Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Five Smart Financial Moves For Parents

Life as a single parent can seem tremendously overwhelming...

I have been a single mom for the majority of my son's life and some days go by in a blur of work, food prep, homework, laundry and after school activities. I barely have time to eat let alone worry about paying bills, saving for college, or insurance options.

By day I am a certified credit counselor helping others manage their debt and create sound financial futures; the other "24/7" title I hold is "mom". I know first hand taking the time to devise a financial plan is the best way to stay on top of your finances and build a sound financial future for yourself and your children.

Here are five things you must  make time for:

1. Monitor your current budget. Most likely the majority of your income whether it's your paycheck, child support or both, is going toward housing expenses, child care, food and gas; but what about the "other" categories; insurance, clothing, and entertainment for example? To find out where your money goes, track every expense for at least two-three months. Determine financial pitfalls like an excessive cell phone bill, unnecessary cable channels, or too many dinners out. Make cuts where you can and remember to create a line item for savings. To help you get started enter your expenses in this budget worksheet.

2. Be truthful with your kids...yes, they can handle it.  One of the biggest mistakes I make as a single parent is overcompensating for the loss of my son's father in his day to day life. Yes, he sees his dad occasionally, but I know he misses the daily interaction with him.  I struggle with guilt and sometimes blame myself for him not having his dad around everyday.  To compensate I tend to "spoil"; mostly with extra love and my time, but sometimes with the latest video game or a new toy. It's important to be honest with your kids and let them know if there comes a time you need to scale back. Life happens and sometimes the budget doesn't stretch as far as you need and the "extras" have to go. Help them understand that as part of the family it's their job to help you and that may mean fewer trips to the movies, toy store, or treats at the grocery store.

3. Child care, the expensive necessary evil.  It's no surprise that child care is a necessary expense for most working, single parents and it's expensive! Consider your options carefully when it comes to childcare.
  • Seek the help of family members.
  • Swap childcare with a trusted friend or neighbor.
  • Shop around. Consult Child Care Aware  for a listing of facilities in your area.
4. Take advantage of those tax breaks. If you are a working parent, you most likely qualify for the child-care tax credit.  This credit allows you to deduct a percentage of up to $3,000 in day-care expenses for one child or $6,000 for two or more children. You can visit the IRS website, to find out more about the child-care tax credit and to see if you qualify. 

5. Be insured. No one likes to think about the "what if" but, that's exactly what insurance is for.  Remember it's just you; if you become sick, get in an accident or become disabled who will support your children? Talk with an insurance agent to discuss the right coverage for your family when it comes to life and disability insurance.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your children is take the time to make your finances a priority and be prepared for tomorrow.

Remember, life is unpredictable, but we can try to be as prepared as possible.

Suzanne Cramer is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and Major Life Challenges. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @ADivorcedMom where she shares her insights as a single-divorced mom with tips and tricks to keep your finances in check.  


  1. Great tips as always. After my car accident, it certainly made me want to look into disability insurance. I already have health and life insurance but I want to make sure that I have all bases covered.

    I too am guilty of overcompensating with Moo because we have a second baby coming and so I buy her things because she sees all the stuff we've been getting for her brother and I don't want her to feel left out but looking back on how much I spent, I think there was a better way I could have handled it while saving my money.

  2. @Yummommy Thanks! So sorry to hear about your car accident...sometimes it takes an event like this to make us realize we have to cover all our bases!

  3. This is such a great and necessary post! It emphasizes the importance of taking your financial matters into your own hands. I will take from this post the immediate need for myself to begin tracking my expenses, because having a one year old, I too feel that I overcompensate for her not having her father in her life every day with material things, that she does not need. I would rather put that money towards our future. Thank you so much for such an informative post.

  4. These are great ideas! I've practiced (a lot!) with tracking's a hassle, but you learn a ton!


  5. @mommiesatplay I am so glad you learned from the post! Overcompensating is definitely one of my biggest mistakes...but I have found overcompensating with lots of one on one time, kisses and hugs is just as rewarding for my son.

    @Jansen Family Tracking expenses can definitely become mundane but is such a necessary part of budgeting and monitoring your finances--keep up the great work!


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