By Candice Pardue
Budgeting for the Single Mom... Can It be a Reality?
The single mother faces a dilemma like no other. She often asks the questions, "Should I find a career outside the home and leave my children with a sitter or in daycare? or "Should I struggle to work from home with my own business and skills so my children can be home too?"
These are hard questions I've asked myself many times over the years, being a single mother of two sons. These questions are legitimate, however, since many homes are broken, and without any parents home to raise the children, the children can feel neglected. Who's going to take care of their needs? I realize daycare is the "popular" solution, but leaving them all day long with strangers is not a good feeling. I've done it, and it wasn't pleasant for me or my children. Having a personal sitter is a little better, but no one can replace a parent. That's a fact.
What does this have to do with budgeting, you might ask?
Budgeting is something that is very neglected in many homes (especially with a single mother). The reason it is neglected is because usually the single mother is living on a low income and right on the edge at all times! This is sad, but true. When you combine the low income reality with the other stresses of motherhood, it makes sense that budgeting is far from her mind. Think about it - one woman handling the finances, caring for the children, putting up with stress at work, cleaning the home, washing the clothes, making sure breakfast, lunch and supper (and a snack if she can afford it) are all available to the family every day, along with training the children in the way they should go. These are a lot of responsibilities for one woman to handle.
Budgeting, then, gets put on the back burner, when it could be the very thing that could relieve stress for the mother and help the kids' every need be met.
One More Thing Before We Budget
The Internet has opened the doors wide for single mothers to use their talents and skills to work from home. Starting a business has never been easier and "cheaper". With online resources and a little extra cash, you can have a business up and running in no time, and call it your own. I've had the privilege to own and operate my own business for a little over 5 years now. Have I been able to stay home with my children all these years? No.
While I was building the business, I worked and used some of my earned money to start and promote the business. Also, in between, I worked for a couple of companies from my home doing odds and ends work such as transcription, writing and coding. I am working at home full time right now, and have been for the past year. I do understand the struggle we mothers face.
As you can see, the Internet can help you to get home with your children in the long run if this is your goal. It opens up many opportunities to work from home for other people as well. Even if you could work for several different companies part time at home, it might be worth it. Daycare isn't getting any cheaper!
Budgeting Can Help You Reach Your Goals Even if You Don't Have Much
The one thing that has helped me to gain victory over financial stress and be able to stay home is learning to budget. I found that if I budget properly, I don't really need much money to live and support my children. I have successfully supported us on very little for years, and we've never went without!
If you never budget, you will never reach your goals. The purpose of budgeting is not only to reach financial goals or to pay your bills, but also to relieve financial stress. Budgeting lets you know how you're spending your money and how you can improve your standard of living. A nice home, car, food on the table, nice clothes - all of these are desirable to any woman, but they might not be reachable until you begin budgeting. Realize that you can control your money instead of your money controlling you.
Why You Should Budget
The main reason you should budget is to relieve your financial stress. There's nothing more stressful than not knowing where you stand with your own money. Have you ever stood in line at a grocery store and then realized you didn't have enough money to pay for the groceries, or perhaps left your checkbook at home? Were you embarrassed? This has happened to me a couple of times, and was not a pretty picture.
Now, think for a moment about how you feel at the end of each month when all of your money is gone, and you still have bills due - or need groceries for the family. This is the type of stress that most single mothers have each month, and sometimes every day.
Budgeting will help to relieve this stress. When you know exactly where your money is being spent, and how much you have to the penny, there's no reason to be stressed. You're doing all that you "can" do, and you're not to blame if there's not quite enough. This doesn't mean that you're not responsible for the bills, but the guilt you would experience if you wasted your money will disappear, and then you can find a workable solution. You might find that there IS enough if you'll take the simple steps below...
Steps to Begin Budgeting Your Money:
1. Take Inventory of Your Finances
Sit down (several hours if needed) and take a personal inventory of your finances. Write down your income, and then write down every single item, service, food, etc. you purchase each month. Include your monthly mortgage or rent, car payment, etc. Every penny counts.
2. Eliminate the Unnecessary
I know it's tempting to stop by the local convenience store and buy a drink and a candy bar for a "couple of dollars", or five bucks if you're buying for the kids too. However, what if you cut out these stops and began buying a pack of drinks at the grocery store instead. You can purchase a 12-pack of generic brand soft drinks and an entire package of candy bars for only $6 or less. This could last an entire week if you have two kids. You've just saved money from the store and satisfied the need for extra drinks and snacks. Do this all year long and figure how much you would save.
Eliminating some things all together won't kill you either. There are some things we can do without - even if we feel we must have them, such as eating out, driving around town too often (gas prices are just too high to drive without a significant reason), buying brand new clothes when the local thrift store will supply the same clothes for less. The list could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Eliminate anything that you can live without for now. This will enable you to discover extra finances to pay your important bills.
3. Re-figure and Eliminate Until you Reach a Reasonable Standard of Living
You might need to write down your finances five to ten times to find a comfortable spot where you can begin budgeting. The goal is to find the place where you have enough to pay your bills and a little extra for savings. You might think it's impossible to save, but even if you can save a couple of dollars a week, it's better than not saving at all. Think about yours and your children's future.
What if I've eliminated everything possible and still don't have enough?
You might need to find a different job or a part time job until you get on your feet. I know it's a sad thought, but it might be necessary (at least for the short term) until you can either lower your living expenses or find a single job earning more.
4. Ready to Budget
Once you've reached your comfortable spot, meaning you now have enough finances to meet the basic needs of your family, you're ready to begin budgeting. Starting a budget was very exciting for me, and it gave me comfort to know that I had full control of my money. Once I began implementing the budget, my stress was greatly lowered.
The great thing about a budget is that it can and should be adjusted every couple of months in the beginning, and then at least once a year after you are stabilized with your finances. Each budget occasion can be a family "event" if your children are old enough to understand. They should be able to see the budget and implement it with every purchase also. This will teach them to budget for their own families when they're older as well. It can be a fun thing!
Are you ready to budget?
Each budget will be different. Yours will be unique to your family, your bills and income. A simple way to budget is to write everything down (expenses vs. income). Total by the month. By expenses, you're including everything from the gas in your car to the stops by the store (if you didn't eliminate them earlier). You're including expenses, small and large. Some expenses will be figured by the yearly amount, and then divided by twelve to get a monthly figure.
Once you have your totals, figure each month according to your pay schedule. If you receive a check weekly, then you would figure how much of your budget will be met each week. To do this, you can multiply your monthly totals by twelve and then divide by fifty-two weeks of the year. This will give you a weekly expense total.
Even though some of your bills are due quarterly or yearly, still budget each month for these in your savings or checking account. When the time comes to pay it, you'll have the money available. This also relieves stress.
I can remember so many times at Christmas, my insurance would also come due on December 21, which was a large bill for me. This would horrify me and throw me into the pit of despair because I didn't have the money to pay it and buy gifts for the kids. Since I began budgeting, however, I do not have the stress any longer. Even during difficult months, I'm able to budget with the future in mind. Even if the money is not here this month, it will be there next month. Looking ahead while budgeting gives you peace of mind instead of stress, whereas, looking ahead while "not" budgeting will leave you desperately seeking extra cash.
There's no way budgeting in its entirety can be covered in one article, so I recommend a book by Ron Blue titled "Master Your Money". This book is quite old, but it helped me tremendously to understand how to budget, with step-by-step instructions and detailed charts to illustrate real life examples of budgeting.
You can locate a copy of the book online by doing a book search. It's normally available used or new for a fairly cheap price. It will be well worth your time.
If you would like to be home with your children and work from home, budgeting can help. It will enable you to discover the exact amount of income you will need. The only way I can stay home is to budget a small amount of money, and form our lifestyle based on this small amount. Any extra that my business earns is a blessing! Also, keep in mind that working from home enables you to save on gas, daycare, clothes, etc.
Give budgeting a try this month. You might find some hidden treasures.
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