Raising children on a budget as a single parent can be a challenging endeavour, but there are ways to make your life easier. Here’s how…
Until your children are old enough to fly the nest, they rely on you to provide for them financially, which can be a real burden if you’re doing it alone.
However, it’s not an impossible task and there are ways to make your life easier, such as making sure the other parent is doing their part. Having child maintenance and family mediation explained to you by a professional will help you ensure this happens.
In this post, we’re going to share our top tips on budgeting your money as a single parent, so that your children can have everything they need to live a happy life.
Top Tips on Budgeting Your Money as a Single Parent
There’s no reason a single parent family can’t have everything nuclear families have, especially in our modern world. If you follow the tips below, you’ll be one step closer to making your money stretch far enough to achieve that goal.
1. Ask your ex-partner about money
Depending on your specific circumstances, there is often an ex-partner around to help you provide for your children financially. This can include anything from helping you pay your rent or mortgage, to buying you a weekly shop.
These payments are known as Child Maintenance Payments in the UK, and are often decided on in court when you get divorced. If you weren’t married to your ex, or there’s another reason these payments aren’t in place, you need to discuss it with them.
It could be that you ended your relationship on good terms, or that your ex cares for your children enough to offer to help with your finances. If this isn’t the case and your partner doesn’t want to help you, you can speak to the Child Maintenance Service.
2. Check if you’re eligible for government benefits
Your partner isn’t the only place you can go to get money for your single parent family. There are tons of initiatives and benefit systems in place for single parents who are struggling, and they should be taken full advantage of.
Depending on your particular situation, you could be eligible for:
- Universal Credit
- Child Benefit
- Income support
- Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance
- Healthy Start vouchers
- Council Tax reduction
- Bereavement support payment
- Free school meals
- NHS Low Income Scheme
- Childcare costs tax credits
You can look these benefits up individually, or use single parent benefit calculators, like Gingerbread. These ask you a series of questions and list the benefits you’re likely to be entitled to.
3. Keep on top of what you spend
Knowing how much money comes into your account every month, and how much of this money you spend, is the first step to budgeting as a single parent.
Doing this is simpler than ever, with most banks offering apps that show your balance, direct debits and standing orders in real time. You can even pull up full bank statements to see exactly what money came in and out of your account the previous month.
There will be things in your direct debit that you didn’t necessarily need to spend money on or that you could’ve found a cheaper alternative for. When you look over your statement to make a budget, ask yourself these questions:
- What are you buying that isn’t absolutely necessary?
- Are there things you do need but could find a cheaper alternative for?
- Are there any subscriptions you rarely use that aren’t important to you?
- Did you buy any food that you ended up throwing away that could be missed out next month?
4. Have an emergency fund
When you make your budget, don’t stop cutting costs when you get to the point that you’re just about level. You want to make sure you have enough overflow of cash to create an emergency fund.
Even if your money situation is looking better, it doesn’t mean you won’t hit hard times in the future or receive a hefty bill that you don’t have the money to cover.
You don’t have to save hundreds of pounds every month, just put away what you can, when you can so there’s some money there when you need it. The ideal amount is around three months wages worth of money, which you should have time to build up before your next emergency.
5. Save money where you can
Once you have all your spending under control, you can start to look at other ways to save money. Depending on how old your kids are, you can even get them involved, which doubles up as a great lesson to them on how to live within your means.
Here are a few ways you can save some money as a single parent:
- Turn off lights, radiators and other electrical appliances when you’re not using them to save money on your electricity bill.
- Instead of wasting power on a dryer, air dry your clothes on an old-fashioned washing line – you can couple this one with a weather app on your phone.
- Take showers instead of baths and make them utilitarian instead of basking in the warm rain.
- Borrow books from the library or buy them from a charity shop.
- Go to the charity shop and buy a bunch of DVDs for basically no money instead of signing up to a litany of subscription TV services that all cost £5-10 each.
- Whenever you buy something new online, plan a trip, or buy tickets for something, look online to see if there’s a discount voucher. Better yet, use a browser extension that does the hard work for you.
- Eat at home and make packed lunches for the kids instead of buying takeaway or giving them dinner money.
I’m sure there are loads more you could come up with, these are just some ideas to get you started.
Will Budgeting as a Single Parent be Easy?
In this article, we’ve shared our top tips on budgeting as a single parent to help you provide the best life possible for your children.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, which means these tips will be all some of you need and not enough for others. All you can do is budget the money you do have as successfully as possible, and if you still can’t make ends meet, find another way to make money.
This could be help from family, friends, a private charity (if you’re already receiving all the benefits you can get) or making money through another venture. Whatever you have to do, you have it in you to raise the money your children need and budget it well.