Single Mom Budgeting 101

Single Mom Budgeting 101

Something that has come up a lot in my friend group lately (& I have been seeing a lot of questions on Facebook, too) is budgeting!

Typical budgets don’t always work when you’re on a single income and/or even low income. This is an area with a lot of variables and everyone has different preferences as far as budgeting goes, but I wanted to share what has been working for me, in case it could help someone else!

So let’s just dive in!

When I was younger, and trying to straighten out finances & stick to a budget etc, for some reason I was bent on doing a monthly budget. Regardless of when I got paid, weekly, every other week, no matter. And it was always so frustrating because it never worked out in real life like it did on paper! Then one day, it finally dawned on me – do your budget with each paycheck.

Seems so simple, right?! I don’t know why it took me so long.

I used to be really old school & just use a pen & paper too – but these days, of course, I use an app. I didn’t want any expense tracking or any bells & whistles, just a laid out budget with a running total & the ability to mark off things paid. There’s a ton of budget apps out there, I am weirdly picky and wanted it laid out a certain way also, so in the end I decided to use Fudget (available on the App Store for Apple & Google Play for Android). There’s a free version and a Pro version that is $3.99 one time fee. I don’t need anything fancy, so free version works for me!

As I said, I wanted to be able to lay out a weekly budget for each month. So that is what I do. Here is what my screen looks like:

I actually get paid on Wednesdays, but I use the first day of the budget week as a Monday – just makes it easier to lay everything out. So at the beginning of each month, I go through and add the weeks for that month (I usually delete the previous month at the same time). I have a pinned list in my notes of all my bill due dates like this:

Of course in my head I know by now the due dates of the important ones, but it’s important to have them in one place & be able to go back & reference & make sure you have everything accounted for.

After I have the weeks listed out, I go through each one & add all the expenses.

Bills go in first, followed by groceries and gas, anything coming up that week (random birthday parties, kids activities)& misc needs (toiletries, school supplies, etc), and then savings. I usually try to zero out the balance so there is nothing left at the end – it’s all in places it needs to go. That helps the “oh I can spend $___, no problem…” when in the end, I should not have! This is also why it is important to pay the bills that week & put the money in savings immediately – so it doesn’t get spent in other places & then you’re in trouble. Occasionally, if we have a lot of stuff going on in a month, I will split some bigger bills in half the weeks before they are due, instead of having to take out the full amount when it’s time to pay. Just gives a little bit of play each week if necessary, as well as makes it easier to pay down a credit card balance/interest by making more than the minimum payment.

Once the bill is paid, you swipe left on it…

And mark it paid.

Seems simple enough, right? And it is. After starting using this app, I’ve been able to build up savings accounts (mine & my girls), avoided late fees, even had extra money for more fun stuff.

Another thing I have done more recently is to have a checking account to pay bills, a savings account for actual savings, and a savings account for shorter term savings – things like new clothes for my girls when the seasons change, shoes, dance classes/clothes, etc. Now that it’s March, & I know I’ll have to get my kids some summer clothes in a couple months, I budget some money each week to put into that account & make note of it in my notes app. I am also saving for braces for my oldest, so I put it all in the one account, and then make note of how much is for what. That maybe sounds confusing, but it’s been working well & very helpful.

One more thing I wanted to touch on, that is maybe a sketchy subject but for those of us that could benefit, I wanted to make sure you were aware. I’m usually a big advocate of saving up for stuff that you need & especially want. However, I am also realistic in the fact that things come up sometimes and you don’t have the luxury of doing that.

Something that helped me out over my oldest’s birthday a few months ago was using Afterpay. Afterpay splits your total into 4 smaller payments – you make one on the day of purchase & the rest 2, 4 & 6 weeks later until it’s paid off – with no interest or extra fees. Again, saving/making the full payment yourself is always best – but this is a super helpful thing to have in situations that come up too quickly!

Afterpay also has a referral program, so if you decided to try it out and use my link, we will both get $10 off a future purchase.

It is so helpful (& important!) to have your monthly income/bills all laid out if you want to ever get ahead, & get money in savings. Just keeping it in your head never works. Even doing your budget your own way should be a big help in your life, getting things paid down, bills in on time, and building up savings. The way I do it is almost like a digital envelope system (ala Dave Ramsey) which I always wanted to make work, but I don’t like to use cash & so much stuff is done online these days, it just wasn’t feasible for me. I’m happy with this alternative!

I’m also working on putting together a post with some money saving tips, so check back soon for that!

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