Raising children is never an easy task, and it gets exponentially more difficult if you are a single mother. If you are a single mom, then you know firsthand the many struggles that you are facing, not the least of which is the financial aspect. If you need help figuring out how to not just get by with your monthly income, this article is just the thing you need right now.
More than 16 million children below 18 years old live in single-parent families, and single mothers lead more than 86% of them. Although the stigma behind single mothers these days has subsided considerably, that does not mean that they have it easier.
The biggest problem that single mothers have right now is finding a work-life balance. They usually need to work two jobs to make ends meet, so they don’t have that much free time left to spend with their children. On the other hand, if they don’t work as hard as they are doing now, they won’t make enough money.
Although money cannot buy happiness, it is also true that the lack of it is the reason for a lot of stress and strife. However, it does not necessarily have to be that way. There are ways single parents like you can gain financial freedom, and still get to spend more time with the children.
Ways To Earn Extra Money For Single Mother
If you want to earn a bit more cash without taking on a second job, there are some ways you can do it without spending too much time away from your children.
Child Care Provider
You are never too old to babysit other people’s young kids, and at $10 per hour, it is not that bad of a gig. You can advertise around your neighborhood that you’re willing to care for their young children during the weekends or every evening after clocking out of work.
Become A Freelancer
Do you have any skills that you can use to earn money? Can you write online content, or do you have any skills in basic programming or video editing? You can do these kinds of jobs right in the comfort of your own home after your regular working hours.
Are you a neat freak? Why not put your nearly obsessive levels of cleaning to good use and offer house cleaning services during the weekends? If cleaning is one of the activities that make you feel calm, this can be a worthwhile side-gig. In addition, you can usually bring your child with you when you’re working, and the $12 per hour rate can also help a lot.
Are you great with pets? Do you love dogs and cats? These are usually the only requirements for becoming a pet sitter. You might find it surprising that many pet owners do not have enough free time to take care of their fur babies, and you can corner this market if there are no other pet sitters in your area yet.
You can walk other people’s dogs for $18 per half-hour walks, more if you will be taking care of them for the weekend. So if you have a couple of regular customers, you can easily make an extra couple hundred dollars a month.
There are plenty of earning opportunities out there, you just need to know where to look. Keep in mind that not everyone can land a cushy, high-paying job; you need to be willing to do the extra work for the additional income.
Make Use of Government Programs
You might not be aware of it, but the state and the federal government have lots of grants and programs set up to help single parents like you. You can get aid for almost everything that you need. There are food stamps for groceries, job placement assistance services, medical assistance, and government programs to help you sort out your debts.
You will learn later what kinds of government aid programs you can avail of and how you can get them.
You should never ignore your debt. Even if the banks stopped calling, or if you moved to another state, your debt will follow you. Even though it will take a long time, you will need to settle your debt, sooner rather than later.
One of the techniques many people use to conquer their debt is the “snowball method”. Start with the debt that has the lowest balance, and pay as much of it as you can every month while paying the minimum on the rest. After you finish paying off one debt, move on to the second lowest, but aside from paying as much as you can, include the amount that you used to pay for the previous one. Continue until you completely pay off all your debts.
Now, while you are in the process of paying off your credit card debt, you need to stop using them altogether, or else you will be right back where you started. Instead of using your credit card, use a debit card that you can load a certain amount of money. It will help you stick to your budget because you only have a very limited amount to spend.
Avoid Making Bad Money Decisions
You might think that saving for your children’s college tuition is the responsible thing to do, but that is not always the right choice, especially if you are in dire straits with your finances. If you are going to save for your children’s college, make sure that you can comfortably do it, meaning you do not need to compromise your quality of life too much.
The one lesson that every single parent needs to learn is that they cannot and should not keep up with the Joneses. Instead, you need to teach your children to value what they have, and of course, always be there for them. Kids these days think that they need to go on as many vacations as the other kids at their school, but they will eventually realize that it’s better that you were always there during parent’s day, during their dance recitals, and other events that are important to them.
Reduce Monthly Expenses
Do not immediately assume that you are in a tight financial situation until you tried your best to reduce your monthly expenses. You will need to tighten your belt at least until you find yourself in a better financial position, but for now, you need to find ways to save on your regular expenses.
You cannot eliminate the utility bills, but you can reduce your consumption significantly if you try. For instance, limit the amount of time the television is on, wear a sweater and sweatpants at home to save on heating, and cook meals in advance so the gas use is minimized.
Child Care Costs
You can avail of several government programs and subsidies to somehow recoup childcare costs, like:
State Assistance Subsidies
The federal government will provide you money to help offset the costs of child care. Many of these subsidies have strict age requirements, and they are generally for families with children who are under 13 years old (they can extend the limit for children with disabilities). You do need to read the requirements as there are only a few who would be willing to pay for daycare services.
To get these subsidies, you need to chat with your local Child Care and Development Block Grants agent and ask if you could apply for them.
Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
If you are currently employed, the next time you file your income tax return, use IRS Form 2441. This will allow you to itemize up to $8,000 in child care expenses, for up to two children (maximum of $16,000). This will get you $1,600 tax savings per child, $3,200 maximum.
You can also check if you are eligible for government housing assistance for single moms. You might be eligible for single-parent housing grants, like low-income housing, rent assistance, or other assistance programs. There are even programs that provide emergency housing if you are in urgent need.
Aside from federal programs, some private organizations also aid single parents like yourself.
You can also avail of medical assistance provided by the state, provided that you can comply with their strict guidelines. Depending on which income bracket you fall in, you might qualify for a greatly discounted medical program or even a free one.
However, in most states, children in low-income families are automatically eligible for a state-funded medical program. They just need to enroll for them. You might also want to check if your family can qualify for free drug prescriptions.
Even if you currently do not make enough money to pay for your family’s groceries, you do not need to worry about going hungry as there are still ways you can get food.
There might be a couple of food banks or pantries in your neighborhood, so you could start there. The state determines if you are eligible for claiming items at food banks, and it is usually if you fall under the poverty line.
You can also make use of coupons that you can find online, in newspapers, and magazines. You can use coupons to get huge discounts on your purchases; and if you’re great at math, you can figure out how to use coupons to get items at just a fraction of the original price.
Finally, you can also apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. This program helps families in the low-income bracket access affordable and healthy foods.
To apply for SNAP benefits, send an online request to their official email address, or you can visit your local SNAP office if you want to apply in person. Once the state deems you eligible for the benefits, you will receive an EBT card, which you will then use to purchase groceries in any SNAP retailers.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
Even if you are short on funds you still need to set up an emergency fund for yourself, and your family. There will always be unexpected expenses in the future, like sudden hospitalization, car repairs, appliance repairs, and such. Having a bit of money set aside for such emergencies will prevent you from getting into crippling debt later.
How much do you need to set aside for your emergency fund? To be on the safe side, you should take note of your monthly expenses, and multiply them by three. So, for instance, if you suddenly lose your job, then you have enough money set aside to get your family by until you can get back on your feet.
Set Financial Goals for You and Your Children
It may sound complicated, but financial goal setting is just a fancy term to describe how you can reach your ideal financial situation. It is a process to determine what your current financial state is, and what you need to do to get to the one that you want. There are three different types of financial goal setting, depending on the timeline: short-term, midterm, and long-term.
Short Term Financial Goals
Short-term financial goals are those that are possible to accomplish within a year or less. These can be entirely independent goals, or a part of a bigger, longer-term goal that you have.
For example, you want to save enough money to put into your emergency fund, while a short-term goal that is part of a bigger one could be paying off 10% of your total credit card debt.
Midterm Financial Goals
These are goals that are possible to reach within one to five years. Because of the longer time frame, midterm goals usually need bigger investments. For instance, your goal is to save enough money to pay the down payment for a house.
Long Term Financial Goals
If a goal needs more than five years to accomplish, then it is a long-term goal. Some examples of long-term goals include saving enough for your children’s college tuition or setting aside enough for your retirement. Because these goals have such long durations, you might want to divide them into separate short-term goals.
Tips for Raising a Child Alone
Raising children alone is a very difficult task, but hopefully, the following tips might make it easier.
Having schedules and structure within your family will make daily life easier because your kids will know what to expect, and they will know how to act accordingly. Routines will help lower the amount of stress for everybody.
Do Not Give Gifts Out of Guilt
Do not let your guilt for letting your work take you away sometimes from your children to justify getting them expensive gifts (that you know you cannot afford). Make it up to them by giving them as much quality time as you can, and give them experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Teach Your Children to Be Grateful
Children in single-parent families are sometimes aware that kids from other families have things that they don’t have. Instead of allowing them to feel envious, teach your children to be grateful for what they have. Teach them to appreciate having a roof over their heads, getting to eat at least three times a day, and having a parent spending quality time with them.
Give Yourself and Your Kids Credit When It’s Due
Most single parents are often too hard on themselves and their kids. All the stress of raising a family single-handedly can sometimes make you forget to appreciate the small successes. Cut yourself some slack sometimes, pat yourself on the back for a job well done so far, and do the same for your kids as well.
How Does COVID-19 Affect Single Moms?
The recent COVID-19 pandemic affected single mothers quite a bit because they are the only earners in their respective families and many of them lost their jobs due to the lockdowns.
Not only are there hundreds of thousands of unemployed single mothers right now, but they also comprise a large percentage of essential workers, including healthcare professionals. The stress and fear of contracting the virus and passing it to their children lie heavy on their minds.
What Is a Good Salary for a Single Mom?
A “good salary” is subjective as you will need to factor in the cost of living in the area. For instance, if you are a single mother of one and you are currently residing in Dayton, Ohio, the cost of living there is way lower than if you were to live anywhere in Los Angeles.
How Can a Single Mom Make Life Easier?
Although money cannot buy happiness, having it does make life a lot easier, especially for a single mom. The first step to making your life as a single parent at least somewhat bearable is to get your finances in check. Everything else will follow.
What Is a Good Career for a Single Mother?
If you’re a single mother who wants to start over with a fresh new career, there are plenty of options that you can choose from.
You can go into a career in education, marketing, healthcare, or even be an entrepreneur and start your own small business. There is no such thing as a career for a single mother. You can go into any career that you want if you want it bad enough.
What Is Single Mom Stress Syndrome?
Single mom stress syndrome is when all the challenges of single-handedly raising children catch up with them. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you are the only one in charge of your children’s welfare, but you don’t have to face the challenges alone. Find support groups, or if it gets worse, seek help from a therapist. Never try to get through this alone.