It goes without saying – being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is harder. It’s a cliché by now that everything is expected of parents and especially single moms – we have to have it all and be it all. Except having it all and being it all is not only stressful, it can also be absolutely financially draining. Estimates for raising a child are recorded at $245,340 from infancy to adulthood.
That number sounds just a little bit daunting, doesn’t it? And then we add in the cost of a college education, and who knows what ridiculous number it ends up being. But here’s a little secret I’ve learned as a single parent: raising a child on a budget (any budget) doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, raising a child without planning on how to stay financially fit is the truly scary part.
Without proper planning, you’re going to lose money, waste money, and have zero dollars left in savings. I’ve learned that one of the keys to being a responsible parent is being responsible with your finances. As a single parent, these seven tips on how to stay financially fit are going to keep you – and your bank account – happy and give you plenty of time to relax and enjoy yourself.
1. Manage Child Support
Whether you are receiving child support or paying it, be sure that this process is managed properly from beginning to end. If you are paying child support, make sure that you have a record of every payment. Otherwise, you could be facing late fees, or worse. If you’re receiving child support, then make sure that you are also tracking payments. Many payors fall behind, and this is a source of income you are guaranteed. In short, make sure that you are tracking and monitoring any support.
2. Tax Break Incentives
As a parent, you are afforded a child deduction if your income is under $75,000, which you should absolutely be taking advantage of. If your children are in college and you’re helping them to pay tuition, then you can also take advantage of higher-education tax credits. Let’s not forget that if you are self-employed to any degree, then you should be meeting with a tax preparer to make sure you are properly tracking and recording your expenses for tax write-offs.
3. Discount Sites
Now, this does not mean that you should scour discount sites for bargains on items you don’t need. What I am recommending is to make a weekly list of items/groceries/etc needed, and then use deal sites to cut the costs of the items that you need to buy. This cuts down on wasteful online shopping, but lets you pre-plan what you will need for the week – which gets you into another good habit of forward-thinking.
4. Monthly Savings
Again, another no-brainer. I know you’ve heard it. But this is one of the best, and easiest, ways to start being fiscally fit. The more you do it, the easier it gets. So start setting aside a weekly amount for savings. It can be $50. It can’t be $100. Whatever it is, start doing it the second you’re done reading this article.
5. Get Health Insurance
Probably an obvious one, but there are still millions of Americans without health insurance. It is now cheaper and more affordable than ever, but younger parents still see not paying health premiums as a way to cut down on costs. While this is true in the short run, it most always comes back to bite you in the end, and you end up spending much more than if you had been paying all along. Go and sign up if you haven’t already.
6. Work Hard at Work
Whatever it is you’re doing, do your best at it. In today’s economy, there isn’t much job security – and there hasn’t been for a long time. But the best way to ensure you’re stable is to always work your hardest. Don’t slack. Keep hustling. I learned that lesson in the tech industry, and you need to learn it too. There is no guarantee, but making yourself an invaluable employee is going to get you half-way to the goal. And be sure to keep learning new skills or traits. In short – the work is never done.
7. Automate Your Bills
OK, so this one seems a little obvious. But you would be absolutely surprised at how much people waste on late payments. In total, average Americans are losing around $113 per year in fees. This is money that is completely wasted. Instead, you need to find ways to automate all your bills – car payment, credit cards, loans, child support, etc. If you automate all of them, then you will not be stuck paying unnecessary fees.
These are some of the tips I found useful as a single parent. I recommend that on your way to becoming financially fit that you continue to do these, but to also think of your own ways to be savvier with your finances. In parenting, and in finances, a little goes a long way.