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A Single Parent's Guide to Budgeting

Andres Riobueno

Family finances are hard no matter what, but single parents carry an extra burden. When your relationship collapses or your partner dies, money can suddenly become your biggest worry. Because of the departure of one income, single parents tend to be low on income. To make matters worse, caring for children can make it more challenging to accommodate a full-time job. If you are currently in such a situation, Rebecca’s story provides some practical tips.

When Rebecca’s husband of 10 years, Peter, died in a car crash three years ago, she suddenly found herself staring at a bleak future. The emotional pain of losing the man she loved and hoped to grow old with was quickly replaced by money worries. They had saved up some money, but not enough to last a lifetime. She hadn’t worked since the birth of her first child and now there were two of them — a boy, 4, and a girl, 7.

The savings she had and the death benefit from Peter’s life insurance helped a little bit, but it was not enough to give the kids a nice life and put them through college. She realized that she had to go back to work at some point in the future. But more importantly, she had to work out a budget immediately and try to live within its limits.

Since she had never done any serious budgeting before, she decided to seek expert advice. After consulting with several friends, one of whom happens to be a finance expert, she decided on the following strategy.

Give Priority to Paying Bills on Time

When it comes to budgeting for single parents with low income, the first priority should always be given to paying the bills on time. The consequences of being late or defaulting can be severe. You may be penalized with a late payment fee and a higher interest rate. This will have an adverse effect on your credit score, which can make it difficult for you to get a credit card, buy a car, rent an apartment or even find a job in the future. (You can see how late payments affect your credit scores by using free tools on Credit.com.)

Get Your Children Involved

You should not be afraid to explain the financial situation to your children. If they are old enough to understand, they will understand. This is also a great opportunity to teach your children how to budget if you haven’t already. Ask for suggestions on how they can contribute to cutting costs and increasing savings for the household. You can even help them set up their own budget and financial goals.

Cut Unnecessary Costs

Cutting unnecessary expenses can make all the difference in the world. In your budget, set aside money only for the things that are absolutely necessary, such as food, clothing, transportation and bills. This doesn’t mean that you should cut out vacations, eating out and entertainment altogether, but those things shouldn’t be top priority right now.

Have a Savings Plan

Saving can be quite difficult if you have a limited income. But it doesn’t mean you can’t save. With the help of saving apps, you can save money automatically without thinking about it.

By implementing a savings plan, Rebecca managed to keep a tight rein on spending and give her children the same standard of living they had been accustomed to when their father was alive. Over time, Rebecca was able to save enough money to take her kids on a vacation. Now she is a working mom with a good salary and she is happily in a new relationship.

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