Staying on top of your finances can go a long way toward maintaining a stress-free life as a single mom. Last week I wrote about how I don’t sacrifice as a single mom and why you shouldn’t either. And I still stand by that statement but I realize that this is easier said than done. As single moms we must sacrifice some things in order to get everything done in a day. And paying our bills and staying within budget are top priorities.
So, to give you some more practical tools, I’ve put together a single mom budget plan to help you manage your finances easier.
In this post you will:
Learn how to turn your budget into an enjoyable experience.
Create a financial checklist to stay efficient.
Learn about my favorite tool for staying on top of my finances.
Learn about ways to increase your income.
Let’s face it, balancing your checkbook and staying within budget aren’t very fun ways to spend your time. You can make it easier on yourself by setting aside time each week to complete all the tasks associated with your finances.
Pick a day and time each week that you can focus on your finances for about 30 minutes to an hour. Personally, I have chosen Friday mornings to go over my finances.
Knowing that I’ve set aside this time every week has given me the luxury of not having to think about finances for the rest of the week. I know that every Friday morning I have time to check my bank account, pay bills, and send invoices. It’s pretty great.
I also decided to sweeten the activity by doing my finances at a local coffee shop. Going over my finances while sipping yummy coffee makes the chore so much easier to do. And suprisingly, I now look forward to doing it.
Take Action: What day and time can you set aside to do your finances? And how can you make them more enjoyable?
To be more efficient during the time I’ve set aside for finances I created a checklist for each task. So, when it’s Friday morning and I’m all snuggled in at the coffee shop, I just look at my tasks and go down the list one by one.
A checklist is so important because then you don’t have to think about it every time. You just whip it out and do each task and boom, boom, boom, you’re done!
This is my checklist. As you can see, I’ve put my checklist in the notes section of the Google Calendar event for “Financials”. This event repeats every Friday. So, come Friday morning I just bring this up, go through the list while enjoying my coffee, and get it knocked out in about 30 minutes.
Your checklist will most likely look similar to mine. I suggest putting all papers, bills, and anything associated with your finances into a folder. One of your tasks, like mine, can be to go through that folder and deal with any actionable pieces. Another task would be to go through your checkbook or Mint transactions (I will explain more about Mint in a bit) to make sure everything looks good. Another important task should be to keep an Excel spreadsheet up to date. This spreadsheet will include helpful worksheets like main budget and cash flow.
Take Action: Take a couple minutes to list out your financial tasks.
Mint was the first financial tool I signed up for after I left my ex-husband. Mint offers an online tool and an app so you can manage your budget from anywhere. Basically, Mint pulls all your financial information including transactions and investment sources into one place. Then from that information it creates a customized budget plan based on your past spending habits. You can then go in and tweak your budgets as needed.
The great thing about Mint.com is that it’s set up as an envelope system. So you can create a budget for utilities, groceries, gas, and even things like coffee and books. When you are about to buy, let’s say, another book you can simply bring up the Mint app on your phone and look at the book budget to see if you have any more money left in this budget. If so, enjoy your book. If not, you can adjust your budget from somewhere else or make the decision not to buy. Either way, you have a handy tool that acts as your personal accountant.
Take Action: What budget would you like Mint to keep track of?
I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use to track my main budget, cash flow, any supplemental income I’ll be getting for the month, and my dream budget.
Main Budget – My main budget is what my budget looks like now. It’s a standard budget that I’ve tweaked over the years to make it work for me. It has a section for income, expenses, extras (like massages and savings), and my student loan information.
Cash Flow – The cash flow worksheet shows me how much money I’m bringing in for the month and how much money I will have left over (or how much money I will be short) at the end of the month.
At the top, I list what’s actually in my bank accounts. I have a checking account and savings account. I also have an investment account, PayPal, and some Amazon gift cards. So, I’ll go through each account and enter in how much is in that account. Then, I list out my regular income and then list any income that will be coming in later (like payments from clients).
Under that, I’ve listed all my expenses. Every week I go through the expense list and if something has been paid already I change the amount to zero. If it’s something I buy multiple times during the month like groceries or gas, I adjust the amount as needed. This helps me keep track of bills that I have left to pay.
My cash flow worksheet has been extremely helpful in keeping me within budget and also gives me piece of mind that I have enough money to cover my expenses. It also lets me predict the future in a sense because it tells me how much money I will have left over at the end of the month or how much more money I need to make this month in order to cover everything.
Supplemental Income – If you have any other sources for income from a side hustle or selling arts or crafts you can create a separate worksheet to keep track of money you anticipate getting throughout the month.
Dream Budget – This worksheet is for looking toward the future and thinking about things you want to do or buy. So, say you have a goal of putting an extra $500 toward your student loan each month. You don’t have the $500 now but you want to work toward that goal. List it in your dream budget so you have something to work toward.
Your Dream Budget can also help make your goals seem more tangible. Having a vague idea of making more money doesn’t really give you concrete goals to work toward. But when you list out all the things you want and how much they cost? Well, now you have something to work with. And for me, this exercise helped me realize that my goals were actually not that far off from where I currently am. Talk about a motivation and confidence booster!
Take Action: Download my budget template here.
In order to get to your Dream Budget you’ll need to increase your income. The best way I’ve found to increase my income is to create multiple income streams. This basically means that I have several ways I make money each month.
My main way is through my freelance design business. I design websites for local businesses and this has kept me going for many years. I also review websites at UserTesting.com and do freelance writing for a parenting blog. I’ve also started selling quilled art pieces. Each month I try to find another income stream to add.
Keep in mind that researching income streams can get overwhelming. And you need to make sure that the income stream fits in with your skills and time commitment, and that it’s a legitimate opportunity. There’s a lot of scammers out there as well as reputable opportunities that will just waste your time.
I have collected many articles on my Pinterest Board filled with ways to make extra money. I’ve tried most of them and can say that they are all legitimate offers.
Take Action: List 3 ideas for ways you can make money on the side.
Creating a single mom budget plan and sticking to it doesn’t have to be daunting or overwhelming. In fact, creating a budget and following these financial tips can greatly reduce your stress and allow you to have a happier life as a single mom.
What tips do you have for other single moms to help them stay on top of their finances?