My Story: A Single Mom's Advice

by Rebecca Stuck

I became a single mother 5 years ago when I chose to leave an abusive marriage. We had our share of problems including our different opinions about money. My ex was a compulsive spender and was usually at any given time half a year's income in debt. I, on the other hand, have always been a saver. I do not know if this was a learned behavior. My mother required me to save 10% of my allowance and later my income and tithe another 10%. On my own, these numbers have increased to 30/10. I live off of 60% of my income. This is not easy, but it is doable.

Here are the steps I recommend taking:

  1. Set up a budget. If nothing else, track your expenditures. I have a ball park figure that I try and stay under. I use quicken to track my money.

  2. Take a cold hard look and make a list of all the non-necessities that you buy. Go back and number them in order of importance. Eliminate (or reduce) the least important ones. Remember a penny saved is more than a penny earned due to taxes.

  3. Pay down debt. Figure out what you are paying the highest interest on and work on that first. Remember, there is a big difference between simple interest and compound interest. This can cost you big money if you don't know the difference.

  4. Start saving. I invest in several different vehicles and methods. (see below) It makes you feel good to see a result from your efforts.

  5. Raise your income earning potential. There comes a point when you simply can not cut back any more. I only earn $18,000 a year and live in a expensive part of the country. I know for a fact that I qualify for food stamps, but I feel comfortable without them. (If you are in need, take them. That's what they are there for and there is no shame in it!) I continue my education and own a small business that I run from my home that I do not draw an income off of yet. I hope to work from full time before my son enters grade school.

  6. Take full use of any and all benefits your employer offers you. I use direct deposit and almost never carry cash. I use both medical and daycare reimbursement accounts, which uses pre-tax dollars from my paycheck. I use my 401k and put the max of 15% of my income in it. I also have an Individual Retirement account that I put $166.66 a month into (also the max.). Because my income is so low, this is fully deductible off my taxes. I also have money directly deposited into my "emergency fund" that is for serious emergencies and once-a-year payments.

  7. Be creative. For instance, does someone in your home have a hobby? Try turning it into a part-time business. If you create a profit motive (keep very tight records on this and consult your accountant), you can write off a lot of your costs and earn some extra money too.

True or False

Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!

Rebecca provided this additional information about herself: 26, single mother of one son (4). Successfully bought a home after the break up of her marriage. Runs a small financial services company from home- Atkinson and Barnes Financial Group, Inc. She was also the subject of the a Woman's Day article - "How America is cutting back"

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