You’ve heard it said that being a mother is the equivalent to holding several jobs. A mother is a laundromat operator, a driver, a housekeeper, a personal organizer, a chef, a banker, a teacher, and a psychologist. Add all a mom’s duties together and she should be earning a six-figure salary!
The job of a single mother, though, brings the added responsibility of providing financially for the family. In this two-income world, finding a way to keep the family functioning on only income can be difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.
Here are four things every single mother can do to help her family be financially viable.
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The last thing a working mom wants to do when she gets home after a long day at the office is prepare dinner for a kettle of vultures! But calling in a nightly pizza order is a quick way to break the budget. What’s a working single mom to do?
Meal planning is the only way to break through those, “what to make for dinner tonight” blues! A meal plan can be as formal (specific meals on specific days) or casual (a long list of meals to randomly choose from) as you like. But having a meal plan saves you every step of the way. It’s best to plan meals for the time period that spans your pay days, so that shopping trips are broken up throughout the month. And it’s a good idea to plan with store flyers and coupons in front of you, so you can select meals based on store sales.
Shop for the plan
Once your meal plan is complete, you’ll want to create a shopping list. Make sure you have recipes handy, so you can jot down any ingredients you may be low on. Plan the whole meal, including side dishes, and even plan out lunches if you need to make them. This will save you from those impulse purchases at the grocery store, and keep your overall grocery budget manageable.
Virtually every meal can be made ahead, frozen, and later cooked in a crock pot. If you spend one day each week preparing five meals, then placing them in freezer bags to be pulled out daily, you will cut your after work routine by an hour! No more stewing over what to make for dinner, no more brewing over a busy kitchen with kids underfoot. Instead, you can come home to a ready-to-eat meal!
It can be difficult for anyone with kids to get out of the house for an evening of socializing; it’s next to impossible for a single mother. Yet if anyone deserves some time for herself, she does.
Rather than seeking your typical teenage babysitter who charges $10 per hour or more, try something different. Perhaps a friend would be willing to swap childcare services with you once or twice per month. You know those sleepovers that kids love to have? Try to get your kids coordinated, so that they all go off on play dates and sleepovers at the same time.
As for the day-to-day childcare while mom’s at work, shop around. Many childcare providers offer family discounts. As well, depending on your income, you may be eligible for some government assistance to help cover the costs of childcare.
It goes without saying that a single mother needs income. Unfortunately, many traditional workplaces are less than accommodating when it comes to sick days for children, school vacation days, and more. These days off result in lost pay. So, what can a single mother do to supplement her income and avoid feeling the pinch of those lost days?
If you enjoy children, consider doing a few hours of childcare on the weekends. Maybe you can rearrange your children’s bedrooms to free up a spare room, which could then be rented out to a college girl. (You might even be able to ask her to babysit in exchange for a rent discount.) If your children are older, perhaps they could get an after school paper route. These are just a few ideas.
Whether you’re a single mom living paycheque to paycheque or a six-figure earning business person, you ought to have a budget! Budgeting is not merely a tool for those in financial dire straights, but a tool for managing money wisely (no matter how much you have).
There are three keys to a solid budget:
Live within your means
A budget spreadsheet helps you clearly see how much is coming in and how much is going out. If your expenses are higher than your income, having a budget will help you to find areas that can be trimmed down to spend less.
Spend every penny
That’s right! Every penny you earn should be spent on paper before it arrives in your bank account. If your income is higher than your expenses, those extra dollars need to be assigned to a category of spending, whether it be savings, emergency fund, or retirement. Having a plan for every dollar keeps you from making unnecessary purchases.
While it’s not necessary to save every receipt from every purchase, it is vital that you can look at your Internet banking and know which expenditures belong in which budget category (ie, food, entertainment, clothing, etc.). You’ll find it helpful to set a weekly “date” with your budget spreadsheet so that you have a constant eye on your finances. Putting it off may result in overages and NSF fees.
Living on a single income in this economy can be tough, especially with the limited practical and emotional support that comes hand in hand with being a single mother. But it is not hopeless; you can be a financially viable family! Using the tips above will help you manage your finances and your household with ease.