How to Save Money When You’re a Single Parent

It’s not easy raising a kid. It’s not easy when both parents are there to do it. It’s definitely harder when you’re taking on the responsibility by yourself. On top of the many challenges, financial support can also be an issue. Whether you’re a single mom who isn’t getting the support of the father of your child, or a young widower working to raise your motherless child, making ends meet can be very challenging.

How much will it cost to raise a child alone? Well, let’s pretend we’re talking about one parent with one infant and an hourly job. The monthly expenses will look a bit like this:

  • Rent – approximately $500 for a 1-bedroom unit
  • Child care – about $400
  • Electric – $85 (more if the weather is colder)
  • Phone – $75 for a cell phone, $25 for a landline
  • Health insurance – $300
  • Car – $210 including insurance
  • Gas – $200
  • Food – $300
  • Formula – $120
  • Diapers – $35

That doesn’t include anything else the baby might need like vitamins, food, rash creams and the like. It also doesn’t cover stuff like savings. All in all, you’re looking at over $2,000 in monthly expenses. If you’re working a $10/hour job, you’d be making $1,600 per month. That means you’d definitely be in the red.

Sure, there is public assistance available. You can get food stamps, Medicare and WIC. But that just means you can possibly make ends meet, not save any small amount of cash at all.

However, you can start some good money management practices and eventually be able to save some money, even if you’re a single parent. Here’s how.

1. Work out a budget.

Create something like the list above. Indicate what you need to spend on every month and how much it costs you. This will let you see if there are any areas you can scrimp a bit more on. For example, you can choose to let your cell phone go in lieu of a landline and save $50. You might not actually need a car if you live near work and the day care center.

2. Avoid taking out more debts.

Lines of credit are tempting. But remember, these are not actually cash. Spending on a line of credit makes you spend cash that you don’t have and puts you deeper in debt than you already are. Above all, it is a short-term solution that will make you regret the moment you used it.

3. Keep an eye out on your spending.

Always check what you actually spend your money on. It takes a lot of organization, an iron will and discipline to stick to the plan. Are you following your budget or are you spending on unnecessary items? If you are on a limited budget, you have to limit your spending.

4. Ask relatives and friends for help.

Babysitters can cost a pretty penny. And that’s a penny you can’t really spare. So if you have relatives nearby, or friends who might be willing, ask them if they can look after your child for a bit while you’re at work. This saves you some money from child care expenses.
Alternatively, you can check church and school listings for low cost child care.

5. Make a list.

When grocery shopping we are constantly bombarded with discount prices and cheap deals that we ‘must’ take advantage of. So, always keep a list, follow it and resist the temptation of buying items that you don’t really need. For example, you might get the urge to stock on unhealthy snacks, but stop to think for a moment if you really need it. Buying healthy food, and not junk food, is money well spent.

6. Buy clothes at a discount.

Accept hand-me-downs from people with older kids. Shop at second-hand stores and take advantage of clearance sales. When buying on sale for yourself remember to always look for pieces of clothing that will never go out of style, so that you can proudly wear them for years to come. And when buying for children, remember to pay attention to quality, as kids often have sensitive skin.

7. Cook instead of eating out.

Restaurant food can be expensive, and if you are on a tight budget, there is a good chance that eating out often means eating fast food. So, you should cook your meals at home as much as possible. This is a less expensive and healthier option, and if you are a good cook your kids will be delighted.

Following any of the tips above will let you save a bit of money. It may not look like a lot at the start, but in the long run, you’d be surprised that you were actually able to put away a bit of money for emergencies. Good luck!