How to make ends meet as a single mom is probably one of the most common questions lots of single moms ask.
According to a recent GOBankingRates survey, the number one cause of financial stress for Americans is everyday cost of living. So if you’re struggling to pay your bills every month, you’re definitely not alone.
But the problem is, many single moms have no idea how to improve their finances, so they end up living in denial, or worse they resign themselves to their “fate.”
If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make ends meet, it’s time to take action to change the course of your life and destiny.
Let’s look at a few reasons why single moms are struggling financially.
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Some Reasons Single Moms Are Struggling Financially
According to a report by NYU Wagner, about three-quarters of single mothers are employed, but they struggle to support their families with their jobs. A majority of single moms are employed in the retail or service industry.
A lot of single moms are trapped in low-wage, hourly positions. These jobs barely pay a living wage. Consequently, a large number of single mothers struggle to cover all their living expenses from their wages.
Single mothers typically earn less than half of what two-parent households earn. At the time of this report it was $32,597 for single moms compared to $71,830 for married couples.
While this report is a bit dated, it’s fair to say that not much has changed. It’s possible that single moms may be doing even worse than ever before.
So if you’re wondering what else you can do to improve your financial life, I have a few tips to share with you.
How to Make Ends Meet as a Single Mom
1. Assess Your Current Skills and Job
A lot has been written about budgeting, reducing expenses and frugal living as a way to survive financially. While these steps can help you stretch your dollars/income, sometimes it’s just not enough.
There comes a time when you’ve cut off everything that you can and you’re still barely scraping by. If you’re in this position, it’s time to ask yourself if you have an earning problem rather than a budgeting problem.
If you suspect that you have an earning problem,the first thing you need to do is to assess your current skills.
Why is a self-assessment important? It is important because you cannot create a solution for a problem unless you have a full grasp of the problem.
Use the questions below to help you assess your current skills and job:
- Are you employed?
- Are you underemployed (meaning you don’t work enough hours to earn a full-time income, or not using the skills or degree you have)?
- Are you being fairly compensated?
- Do you earn enough money from your job to cover your basic living expenses with enough to spare?
- Is your job improving your quality of life?
- Are your current skills adequate for your job?
- Are your skills or qualifications up-to-date for today’s workforce?
- Will your current qualifications or skills help you earn more than minimum wage to support your family?
- Can you provide for your family with your current skills?
Try to answer these questions as honestly as you can. If possible, write down your answers so you can reflect on them.
This exercise should give you some clarity about your current skills and the steps you have to take to increase your income.
The truth is, there’s only so much you can slash and reduce your expenses/bills. Sometimes you just aren’t earning enough money to take care of your basic needs.
The next step after assessing your skills and employment is to take steps to improve or upgrade them.
2. Improve Your Skills and Career Growth
After assessing your skills and your current job or job prospects, you may find that you need to improve or upgrade your skills so you can improve your career prospects and income.
I talked a bit about how important it is for single moms to identify gaps in their knowledge, and to invest in themselves in this post.
I know how hard it is to invest in yourself when you’re struggling financially and have a lot of bills to pay.
Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth and make even more sacrifices so you can invest in your long-term financial health.
Improving your skills would definitely help you to earn more money. If your current job isn’t a good fit, or you’re not receiving the salary that you should, you may have to start looking for another job.
Here are a few more questions to think about:
- Is there room for advancement at your current job?
- Are you in your ideal/dream career or job?
- Are there skills you could learn that will help you advance your career?
- Do you need more education to get to the next level, or to get your desired job/career?
- Are you planning to go back to college to get a degree, or can you improve your skills or learn new skills through self-directed learning?
- Do you have a college degree?
- Do you need a college degree?
It’s time for you to take a cold hard look at your skills and current job. If you’re in a dead-end job,(a dead-end job is a job in which there is little or no chance of career development and advancement into a higher paid position), you need to come up with a plan to move to a better job.
Many single moms are in dead-end jobs. That’s one of the main reasons they struggle to make ends meet.
While a college degree isn’t always necessary to obtain a well-paying job, it is definitely worth considering. There’s a big difference between what you can earn with a high school diploma, associates degree,or a bachelor’s degree.
If you’re in a job where there’s room for career advancement, find out what you can do to advance your career. Do you need to take a few courses or some certification exams?
Perhaps you need to go through some sort of training to climb the career ladder?
Whatever it is, the key is to be proactive! That’s the only way you can make a difference.
A lot of single moms put off going to college or working on advancing themselves because of work and parenting responsibilities. Some have no idea how they can afford college on their own.
There are lots of resources out there for single moms who want to go back to school to get a degree. You just need to do a lot of research and find them.
If you’re thinking of getting a college degree, check out this resource for some tips and lots of useful information.
Also check out this post A Big List of Financial Assistance Resources for Single Moms for some more help.
Don’t forget to check with your employer to see if they offer tuition reimbursement or pay increases for certifications.
I know some of you may be wondering how you can afford to improve your skills with your limited finances. The answer is, be willing to make some more sacrifices.
You have to think long-term. As a single mom, investing in yourself should be non-negotiable because that’s the only way you’re going to get ahead.
So find the money from somewhere. Reduce your expenses. Cut your kids extracurricular activities if you need to.Take on extra hours at work if you have the opportunity.
Remember, this is only going to be temporary. Focus on the long-term benefits not the temporary discomfort. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end.
3. Ask For What You Are Worth
One of the reasons women earn less than men is because they are afraid to ask for what they are worth. As long as you’re doing a good job and providing value for your employer, you deserve to be fairly compensated.
So many employers out there are very happy to take advantage of their employees. That’s why you need to stand up for yourself because no one is going to do it for you.
There are many employers who are happy to exploit your value, but unwilling to compensate you for it.
My first employer was like that. He had no problem complimenting me for doing a great job and being such a hard worker. But anytime I raised the issue of pay increase, he wasn’t so nice or willing to dialogue anymore.
If you think you deserve a raise (or even a vacation), then you better ask for it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a fair wage with your employer.
Find out what the going rate is for your job or what your colleagues earn for doing the same job before approaching your employer.
Learn how to negotiate properly. This skill will serve you well in different areas of your life.
I also recommend the following books:
4. Start a part-time business or side hustle
It’s become increasingly hard to survive on just one income. It’s worse if the income isn’t very high to begin with.
Starting a side hustle or part-time business is one of the best ways single moms can make some extra money. There are lots of side hustles you can start from home with very little startup costs.
If you work full time, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to find the time to start a side hustle. The answer is, you make the time.
If this is a priority for you, you will find the time to work on this. For some of you, this means starting your day a little bit early, or going to bed a few hours later.
You may have to give up watching TV or surfing the web while you work on your side hustle, but that’s okay.
If you can find a way to create a second income stream for your family, that would ease some of your financial struggles.
So How Do You Start a Side Hustle?
Use the questions below to come up with some ideas.
- Make a list of all your skills
- Now take a look at your list. Are there skills you could develop with a little time and money and turn into a side hustle or new career?
- Do you have some skills you could offer to people for a fee?
- Can you turn any of your hobby/hobbies into a money-making venture?
- Can you turn a skill you developed from your career into a side hustle( e.g. web designing, graphic designing, tutoring, freelance writing etc)?
Don’t over think this, or think you don’t have anything that people would be willing to pay for. Most people need help with one thing or the other.
Something that you can easily do may be a nightmare for someone else. It’s your job to figure what you have to offer, then find the people who need what you are offering.
Beware of work-at-home scams and pyramid schemes. Make sure you do your research before you invest any money into any business idea.
Here are a few posts to help you get started:
5. Practice Good Financial Management
It’s very hard to make ends meet if you don’t have good money management skills.
How to manage your finances is one of the most important skill every single mom needs to have. Knowing the difference between needs and wants is key to surviving financially.
Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing or give the appearance of wealth when you are living paycheck to paycheck.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet,this isn’t the time to indulge in impulse shopping or “retail therapy” to feel happy.
What you need to do is tighten your budget and track your expenses. If you don’t have a budget, you need to create one. A budget will help you to keep track of your income and spending.
If you have debt, create a repayment plan. You can’t get ahead if you’re spending a big chunk of your salary servicing debt.
Make arrangement with your creditors if you need to, and stop borrowing more money while trying to pay off debt.
If you need help with your money management skills, you can read personal finance books and blogs, or attend financial seminars or classes. Lots of churches offer free classes.
Don’t forget to create an emergency fund. Make it a habit to save some money from every paycheck no matter how little. Saving $5 every two weeks can add up really fast.
Find ways to reduce some of your expenses and minimize waste. If you can, automate bill paying to avoid late-payment fees.
Shop around before making purchases and shop used if it makes sense. Also buy good quality over quantity. You will save more money in the end.
6. Get As Much Financial Help As You Can
Listen up. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Get all the help you can until you can get back on your feet financially.
I am not telling you to be a welfare mom or anything like that. But if you need to be on welfare while you figure things out, then that’s what you need to do.
Nobody needs to know your business, and even if they do, don’t let that bother you. As long as you have a plan that you are working towards it’s okay to receive help.
I am not talking about gaming the system or anything like that. If you need child care vouchers to help with your child care costs, go for it.
If you need SNAP aka food stamps or WIC benefits to help you feed your family, I see no reason why you shouldn’t apply for it.
If your ex husband or kids dad is financially stable and can give more than the child support amount, you can ask him for help.
I know this one is tricky and it depends on your relationship with your ex. A few times, I have had to ask for money for clothes for the kids because I needed to spend money on other stuff.
An extra $100 here and there can make a big difference to your budget. Don’t refuse monetary gifts or other offers of financial help.
Take everything you can get. Like I keep telling you, it’s only temporary. And you can pay it forward once you’re financially stable.
7. Stop Procrastinating and Take Action
It’s easy to pretend that your situation isn’t as bad as it is or that you have things under control.
The sooner you stop living in denial, the better you will be. If you have delayed taking action for one reason or the other, it’s time to pick yourself up and face your financial challenges head on.
Your financial problems are not going to resolve themselves no matter how much you hope or pray. You have to take consistent and strategic steps to turn things around.
If you’re tired of struggling to make ends me,come up with a plan and take action.
Maybe the first thing you can do is to create a budget. Don’t put that off any longer. If you need to apply for SNAP, do that straight away.
Whatever your first step is, stop procrastinating and just do it. If you need a second job to bring in more money, start searching for jobs immediately.
When you are proactive, you take responsibility for your life and circumstances. Being proactive means you’re not always reacting to things around you, but you are making things happen.
And that’s how you make ends meet as a single mom. That’s how you change your financial situation
Let’s do a quick recap.
There are seven steps you can take to make ends meet. They are:
- Assess your current skills and job
- Improve your skills and career growth
- Ask for what you are worth
- Start a part-time business or side hustle
- Practice good financial management skills
- Get all the financial help you can
- Stop procrastinating and take action
These are the same steps many single moms have used to find financial stability in their lives.
You can’t do everything at once, so start with the first step you can easily implement, or the one that would have an immediate effect on your finances.
Remember to use all the resources that you have access to. Which resource do you currently have that you’re not utilizing or under-utilizing? That’s where you need to start.
It’s possible to make ends meet and thrive as a single mom. Many women have done it and I see no reason why you can’t too.
All it takes is focus, determination and hard work.
Are you struggling to make ends meet? Which of these steps resonated with you? Do you have some tips or suggestions? Leave them in the comment.