Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How Single Moms Can Make it on One Income

We’ve all heard it: a family can’t make it on just one income! For a single mom, though, there’s only one person to earn an income, and that same person is also responsible for raising one or more children to become responsible, productive adults with good character. If you’re that single mom, you wonder whether there’s any way to make this work. Life as a single mom isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Here are a few strategies moms can employ to help provide their families with the greatest possible abundance.

Maximize Your Employment Income

A mom who is the sole financial support of her family needs the best-paying job she can get, and for that she’ll probably need to work a full forty-hour week at that job. If you’re that mom, and you’re lacking in job skills, check out your local community college for short-term programs to qualify for a higher-paying job. If you’re low-income, you should be able to get a tuition grant. Avoid debt; don’t take the student loans you’re offered. Fit your class schedule around your job.

Don’t neglect to get child support if it’s possible. A man who fathers a child has the legal and moral responsibility to pay towards his child’s care. It’s not begging; it’s as a belated opportunity for him to become a real man. And since childcare expenses are likely to exceed child support payments, you should not feel obligated to earmark those specific dollars to specific expenditure categories. Mathematically, it doesn’t make a difference.

Make a Written Budget and Follow It

Control your money. Know where it’s supposed to go. Make sure it goes there and nowhere else. Simple budget forms can be found for free online, and free software makes the process easy and intuitive. The categories listed will help you tell every dollar where to go.

At first this will not be fun. Once it works, and it will, you’ll experience the success of living on your income. You won’t fall into the trap of having to pay two electric bills one month because you spent the electric-bill money at the mall last month. The effect is incredible. Getting on a budget will have the same financial effect as getting a 20 percent pay increase.

Save for Emergencies

Even if you have only ten dollars a month to squeeze out, save it in an emergency fund. When the unexpected happens you’ll have money to cover it. Try to have at least $1,000 for emergencies before you start paying off debt. When you pay off all debts, increase that fund to 3-6 months of household expenses.

Ditch any Debt

Life as a single mom is stressful enough without creditors constantly breathing down your neck. Free up your cash flow by avoiding or paying off debt. Gather up enough savings to cover a few emergencies, then cut up your credit cards. If you’re in debt, sacrifice to get out. Have a yard sale. Make something to sell on Etsy. Babysit in the evenings after work at your house. Pay your way out of debt as fast as you can. The only loan you will ever need is a mortgage after you’ve saved a down payment.

If your cumulated debt has exceeded your ability to pay, it may be time to consider a Chapter 13. Bankruptcy is never a fun option, but Want a Fresh Start claims that this route could help you stay in your house and keep your family off the street. In principle, of course you should try to pay your obligations, but that takes a back seat to providing your family with the necessities.

Yes, it can work. It isn’t ideal, but there’s no reason for a single mom to despair. With proper planning, taking only sound advice, and good old-fashioned self-discipline, a single mom can make it on one income.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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