While there are a plethora of ways to make a living, money is a fact of life. It’s a fact of my life these days as well. I’m a single mom trying to get by on $32k a year and it’s easier said than done. There’s always expenses to be paid and there’s bigger time-consuming ones like educational expenses for my kids. I try to be efficient with my money, and while I didn’t go too crazy on my purchases, I did splurge a little bit.
I’m Rachel, a single mom living in Portland, Oregon. I’m on a budget that I made up 5 years ago, and I’ve been living it ever since. It was created for me to be able to live on $32,000 per year. It’s based on my personal preferences (pets, hobbies, savings, etc.) and the income I make from various sources. I use it to guide my personal finances and budget, and I want to share it with you!
This article may contain affiliate links. Click here to read my disclosure policy. I really don’t like the stereotype that most single moms are low income and struggling to make ends meet. As a former single mom, I found this very discouraging. Don’t get me wrong, it can be hard to be a single mom. They are the only income of the family. You also have to take care of your child and run the household. This burden of responsibility often leads some single mothers to not earn enough to thrive. However, if you are a single mother with a low to moderate income, you can pay off your debts and move on.
I started budgeting in 2014 when I was tired of being broke and avoiding financial problems. I always told myself that I would never make enough money to run a household. I found budgeting to be a terrible experience that I knew would not bring me success. After using the avoidance method without success, I finally decided to try -budgeting as a last resort. What I learned changed my life. I learned that budgeting isn’t about limiting your lifestyle, it’s about planning how to avoid living the life you want. I have learned that my budget is not the enemy, but a tool to plan my spending and eliminate the stress of money. Budgeting as a single mom has not only allowed me to survive from day to day, but also to grow and pay off debt. Below I tell you about my very first budget as a single mom, when I was just starting to pay off my debts. I only made $32,000 a year, but I was still able to live on less than I made, save money, and pay off my debts. I was even able to be generous and pay my younger sister’s phone bill. Related: There are more consequences to not sticking to the budget than you can imagine.
This is my monthly budget for single parents with explanation
Lease: $315 – The benefits of living in a small town The rent for my 800 square foot apartment was already pretty cheap, but I split it in half, so I highly recommend choosing an affordable apartment or getting a roommate. Fuel: $230 –This issue was more on the expensive side. I worked 40-50 minutes from home and spent about $70 a week on gas because of the commute. Laundry/toilets: $35 – These are items such as toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, etc. I shopped a lot because I was a member of Sam’s Club, and I also shopped at the Dollar Store whenever I could. I also did coupons occasionally, but I never went to the extreme because I didn’t want it to take up too much of my time. Power: $30 – Yes, it’s very little, but it’s something, and it allowed me to be free during the month to eat out with friends if I wanted to. Credit cards: $100 –I had a credit card and set a goal to spend no more than $100 per month on various purchases. I set this limit because it seemed like a reasonable amount to pay the balance in full each month and build my credit. Clothing: $30 – Some months I didn’t even spend that money because I already had a bunch of clothes. The rest of the time we bought from second hand shops and resale shops. Entertainment: $50 –Most of the time I found free activities and entertainment for my son and me, but it was nice to have that little bit of money behind me if I wanted to go to the movies, bowling or to a festival. Gymnasium: $14- I got a discount on a YMCA gym membership. Power supply: $200 – How do I stick to my new grocery budget. Motor insurance: $107 Electricity: $50 Hulu : $8 Kindergarten: $151 –I received a state subsidy to pay for my son’s daycare, so that was my monthly supplement. Phone: $10-I had a service called Republic Wireless, and at the time they had very cheap smartphone plans starting at just $10 a month. Nurses call number: $50 –I enjoyed helping my teenage sister pay her monthly phone bill, and now that I look back on it, I’m proud that I was able to do so despite her low income. Car loan, student loan, savings (minimum): $700 –At the time, the minimum payment for a student loan was $150 per month and the minimum payment for a car loan was $233. As you can see, I had some money left over, which I invested in additional car repayments and savings. Total: $2,080 Note: Those were my basic expenses. Sometimes I got bonuses at work that increased my income, but it wasn’t a guarantee. If I had extra money, I usually put it aside or went into debt. That way I can cover myself in case I overspend or have unexpected expenses. Also, health insurance is not included here because my son and I received Medicaid due to my low income. When I stopped qualifying, I founded Liberty Healthshare, a Christian health ministry.
How I did it
I did all sorts of things to help my single mother with household chores.
Focus on the big 3
If you’re trying to live above your means, I always recommend focusing on the 3-5 biggest expenses. This usually includes lodging, transportation and meals. Childcare and insurance are other expenses that can take up a significant portion of your budget. In my situation, I was trying to find a cheap but safe place to live. This low rent has freed up a lot of money. I also cooked almost everything at home and took my lunch to work every day. At the time of this budget, I was eligible for Medicaid, so I didn’t have to worry about medical expenses. But after not qualifying, I went to Liberty Healthshare for a while. There was little I could do to reduce my fuel costs since I had to drive to work. However, I focused on paying off my car loan by making additional repayments on my debt. This allowed me to pay off my 5-year loan in 1.5 years, while saving thousands of dollars in interest. Related: Budgeting for people with low incomes is possible
Finding ways to save money on optional items
In those days, I didn’t try to tell myself that I couldn’t afford the basic necessities of life. If I couldn’t pay full price, I always found a way to get a discount or save money. I was able to keep my family’s expenses down because I was willing to stock up and check the sale ads for coupons and deals. Not wanting to pay for cable, I used Hulu to stream TV shows and movies cheaply. It was important to me to have a smartphone and stay connected. So I did some research on Republic Wireless and was able to find a package that fit within my budget. As far as buying clothes, I already had a lot and my son was constantly getting outfits and stuff from friends and family. I shopped at Goodwill and used gift cards. For example, I love an accessory store called Charming Charlie. Every Christmas I would get a gift certificate to that store and go there during the clearance period. I would shop on sale to save on my purchases and get the most out of my gift card. It was a fun way to treat yourself without breaking the budget.
Acknowledging that debt is not worthwhile
You may be tempted to use credit cards or take out loans when you are struggling to make ends meet, but understand that this is not worth it. If you don’t know how to use credit cards wisely, it’s best to avoid them altogether for a while. Paying expenses with a credit card or loan may seem like a relief, but it will only cost you in the long run. You will have to repay the purchase over time, plus interest, which means you are probably spending more money than the item is worth. The bottom line is that single mothers and consumers cannot afford to go into debt. Loan repayment is very expensive. It’s better to stick to a budget and go without. This may seem like a daunting task at first, but note my next point…..
Remember, this is only temporary
You don’t always have to live on a tight budget. Over the years my income has increased and with it my expenses. I still save and pay more than the minimum for my debts, but I can be much more flexible now. Use your initial budget to make ends meet and move forward, but know that you can always take steps to improve your life, whether you’re going back to school, starting a business or expanding your family. My financial breakthrough came when I started improving my thinking and working online as a freelance writer. Today I am on a mission to help others do the same to get the most out of their money and their lives. It all starts with a solid budget that allows you to feel free. What is your budget for each month? What are your favorite strategies for helping you stay within your budget?
Stop worrying about money and take back control
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do single moms survive financially?
Being a single mom can be tough, especially when finances are tight. In my experience, I’ve managed to squeeze a lot of living expenses on less than $32,000 per year, and I want to share the tips and tricks I use to survive. Missing a paycheck is always a huge concern, but it’s really not that bad. Single mothers have always faced the challenge of managing finances. I have been a single mom for the past three years and I was recently interviewed by The Huffington Post about this topic. The idea to start a blog came to me as inspiration from many of the online resources I have been overwhelmed by over the last few years. This is my attempt to make sense of all the information I have been overwhelmed with and help others who are facing this challenge.
How do single parents afford rent?
In the U.S., the average single parent must make $24,094 annually to afford a two bedroom apartment, mortgage payments, food, utilities, transportation, and taxes. This post will show you how I made it work with the minimum of fuss. How are single parents like you able to afford to pay rent? Although we all work hard every day to make ends meet, many single parents have to take a second job or apply for government assistance in order to cover the costs of housing and food. So just how do single parents afford rent, especially when it’s only available to those who are employed?