When one parent shoulders the responsibility of raising children, the pressure is real, especially with finances. The cost of basic expenses alone – food, shelter, and clothing – is enough to cause hardship. What’s a single parent to do? I’ve been there, so I have a few tips.
Start by answering this question: What will happen to my children if something happens to me? Estate planning and life insurance are extremely important for any family’s future, but especially critical for single-parent households. Leaving instructions and adequate resources for the future care of your children is paramount, as is having those resources protected and administered purely for their benefit. This can be accomplished best through proper estate planning. But if money is stretched thin, you may wonder how you will pay for those services. Get creative, and get resourceful. Some attorneys will prepare estate documents at reduced costs for single parents. Churches and faith-based organizations occasionally offer sessions with attorneys for a nominal fee. Sometimes you can trade professional services or pay fees over time. Even writing down your wishes before a notary witness is better than having nothing recorded at all.
That may take care of tomorrow’s needs, but what about today’s? Don’t let pride stop you from tapping into available resources. The season of being single may be temporary, but pride can sabotage you financially and make that season permanent. Besides local food pantries and co-ops, there are electric grants, reduced daycare options, housing supplements, and more. Single-parenting groups may be another great resource, especially when they share cost-savings tips. Google single parent help and you’ll discover an exhaustive network of potential support.
Since housing is one of the top expenses, also consider sharing living space with another single-parent family. The idea may seem odd at first, but it works well for many single moms that I know. Sometimes cost-sharing helps you get ahead for a period of time. Before you move in together, just be sure to openly address likes and dislikes, as well as the anticipated time period for the shared-living arrangement. It can help immensely if you put your agreement in writing and have an unbiased third party listen in to help address any issues that may arise later.
When it comes to cost-savings and budgeting, electronics is another area worthy of close review. How much data are you using? How much are you texting? What about the kids’ habits? Are you overpaying for services and features that you’re not using? Determine the difference between entertainment and necessity with your phone and computer, and then contract only for what you need. Do you really need entertainment on demand? Cable television is another way to potentially reduce costs, especially with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Google Play as entertainment alternatives. An Internet search provides a list of more than twenty ways to view free programming, ranging from sitcoms to sporting events. The alternatives may involve more data usage because of Internet access, but data upgrades may be cheaper than cable television – and besides, the good old-fashioned library has great books and movies to check out for free. In Richmond, we are blessed with a fantastic public library network.
When I was a single parent, my daughter, Ainsley, and I went without television for more than two years. Instead, we read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series together, making memories that will last. Solo parenting isn’t always easy, but remember that you’re not alone. Be strong. Be financially savvy. And reach out for the resources that are available in your area.