As a single parent you have plenty to think about besides finances. But it's important to stay on top of your monthly budget all the same.
If you are struggling to make ends meet, know that you aren’t alone. However, it is possible for single mothers and fathers to survive financially.
Here is a quick checklist of things all single parents should do to build and stay on top of an effective budget and establish security for the future. Each is a step in the right direction.
Start by budgeting
Financial planning for single parents starts with a strict but reasonable budget.
To create your single parent budget, start with an overview of your finances. It’s important to know how much money you have and what you have been spending it on.
Pro tip: connect your accounts to an app like Money Dashboard. The app labels, categorises and tracks all of your income and spending, giving you both a high level and detailed view of your activity and balance.
From here, analyse your spending history by category. First look at the biggest and most necessary spending areas such as mortgage/rent, utilities, transport, food, and childcare. Then define a category for the miscellaneous extra expense like school equipment, gifts, clothing and holidays.
Take a critical look – consider this your single parent budget calculator. Does your spending reflect your priorities? If you need to, aim to adjust your monthly spending in each area. Set tighter spending goals for yourself and look for expenses you can cut completely (such as an unused gym membership).
Check the benefits you are eligible for
A single mother budget or single father budget can be boosted significantly with help from the UK benefit programmes. This can help make ends meet, and provides an opportunity to save money for an emergency.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for:
- Universal Credit
- Child Benefit
- Healthy Start vouchers
- NHS Low Income Scheme
- Council Tax Reduction
- Widowed Parent's Allowance
- Bereavement support payment
- Income support
- Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
- Free school meals
- Childcare costs tax credits
Use tools like Entitled To’s benefits calculator to see if you are eligible for any benefits. If you are, apply as soon as possible.
Have an emergency fund
If you are raising a family with one income it can be hard enough to make ends meet today. But it’s always a good idea to prepare for harder times in the future.
Building an emergency fund is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It takes time, but every pound you put aside today will be a great relief if something unexpected happens in the future, like redundancy or an emergency home repair.
Ideally, your emergency fund will max out at 3 months of necessary expenses. (You can figure out your ideal amount with Money Dashboard’s expense overview). Tips on how to build up an emergency fund, no matter your current situation can be found here.