Money-Saving for a
Single Mom, Working Mom
A Single Mom's Advice
Single Parent Finances
I am responding to the story Just Start. She says that she has saved a lot of money by saving and holding on to frugal things. But how do you do this when you are a single parent and you make $8 per hour working 10 1/2 hours per day six days per week? Thank you for your much-anticipated responses.
This is a subject close to my heart. I raised my children as a Solo Parent, meaning I had no financial assistance from my children's father. The trick is to start with the basics, such as housing, food, medical care, and transportation. These are top priority. Next comes education and savings.
First, I hope Maria has been to the state assistance offices to get child support that her children are due. They will garnish the father's wages if needed. Your kids need that money so this is the first priority.
Next, consider getting help for your family, whether that means receiving food stamps, heating assistance, job training, etc. Our taxes pay for this. Once you get a better paying job, you will pay this back by paying taxes yourself, so no guilt! Call your state welfare department immediately.
Most importantly, pursue higher education. Call the closest college or university and ask what programs they have. Meet with a college advisor and ask about financial aid. If your income is low, you can get loan and scholarship money that will help pay the bills while you're in school. There is plenty of help and support available.
Lastly, get in the habit of saving. At this point in my life, I was unable to save much, but I did save all my change in a jar and dip into that for true emergencies only. I learned to save money so I saved even more later when I was well employed. Today I have stocks, mutual funds, a 401K, Profit Sharing and a partnership. I would never have dreamed I could do this, but it all began by looking into all my options back when I worked minimum wage and "couldn't" save.
There are two ways to improve your financial situation: spend less or make more. It sounds like Maria has a great opportunity on the "make more" side. I would highly recommend that she start looking into getting her college degree. You'd be really amazed at all the resources there are to help cover college expenses and provide for the children of college students. Try calling your local university and any community colleges. The more information you can gather, the better. Write down every contact name, phone number, etc. in the same spiral notebook. There is so much financial aid available out there! You might also want to see if there is an Upward Bound program in your area. This program is typically for high school students, but their job is to help those students get into college and find a way to pay for it, so they might be a valuable resource, too. Financially, things will be slim for another few years, but after that, the income potential is limitless!
Mary in Colorado
I understand your frustration. I was a single mother of three for twenty years. Sometimes it seemed as though it would never end. There was the constant worry about money, the endless work with never enough sleep, the way simple things like a lost shoe were catastrophic because there was no money to replace such things.
I made friends with another single mom (she had four girls) and we helped each other. We rented a house together for less than our joint apartment rents used to be. Since her smallest child was recovering from open-heart surgery (she lived on welfare and disability), she mostly stayed home and watched kids while I worked. On my day off, I stayed home and she got a day off. Quality time with the kids was teaching them to read, to wash dishes, and to cook. We never did have cable TV. I always packed my own lunch. Eat out? None of us had money to eat out! I never received any help from those "save money" articles in magazines because I was already doing all those things. Somehow we staggered along.
Eventually, it did end. The kids grew old enough to not need daycare. Oddly enough, since they had grown up spending time with me and helping me, they considered this normal. When my friend met an interesting man and moved out, we moved into a tiny apartment and continued on our own. My children did housework and cooked meals. As teenagers, they worked babysitting and cleaning houses. My oldest wanted a lot of pets so she got a part-time job and bought all their food.
Talking with other single moms and then with people at work whose children had never known any lack, I decided my kids were better off. They learned how to work for what they want. They don't expect everything to go their own way all the time. They played sports in high school, had part-time jobs until they graduated and none were ever in trouble with the police. I never gave any of them a car or an apartment, and they knew I had no money to pay for college. All three are independent, responsible, tax-paying citizens today and I am proud of them. I often tell them so.
I know it is hard now, but you have a priceless opportunity to be an example to your children and help them grow up to be the kind of honest, hard-working people who made this country a great place to live. Good luck! By the way, I eventually met an interesting man myself. My kids all call him "Dad," even though he came along after they were grown. He gave away my youngest daughter when she married last year. Now I get to live happily ever after too!
GG in CA
I did all of these 10 years ago as a single parent with a teenaged girl at $6 an hour and 40 hours a week:
I was in a similar position three years ago, and it was rough. I had four part-time jobs, and I could barely make my bills on what I made. I was ruthless with the budget. I stopped spending money on going out to eat and anything optional. I had a strict budget for the grocery store, and I mostly shopped at Aldi and Wal-Mart.
I accepted help. I inquired about financial aid for the childcare program located at the elementary school and found that the state would pay for almost all of my childcare if I was under a very generous income level. I also applied to be a childcare worker in the school. This would have allowed me to have my kids in the before- and after-school program for free, and I would have almost seven hours during the day to work another job.
When school started in the fall, I filled out a form that came home for reduced hot lunches for the three kids. This helped immensely. It was less food for me to buy, and it freed up some energy and conflict over making lunches. It is hard to take help, but the one year of help I received made a huge difference. Now that I have some breathing room, I donate time, resources and money to the local charities.
I scoured the ads and networked like crazy to find a better paying full-time job. I talked with other parents at the school, called co-workers from my pre-kid days and talked it up at every family party. I kept praying and reassuring myself that we would get through this, and God would provide. Of course, He did. Within a year, I was on my way.
I thought about skills I had that people were willing to pay for. For me, it was making beaded jewelry to sell at craft shows. I paid approximately $25 for the space, brought my kids with me, and sold beaded jewelry at a table. I brought home $150 to $200 on a Saturday. If you can find your niche, it may be worth it to take the edge off.
Katie in Illinois
At that pay rate, you have to cut all expenses to the bone, beginning with housing. If you don't have the opportunity to live with family members (for free or for a small amount of rent), try your best to find a roommate. Consider another mom with children so you can share babysitting.
If that isn't possible, put an ad in your church bulletin for a place to live with your children and offer your services for household help in addition to a small rent payment. There are many elderly who would love to have someone help them take care of their home and who love and miss having children around.
Aside from those things, spend as little as possible, buy nothing new and bank whatever you can, even if it's just change thrown into a cup at the end of each day. It will add up in time.
Joan H. in Hockessin, DE
Above all, remember that your current struggles will be temporary if you get serious about frugal living. Don't be swayed by grumbling children. They will get used to the frugal lifestyle soon enough. When they grow up and begin to understand finances for themselves, they will respect you and your wisdom in getting out and staying out of debt.
Elsie in North Georgia
That sounds like a really tough situation. The first thing I can suggest is to put 10% of every paycheck you make into a savings account. Yes, I know you may possibly have a lot of debt to repay, but this way, you will have the peace of mind of knowing you are saving for your future. It is possible.
Also, another suggestion is to "double layer" with coupons. Shop for loss leaders at the grocery stores and combine it with coupons. Also, shop for clothes and necessities at consignment shops. Many offer quality clothes for affordable prices.
Another suggestion I have is to find a local church and get connected. Many have ministries that help single moms. They can also give you special support from friendship to babysitters.
Also, Brenda Armstrong, a single mom who's been there, wrote a book entitled Financial Relief for Single Parents: A Proven Plan for Achieving the Seemingly Impossible
. The book will come out in late April. I am sure it will help you!
Take the Next Step:
Child-Support Enforcement Hotline;(877) 696-6775
For single moms due child support, contact the US Department of Health and Human Services to receive a free handbook complete with excellent advice and local numbers to contact for help.
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