written by: Kantha Wijeratne•edited by: Stephanie Mojica•updated: 3/28/2010
Many single parents face difficulty in managing their finances. Maintaining a budget to control expenses is especially hard with a single income. This article provides tips for single parents to set up and implement a family budget.
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Are you a single parent bothered over family finances? Planning and committing to a family budget may be a challenge that you are not prepared to tackle right now. Yet if you are struggling to make ends meet, it is best to take stock of your financial situation. Maintaining a family budget requires discipline. Here are some guidelines on how a single parent can accomplish this.
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Monitor Your Income and Expenses
A budget quantifies income and expenses according to a time period, amount and category. Use this worksheet available at http://singleparents.about.com/ to track your expenses for a period of 1-3 months. Included in payments are funds you can save each period for an emergency fund, college or vacation.
If you receive your pay on a biweekly basis, list your income and expenses for this period. Carry over any surplus or deficit for the next biweekly period. This will help to identify whether any cash problems arise due to timing differences. You can also maintain a long-term budget of 6 months –1 year to account for any bulk purchases you make to take advantage of price discounts or any extra-ordinary purchases or income.
By meticulously listing out your family’s income and expenses for about 3 months, you will understand how your money is spent. Your budget will also help to ascertain whether your expenses exceed your income. If so, you need to balance your budget by a combination of increasing your income and / or curbing expenses.
As a single parent, both these choice may seem difficult. It requires saying no to yourself and your children. It may require cancelling tempting credit cards and buying only with cash and debit cards.
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Ways to Increase Your Family Income
If the income your receive as a single parent consists of a regular pay check and child support payments, a second job or temporary position may be an option to consider. However this is not prudent if you have kids who need be in day care while you work.
Look around your home. Are there items that you no longer need? Online auction sites, garage sales or consignment storesare places you can consider to earn some extra money by selling such items.
If you are a creatively inclined single parent, use your talents to earn extra money by selling products/ services or teaching such skills to others. From hand-crafted items and cake decorating to music, art and writing, there are many avenues that you can explore.
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Way to Control Your Family Expenses
Analyze the expense side of your budget. Is your energy bill high? Are you spending too much on transport? Do you tend to eat out more often? Whatever the area, you have to make an effort to control such expense.
A carefully planned out weekly meal plan can do wonders for your health and financial well being. It will help to identify food items you need to include in your grocery list and eliminate impulsive buying at the store. It can also save on money spent on eating out. Collect some quick and easy recipes to complement your meal plan.
Many items whether food, clothing, school items or furniture can be bought for less with some prior research. Look out for sales and promotions whether clothes, concerts, restaurant openings or special events. Use coupons and bulk shop for consumables when they are on sale. Nearly new clothes available at second hand shops can provide value for less money. Consignment stores and online auctions can be good alternatives to buying quality furniture at reduced prices.
Look to ways to reduce your energy and transport costs. Use public transit whenever possible. Plan your chores so you get more done with one trip.
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Other Ways to Successfully Implement a Family Budget
Make use of your situation: Being a single parent places you in a unique position of caring for your family both financially and emotionally. Check out services your community provides for single parents. Stating you are a single parent can help you get a discount at some community events such as Christmas sales.
Build a support network: Managing a family budget or caring for your kids is not a responsibility you can undertake alone. Ask for help from family and friends. They will willingly do chores, help with baby sitting and include you and your family in picnics and outings. You can offer/ barter your services in exchange for help from a friend. Your support network can help to reduce your expenses. More importantly, they provide emotional support to you and your family.
Don’t forget yourself: Many single parents tend to spend their time and money on raising their families and place the least priority on themselves. A well planned family budget should include long-term goals for everyone, including you. Save an amount each month for yourself, be it to pursue education, hobby, entertainment or a fitness routine. Keep yourself physically and mentally active.
Maintain a positive attitude: As a single parent, you are better able to manage your family’s finances by implementing a budget. At first, living within your means may seem difficult. A positive can-do attitude can help to make those initially difficult choices. Keep at it. Review and amend periodically Financial stability can contribute much to raising a happy family.
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Budget calculator for single parents -http://singleparents.about.com/library/Calculator/bl_budget_calculator.htm