I had two grand in savings, two day jobs, two very young children, and one spare bedroom that we all shared at my Dads. I was a total mess.
I felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t know where to start. One thing was for sure; there was no way that I could keep on living out of a bedroom with my two kids. I needed to find a place to live. But more importantly I needed to find a place I could afford.
Since the whole point of getting divorced was to give my kids a better, more stable life I knew my finances had to be in order.
I made myself a single parent financial plan and stuck to it. Now, nearly two and a half years later I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that I am financially stable.
I have a job I love, no debt, a healthy emergency fund, retirement savings, and I’m just getting started saving for my other financial goals.
Here’s the plan I followed.
Start an Emergency Fund
I knew the two grand I had in savings wasn’t going to get me very far. I needed much more money if I really wanted to be financially stable. So I set my goal to build an emergency fund of six months’ worth of savings. Since my expenses were really low this came out to be around $7,000.
For almost a year I worked two day jobs while trying to build an online business on the side. Every extra dollar I made went into the emergency fund. I also added bonuses (which were rare) and my income tax refund.
After some serious patience paired with hard work and determination I finally hit that seven thousand dollar mark.
While some financial experts recommend that you only save one thousand dollars before moving on to your debt I think this is dangerous for single parents.
As a single parent you have no one else to depend on. What’s going to happen if you lose your job or your car breaks down and you only have $1,000. You’ll be screwed.
You should save at least six months’ worth of your expenses for emergencies only.
Pay Off All of Your Debt
Luckily I came out of my marriage with no debt. Actually I came out of my marriage with pretty much nothing but that’s a different story.
I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Whether you inherited some of your joint debt or racked up debt all on your own, you desperately need to get rid of it.
Your debt is causing you stress that you do not need. You already have enough on your plate.
After you save for your emergency fund make a plan to get rid of all of your debt.
Cut the Big Costs
The two most common budget busters have to do with housing and transportation.
If you have a car loan go full force on paying that off. (After you’ve saved your E Fund.) I don’t want you to make any monthly payments for transportation other than your insurance bill. Yes, you need a reliable vehicle but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on it. When it comes to transportation make responsible decisions.
As far as housing goes you have a lot of options. You can get roommates, find cheaper rent, move to a different location, or do what I did and buy a trailer for temporary living.
Remember, single parents need insurance more than anyone else (who’s going to provide for your kids when you’re gone?)! But insurance can be expensive if not done right. Check out this great resource on getting the right life insurance for your needs to make sure you get what you need, but don’t overpay.
Increase Your Income
This rule doesn’t apply to everyone. But if you were making close to or below the poverty line you need to make a change.
This was the situation I was in. I worked two day jobs and barely made more than two grand a month. I was maxed out. Getting paid a very low hourly wage just wasn’t working out. I didn’t have a college degree so I had to think outside of the box.
I slowly grew an online business and now make more than triple my old hourly rate. In fact I work half as many hours and make a lot more money than I did at my old jobs.
So if you’re barely able to keep your head above water look for a way to make more money. It takes hard work but trust me, if I can do it so can you.
Save for Retirement
Start stashing away money every single month for retirement. Start out with whatever you can afford and increase your contributions as you go.
If you have an employer provided 401k with a match contribute at least enough to get the match. That’s free money!
If you don’t have an employer sponsored retirement plan you can set up an account with an online brokerage. I personally use Betterment. I have my money automatically taken out of my bank account each month and Betterment invests my money into Index Funds according to my risk tolerance.
Use Your Money to Live the Life You Love
It might take you a few years to complete all of these steps so don’t feel discouraged. It took me two years and I had no debt.
But once you get through these steps you’ll feel the peace that comes with financial security. And after that you can start using all of your extra money to build the life you love.