Personal Finance

How To Survive Financially As A Single Mom

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 24 minute read

Can you estimate how little money a single parent in the United States needs to get by? This sum can be calculated for each state using the data from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator in the year 2020. All in all, it’s a dismal set of findings.

In Mississippi, the least expensive state in the study, a single parent with one child needed a pre-tax income of $43,971 to get by. To make ends meet in the state, a single parent with three children needs an annual income of $60,112. Including both single-person and multi-person households with children, the typical income in Mississippi is around $43,600.

Where do you stand on high-priced states like California and New York? To get by in California as a single parent with one child, you’ll need an annual income of $65,000 before taxes. To avoid poverty, a single parent with three children needs to earn at least $100,000. 

New York is much worse, with a livable income for a single parent with three children of dependent age coming in at a whopping $112,507.

Nonetheless, even in relatively high-wage states like New York, the average annual income of a single parent is significantly lower than $112,000. In the United States, roughly 27% of single parents (those who are not married to another person) have a household income that is below the poverty level, as reported by Pew Research. 

Around 80% of all single parents are mothers, and about 30% of these mothers, but only 17% of these fathers, live below the poverty line. You can’t avoid it. Putting in the basis for financial security, much alone wealth, can seem like a distant concept when just getting by until the next paycheck is a struggle.

Time and money constraints stymie many single parents’ best efforts to increase their financial security, even if they are lucky enough to not live near the poverty line. Even if a single parent is amicably divorced or separated from the other parent, they should not count on their ex-spouse for regular financial or emotional support. 

U.S. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013, the average child support payment made to mothers was $5,181, and the average payment made to fathers was $6,526. That’s roughly 16% of a single mother’s income and 9% of a single father’s.

How to Grow Your Finances While Being a Single Parent

As a single parent, you may strengthen your financial footing and emerge stronger. You can overcome any challenge or unexpected situation. This is not a sequential process, and you can execute any of the steps at any time. However, getting life insurance and starting an estate plan should be at the top of your list of priorities.

1. Finish the Estate Planning Process

It’s not something you want a judge or a far-off relative to have to figure out who will take care of your kids when you’re gone. If you have children or other dependents, you should make a will to ensure that your preferences, including those regarding their care and the division of your worldly assets, are carried out after your death, even if you are young and otherwise healthy.

The issue of guardianship is simple when both biological parents are present and capable of making decisions. In most cases, the surviving parent will be awarded custody. If one parent is dead or unfit to care for the child, the situation becomes more complicated. They become even more complicated when the surviving single parent has few close relatives or refuses to relinquish custody to any of them.

If you are in the fortunate position of having substantial financial assets, you may want to consult a probate attorney about establishing a revocable trust to protect those assets until your children are of legal age to make their own financial decisions. 

Many lawyers today say you should wait until you’re at least 25 or 30. If you pass away before your children turn 18, merely listing them as beneficiaries on your accounts may not be enough. Additionally, a trust might help you avoid the expense and delay of probate by rerouting your assets.

Get a comprehensive estate planning checklist with items covering everything from expenditures to emotional factors. The next step is to get in touch with an attorney who handles probate matters. Explore the state bar association’s free estate planning services if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

2. Acquire A Term Life Insurance Policy

The value of life insurance is often questioned. But most adults of working age with dependents do, and single parents almost certainly do. In a fortunate turn of events, getting insurance has never been simpler. With a service like a Ladder, the application process takes less than five minutes, and you get a response right away.

Compared to permanent (whole or universal) life insurance, the cost of a level-term life insurance policy, which guarantees a fixed payout for a set period of time, is typically lower. A portion of the premiums put into permanent coverage go into a cash-value account, which increases over time. However, the premium is more than double that of a term policy with the same face value.

If the policyholder passes away, the beneficiary will no longer have access to the policyholder’s future income. Your life insurance requirements are determined by your age, your family income, and the number of people who depend on your income. 

It is more important for younger, higher-earning parents with several children to have life insurance than it is for older, lower-earning parents with fewer or financially independent children. Life insurance is especially crucial for single parents because their children will not receive spousal support in the event of their death.

Life insurance is shockingly cheap for young, healthy parents who don’t smoke and have no serious health issues – just a few dozen of dollars a month for $1 million in coverage. Costs for your insurance plan will differ depending on factors including your age, health, and the extent of your coverage. On the other hand, it will likely be cheaper than your automobile payment.

3 Investigate Disability Insurance

Another vital element of your family’s safety net is disability insurance. It’s intended to compensate for lost wages brought on by severe illnesses or accidents that persist for weeks, months, or longer.

There are two types of disability insurance: short-term and long-term. By issuer and product, policy terms differ. However, short-term benefits are often only available after 26 consecutive weeks of impairment. In the event of a permanent handicap, long-term benefits typically run for at least two years and sometimes even until age 65 or beyond.

The cost of disability insurance is high. For term life insurance, the monthly premium is frequently higher than the monthly premium. Additionally, whereas disability payments may rise annually, term life premiums are fixed for the whole term. 

But disability insurance is a crucial defense against life-altering incidents that can prevent you from working for an extended length of time and irrevocably change your family’s financial situation. 

By making the most of any employer-sponsored disability insurance, which is probably less expensive than the coverage you buy on your own, you can keep expenditures under control.

Just be sure you understand what you’re purchasing. Payouts don’t always completely replace your paycheck, especially if you have erratic income like many people who work for themselves. To find the cheapest prices, make sure to use the outstanding quote aggregator PolicyGenius.

4. Acquire Health Insurance Protection

Government health insurance mandates have been repealed, and individuals are no longer subject to tax fines for going without coverage. However, the potential for a huge out-of-pocket medical bill makes taking a chance unwise. 

In the event of your untimely death or a serious, chronic illness, you must make arrangements to ensure your children’s financial security. If your company offers health insurance, it’s up to you to figure out which plan is the greatest fit. 

In many businesses, you can talk to someone in human resources. Most of the time, the deductible and copayment amounts for lower monthly premium plans are larger. It will result in increased out-of-pocket expenses for policyholders who choose to receive care that is not completely covered. 

However, it’s a fair compromise for financially stable single parents who also value their health. Health insurance coverage that has lower out-of-pocket costs are often worth the extra money for parents who have more extensive health care demands.

If you don’t have access to health insurance through your employer, you may want to research your alternatives through a state or federal health insurance exchange. Subsidies that lower premiums are available to many one-parent families. 

Healthcare.gov provides a breakdown of income and other eligibility requirements for each state. It is possible for pregnant women, SSI recipients, and low-income families to qualify for Medicaid benefits for themselves and their children. 

Your state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program may provide health coverage even if you don’t qualify for subsidies or Medicaid (CHIP).

5. Check to See If You Qualify for Government Assistance Programs

Extra government aid programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, may be available to your family depending on your income, identity, or household status (WIC).

To learn if you qualify for WIC, or any of the other state-run programs like Medicaid and CHIP, contact your state’s health and human services agency. The WIC voucher program helps low-income families buy healthy foods including milk, eggs, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and infant formula at a discount.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps families afford healthy groceries; subsidized housing and government rental assistance programs, which help extremely low-income families afford safe, comfortable housing; and state and local housing assistance or placement programs may all be accessible to low-income single parents.

6. Conduct a Cash Flow Analysis and Develop a Budget.

Start off on solid financial footing by calculating your monthly net cash intake and outflow. Create a detailed budget for your home using this data, or use it to get a better handle on your monthly surplus or deficit if you’re not a fan of budgets in general.

For the most reliable snapshot of your current cash flow, calculate the 90-day moving average of all cash receipts and payments. All you need to know is the change in your balance from the previous month to tell if you’re making progress toward your financial goals or falling further behind. 

In other words, do your ending balances each month increase or decrease from the ending balances the month before? Making a written budget for your home takes more time and effort. In order to examine possible overspending, you must categorize your transactions. 

This is a common practice at many banks. Your bank may offer predefined categories for transactions, but if not, you’ll need to do so by hand. Use a free program like Mint or a more feature-rich suite like Tiller to manage your finances instead of clunky outdated spreadsheets. 

For day-to-day spending, a free bank account or low-fee reloadable prepaid debit card paired with one of these budgeting apps is the best vehicle, while many single parents swear by cash-based budgeting approaches like envelope budgeting.

The end goal is to have a cash flow surplus. Some broad strokes for getting there are provided in the following sections. If your expenses are lower than your income, they can help you put that extra money to good use.

7. Cut Back on or Do Away With Extraneous Expenses

To what extent you need to reduce non-essential spending depends on the findings of your cash flow study. Even frugal parents can certainly think of a few things they spent money on that they no longer need.

Take some time to consider your priorities and the things you can give your attention to. How much of your cable and Internet bill goes toward the multichannel aspect of your subscription? Or, would you rather spend $10 or $15 each month on a streaming service like Amazon Prime Video? 

Rather than spending money on lunch every day, is it possible for you to carry your lunch to work on four out of five days? What would happen if you switched your pet to a cheaper brand of food that was otherwise nutritionally equivalent?

Get rid of the items you won’t miss initially before you start cutting costs. When you get your spending under control, you can then update your cash flow estimates to reflect the new spending baseline. As soon as you are able to do so within your budget constraints, you can resume previously cut forms of discretionary spending.

8. Develop a Strategy for Paying Off High-Interest Debt

High-interest unsecured debt, most commonly credit card bills, is a significant financial burden for many single parents. Paying off high-interest debt is a good idea even if your payments are current and you haven’t noticed any negative repercussions from having bad credit. 

If you have a carried load, it is presently reducing the purchasing power of your savings and thus limiting your ability to invest for the future. Apply long-term methods to paying off your own personal debt. It doesn’t matter whatever approach you take. 

No one else’s needs matter but your own. After meeting your essential living expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, food, and utilities, you should prioritize paying down your high-interest bills. 

If you’re in a position to take advantage of a 0% APR credit card campaign, a low-interest home equity line of credit, or a low-cost unsecured personal loan from a top lender like SoFi, you should do so in order to eliminate your high-interest debt.

If you have any debts in joint name with an ex-spouse or partner, you need to handle them carefully. All of the bills that are in both of your names are considered joint debts in the majority of the country. 

You could be held responsible for your ex-debts spouse if you lived in a community property state like Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin. 

It’s possible that other factors will come into play if your divorce isn’t complete. If you have any questions about family law, it’s best to talk to a local attorney.

Regardless of the specifics of your financial situation, settling debts incurred as a couple is a lot more difficult. The best course of action is to cooperate with your ex to divide the funds and put equal amounts into separate accounts in your respective names. 

Getting a court order can be time-consuming and costly if your ex-spouse refuses to comply. If you want to be sure your ex can’t rack up any more bills in your name, you should talk to an attorney about closing your joint accounts and dividing up the remaining funds.

9. Avoid Dishonest Financial Service Providers.

Especially payday lenders are unscrupulous financial service providers that you should stay away from. Short-term loans from these sources have extremely high-interest rates, perpetuating the debt cycle. 

Make use of a paycheck advance tool like Earnin if an unforeseen cost arises. You are under no need to pay anything to use Earnin, as it is totally funded by the voluntary donations of its users rather than any sort of required fees or interest.

10. Identify a Partner for Financial Accountability

Now that you have established a financial foundation, it is time to find a financial accountability partner. Find an unbiased third party to evaluate your current spending and savings habits and advise you on how to best achieve your long-term financial objectives. 

To become financially fit, this method is comparable to the buddy system. Your accountability partner need not be an actual specialist in the field of personal finance. 

Nonetheless, pick someone who is both capable and trustworthy enough to provide useful guidance. Find someone who is both well-organized and quick to respond so that you can talk about your finances on a frequent basis. 

Reminding people of their accountability on a weekly, or even daily, basis has been shown to be most effective. If you’re a single parent looking for a partner, it’s best if they’re in a similar position financially and professionally to you.

Your ex-spouse is a great choice if you’re on good terms and they have a similar attitude about money as you do. Sharing custody means you’ll have to interact with this person frequently anyway.

The alternative is to ask a close friend, sibling, or business colleague. You should have faith in their abilities to check your work and provide you with honest comments rather than in their identity.

11. Use Your Wider Support Network

Your financial accountability partner shouldn’t be your only source of support. Any single parent juggling work, family, and financial responsibilities know how important it is to have a strong external support network.

Family members, friends, mentors, professors, and even coworkers can all play important roles in your life, but your immediate family members and broader social circle will always be there for you. Think about what they can do to help you out that won’t be too much of a burden or a boundary-pushing request. 

Maybe they could babysit occasionally or drop off a hot meal if you’re sick and unable to cook. You can expect your network to help you in ways that aren’t strictly monetary. However, it reduces the number of demands placed on you, making it easier to keep your financial situation under control.

12. Whenever Possible and Appropriate, Buy Used (or Free!)

Aside from being a great method to save money, this is also a great strategy to cut back on unnecessary spending. It’s not necessarily the case that something that’s been utilized for a while is in poor condition or no longer functional. 

And there are several channels through which one might facilitate the transfer of unused possessions to those in need, while also potentially profiting from the process. As a result, you can acquire the necessities at a reduced cost, sometimes for nothing at all. 

Specifically, here’s what you do:

  • Take advantage of apparel and accessories you might acquire in secondhand stores.
  • Get your household items and furniture from places like surplus stores, wholesalers, auctions, or private sellers on websites like Craigslist and Nextdoor. Be sure to keep the “free things” portions of these sites in regular rotation.
  • Instead of shelling out extra money for a brand-new car, consider purchasing a used one.
  • Find gently used infant and toddler apparel by searching Facebook groups or asking friends and family.
  • Apps like LetGo that facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers of previously owned items may be worth a look.

13. Develop a Stable Emergency Fund

After you’ve paid off high-interest debt and reduced your discretionary spending, you can start saving for an emergency. In the absence of a breadwinner, your emergency fund may represent your only safety net during a time of temporary financial difficulty.

Three months’ worth of costs should be the minimum goal for an emergency fund. However, six to nine months is the standard advice from professionals. Many of them even last for longer than a year. 

You should have a savings cushion large enough to cover the time between the day you lose your job and the first payment from your disability insurance policy. Long-term disability insurance alone could leave you without income for up to a year.

It will take time to amass a savings cushion in case of need. Create a high-yield savings account in a dependable financial institution; I recommend CIT Bank. Put away any money that isn’t earmarked for a specific purpose, like paying off debt or investing for the future. 

Next, decide on a reasonable amount to save each month, such as five or ten percent of your net income. Make a regular monthly deposit into your savings account from your checking account.

Prioritize the emergency fund until it reaches the minimum level you require if you can’t consistently contribute to both the emergency fund and the long-term savings account. Your plan should include a safety net in case the worst should happen.

14. Recognize the Income Tax Incentives That Are Offered to You

A greater number of single parents may be eligible for favorable tax credits, deductions, and other breaks.

To begin, if a parent is raising a child alone and has never been married, they can typically file as head of household instead of single. Individuals who file taxes as heads of household are entitled to an $18,000 standard deduction, as opposed to the $12,000 deduction available to those filing as single individuals. 

They also gain from a revised system of tax brackets, which can result in a marginally reduced effective tax rate for taxpayers in the lower and middle-income ranges.

Extra tax breaks for single parents include:

  • Exemptions for Dependents. Prior to the 2018 tax year, a custodial parent could deduct an exemption for each kid or adult dependent under their care. However, it’s never too early to start making preparations, as this tax code provision is only temporarily delayed through the 2025 tax year.
  • The Child Tax Credit. Each qualifying child you file on your tax return may entitle you to a tax credit, which can reduce your tax bill by up to $2,000. The child tax benefit, however, is reduced at higher income levels. You probably won’t qualify if your taxable income was over $200,000 last year.
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The Child and Dependent Care Credit allows qualifying taxpayers to get a dollar-for-dollar refund on their tax return for qualified childcare expenses paid during the tax year. This credit is available to those who file as either a single taxpayer or a head of household. Dependent children must be under the age of 13 at the time of service provision; however, adults may qualify if they are unable to care for themselves. Total qualifying expenses for one eligible individual are limited to $3,000, while those for two or more eligible individuals are limited to $6,000.
  • Supplemental Credit for Earned Income. Single parents with low incomes between the ages of 25 and 65 may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The Earned Income Tax Credit has income thresholds that rise with the number of reported children.

If you need help determining whether or not one of these tax strategies is right for you, it’s best to speak with a tax expert or look into IRS resources. If you file state income taxes, you could save money by taking advantage of dependent credits, deductions, and incentives.

15. Use Employer Benefits That Are Family-Friendly

Make use of your company’s other family-friendly perks in addition to its health insurance. As the cost of raising children alone rises, a growing number of families are turning to the flexible spending account (FSA) as a way to spread the cost.

According to SHRM, there are some variations between a health FSA and a dependent care FSA. Spending from a dependent care FSA must be used for the care of dependents who are either younger than 13 or are unable to care for themselves. 

Care provided by a third party, such as a daycare, a summer program, or a preschool that is not paid for by the account holder’s employment, is considered eligible care. Beneficiary dependants must spend at least six months of the year living in the account holder’s household to be eligible for benefits.

In most cases, a single or head-of-household taxpayer can put away up to $5,000 pretax money into a dependent care FSA. However, the restriction drops significantly if you are separated but not yet divorced. For divorced or separated parents, the maximum tax-deductible gift is $2,000. 

You should still double-check with your company to see whether they or the plan they provide has a lower contribution limit than the IRS does.

Some companies may provide other family-friendly perks, such as:

  • Modifiable Timetables. Employment policies might differ greatly from one company to the next. However, genuine flexible scheduling provides employees with the freedom to determine their own work schedules, so long as they fulfill all deadlines and attend all required meetings.
  • Funding for telecommuting or working from home. For parents raising children alone, these are a godsend. Some companies allow their employees to work remotely one or two days per week. More and more companies are permitting workers to telecommute at least part-time. If it’s not included in the bundle of perks that a company typically provides, ask for it when you’re interviewing or after you’ve been hired.
  • Leave it for parents that pay. For expectant single mothers, paid leave is a lifeline. Many companies must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible medical and life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. However, neither paid maternity nor paternity leave is required by law in the United States. The good news is that many companies provide these advantages voluntarily. However, it is unusual for employers to provide a complete 12 weeks of paid parental leave. 

The average turnaround time is between two and six weeks. You can only get paid during your time off if you have collected paid time off or if you have applied for short-term disability, both of which are options once medical leave and parental leave have been exhausted.

16. Fund Long-Term Objectives with Tax-Advantaged Accounts

Educational costs for children and retirement savings are the two largest outlays of time that nearly all parents will have to make.

You, as a single parent, have complete financial responsibility for these objectives. It makes no difference if your financial goals include a life-changing inheritance or the discovery of a financially stable life partner. We can’t always expect things to go according to plan. No one will come to your aid under any circumstances.

Plans for 529 college savings

Chances are, your children will have started college by the time you’re ready to retire. That’s the place to begin. The time to start saving for college is now, and the best place to do that is in a 529 plan offered by your state. 

CollegeBacker is a straightforward savings platform that makes the process possible in just five minutes. The maximum allowable contributions to such plans are, of course, subject to variation from state to state, but they are still rather sizable. 

However, the average cost of a private four-year college education is more than $235,000, which is why the states that are the most stingy have the highest lifetime contribution caps per recipient. 

You are free to sign up for a 529 plan offered by any state. However, resident account holders in your state may qualify for state income tax benefits. Your contributions to a 529 plan are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. 

As long as the funds are put toward qualified educational expenses, they can grow tax-free and be withdrawn without incurring federal tax penalties. 

Starting in 2018, tuition and fees for accredited postsecondary institutions, such as two-year colleges and vocational schools, as well as some private K-12 institutions, are among the categories of spending that can be considered tax-deductible. The federal income tax that is already due is increased by 10% for any disbursements that are not qualified.

Tax-Advantaged Retirement Accounts

The world of tax-advantaged retirement accounts is significantly larger than that of 529 plans for college savings, but it is not as complicated as it would first appear.

First of all, most single parents who file as single or head of household are qualified to make contributions to both standard and Roth individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Countless internet stock brokers provide both services. When it comes to online brokers, TD Ameritrade is my preferred option.

There are income and yearly contribution limits for claiming the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA. The account holder’s current tax rate applies to distributions made in retirement.

Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible. However, the growth of contributions and any withdrawals made in retirement are not subject to federal or state income tax. For parents who are legally separated but not yet divorced and filing separately, there is a major disadvantage to using a Roth IRA. 

They cannot make a Roth IRA contribution for tax years in which their adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than $10,000 and they resided with their spouse for more than three of those years, per IRS guidelines. 

When compared, people who had an AGI of less than $137,000 and who were divorced or legally separated for the whole tax year are eligible to contribute to Roth IRAs, with a phaseout between $124,000 and $139,000 AGI. The maximum amount you can put into an individual retirement account often rises once a year or twice a year. 

In 2020, you can put up to $6,000 in any kind of account. In order to increase the possibility that they will have enough money saved when they retire, account holders over the age of 50 can make annual catch-up contributions of up to $1,000.

Higher-income workers who are qualified for employer retirement plans may have their contributions phased out. Between $65,000 and $75,000, the cutoff will happen in 2020. 

Deductions are reduced for taxpayers in this income bracket compared to those in the $65,000 and below the bracket. Those with annual incomes exceeding $75,000 are ineligible for the tax break. However, individuals can still make traditional IRA contributions up to the annual limit, even if they don’t qualify for a tax deduction.

The qualifying plan is another important type of retirement account that offers tax benefits. Qualified retirement plans are employer-sponsored retirement plans that allow for pretax contributions up to IRS-mandated restrictions. 

In 2020, the maximum allowable pre-tax contribution to a 401(k), the most popular type of qualifying plan, is $19,500. A catch-up payment of up to $6,500 per year is available to employees aged 50 and older.

As an incentive for workers to contribute to retirement plans, many companies will match their employee’s contributions up to a certain limit. On a $100,000 income, for instance, an employer might match the first 3% of gross pay contributed by the employee, or $3,000, for a combined contribution of $6,000. 

If your company offers a match, you should do what you can to take full advantage of it, even if it means making some short-term sacrifices. Don’t stress out if your employer doesn’t match your qualified 401(k) contributions. 

Determine how much you can fairly put toward retirement using your most recent cash flow analysis, taking into account emergency fund contributions and other costs. Then, when your revenue increases, put your sights on a loftier objective. 

It’s possible that right now you can only put aside 2.5% of your gross income. However, if you contribute 1.5% more annually, you will reach your target of 10% by the sixth year.

17. Develop & Monitor Your Shorter-Term Savings Goals

It’s not enough to just have a savings account and a tax-deferred investment account. Everyone has non-urgent, intermediate-term savings requirements. The funds might be used for everything from a down payment on a home to emergency car repairs.

You can save a little bit every month or every pay period with the help of an automatic savings software like Acorns or with the help of your bank and automatic transfers. 

Keep your savings for your child’s school supplies and your savings for a house down payment in different accounts to avoid the temptation to mix them together.

18. Develop a Long-Term Strategy to Boost Your Earnings Potential

When compared to parents who are in a couple, single parents have a much heavier workload. Many people find the idea of returning to school or even just preparing for a licensing exam to be overwhelming.

However, it is never too late to put money into yourself. When it comes to raising a family on their own, I’ve seen some single mothers and fathers accomplish incredible things. An old friend’s mom got her master’s degree shortly after she finally got divorced. 

She has advanced to the rank of associate professor and consults on the side. I can’t be sure of her age, but I’d wager she wasn’t much younger than 50 when she decided to go back to school. In order to make an investment in yourself, you no longer have to forego other priorities. 

There is a plethora of online and on-campus degree programs that can be adjusted to accommodate full-time professionals. In addition, many companies are willing to help pay for an employee’s education in exchange for their dedication to the company.

19. Conduct Frequent Reviews of Your Finances and Credit

The financial well-being of your family, including your own credit score, is something you should monitor closely. In order to keep yourself on track financially, ask your accountability partner to nudge you.

Each of the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus is required by law to provide you with one free credit report every year. Give some of these reports in April, some in August, and some in December.

Getting a monthly glimpse of your credit score is helpful, but if you want more regular insights, join up for a free credit monitoring service like Credit Karma. A more robust service is suitable if you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past, but you should still think twice before paying for credit monitoring.

20. Control the Expectations of Your Family

Lastly, it’s important to concentrate on managing your own expectations, as well as those of your children. First and foremost, don’t judge your family based on the standards of other single-income families in your community, social circle, or children’s peer group. 

Whatever similarities there may be in terms of interests, their finances are quite different. Without restricting their curiosity or blocking off areas of apparent promise, you should encourage your kids to seek less expensive hobbies and extracurricular activities. 

Costs can quickly add up for any club sport that necessitates frequent trips. Throughout their time in secondary school, athletes in sports like hockey and golf will need to replace pricey, specialized equipment multiple times. 

Less expensive to participate in are sports that require fewer specialist equipment and personnel, such as soccer and basketball. Get away from the rat race less frequently and closer to home. 

Instead of flying across the country to spend a week at a dude ranch, take a weekend road trip to the closest tourist beach or mountain range. However, the cost savings may not always favor driving. 

Before taking a trip, it’s a good idea to compare the costs of flying versus driving, and to factor in any time lost from work as well. In addition, make sure your children are learning about money management at a young age. 

If you’re a single parent, your first financial priority should be teaching your kids about money so they can make sound choices when it’s time for them to make their own. This is true even if you’re also saving for emergencies, college, and retirement. 

You probably don’t want to have to provide your 30-year-old who is capable, healthy, and college-educated any kind of direct financial help in ten or twenty years.

Bottom Line

There is already enough difficulty in being a parent. When raising a family alone, a parent has no one to share in household chores, child care, or emotional support with. 

Many of the financial and logistical burdens that are generally shared evenly within two-income households still fall on single-income individuals, even whether they get financial or custodial help from former partners or have strong support networks among relatives.

By taking care of most or all of these issues while your children are young, you can increase the likelihood that you will be financially secure in the future. You’ll be more resilient in the face of adversity, whether that’s the loss of a job or a sudden medical problem. 

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking getting out of debt is simple. The biggest respect, in my opinion, should be given to anyone who is able to remain on that path.

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