Single parenthood is on the rise. According to the US Census Bureau, there are 13.6 million single parents in the United States. Of these, the overwhelming majorities are mothers.
While most single parenting situations are the result of divorce, a growing number are not. Many single moms have never been married. But no matter what the situation, being a single parent can be tough.
Obstacles of Single Parents
In today's economy, it's hard for dual parent households to make ends meet. As a single parent, you're responsible for the entire family's needs, but with about half the income you would have if a partner were present. Unfortunately, the bills do not get cut in half. You're still responsible for housing, food, clothing, school expenses, and everything else.
Being a single parent also puts you in charge of all the important decisions for the household. In a sense this is liberating, as you do not have to defend your position to anyone else. But it also adds a lot of pressure, as you do not have anyone to give you feedback or validate your choices. So you have to be confident in your own ability to do things right, and forgiving of yourself if something does not turn out as you had hoped.
Tips for Getting By
Single parenting can be a challenge, so it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are some things you can do to improve your cash flow:
o If you receive child support, stay on top of it. Make sure you're getting the amount that was agreed to every month or week, and if you're not, take action to collect. If you're not getting child support and you should be, or if you do not feel that the amount you're getting is fair, talk to a lawyer about your options.
o Take advantage of any tax breaks you're eligible for. You may qualify for a filing status that will work to your advantage, as well as a number of tax credits that can reduce your debt or increase your refund.
o Shop smart. Be on the lookout for the best deals on food, clothing, and other needs, and use coupons as much as possible. You can find coupons in the Sunday paper, magazines, in stores, and online.
o Keep a close eye on transportation costs. With the rising cost of gas, they can really take a chunk out of your budget. Use public transportation when possible, carpool, and accomplish as much with each trip as possible.
o Weigh your childcare options carefully. If your children are in school, you might be able to find a job where you can work around them. If they're too young for school or your work hours do not coincide with their school hours, however, you'll have to find a sitter or daycare. Friends and family may be willing to do babysitting exchanges, or they may watch your kids for a lower rate than you would pay elsewhere. There is also government assistance available to help pay for childcare in some cases.
Being a single mom is something of a balancing act. But with some careful planning, you can stay within your budget. And with your budget under control, you can spend less time worrying and more time with your children.