Five Budget Tips for Single Parents

Posted: March 29, 2022

Updated: October 5, 2023

A single mother is with her daughter, searching for budget-friendly tips.

Being a single parent isn’t easy and neither is managing the household budget solo. If you’re struggling to balance competing priorities like wanting to give your kids the best opportunities while paying down debt and saving for the future, we have some tips that can help.

1. Automate Your Finances

Your mental to-do list is overflowing. It’s enough to try to stay on top of work deadlines, soccer practices, school permission slips and so forth. Why not give yourself one less thing to remember by automating your finances? You can set up recurring loan payments, use Bill Pay to schedule online bill payments and even set up automatic transfers to build your savings.

2. Save for Emergencies

Give yourself peace of mind by steadily building your emergency fund. Work towards saving enough to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. However, even if that sounds like a daunting goal right now, start by saving what you can each paycheck. It will add up over time. That way when an unexpected expense pops up like a broken appliance or medical bill, you’ll be able to cover it.

3. Make Every Penny Stretch

Explore ways to cut your expenses. Can you swap cable for a cheaper streaming service? How about buying in bulk to save a few bucks? Can you prepare freezer meals so you’re not tempted to buy pricey takeout when you’re short on time?

Consider buying children’s clothes and toys secondhand too. Kids grow so quickly, and it can get expensive to keep buying the next size up. Try shopping at consignment shops and sales as well as joining local Buy/Sell/Trade groups on Facebook such as KidCycle groups in the greater Milwaukee area. Sometimes people even give children’s clothes and toys away for free!

4. Make Credit Cards Work for You

If you’ve relied on credit cards when times were tight and got into debt, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just create a plan to tackle it. Start by getting a clear understanding of each card’s interest rates, due dates and minimum payments. Then pick a debt pay off strategy such as the avalanche method, in which you make the minimum payments on all your cards and then put any extra funds toward paying down the debt with the highest interest rate. Otherwise, you can use the snowball method, in which you make minimum payments on your cards and then pay off the card with the smallest balance first.

If you don’t have credit card debt or once you pay it off, use credit cards strategically to your advantage. Many credit cards offer perks. Landmark offers a Cash Back Visa® which earns you cash back on all purchases as well as a Rewards Visa® which earns points that can be redeemed for rewards such as gift cards or travel. As long as you pay off your credit card on time, these benefits can give you a cheap or free way to enjoy a nice dinner out or a family vacation.

5. Plan for the Future

Once you have a solid budget in place that covers your monthly expenses and includes an emergency fund, you can begin planning for the future. If you want to start building a nest egg for your children’s college education, you can invest in a 529 plan (such as Edvest in Wisconsin) or a Coverdell Education Savings Account through Landmark. And we know you would do anything for your kids, but please don’t forget about yourself and your retirement! Your children will probably be able to get loans for college tuition if they need it, but you won’t be able to get a loan for retirement. So don’t feel guilty for prioritizing your retirement first. If your employer offers a retirement plan such as a 401(k) with a match, try to contribute at least enough to get the full match.

As your credit union and your financial partner, we’re in your corner. When it comes to your life and your money, we can help. Feel free to stop by any branch, schedule an appointment, send a secure message through Online Banking or give us a call if you have any questions about how we can assist you with our products and services.