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Money Tips for Single Parents

If you’re on your own and raising kids, money is probably a concern. Making ends meet may be a problem. Or maybe you feel like you have enough money, but don’t have a system for how your money flows – especially in regard to your kids. Either way, here are some tips that may help you get a financial grip on things.

Don’t be afraid to tell kids that something is too expensive. That’s true whether you’re talking about lunch at a fast food restaurant or a European vacation. There’s no shame in living within your means and there’s a lesson to be learned in not having everything you think you might like to have. My dad grew up in the depression and it hit his family hard. But there was nothing important we couldn’t afford when I was growing up. Every once in a while, I’d ask for something and he’d say I couldn’t have it. When I’d ask why, he’d say, ”Because you can’t always have everything you want.” I didn’t like that answer, but it taught me to wait before I buy things. There’s a difference between needing and wanting. 

Be creative. During the recent recession, our household decided to cut down on holiday spending. We purchased a few gifts for the kids, who were all teenagers at the time, but also made them some coupons. Some were for things that cost money, like a tank of gas or a dinner out, and had dates throughout the year that they could be used, but others were for treats like an extended curfew or skipping chores. When these “gifts” were opened, one of the kids read through her coupons and shouted “best Christmas ever!” Some great parenting moments money can’t buy. 

Realize you’re always teaching. Parents are always role models – good or bad, intentional or unintentional. Kids are watching and deciding what they will do – or never do – when they grow up. So model self-reliance and don’t blame others for problems. Do your best to get your finances to a point where you aren’t financially strapped if your ex doesn’t pay spousal maintenance or child support. And don’t complain about those payments in front of the kids, whether you’re the payor or the payee.  

Take care of yourself – financially and otherwise. Save for your retirement and if your kids get a few treats, get some things you enjoy, too. It’s like what flight attendants tell passengers about what to do if the air masks drop during flight. Put on your own mask first, so you can then help those around you. If you’re not in good shape, the kids won’t be either. One of the best gifts you can give you kids is to know they don’t have to worry about you once they’re on their own. 

-Linda Leitz