Raising kids on a single income can strain even the most resourceful of parents, and if the sole breadwinner is a do-it-all single mother, keeping your kids clothed and fed while balancing your books can be an intense juggling act. When budgeting for your household, it's necessary to reduce your living standard in order to keep on track -- your children will adapt quickly, provided that you do not also splurge on expensive gifts for them out of guilt.
As a harried single mother, you don't have time to mess around with extra expenses that eat away at your family's budget. With the cost of raising a child born in 2011 for 17 years reaching $295,560, adjusted for inflation, you need to keep track of every dollar while whittling down your living standard so that you are spending less than you earn. You should enforce the budget with your children by showing them the tradeoffs of spending beyond their means.
Needs First, Wants Later
The University of Alabama Parenting Assistance Line program offers suggestions to single parents for managing money and supporting a family with limited means. It advises differentiating between "needs" and "wants" and prioritizing your expenditures according to essentials. Earmark money in your budget for specific expenses so that you won't be tempted to dip into your reserves for spending sprees. It suggests that you come to the store with a shopping list to curb impulse buying.
As a single mother, you're the only person your children have to fall back on, so you need to figure out contingency plans in the event that you are no longer able to provide for them and include those in your budget. As such, plan for disability and life insurance policies and set aside funds for those premiums. Make those payments one of the sacrosanct parts of your budget. Do this in conjunction with an estate plan that protects your children's future by designating guardians and beneficiaries of your retirement, annuity and insurance plans.
Budget the old-fashioned way by totaling all of your anticipated expenses by the month and/or year and splitting them into weekly segments. This way, if you get a weekly paycheck, you'll be able to see how much of your weekly expenses are covered by the paycheck and how much is left for "extras." Use pre-printed worksheets to assist in budgeting. Single Parent Alliance and Resource Center divides a sample worksheet into two categories: Income and Expenses, with columns for projected and actual amounts and their difference. Break down expenses further and tally them according to Home, Food, Health, Family Obligations, Transportation, Debts and Investments.
Timothea Xi has been writing business and finance articles since 2013. She has worked as an alternative investment adviser in Miami, specializing in managed futures. Xi has also worked as a stockbroker in New York City.