The Single Parent Financial Safety Net

At the risk of recounting anxieties here that are no doubt familiar to pretty much anyone reading this: times are tough at the moment. Being a single parent isn’t exactly a walk in the park at the best of time, but the state of the economy has further complicated the prospect of parenting without a partner. While the challenges of single parenting are probably too numerous to list here, a good argument could be made that virtually all of them are in some way, monetary. At the very least, if money doesn’t inevitably make someone’s life easier, having less of it makes life harder.

So, with the importance of money established, here are ways in which a single parent can manage it wisely.

Track Income and Carefully Maintain a Budget

This may seem like an obvious one, but establishing and sticking to a budget is extremely important. Do so by taking an inventory of monthly spending and plot out spending patterns based on fixed and average expenditures: how much always goes to rent or mortgage and bills, and how much on average goes to food, gas, clothing, entertainment, etc. Once a budget’s been set up, it’s easier to plan spending and it’s easier to save.

Almost inevitably, budgets reveal surprises: more money is consistently spent in one area than you’d have guessed, while you end up spending less in another, etc. Understanding those trends also contributes to effective saving.

Build up Savings and an Emergency Fund

Everyone’s saving decisions and priorities, of course, unique and based on their specific budget and spending habits. However, there are some more universal hints that can contribute to good saving habits. One good strategy is thinking of savings as money that isn’t yours (for spending at least), or like another bill. Getting in the habit of putting away as little as twenty dollars a month in a savings account can yield huge benefits later. Most banks will automatically transfer a portion of a paycheck into a savings account.

Make Sure Your Insurance is Up To Date

While no one is particularly fond of making insurance payments, doing so is far better than the alternative. Most important are health and life insurance. More than 60% of bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical expenses and when one parent is watching over their own health and that of their children, the threat of those expenditures is that much more pronounced. Life insurance is just as important. Morbid as it is- buying life insurance is comparably important. Should anything happen to a single parent, life insurance can provide for their children.

Plan Ahead, Stay Employable and Plan for Hardship

Keeping money flowing into the family coffers is obviously extremely important, and having a job is necessary for that flow of funds. If additional job training and/or education is available, it’s virtually always a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity. If a job is temporary, shaky or layoffs seem likely, get started on looking for more work. While it’s a cliché to assert that the best time to look for a job is while you have one, it’s also true. Start a job search before it becomes absolutely necessary to do so and consider padding your income with part time or freelance work if that’s available and doable.

Furthermore, if a gap in employment does loom, look into what steps are necessary for setting up unemployment benefits. Less well known is supplemental unemployment insurance, which can be invaluable for those concerned that an unemployment is looming. Generally, supplemental unemployment programs will pay at least 50% of someone’s former paycheck, making up the difference between state benefits and that 50% or more.

Basically, it comes down to planning and organization. Plan a budget, plan for the future, plan for potential financial hurdles and organize accordingly. Do that and there’s very little that can’t be accomplished.

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Frank McCourt is an investment, frugal living, and just-about-anything-else finance related. When pried away from his laptop, he enjoys fishing and hiking with his wife across the northwest.