How do single moms survive financially?
Being a single mom is challenging on many levels, especially where money is concerned. Low income, high child care expenses and never-ending debt can make saving money and building wealth seem impossible.
As a single mom who’s lived the broke life, I know what the money struggle feels like.
Several years ago when I decided to turn my money situation around, I went in search of financial tips for single mothers. That included money-saving tips for single moms, as well as tips on how to get out of debt on a low income and the best ways for single moms to make money from home.
I used what I learned to pay off over $100,000 in debt, start a profitable business, buy a home (twice) and save over half a million dollars.
If you’re a single mom struggling financially, then this post is for you. I’ll walk you through the best financial tips for single mothers, including how to make a single mom budget, how to make money as a single mom and what building wealth as a single mom looks like.
How Do Single Moms Survive Financially?
The short answer is that we do whatever it takes.
The long answer is a little more complex. Because the reality is that every single mother’s financial situation is different.
Globally, 13% of unmarried women worldwide have children under 15 living in their households. In the U.S., that number rises to 19% of unmarried women.
Among female-headed households in the U.S., children under 18 represent 36.6% of all U.S. children who live in poverty. So for many single moms, the financial struggle is all too real.
The secret to how to survive financially as a single mom is finding ways to do these two things:
- Decrease your expenses
- Increase your income
This is the exact formula I used to completely makeover my financial life as a single mom of two kids.
If you can master those two things then the rest will start to fall into place. And if you’re not sure where to get started with either one, I’ve got some financial tips for single mothers that can help.
7 Best Financial Tips for Single Mothers
The most important thing to remember about financial advice for single mothers is that it doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all. Your money situation may not be exactly the same as every other single mom’s. And that’s fine.
What matters most is how you take the financial tips for single moms you’re collecting and apply them to your life.
In other words, figure out what works best for you. Then do that.
If you’re ready to stop being a financially struggling single mom, here are six ways to do it.
1. Budget and spend intentionally
Making a budget tops the list of financial tips for single mothers because it’s so much harder to get ahead without one.
A budget is simply a plan for spending money each month. There are different ways to make a budget, including:
You can also use a free tool like Personal Capital to track your spending and monthly budget.
Part of budgeting as a single mom means learning how to live below your means. And that includes spending intentionally.
For example, before I buy things I don’t necessarily need I always ask myself a question:
Is this worth the effort I had to put in to make the money I’m about to spend?
Most of the time, the answer is no. But sometimes it’s yes.
And when it’s yes, I’m okay with spending the money because I’ve thought it through.
So the next time you’re tempted to make an impulse buy, ask yourself the same thing. Once you start assigning a value to your time, it gets a lot easier to avoid wasteful spending.
And consider doing a no-spend challenge to cut out the extras in your budget.
A no-spend challenge, spending fast, spending diet–whatever you want to call it–means you deliberately hit pause on spending for a set amount of time.
That doesn’t mean you don’t spend any money at all; you only spend on what’s essential. And if you track your spending while you do it, it can be a real eye-opener about where your money goes.
2. Save money automatically
I love saving money.
Embracing the savings habit is one of the smartest financial tips for single mothers to follow.
Because having savings is a great feeling, especially when you need money for something unexpected. Because instead of freaking out and panicking, you can just pay for it and keep going.
So how do you save when you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you feel overwhelmed by bills?
Well first, you go back to your budget. And if you don’t have a budget, then you need to make one pronto. (I’ve got some free budgeting tools you can use to get started in the Resource Library.)
Then look at everything you spend for the month and start putting intentional thinking to work.
Challenge yourself to find $50 a month to save, $25, whatever you can siphon off from your spending.
Commit to putting that amount in a savings account every month. This is your emergency, just-in-case money.
Every month, go over your budget again to look for more money you can save.
And if you’re having trouble getting into the savings habit, consider using a money-saving app like Acorns.
With Acorns, you’re investing your spare change instead of just saving it. Basically, you can grow an investment portfolio with literal pennies.
Here’s how it works:
You create your Acorns account, then link it to your bank account. When you spend, Acorns rounds up the transaction and invests the difference.
3. Set clear financial goals
Aside from saving money, the other thing I love when it comes to my finances is setting goals.
At the start of every year, I pick two or three big goals I want to work on. Then I set monthly goals to help me reach the bigger ones.
Setting money goals is one of the best financial tips for single mothers who want to change their situation. Having a clear goal can be a huge motivator to manage your finances better.
For example, you might have debt you want to pay off. But you’re not making much progress with it.
That’s where goals come in.
You could set a big goal, like paying off $5,000 or $10,000 in a year. Then you figure out what you need to do each month to make it happen.
If setting big goals seems intimidating, it’s okay to start small. But don’t limit yourself mentally.
A few years ago, I set a goal to make $100,000 a year from freelance writing. I had no idea if I could do it but I set the goal anyway.
And the craziest thing happened. Once I set that goal, I started doing things to get me closer to reaching it.
It’s kind of like faking it ’til you make it only you get to a point where you don’t want to fake it. You really want your goal to happen.
And when you want it enough, you’ll find yourself chasing after it.
Then, boom — before you know it, you’ve hit the target. And the great thing about that is you can set an even bigger money goal to pursue.
4. Let go of past money mistakes
We’ve all made bad choices with our money at some point.
I definitely did when it came to college; racking up almost $40,000 in student loans for two degrees I’ve never really used was dumb, dumb, dumb.
Do I beat myself up over it every day? No.
Because the choices I made 20 years ago or 10 years ago or 5 years ago aren’t the choices I’m making now.
So what I’m saying to you, single mom to single mom, is that if you’ve screwed up somewhere with money don’t let it paralyze you from learning how to manage your finances differently.
You may not be able to go back and erase the money mistakes you’ve made. But you don’t have to repeat them either.
Instead, believe that you can improve your financial situation going forward.
Be confident about the choices you’re making now.
Get educated about the things you don’t know about money.
And when you think about the missteps you made with your finances in the past, take them for what they are: life lessons.
Forgive yourself if you have to but make moving on from past money mistakes a priority as you learn how to manage your finances.
5. Strive for financial independence
Financial independence is my ultimate goal.
That means being able to take care of myself and my children, without relying on anyone else financially. It means building wealth so we can enjoy the kind of life we want. And it means making money on my own terms.
I don’t count on child support to make our life happen. And it wouldn’t do me any good if I did since I don’t receive any.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get child support as a single mom, especially if you need it to keep your household going. But it doesn’t last forever.
And while you could get remarried or be in a relationship where you combine your finances, those situations don’t always work out either.
But when you’re financially independent, those kinds of bumps in the road won’t send you spiraling off into the ditch.
You don’t feel anxious about whether the bills will get paid because you know you can pay them yourself.
Once you tell yourself you can become financially independent, you start to believe it. And when you believe it, then honestly, anything is possible.
So how do single moms become financially independent?
Increasing income is one way. I’ll go over some of the best ways for single moms to make money in a minute.
Investing is the other.
If you’ve never invested money before, it’s not hard at all to get started.
You can buy your first stocks or exchange-traded with funds through M1 Finance with as little as $100.
The sooner you start investing, even if it’s only small amounts, the sooner you can start building wealth and financial independence.
6. Don’t settle for low income
This is one of the most important financial tips for single mothers, if not THE most important.
If you want to manage your finances well, you can’t buy into the idea that being a single mom means you have to be broke all the time.
Here’s what you do instead: you work on growing your income.
Now how do you do that?
Well, it depends on where you are right now.
It might be asking for a raise at work so your paychecks reflect the effort you’re putting in and what you’re worth.
Or it might be looking for a better-paying job in your field or going back to school.
For me, growing my income meant growing my business. I’ve earned so much more running an online business than I ever did working a “real” job.
Maybe you could start a side hustle or a home business too. If you need some inspiration, check out these posts:
And of course, there’s always starting a blog.
Blogging is lots of fun (and sometimes, a lot of frustration). It can also be a great way to make money online.
You can make money blogging by:
- Selling digital or physical products
- Including ads on your blog
- Writing sponsored posts
- Offering a service as part of your blog (like freelance writing or VA services)
- Marketing affiliate products
There are lots of possibilities for moms. You could start a mommy blog about single mom life or write about something totally different. It all comes down to what you’re interested in and passionate about.
So definitely give blogging some thought if you’re looking for a way to make money. And check out my step by step guide on how to start a blog with Siteground–they’re the absolute best blog host around!
And even if you decide blogging isn’t for you, there are still lots of other things you can do to boost your earning potential.
Bottom line, if you’re not making as much money as you want to be, then find a way to change that.
7. Protect yourself and your kids financially
One of the scariest parts of being a single mom for me is worrying about whether my kids would be taken care of if something happened to me.
As someone who gets paid to write about money I can tell you one of the most overlooked financial tips for single mothers is to buy life insurance.
Why do single moms need life insurance?
It’s simple. Life insurance can ensure that your kids are taken care of financially if the worst happens.
I bought life insurance my 30s and I wish I’d bought it even sooner. The younger you are and the healthier you are when you buy life insurance, the cheaper it usually is.
But regardless of how old you are, life insurance is definitely something to think about, especially if you have younger kids.
You can get free quotes through Haven Life. They offer affordable term life insurance coverage for single moms or anyone else who wants to protect themselves and their loved ones.
While you’re looking into life insurance also think about making a will.
A will lets you choose who should get your assets after you pass away. You can also use a will to name a guardian for minor children.
Creating a simple will is something you can do online and it doesn’t cost a lot of money.
I recommend using Trust & Will if you’re ready to create a single mom estate plan. You can create a will quickly and easily so you have almost instant peace of mind.
Financial Assistance for Single Mothers
If you’re truly struggling financially as a single mom, then you may need more than just the best financial tips for single mothers to get ahead.
For example, you might need help with:
- Affording housing as a single mom
- Paying utility bills
- Buying groceries
- Purchasing a home as a single mom
- Paying for college
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to find financial assistance for single moms, including state government agencies, federal agencies, nonprofits and local churches.
If you’re truly desperate for financial help as a single mom, take a look at these resources:
- Financial assistance for single moms (Master list of places to get help)
- Smart money tools for moms
- Single mom stimulus grant giveaway
They can help you get back on track financially if you’re struggling with money.
Final thoughts on the best financial tips for single mothers
Money can be a major source of stress for single parents. But it doesn’t have to be.
By implementing these financial tips for single mothers it’s possible to remake your money situation. It can take time to do, of course.
In my case, it took a solid two years before I was making enough money so that a simple grocery shopping trip wasn’t a cause for a panic attack. And it took another three years after that before all of my debt was finally paid off.
But if you’re committed to creating a better life for yourself and your kids, it’s almost impossible not to see some kind of improvement. So the sooner you start putting these financial tips for single moms to work, the sooner you can start to get ahead.
Now, over to you — do you have a great tip for managing your money as a single mom?
If so, head to the comments and tell me about it.