At least 40% of mothers in South Africa are single parents, and only 25% of children in this country are part of a two-parent household. Let’s talk about single moms and financial stress.
Knowing how to manage money is a skill every person must have: woman or man, single or in a relationship. For single mothers, however, it is even more important, simply because women still earn less than men and because mothers are just expected to carry more of the burden of care for children.
Before we look at specific financial tips, we have to talk about mindset. Many single mothers spend a lot of their energy being angry at the world and their circumstances. While you may have valid reasons to feel hard done by, you will accomplish much more by focusing your time and energy on your own wellbeing and that of your children.
As a single mother, your goal should be to be in a position to look after yourself and your children, regardless of what other people, the children’s father included, do or don’t do. The power that comes from that, will make a huge difference to how you approach life and your finances.
Now let’s look at specific things you can do to manage your money better. We start with some day-to-day practices, and then look at longer term planning.You have to budget
Without a personal budget you cannot manage your finances. You have to know exactly how much money comes in (salary, child support, or support from your parents) and exactly how much goes out. Your personal budget helps you to structure your finances, to plan for future expenses, and to not forget about any payments.Know where the money goes
Expense tracking goes hand in hand with budgeting. It is a fancy term for writing down every cent you spend. You can do it on a piece of paper or notebook, in an Excel spreadsheet or by using one of the many apps available.
When you track your expenses, you will quickly see where your unnecessary expenses are. That takeaway coffee every morning, or the little plastic toy your child talks you into buying every time you go grocery shopping? It all adds up.Spend with your head, not your heart
Mindful shopping is a critical skill, and expense tracking will help you achieve it. It will also help you to not buy stuff for your children because you feel guilty about what they don’t have. The more guilt buying you do, the less money you have for things that make a real difference. R20 here and there for tuck or a toy doesn’t sound like much, but if it comes to R200 or R300 a month, you have to ask yourself if that’s the best way to spend your money. And then you can decide to change your habits. You can, of course, also decide to continue, but then it was a decision and not something you do without thinking.Set goals
A goal or a dream motivates you when you have to take tough financial decisions. Start with something small, such as taking the kids to a movie once a month, or to the zoo. Achieving a goal is a wonderful feeling, and the success will boost your confidence in your money abilities.Talk to the children
You have to talk to your children about money, and involve them in the household budget. If they know what financial goals you are all working towards, they will be more likely to support you, rather than fight you, when you say ‘no’. Talking to them about money also teaches them financial skills they will need later in life, and improve their financial literacy.You are not alone
Join forces with other mothers (single or not) who live close by to solve the issues you all face. Form lift clubs for work and school. Pool your money to make use of back-to-school purchases discounts, or specials at the supermarket or veggie shop. Take turns to cook in bulk – a pot of soup or a large stew can be shared between two or three households, and save you all time and money.Time and travel costs
Single mothers are generally time-constrained, so think carefully about where you live, work and send your child to school. Any extra travel requirements will create additional time burden for you and increase your travel costs.Negotiate with your employer
Explain your circumstances and your requirements, and negotiate flexible working hours. Maybe you need to leave a bit earlier every day, but you can take a shorter lunch break, or come in earlier on the days when it is someone else’s turn to do the school carpool. If your job allows it, negotiate to work from home a few hours a week if you need it.Financial wellness in the longer term
There are things you have to put in place with the future in mind:
Being a single mother is difficult for many reasons. Having your finances under control will alleviate a lot of the pressure and financial stress. Tools like this handy budget calculator and information in Bayport’s Information Centre can you help get to financial health quicker.Go back