With Christmas around the corner, there is every chance you are worried about your finances. Single parents in the UK were already on lower incomes and less financially secure before the pandemic hit. They are also twice as likely to have zero hours contracts and working in sectors experiencing job losses. So, chances are Christmas post COVID will be a bit leaner this year for many single parents in the UK.
Sure, there is plenty to think about aside from finances, but no matter how much of a juggling act life might feel like, how you manage the family finances is key. Whether you are comfortable or struggling to make ends meet, knowing how to budget is important.
Breaking the Cycle
Financial planning isn’t much fun, least of all when money is tight. But budgeting is a necessity in a world where everything is becoming only more expensive. Start by creating a budget plan for your family: What goes in every month and what goes out. By setting a goal and tracking your spending, you can soon see where there is room for improvement and what needs to change to achieve your goal. You may not be able to change the mortgage but there may be items where you can potentially save.
So, break the cycle and create a budget plan. To help you on your journey to financial security, here are six strategies to help you manage the family budget:
Consolidate Your Debts
When improving your finances, one of the first things you should look to do is to fix your credit rating. Taking out a bad credit loan can be a great way to consolidate your bad debt and begin to pay off a chunk every month that you can afford. It may be painful in the short term but pay off in the long term. You could be refused as a tenant, unable to get a mortgage, credit card or even mobile phone contract if you have a poor credit rating. So, stop missing payments and improve your credit rating going forward.
Claim Financial Support
Have you claimed all the benefits, supports and discounts you are eligible for? Many single parents are unaware of the support they are eligible for, be it from the other parent, the council, or the government – even charities. Support is out there, you just need to know about it! Here is an overview of the various types of financial assistance available to single parents in the UK. Additionally, think about renting. Many people forget that if they have a big house or spare rooms in their apartment they can also turn their property into a money-making machine. Work together with a property management company for any legal issues and to help you find the right tenants.
Look for Discounts
Discounts are the lifeblood of the budget-friendly! You do not have to go as far as extreme couponing, but every discount for things you would normally buy is worth their salt.
You can get discounts on all kinds of things from food and energy deals products right the way up to discounted holidays for single parents! Sign up for newsletters, fill in surveys, keep your eyes peeled for bargains, shop around. There are tons of ways to save money as a single parent if you take the time to look around.
Create Meal Plans
Meal planning is vital when you have hungry mouths to feed, but you are doing it on a budget. Meal plans needn’t be boring either. One of the best reasons to meal plan is that everyone gets the food they love, and the wasted food (and money) stops dead in its tracks! Grace for Single Parents has some great tips on how to organise your meal plan, especially if you are sharing parental responsibility with an ex which may make planning more difficult.
Buy Second Hand
Have you seen how much school uniforms cost these days? The average spend in the UK is £316 per secondary school pupil per year. Blazers with badges, regulation shoes and trousers, even ties and hair bands need to be in school colours or adorned with the school logo these days. This is where you can really save: Go to the school’s second-hand uniform sale or even better let the PTA know what you need, so you get first pick. The school only sell items in a good or very condition, so you don’t need to worry that your kids will look like they have been dressed at the jumble sale.
Alternatively, try to join a local parent’s group or mums’ network where parents share tips on how to obtain school uniforms cheaply in stores or second hand.
Look for Extra Work
Working extra hours can be tough for many single parents, but there are plenty of jobs for mums working from home while the kids are in school or in the evening to supplement any other income you have. Jobs like copywriting, virtual assistant, accounting, social media and more can easily be carried out from home. The list is endless but be warned about those “hey hun!” messages from your old school friends. MLM schemes don’t make anyone money but those at the top of the pyramid.
Budgeting at a time like Christmas, is tough, but it is only for the short term if you handle the family finances wisely. Always be honest with your kids. Explain that money is tight and that you will have to save up for the things on their Christmas list. Getting fewer presents won’t traumatize them – rather the opposite. They will learn to become more money savvy and self-sufficient young adults, so don’t beat yourself up over it.
- How to Decorate Your Kids Bedroom on a Budget
- Financial Support for Single Parents
- Best Children’s Books About Single Parent Families
- Life Coaching for Single Parents