SingleParent$aves’s Guide to Creating a Budget

Budget. An estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. In simple terms, it’s a way to tell your money where to go so that you’ll know where it went.

Ever wonder where all the money went at the end of the month. If you’re like some, the question may rise the day after you receive a paycheck.  It’s just not a great way to live.

 So how do you take the boring out of budget? How do you create one you can live with? The answers to those questions are very simple yet by following the plan, the results will be tremendous.

First of all, let’s ditch the term budget. I like to call this my monthly financial master plan. Just like with other plans, it is subject to change. In fact there is a saying, “plans are made to be broken.” However, there is another phrase that I have heard throughout the years, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” With that in mind, if you want to win in your financial life, it is critical that you develop your monthly financial master plan, aka budget.

So how do you do that? What are the key steps?

There is no simpler way to answer that question except, in the words of a famous multi-national company, JUST DO IT!

Follow the tips below to get started on your Financial Master Plan (budget) today!

  1. Make a list of everything you need to pay each month – paying yourself first, mortgage/rent, insurance, day-care, gas, hair care, daycare expenses, cable, cell-phone, internet, everything!
  2. Once you have that down, average out the monthly cost for each item. You may wish to look at your banking  history for the past three months to find an average. 
  3. Next, determine how much steady income you receive each month. Unless absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t recommend adding child support to this number, especially if it’s inconsistent. The goal is to live off of what you make so if you do receive child support, its an added bonus that can go towards debt payoff then building an emergency fund. If you don’t, it won’t cripple your finances.
  4. If you get paid bi-weekly, decide how much you need to set aside from each check to cover the monthly cost. If you get paid once a month, you should be fine.
  5. I would highly recommend adding categories for sinking funds such as gifts, irregular expenses, car maintenance, etc. This will help you set aside cash so that when those bills arise, you have the cash to cover them.
  6. Next steps include actually making the budget. I like to use a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the numbers when I input formulas. Simply put, your income starts at the top, then each item you pay during the month gets subtracted from that number. It’s quite simple.
  7. If a spreadsheet is not your cup of tea, use a budget app to create one. There are tons of great ones out there and they can even link to your primary checking account.
  8. When doing your budget, try to tell every dollar where to go. Don’t leave anything to chance. Budget for everything so that nothing goes undocumented and no dollar is spent on a whim. In fact, create a line item for “fun” if you have any cash left after taking care of all of your savings and obligations. You earned it, so you should treat yourself to something each paycheck, even if it’s a small ice cream cone at the end of each month.

That’s it! Voila! This is a very simplified way to start your budget, but really, its all that is needed to get you started on the path to financial freedom. Don’t worry if you have to change some of your allocations or things don’t turn out as planned. In the words of Lau Tzu, “The journey of a million miles begins with one single step.” Get started on your budget today!

So what are some of your budgeting tips? Any successes? Failures? Join our Facebook group at SingleParent$aves to be connected to a community of super savers like yourself.

Happy saving, live well!

Why YouTube Is a Single Parent’s Best Friend

Social media often gets a bad rap, but it is a hot commodity in single parent homes.

The path to financial freedom is simple – cut costs, eliminate debt, and increase your income. While the concepts are easy in theory, failure to apply them is what keeps people living paycheck to paycheck.

As single parents, we often feel there is nothing left in the budget to cut. If you get to this point, its time to earn more income. Even still, one of the easiest ways to maximize value while minimizing costs is our good friend YouTube.  

Many people think of YouTube as a cesspool of raunchy videos, silly pranks, and useless fodder that robs kids of their childhood. While I am not a huge fan of social media, the benefits of it on single parent households, and families in general, is phenomenal. I have come to appreciate the wealth of knowledge available on different YouTube channels and encourage everyone to explore them for their own benefit. In my opinion, the platform should be a staple in a frugal home. Read on to find out why.

1.You can learn how to fix things on your own.

If you want information, Google it. If you want to learn how to fix things, YouTube it. There are a plethora of videos available that can educate even the most timid of learners. This is why it is so beneficial for single parent families. Why? Simply put, instead of paying for every little repair, YouTube makes it easy to turn it into a do-it-yourself project, which can save hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, in the long run. Even if you choose to let someone else complete the task, having the knowledge allows you to make sure its done right. For these reasons, YouTube is a great alternative to a paid handyman in the single parent home.

2. It gives you ideas on activities to do with your kids.

We all know children’s favorite phrase. I was guilty of driving my parents crazy with it when I was younger. The age old decree, “I’m bored!” Well, with YouTube, kids and parents can kiss boredom goodbye, along with overpriced trips to theme parks. From videos on do- it- yourself projects to things to explore, deciding on the next family adventure becomes easy when you start perusing all the channels dedicated to kids and parents. From nature hikes to science exploration, there is never a dull moment with YouTube at your fingertips and you can do everything while staying on budget.

3. You can learn how to build things on your own.

My kids wanted a tire swing. Instead of hiring someone, we binged on tire swing videos, figured out essential materials, learned the types of swings we could build, then set a build date to construct one of our own. It has since provided hours of fun for all the kids in the neighborhood, all while saving me tons of money.

Think of something that would be a fun family project then do your research on YouTube. Watch several videos to get different perspectives, then pick the process that is best for you. Our next project is a fire pit. We’ve already done the research. We’re just picking the best weekend to get the project started. Whatever you choose, make sure it will provide a relief for your family without busting your budget. Save money by learning to build things on your own.

4. It’s a low-cost way to get healthy.

From cooking channels to workout videos, YouTube can provide endless hours of ways to eat healthy, activities to do, and videos you can get fit with. Since attending a yoga studio can get pricey very quickly, finding a great yoga instructor is made easy on the platform. Once you’ve chosen a favorite activity or cooking show, subscribe to the channel, then stay current on the latest trends all while saving money on food and fitness. You may even get your kids involved by exercising with them and cooking along with your favorite chef, all in the comfort of your home.

5. The right videos can provide quality entertainment for your kids.

Finally, while there is much to be avoided on YouTube, there are equal amounts of high quality learning shows and entertainment for your kids. Just be mindful of what they are watching and you can find great joy in allowing them to explore their interest such as airplanes, science, investigations, or simply put, anything! The best part about this is that you can fulfill their thirst for knowledge without spending a penny!

In short, social media has gotten a bad wrap due to some people that use it for vile purposes. However, as a general tool, it is a must have and must needed resource for single parents looking to save money. From providing entertainment to being of practical use, YouTube has become a staple in my home for the reasons stated above and many more.

So how do you use YouTube? What are your favorite channels? Please let us know what great content you have stumbled upon so that we can check it out and benefit as well. Additionally, join our Facebook group, SingleParent$aves, to be connected with super savers like yourself.

For more resources on saving money while being a single parent, check out more articles here.

Happy saving, live well!