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Trying to manage your finances as a single mom can feel like an endless ride on the struggle bus.
Money comes in, then goes back out again.
As soon as one bill gets paid another one shows up.
You work hard but if you’re not making any financial progress, you start to wonder what you’re working for.
I know all about it.
When I was a newly single mom, I had nightmares about not being able to pay my bills. Going to the grocery store was enough to induce a panic attack because who knew small kids could eat so much?
After a few months of that, I decided it wasn’t for me. I wanted to get ahead financially, not end up in a hole.
You might be in the same situation. And if you are, you know that it can really suck.
If what you’ve been doing with your money isn’t working, it’s time to rethink how you manage your finances.
How to Manage Your Finances as a Single Mom
Okay, so managing your money can be a little intimidating. But trust me, I know these tips can work because I’ve tried them.
Ready to dive in? Then let’s go!
1. Spend Intentionally
I bet you were expecting the first tip to be about budgeting right?
And having a budget definitely matters for single moms, especially if you’re living on a smaller income.
But what’s a budget really? It’s taking one set of numbers (your expenses) and subtracting them from another set of numbers (your income).
That’s important for sure.
But if you want to manage your finances more effectively, it takes a mindset shift. And that means spending intentionally.
For example, before I buy things I don’t necessarily need I always ask myself a question:
Is this worth the effort I had to put in to make the money I’m about to spend?
Most of the time, the answer is no. But sometimes it’s yes.
And when it’s yes, I’m okay with spending the money because I’ve thought it through.
So the next time you’re tempted to make an impulse buy, ask yourself the same thing. Once you start assigning a value to your time, it gets a lot easier to avoid wasteful spending.
2. Save Like It’s Your Job
I love saving money.
Seriously, it’s one of my favorite things ever to see the balances in my savings and investment accounts go up.
If you’re a single mom, you need to love saving too.
Having savings is a great feeling, especially when you need money for something unexpected. Because instead of freaking out and panicking, you can just pay for it and keep going.
So how do you save when you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you feel overwhelmed by bills?
Well first, you go back to your budget. And if you don’t have a budget, then you need to make one pronto.
Then look at everything you spend for the month and start putting intentional thinking to work.
Challenge yourself to find $50 a month to save, $25, whatever you can siphon off from your spending.
Commit to putting that amount in a savings account every month. This is your emergency, just-in-case money.
Every month, go over your budget again to look for more money you can save.
And if you’re having trouble getting into the savings habit, consider using an app like Digit to get things rolling.
The app links to your bank account and analyzes your spending every day to see if there’s any money you can save. If there is, Digit rolls it into a linked savings account for you.
It’s a no-hassle way for single moms to grow their savings.
3. Set Big Goals for Your Money
Aside from saving money, the other thing I love when it comes to my finances is setting goals.
At the start of every year, I pick two or three big goals I want to work on. Then I set monthly goals to help me reach the bigger ones.
If you’re not setting goals for your money, you’re really missing out. Having a clear goal can be a huge motivator to manage your finances better.
For example, you might have debt you want to pay off. But guess what, it won’t happen unless you have a specific plan for getting rid of it.
That’s where goals come in.
You could set a big goal, like paying off X amount of dollars in a year. Then you figure out what you need to do each month to make it happen.
If setting big goals seems intimidating, it’s okay to start small. But don’t limit yourself mentally.
A few years ago, I set a goal to make $100,000 a year from freelancing. I had no idea if I could do it but I set the goal anyway.
And the craziest thing happened. Once I set that goal, I started doing things to get me closer to reaching it.
It’s kind of like faking it ’til you make it only you get to a point where you don’t want to fake it. You really want your goal to happen.
And when you want it enough, you’ll find yourself chasing after it.
Then, boom — before you know it, you’ve hit the target. And the great thing about that is you can set an even bigger goal to pursue.
4. Don’t Let Past Money Choices Dictate Your Future
So, we’ve all made bad choices with our money at some point.
I definitely did when it came to college; racking up almost $40,000 in student loans for two degrees I’ve never really used was dumb, dumb, dumb.
Do I beat myself up over it every day? Nah.
Because the choices I made 20 years ago or 10 years ago or 5 years ago aren’t the choices I’m making now.
So what I’m saying to you, single mom to single mom, is that if you’ve screwed up somewhere with money don’t let it paralyze you from learning how to manage your finances differently.
You may not be able to go back and erase the money mistakes you’ve made. But you don’t have to repeat them either.
Instead, believe that you can improve your financial situation going forward.
Be confident about the choices you’re making now.
Get educated about the things you don’t know about money.
And when you think about the missteps you made with your finances in the past, take them for what they are: life lessons.
Forgive yourself if you have to but make moving on a priority.
5. Embrace the Idea of Financial Independence
Okay, so what do I mean by that?
For me, it means relying on no one but myself to pay my bills, grow my savings or otherwise meet my financial needs (or those of my kids).
I don’t count on child support to make our life happen. And it wouldn’t do me any good if I did since I don’t receive any.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get child support as a single mom, especially if you need it to keep your household going. But it doesn’t last forever.
And while you could get remarried or be in a relationship where you combine your finances, those situations don’t always work out either.
But when you’re financially independent, those kinds of bumps in the road won’t send you spiraling off into the ditch.
You don’t feel anxious about whether the bills will get paid because you know you can pay them yourself.
It’s scary, I know.
But getting over that mental hump is the hardest part.
Once you tell yourself you can become financially independent, you start to believe it. And when you believe it, then honestly, anything is possible.
6. Don’t Settle for Low Income
I saved this tip for last because I believe it’s the most important one of all.
If you want to manage your finances well, you can’t buy into the idea that being a single mom means you have to be broke all the time.
Here’s what you do instead: you work on growing your income.
Now how do you do that?
Well, it depends on where you are right now.
It might be asking for a raise at work so your paychecks reflect the effort you’re putting in and what you’re worth.
Or it might be looking for a better-paying job in your field or going back to school.
The point is, if you’re not making as much money as you want to be, then find a way to change that.
Don’t let anyone but you determine your earning potential.
What Are You Doing to Manage Your Finances as a Single Mom?
Over to you — do you have a great tip for managing your money and getting ahead financially?
If so, head to the comments and tell me about it. And of course, I’d love you to pin and share this post with another mom who might need some financial advice!