Money Help for Single Parents

Kids are expensive, especially for single parents. Avoid debt with a solid financial foundation.

money help for single parents; smiling mom with childSingle parents face unique budgeting challenges. It can be frustrating, expensive, and at times draining. What’s more, if you find yourself as a single mom or dad because of a messy divorce or death in the family, emotions can run high and hinder your ability to make the right decisions for your future.

The average cost of raising a child is $233,610. Children do not come cheap and many single parents have to bear the financial responsibility without any help. Still, while raising kids on your own can be overwhelming on your finances, there are strategies that can make the process easier.

 

Money help for single parents: Building a foundation

Before you turn to assistance programs for single parents, make sure you understand and have control over your own personal finances.

One of the issues that single parents can face is that, financially, there isn't room for a disaster. - Alison Tedford, Sparkly Shoes and Sweatdrops Click To Tweet

Have a plan

Create a spending plan and set money aside for emergencies. Following and sticking to a budget will help you make the most of what you bring in. Make sure to create your budget around the income you receive and not the income you expect to receive. This is important if you have a child support order, but don’t always receive the payments on time.

Let the kids help

Do not shield your children from financial challenges or comfort them with presents in the hopes of making them (or you!) feel better. Include them in the budgeting process, be it clipping coupons or helping to create a grocery list. When your kids are old enough to get a part-time job to earn money, let them. In addition to helping out, they will gain valuable money lessons and experience to give them structure and responsibility. Here are some tips on how to talk to your kids about money.

The biggest money challenges I've faced as a single mom have been paying off debt, saving money and improving my credit. - Rebecca Lake, Boss Single Mama Click To Tweet

Get a handle on debts

If you have debt that is difficult for you to pay, talk with Consolidated Credit about a repayment plan with your creditors. We’ve helped thousands of parents across the country get back on track financially.

Check your credit

It’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year, and more often if you are experiencing debt problems. Make sure the information about your debts is accurate, and dispute any mistakes to repair your credit.

Find good childcare

Paying for childcare, whether it’s full-time care for a young child or afterschool care for older ones, can quickly become expensive. Still, there are creative ways to handle the expense. Check out the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Clubs for inexpensive and sometimes free school programs in your area. For sick days, see if there are any sick child daycare programs available in your community. You may also want to look into a babysitting co-op to exchange babysitting with other single parents.

So many single parents have to work two jobs, which means they miss time with their kids. And the guilt from that leads to the second challenge – the ability to say no. -Debbi King Click To Tweet

Investigate flexible work hours

Find out whether your employer offers flexible work hours or will allow you to do some of your work from home. This will help you avoid problems at work and ensure you can care for your child on your own if they get sick.

Warning: Be very careful about money-making ventures aimed at stay-at-home parents. While some of these home-based businesses may be legitimate, there are many scams as well.

Ask!

Many daycares, summer camp programs, and aftercare programs offer scholarships or may be willing to extend discounts to parents who can’t afford the full fee. If there’s a service you can provide in exchange for a discount (cleaning, publicity, typing, or maintenance are just a few examples), don’t be shy about suggesting a trade.

Take free advice

If hiring a financial planner is out of reach right now, research a local financial planning class. Local community colleges, extension offices and women’s resource centers may offer very inexpensive courses with expert instructors.

Single moms face financial challenges that come with having a single-income family. This is especially challenging if child support is an issue. - Julie Smeltzer, Fab Working Mom Life Click To Tweet

Get what you’re owed

If your ex owes you child or spousal support, don’t assume you’ll never see the money. If you’ve tried to collect through your attorney and/or local child support enforcement agency, your next step may be to contact a private child support enforcement agency. Child Support Collectors Inc. www.supportcollectors.com, for example, has been very successful in collecting past-due support when other methods have failed. Best of all, you don’t have to pay them unless they are successful on your behalf.

You also don’t want to let pride or other emotions get in the way of seeking support for your child. It’s fine if you’re on your own and you don’t want to take anything from your ex, but when a child is involved, they deserve the support of both parents.

Money help for single parents: Assistance programs

Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to seek out financial assistance programs that can help you and your children through tough times. Navigating the maze of social services can be frustrating and difficult and may seem overwhelming if you are trying to juggle work and parenthood, but it’s also important to get the help you need.

Dianne Hadaway in About.com’s Single Parents Forum recommends you keep a notebook recording everyone you’ve talked with at government agencies for financial assistance. She also recommends you ask before your appointments what kind of paperwork you need and suggests you keep the following documents in a brightly colored, large (9″x12″) envelope (so you can always locate it):

  • Driver’s license
  • Social security cards/number for each family member
  • Two or more recent utility bills
  • Recent paycheck stub
  • Bank account numbers
  • Legal papers (name change, protective orders, etc.)
  • References – names & phone numbers
  • Previous address information
  • Any other documents requested by the agency

Be polite but persistent, and ask for advice when you run into roadblocks. Above all, don’t procrastinate. Many of these federal programs require you apply well in advance.

Eat in instead of out – this is an obvious saver. Keep in mind that just one meal out for a family of four can often equal half a weekly grocery budget. - Scarlet Paolicchi, Family Focus Blog Click To Tweet

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

This government program can help you fill the gaps in your food budget. If you qualify, you get a debit card to supplement the money you set aside for food. SNAP originally gave out food stamps to low income families, but now its recipients get a special EBT card.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC is especially useful for single mothers. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or non-breastfeeding postpartum can benefit from this program if they qualify.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

This federal department provides housing assistance for those in need. Families with a low household income can get help making rent and choosing where they live.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is based on just one parent's income. But the lower income also makes it harder to afford college. - Mark Kantrowitz, SavingforCollege.com Click To Tweet

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Are you supporting your adult child through school or going back to school yourself? Make sure to apply for FAFSA to see if you qualify for government aid for your education. Just be mindful of how much money you borrow if you take out a federal student loan. If you already took out a student loan and you need help repaying it, explore student loan debt consolidation.

Planning for the worst

It is vitally important that all parents, especially single parents who may be the main or only provider for their children, have adequate life insurance, a will or estate plan, and guardianship documents. This is even more urgent if an ex-spouse represents a physical threat to you (but it’s important nonetheless). Also, be sure to prioritize health insurance for yourself and your children. It’s an extra expense that can save you big down the road.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the blessings you have. Step back from social media if you find it difficult to be happy for your friends without envy creeping in. - Dawn Meehan Click To Tweet

Take care of yourself

We all need a little “me time” sometimes so don’t feel guilty about scheduling some time for yourself. You’ll be a better parent if you give yourself a break once in a while. Look for single parent networking clubs in your area. If you can’t find one, start one! In addition to emotional support, single-parent clubs can offer referrals to helpful services, clothing, and toy swaps, babysitting coops, and even house-sharing arrangements. While it may take some work to get one up and running, the payoff may be well worth it.

Let Consolidated Credit be a source of help

If you’re a single parent going through financial difficulties, a financial professional can help you navigate through your challenging financial situation. In over 20 years, Consolidated Credit has helped more than 5 million people overcome debt problems. For a free consultation call 1-888-294-3130 to speak to a certified credit counselor.

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Written by :
Photo of Kira Bushman, writer for Consolidated Credit
Kira Bushman [email protected] Financial Literacy Specialist