I am not now nor have I ever been a single mom. But I know a lot about you if you are. I know you have tremendous responsibility and (sometimes) a ton of stress. For starters, you carry the entire weight of getting the kids to and from school, getting them over to their friends and then schlepping them to their activities. It goes without saying that you have absolutely no time for yourself. And the time pressure cooker is the good news.
On top of that, you carry the financial responsibility on your shoulders. If you make enough money on your own or receive support, that’s great. But for many ladies in this situation it’s not enough. Chances are high that you need to bring home some serious cabbage to make ends meet. And it’s much harder if you look for work after being out of the workforce for awhile.
Of course, you might have the training and experience to snag a great job but sadly, many women don’t. While our society has made strides towards equal pay for men and women, there is still a big wage differential. We might as well acknowledge the truth even though it’s not pretty.
So with less time and possibly fewer skills and an uphill mountain to climb, you are the one who has to keep it all together. No doubt about it; being a single mom is not for wimps. Have I got the picture so far?
How Can A Single Mom Get Her Finances On Track?
The reality is that the problems you face are similar to the problems others face too. It’s just that while other people deal with one or two challenges, you face a barrage of financial issues all at the same time – all on your own. That makes it a thousand times harder to deal with. Where do you start?
While you do have a more a more difficult situation to face, all is not lost. Not by a long shot. Here are 5 things you can do to become the master of your own destiny if you are a single mom:
1. Make A Dispassionate Inventory
Many people, single or not, think they have one specific problem that once solved, would change everything. Chances are good that you do face one overriding challenge. But it’s more effective to think about your entire situation. By doing so you may find that minor improvements in a number of areas are easier and quicker to execute than one big solution. And you’ll find that small improvements in many areas result in significant improvement overall. Let’s list the struggles you face now:
- Do you have enough income?
- Do you think you might be spending too much?
- Do you constantly feel you haven’t got a minute to breathe?
- Are you in debt?
- Is your credit history trashed?
- Are you finding it impossible to find a good job?
- What other challenges do you face?
Take a moment to list all the challenges you face without filtering and then go on to the next step.
2. Create Your “Importance/Effort/Results” Grid
For each problem you identified above, let’s set up a grid. In the first column, list how important is it to solve this issue on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the most important and 1 being the least). Next to that, estimate how much effort you’ll have to invest in order to solve the problem using the same 1 through 5 scale. Finally, jot down how quickly the results will follow once you start chipping away at it, again using the 1 through 5 numbering system.
Let’s say you don’t have enough earning growth potential. One solution might be to get a side job or start a small business of your own. These are great solutions but they aren’t easy. You need to investigate and build before the results manifest. So it might get a “5” under importance but a “1” in effort and results.
On the other hand, you might feel like you don’t overspend and it would tough to cut costs. But you realize that if you were able to find a way to reduce expenses, you would feel the impact immediately. Under importance you might mark a 2 because you don’t think overspending is a big problem. For effort, you might write in 2 also because you think it would be hard to find additional ways to cut costs. But the results of reduced spending would get a 5 because you’d really notice the results fast.
Let’s take a minute to discuss “effort”. Some solutions may seem really difficult but allow yourself to think out of the box. I have even met single moms who teamed up with other single moms to solve their common problems. Some even decide to share a house together in order to reduce costs and split up household duties. This has the added benefit of allowing each mom more time to work or pursue a business. I’m not saying this solution is for everyone. But I am saying that it’s wise to consider non-conventional ideas.
Do your best to complete this grid and be as thorough as possible. Once you do, you’ll be more than half way to your solution. Yeah!
3. Your Plan
Now that you’ve created your grid, add up the total values and work on those items with the highest total score first. Look at the grid above. In this example, the primary focus should be to free up time (see below on how to do that) and find work – even if the pay is low. That’s because both are very important and would create almost immediate results. After that, this person should look at spending and getting out of debt. Once those things are handled, this mom should focus all her efforts on launching a side gig and then clean up her credit score.
Keep in mind that this grid is specific to this hypothetical single mom. Your priorities depend on your unique situation. That’s why you’ve got to create your own grid.
4. Create Time
One of the major struggles that single mom’s face is the lack of time. But you’re going to need to spend time in order to solve these problems.
- If you want to improve your credit for example, you’ll have to first learn how to do it and then actually get into gear. That takes time.
- If you decide you want to open up a side business, which also takes time to make happen. You have to investigate and then piece it together. This doesn’t happen with a snap of your fingers.
- If you want to cut spending, you’re going to have to find out how much you spend now, pinpoint where the money is going and then make the cuts. That takes time too.
In a perfect world you’d be able to schedule an hour or more each day to work on these issues. If that’s not possible, make it an hour every other day or every third day…and build up. No matter how you do it, commit to spending the time and schedule yourself out.
Don’t let anything interrupt or distract you. During that time, put all your attention towards this project. If you can’t do that I’m afraid nothing is going to change. So if you really want to transform your family’s financial life, you’re going to have to carve out time my friend.
What if you don’t have the time?
Now, if you don’t currently have this time, you’re going to have to create it. Can you ask your family to take care of the kids in the afternoon? Would your friend down the street land a hand once or twice a week? Don’t be afraid to ask for support. It may be out of your comfort zone but as long as the kids are with safe people, you aren’t harming them. And in the long-run, you’re doing this for their benefit as well as your own. Don’t feel guilty about not being together while you are working on your family’s future.
5. Accountability & Support
I am a huge fan of putting together a team for accountability and support so please take advantage of that resource. There are a lot of single mom’s out there. You could be doing another lady a huge favor if you ask her to join your team. This way you can coach each other through this process and help each other in return.
Ask your accountability partner to review your grid and make sure it’s complete. Then do the same for her. Are there any holes in the plan? Commit to a weekly meeting to discuss these issues and report back to each other on how well you are each doing.
If you are a single mom you have a tough job. You have more responsibility and often limited resources like time and money. But you can turn this situation around. You can take back control over your life much faster than you might imagine. All it takes is a well thought out plan, some effort, willingness to think outside the box and patience.
Are you going to take back to use these tools to take back control of your financial future? What else are you going to do?