How to budget as a single mum

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). 

For more help on how to save money as a single mom, check out our articles on how to budget money on low income and Kakeibo, the Japanese method of saving money.

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.

Prepare for the future now

Alongside building an emergency fund, it’s a great idea to takes steps for your financial future, such as retirement or buying a house. Several tax efficient vehicles for this are available to you: 

For yourself, if you don’t have one already, consider opening and regularly contributing to a Self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs). These hold investments until you retire – at which point you can start to draw an income from the account. 

And if you’d like to give your child a financial boost when they come of age, you can open a Junior ISA or Junior SIPP

With the Junior ISA, you, or any adult, can put money into this investment savings fund. The value of the investments in the ISA can grow and earn interest. Your child can access funds from the account tax-free when they turn 18. 

And a Junior SIPP is a tax-free way to build a retirement fund for your child. Like the ISA, control of the pension passes on to your child at age 18. 

Additionally, for your child’s or children’s financial security in a worst-case scenario, a best practice is to have a life insurance or a critical illness insurance policy. 

Pay off debt and stay on top of your bills

The biggest financial tip for single moms is to pay off credit cards and stay as far away from your overdraft as possible. When debt piles up, high interest can make a significant dent in your cash flow. It can be very hard to escape the debt, and your credit score may take a nose dive if you aren’t careful.  

If you’re trying to stay on top of multiple high-interest credit card payments, you may want to consider a 0% interest balance transfer card. More details can be found here

More articles on managing money as a parent from the Money Dashboard Blog:

Is it ok to borrow from your kid's piggy bank?

8 money lessons to teach your kids before it's too late

Managing money with a partner when you're expecting

Budgeting your child's future

How much does it cost to have a baby

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All content is for informational purposes only and is the opinion of the author. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as "advice". Money Dashboard Ltd make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or any damages arising from its display or use.

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