Savvy Savings for Single Mums – Intro
As single mums, we face many, many, many, MANY challenges! Not least being raising a head-strong, stubborn, cheeky Mr Independent (but loveable!) little human.
Managing finances can sometimes be the hardest and most stressful challenge of all. Money can’t buy happiness, right?
No, but it can buy peace of mind and be one less thing for a mum doing it on her own to worry about.
The worst feeling is looking at your bank account and wondering how on earth you are going to pay all the bills on time and feed your child. No one should have to face the decision of “Do I put the heating on or do we bundle up with jumpers and hot water bottles and use the money we save for food?”.
But just because you’re a single mum (this applies to single dads too) doesn’t mean you can’t make your budget work. It isn’t easy to manage kids, a house, yourself AND bills. But it is possible. It just takes a bit of organisation and some savvy savings tips.
On a plus side, being financially independent is really empowering and being the one who gets to decide what you buy and when you buy without having to ask anyone else’s permission it is a great feeling.
As a student, I was AWFUL with money and got myself into a lot of debt. Well to be fair, you hand an 18-year-old who just moved out of home and into student halls in a big a city to go to college / uni a bulk of money (student loans, grants etc) and there is every chance they’re going to go a bit a little bit crazy on the old spending sprees!
As a carefree 18 year old it’s hard not to think ‘WOW! I’m rich! Let’s go shopping!’ It didn’t help that I lived smack bang in the middle of Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and literally had 100s of shops and food places to walk past and resist every day!
It took me a long time and a lot of lectures from my money savvy Grandad to learn how to handle my finances which I completely cocked up in my 20s.
But now in my 30s and especially having a child to support I’m in (almost) complete control (give or take the odd day where I convince myself a bit of retail therapy will make everything better, because sometimes chocolate just can’t cut it) of my finances even though I live on a tight budget.
I don’t receive any help from Aidens dad. I tried going via the Child Maintenance route but it turned out asking him to hand over £6.72 a week for his son was far too unreasonable! My bad. So apart from the 1 tub of formula he bought that one time and the £20 he handed me that one time…. I support Aiden by myself. And I’m dam proud of that fact.
So here are some budgeting tips for single mums which I’ve learned along the way.
Savvy Savings Tip 1 – Get Organised
Know your income and expenses amounts and dates every month and plan ahead.
I have a good old word document (because I’ve never for the life of me been able to figure out spreadsheets. Plus I’m not that much of a geek… right?) that I use to keep track of everything.
I work a month in advance so I can make sure I have enough money for bills due the next month therefore they get paid on time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly trying to catch up and no one could blame you if you are in that situation because its hard to keep on top of it all. But planning ahead can help avoid it.
For example bills due in July:
I write down all the expenses – gas and electric, mobile, broadband, council tax and so on and the date which they all are due to be paid (I try to have them all come out around the start of the month).
I write down the dates and amounts of any income I have coming in in June.
As soon as the money goes into my bank, I transfer the amount I need to pay my bills in July into a bill account. That way it keeps it separate from left over spending money. Whatever money is left over I divide between daily / weekly living expenses – food, petrol, toiletries, treats etc.
I also plan 3 months ahead so that any extra bills like TV Licence, road tax etc are given enough time to budget for.
I know it sounds tedious and there are much better ways to spend your time but once you start it’s just a case of updating the document every month, seeing what payments you have coming up and which income will be used to cover them and when.
Savvy Savings Tip 2 – Keep track
After bills are accounted for, know that what is left over is what you have to live on and stick to it.
If you are struggling to not dip into the overdraft or put extra expenses on the credit card, look at what you are spending your money on and ways to cut back. Do you have a gym membership? Is it used enough to justify paying for it? What about subscriptions (magazines etc)? Do you need them? Go out for meals a lot? Are you an impulse buyer!? (Me!)
Check your bank statements and see where you can cut back.
Savvy Savings Tip 3 – Save ‘Something’
As a single parent, it’s hard to find any money left over to actually put into savings. I’m not the best saver and I never have been.
But now I have Aiden I need to make sure I have something set aside.
I set up a standing order to pay into a savings account every month along with all of my other bills. Even if all you can afford is £5, set it up. No matter how little the amount over time it will all add up.
I transfer it into an account I have no cards for and no internet banking for. I have to physically go into the bank if I want to check the balance or withdraw any money. But I try to just keep the standing order going and forget about it.
Savvy Savings Tip 4 – Shop Around
Money Saving Expert has helped SO much. (Please note: I’m not affiliated with this site at all, I’ve just had a lot of luck finding money saving tips so wanted to share!)
I joined up to their Energy Saving Club when I got an email from British Gas (grrrr) saying they were about to increase my monthly payments – from £96 per month to £140 with only 2 weeks warning!!!
So I used the energy club to find out the best deals for me. And lo and behold the best one was in fact……drum roll please….. British gas!!!??? But a ‘different tariff’…!
How on earth these energy companies get away with this is beyond me. But doing this simple check has saved me £60 every month! Phew!
I’ve also used this site to help me compare broadband, TV packages and mobile tariffs and deals. So, it definitely pays to shop around. As soon as your contracts are coming to an end start researching new deals.
There are other comparison sites that are also great so have a look on google 🙂
Savvy Savings Tip 5 – Shop online
When you’re in a shop, distracted by your toddler acting up or tempted by special offers. It’s easy to over spend.
Ordering your weekly food shop online allows to you plan your meals, only buy what you need and keep track of how much you’re spending. Going back to basic home cooked meals is cheaper than you think.
When you do it online you can quickly and easily add what you need into your basket and keep a track of what you have spent. Sometimes the delivery charges are high but there are usually saver options available. Tantrums in the fruit aisle!? …. not any more!
Savvy Savings Tip 6 – De-clutter
I usually do some toy / clothes de-cluttering a few times a year. Things Aiden outgrows or doesn’t use anymore.
Facebook selling groups are fantastic! It’s free to list items and there’s no postage or seller fees to pay! It’s amazing how much you can earn from passing on second hand goods to a new home.
Keep this in mind when buying too. I have got some great bargains from these groups, usually toys that are in great nick you’d never know they were second hand. Aiden certainly doesn’t seem to mind!
Savvy Saving Tip 7 – Join a Cash Back Site.
I’d like to say that although I am working as an affiliate for TopCashback in this post, I joined the website over a year ago, long before I started this blog. It’s because of my experience with them that I thought it would be a great tip to pass onto the readers in this post.
Retailers pay TopCashback to advertise their products and services on their site and TopCashback gives money back to their members.
The site has over 6 million members and includes over 4,500 merchants (from high street big names to smaller, niche online sellers). They also provide consumers with discount vouchers, which can be used in conjunction with earning cashback.
Basically, you shop online as you normally would by going via the TopCashback website and you earn a percentage of cashback on your purchases!
It’s so quick and simple to do:
- You sign up (completely free to do)
- Search for the retailer you want to shop with e.g. Argos
- Click ‘get cashback’. You are then redirected to the retailer’s website.
- Buy the product as you normally would
- Within a few days, you will see the cashback pending in your account. It will then progress to payable and you’ll be able to withdraw it to your bank account.
Sign up now to get £10 cashback on a £5 spend on cinema tickets at ANY UK cinemas before 09 July 2017 or click the image below to get a £10 sign up bonus when you spend £10 at any retailer on site
Why I like TopCashback
The reason I wanted to include TopCashback as a savvy savings tip is because I used it a lot at Christmas last year. Doing my Christmas shopping online as I normally would but clicking via TopCashback.
I also went through TopCashback when I took out a new TV package. Over a few months I came out with a total of £90 Cashback! Not bad huh!?
The only downside for me, is it can sometimes take a few months for the cashback to be payable. It all depends on the retailers. Some take a few weeks to pay out, some take a bit longer (but they do give an estimated pay-out time on the TopCashback website as a guide).
So I wouldn’t look at this as a quick way to make money for next month’s bills for example. Instead, I’d say earn the cashback and let it build up for a few months then withdraw it once its all payable.
I did this and used half of my earnings to go towards paying debts I had outstanding after Christmas and used the other half to treat Aiden and I to a day out!
There’s honestly no fees and no catch. You simply earn money for shopping – paid to shop!? It’s a no brainer!
So, there you have my tips and tricks. It’s not easy living on a single parent budget, but it is doable. Things do come up unexpectedly and if you’re like me sometimes you just can’t resist buying something that you really haven’t budgeted for and it doesn’t always go to plan. But with a little bit of organisation and forward planning you can totally manage.
For more money and budgeting ideas as well as tips and tricks for single mums, have a look at the Shopping & Reviews section
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