9 Budgeting Tips For Single Mums

Sometimes in life we end up doing jobs we’re not qualified for. Jobs we didn’t even apply for. Single parenthood might just be one of them. If you didn’t enter motherhood thinking you’d be doing it alone, there might be some elements that you’re not prepared for. Running a household solo, parenting alone, all while surviving on one income: it’s hard. For many (myself included) managing finances is the biggest challenge of being a single mum. But over the years, I’ve gotten better at it. Here are some budgeting and money saving tips for single parents…

Before we start, I just wanted to note that there is NO shame in needing extra help and support as a single mother. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, it is simply not possible to make the numbers add up. I am able to top up my salary with extra freelance, meaning I often work evenings and weekends to supplement my income to make up for being a one-person household. Sometimes it still isn’t enough. I also have access to flexible working and work mostly from home, meaning I have limited childcare needs. Not everyone has these privileges available to them. There IS help available. Read my guide to the support options available to single mums here. 

There is a whole chapter dedicated to getting your finances in order and support on building a budget to manage your money in How To Be A Happy Single Parent, which you can order here

9 Money Tips For Single Mothers

Make A Budget

Honestly even if you only do one thing it needs to be this. You cannot manage your money without understanding how much you have and where you’re spending it. It doesn’t need to be anything too sophisticated, whether it’s a simple excel sheet or a piece of paper and a calculator, you need two columns: money in and money out. For starters, the ‘money in’ needs to be equal to or higher than the ‘money out’ column. Don’t forget annual expenses like insurance payments and car services etc. If the ‘money out’ column is higher than the ‘in’, you have some work to do. 

Make Cuts

Making the budget will show you where cuts are possible. And they are. Highlight the absolute essentials (rent or mortgage payments, bills, food) in one colour, the extras (clothes, memberships, travel) in another and the luxuries or ‘nice to haves’ in another. The last category is your easiest place to make savings, cutting out takeaways, ditching overseas holidays for a staycation: you can save money here without too much impact on your day to day. The middle category you can also save money by hunting for better deals, switching new for second hand, taking the bus instead of Ubers etc. And if needed, you can even make savings on the absolute essentials, switching suppliers for cheaper deals and strictly budgeting your weekly food shop and utilising meal prepping. 

Making Big Cuts

If you’re near the start of your single parenting journey, you need to be really honest with yourself about what you can afford. If you’re a single mum following divorce or separation, in an ideal world you might want to stay in your family home with your children and maintain the same lifestyle as you had pre-split. But the truth is, you might not be able to. If moving to a smaller home or making other big adjustments to your lifestyle is necessary to be able to survive financially, the sooner you can do it the better. I can promise you that it isn’t a big home or a newer car that will bring you happiness. It is a safe space for you and your child/ren that’s filled with love. An unhappy home, however grand, can never compare. 

Prioritise Paying Off Debts

High-interest debt like credit cards can quickly spiral out of control and make financial stability impossible. Paying off any debts (excluding long-term low-interest loans like student debt or mortgages) should be your number one priority. Consolidating debts into one lower-interest loan is often the best option, and though it might feel scary to face it head on, the sooner you can become debt-free, the more you’ll be able to save and invest for yours and your children’s futures. 

Maximise Your Income

Make sure you’re taking advantage of all the financial support and benefits you’re entitled to as a single parent. These could include Universal Credit, Child Benefit, Healthy Start vouchers, Council Tax Reduction, and more. Use online tools like the Entitled To benefits calculator to see what you qualify for. Read this guide to find out more.  

You may also be able to increase your income through extra work. The stereotype of the single mother working three jobs sadly exists for a reason, but you may be able to find ways to earn extra money that fit with your lifestyle. Does your career lend itself to freelance or consultancy work? Could you request overtime or consider at-home temping or admin jobs? Nobody can get more done in less time than a single mother. Use your superpower to your advantage. 

Be Your Own Boss

On this note, how about starting your own business? Financial independence might be a stepping stone to financial freedom via your own business. Since you’re running a household and a family now, perhaps running a business is a natural progression? 

Build an Emergency Fund

Once you have financial stability and have paid off any debts, building an emergency fund should be your next priority. Having a financial safety net is crucial when you’re the sole provider for your family. Aim to save 3-6 months’ worth of essential expenses in an easily accessible savings account. This will help you deal unexpected costs like a broken car or a busted boiler (or an eye-wateringly expensive school fleece). 

Start Saving

Once your finances are more in order, it’s time to start saving. A high interest savings account like an ISA is the place for this, and it should be the first thing you pay into each month on pay day. Pay nobody until you’ve paid yourself. 

Save For Your Children

You can also open your children a high interest savings account to start saving for their futures. It might not seem like a lot if you can only afford to add £20 here and there but it will quickly add up over the years and give them a little kick-start for when they’re old enough to need it. 


Investing Is A Feminist Act

Something to finish on. I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, talking about money wasn’t really something women were supposed to do. We weren’t supposed to think about it. Business was for boys. Wanting money, actively seeking it, was unfeminine. (This is incredibly convenient for upholding the patriarchy.) Single mothers are amongst the most economically challenged groups in the country. Almost half of the children in single parent families (nine out of 10 of which are headed by women) are living in poverty.  

Being focused on financial independence is not only a feminist act, it is the sole most important thing you can achieve as a single mother. When you have financial independence you (and your children) are free. If you achieve it, if you manage to earn a little extra money on top of it, invest your money to make more. Do this unashamedly. Do this and be proud of it. Do this and advise others on how to do it. Do this and help others who haven’t yet made it to where you are yet. 

If you enjoyed this article, please check out How To Be A Happy Single Parent.

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