I am a Mama’s boy. There, I said it. Since I can remember, my Mom has been there for my brother and me doing everything in her capacity to make our lives better. She is simply an amazing woman. But she is not alone. There are millions of moms out there who will do anything they can to improve their children’s lives.
But there is one group of Moms that I think deserve a special shout out this Mother’s Day – single moms. When I was a kid, my parents got divorced. And before my Mom was lucky enough to meet my step dad (one of the finest men on Earth), she was tasked with raising my brother and me on her own. While I remember those years fondly, there is little doubt in my mind that my Mom struggled every day to make ends meet. It took a ton of hard work, sacrifice and determination on her part to get through that time in her life. So in honor of Mother’s Day this year, my Mom and I got together to recount some of the financial lessons she learned as a single mom to pass on to other young women who may be experiencing financial distress in their lives. Here are 10 financial tips for single Moms.
Take an Objective Look at your Finances
According to my Mom, “being a single mom is tough, but it is even tougher if you don’t face the reality of your financial situation.” She recommends stepping back and take an objective look at your finances to determine where you really are. “Don’t let pride get in your way”, she says. “Being a single mom takes courage, and sometimes courage means taking a look in the mirror and accepting the situation you are in.”
My Mom recommends four tools to help single moms get a snapshot of their current financial situations:
Determine whether Budgeting is Enough
According to my Mom, “another thing you have to do is to determine whether or not budgeting is enough, or whether adding income is the only solution to your financial challenges.” It’s true. Many personal finance experts over-emphasize budgeting as the magic bullet for financial problems. But in some situations, the only answer is finding new and better ways to make more money. She recommends looking for multiple sources of income outside of a full-time job such as babysitting, cooking, cleaning, and even getting a part-time job. She also recommends finding ways to access consumer credit counseling services and warns “do not get involved in fee-for-service credit counseling services.” Why? Because there are a lot of con-artists and charlatans out there who will happily charge you for services that don’t add much value. Instead, she recommends seeking “a reputable credit counseling service” by contacting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 800-388-2227 or visiting their website at http://www.nfcc.org/.
Search for Local, State and Federal Assistance
“It is worthwhile to look into state and federal programs to see if there is financial assistance available.” My Mom recommends looking into the poverty guidelines, unemployment insurance programs, utility assistance programs, and women’s shelters. “Many young women are trapped in bad relationships and money is the only thing keeping them there. When they finally get up the courage to leave, they don’t realize there are a wealth of resources out there to help them get on stable financial ground.” She recommends checking out the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance for more information on assistance programs in your state. Additionally, there are a lot of resources out there to help women in military families. Check out Military Onesource for more information on programs available to military moms.
Look for Private Source of Assistance
If you realize that you simply cannot make ends meet, consider looking for ways you can get access to money from private sources before you start looking for loans and cash advances. Mom says to “look to family, church, charity, and food banks before you start looking for loans. Often times, there are ways you can get the money you need to make it through tough times without having to repay loans as exorbitant interest rates. Lenders, check cashers and maxing out credit cards should be your last resort.”
Consider Children’s Assistance Programs
Mom also recommends looking into children’s assistance programs for medical care, food, tuition, and scholarships for your children. “There are a lot of programs out there to help parents subsidize the costs of healthcare, food and education for kids. It takes doing some research and jumping through hoops sometimes, but us Mom’s will do about anything to get what we need for our kids.” She recommends looking into school breakfast and lunch programs, and also scholarship programs to help offset some of the costs of schooling like buying backpacks and school supplies.
Take an Objective Look at your Employability
In addition to giving yourself a financial reality check, Mom also recommends looking objectively at your employability to assess your knowledge, skills and abilities. “It is important to understand what you are capable of doing so you don’t waste your time seeking employment in all the wrong places. Time is your most valuable asset as a single mom, so you can’t afford to waste it.” She says it may be valuable to contact an employment agency or temp service to take advantage of their assessment and placement testing services. She also recommends looking into college placement services if you are a college graduate. Finally, she recommends making use of programs designed to help you polish up your resume. Often times, you don’t have to pay for these services or can find programs designed to help people in your situation. “Don’t be too proud to ask for help,” Mom says. “Sometimes it can be embarrassing to ask, but you can’t afford to let embarrassment get in the way of getting a job.”
Find Ways to Add Income
Do you have a car? Consider starting a delivery service, driving service or shopping service. Have a home? Think about babysitting, making jewelry, car detailing, baking, or offering gardening services. Got a computer? You may want to consider writing, bookkeeping or being a virtual assistant. My Mom recommends using “all of your available resources to make additional money on the side.” If you have a talent, hobby or interest, look for creative ways to turn your interests into marketable skills.
Consider Trading Services
According to my Mom, trading services can be another option for single moms. For example, take turns with people in your network babysitting kids. If you need to get work done on your car, consider using sewing skills or trading other talents with your local auto repair shop. “Whatever it takes to save money, you have to be prepared to do it,” Mom says. “The worst that can happen is that other service providers turn you down.”
Look for Creative Childcare Alternatives
Childcare can be very expensive today. My mom recommends going to “family first, then look into other programs in your city or state that can help you find ways to look after your kids while you work.” She talked about child care subsidy programs, scholarship programs and other options that may not be apparent until you do some further research. One other option she recommends are after-school programs. “While after-school programs aren’t available for parents of very young children, they are an excellent option if your kids are old enough to go to school.” She recommends seeking out any assistance you can to lower your child care costs so you can commit more time to earning money.
Search for Educational Assistance
As the cost of education continues to rise, it is important for single moms to find creative ways to finance their education. “School isn’t cheap, but there are ways to get free money to get more education.” My Mom recommends searching for Pell grants, private scholarships for young parents, women’s’ organizations’ scholarship programs, and employee tuition assistance programs that may be available through your employer. “Education definitely gives you a leg up when you are searching for a job,” she said. “And it also gives you the chance to earn more money.”
Save Money on Clothing
“Clothing is a major expense as your kids start growing up,” my Mom said. “I’d recommend looking for cheaper ways to outfit your kids affordably.” Hand-me-downs are always a great option, and she also recommends shopping at consignment stores and thrift stores for deep discounts on children’s apparel. Once your kid outgrows their clothes, my Mom says “consign or trade your children’s outgrown clothing to put a little cash back in your pocket.” Finally, she recommends that every single mom should “learn to sew.” “Sewing my own clothes and patching up old worn out outfits saved me a ton of money when I was raising you.”
The Bottom Line
Mothers are very special people who will do everything in their power to improve the quality of life of their kids. So this Mother’s Day, make sure to send your mom a card, buy her a gift and thank her for all of the love, hard work and selflessness that went into your raising. And to all the moms out there, both married and single, thanks for all you do!
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