got stuff off of the discount menu, and we all ate for less than five dollars. I couldn’t make dinner at home for that cost. I am not saying that every family should seek out fast food, but I do believe it’s probably the rare child in America who doesn’t consume fast food, at least once in a while.
If you like cooking every night, and don’t mind cleaning up, then there a ton of ways you can save money on food. For the rest of us, we’ll do what we can along the way, and make friends with people like you. If your budget tells you that you are spending a lot of money on renting movies, you might want to look into Redbox, Netflix, or your public library. The library may be able to give you recently released movies for free, while Redbox and Netflix rent out movies for a much lower cost than the more traditional video stores.
Budgeting is not fun, but it is an important part of being a single parent. Unless you are wealthy, or have virtually no living expenses, you will probably need the structure that a budget gives you. It is generally recommended that any budget be re-evaluated as your situation, income, and bills change.
One day soon, you’ll be able to see the reality of what your thriftiness has given you.