Money. Probably the single most difficult subject for a single parent. Right up there with guilt, but that’s a topic for another page. Always trying to find a way to make more and always finding more month at the end of the money. But never learning how to make a monthly budget.
You have to make sure the household bills are paid, gas in your car (or bus fare money), grocery money (if you don’t have food stamps), the kids need clothes and shoes because they’re constantly growing, and God forbid you should need new socks because you’ve had the same pairs for two years and there are more holes than there are socks.
I want to make clear, I am no professional. I don’t have any degrees in finance or accounting.
I have done a lot of research on people and websites who offer financial advice. I have read a lot about creating savings and investing. As a single mother I could never wrap my mind around these things. How could I save money if I can barely pay my bills?
How to Make a Monthly Budget
One important factor to managing your money is plan and stick to a budget. Control your money, don’t let it control you.
The first thing I recommend is so simple. I am a visual person so if I can see things written out, it is easier for me to process. One of the things my mother taught me was to use a bill calendar. I will provide a link where you can print off a free calendar. You can also just draw one out on paper.
If you don’t have a printer, you can go to your local library and print it off for just a few cents per copy. Price varies for each library.
When you have your calendar in front of you, write in your paydays on the corresponding days you will be paid. Then you will write in each bill and the amount due on the day it is due. Here is an example:
|Water $67||Payday||Electric $110|
|October rent$500||Pay –rent, electric, and phone from the 19th payday||Pay – cable and water out of 5th payday|
Usually, your rent and electric are your highest bills so you may need to work your budget so they come out of separate paydays. You want to schedule your bills to be paid before they are due. Your rent will always be paid out of the last payday of the previous month.
For those of you who are computer savvy, there are many free services online to help you plan and track your budget.
There are many more, just do a google search for budget helper free.
Another important part of your budget is knowing where your money is going. I give you a challenge – a homework assignment if you will. For the next 30 days, get a receipt for every purchase you make. NO matter how small – get a receipt. You will also need to keep track of any online spending such as bill pay.
Here’s how you track your spending:
- Commit to the cause — Before you get started, you need to commit to your own cause. Because if you don’t, no one is going to do it for you. Tracking your spending can be an eye-opening experience, but it’s one that won’t work without the full cooperation of your family members. In other words, don’t do it halfheartedly. Remember, you have to want it.
- Keep receipts — You’re probably going to hate what I’m saying, but you really need to keep receipts for all of your purchases for an entire 30-day period. This can be quite a hassle, especially if you’re not used to doing it. However, it’s an essential part of the process. Embrace it.
- Track your spending online — In addition to keeping track of all those receipts, you’ll also need to keep track of your online spending. This can include bills that are paid online, online shopping, and even credit- and debit-card transactions. The goal is to get a clear picture of all of your spending, so it’s important to include every single transaction you make during the entire 30 days.
- Tally everything up — Once you’ve gathered your receipts and online transactions in one place, it’s time to tally them up. Start by lumping similar purchases into categories that make sense. Your categories will vary depending on your specific situation; but they’ll probably include things like groceries, restaurants, gas, clothes, medical bills, hobbies, and home maintenance.
- Be honest with yourself — If you track your spending for the full 30 days and are shocked by the results, try not to make excuses for your behavior. Remember why you started tracking your expenses in the first place and try to learn something from the experience. If you don’t, you’re just resigning yourself to the life you’ve been living up to now. Remember where that road leads. Nowhere.
This may sound like a lot of work and I guess it is because it is different from what you’re used to. But tracking the spending is the easy part. The hard part is seeing how recklessly you’ve been spending.
You can’t change what you aren’t aware of.
Anyone remember watching G.I. Joe?
He said it best – “Knowing is half the battle.”
Another system I have heard of is the envelops. What you do, is get you some envelopes. You’re going to label each envelope – one for each bill; the others might be gas money, groceries, entertainment or whatever is relevant for your family. You can do this online as well.
The idea is that each payday you will put a certain dollar amount in each envelope. When the envelope is empty, then you can’t spend any more money in that area – such as eating out. So you want to make sure you put enough in there.
When your next payday rolls around, you look and see if there is money left in any of the envelopes. This can either be treat money for you to pamper yourself or you can move it over into savings. I would probably do the savings, at least at first. That way if you need any help with the next paydays bills, the money is there.
Looking Toward The Future
Once you have a good budget set up, AND are sticking to it, then it makes sense to look at ways to make some extra money. What good would it be to have extra money if you aren’t going to make good use of it?
Take a look at my article on how you can make extra money to pay bills, save for unexpected expenses or to do something unheard of – take a vacation!
I hope this information has been helpful to you. Let me know if you try any and how it worked for you.
If you have any questions or ideas you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.