Managing Your Finances As a Newly Single Mum (Or Dad)
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You can probably tell from the title of this post that I have some news…my ex and I are separating. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs and the details, but I thought that I would have to mention it so that you all understand why my finances are changing.
When you become a single parent, it can be a bit of a shock to the system – regardless if you were the one who gave or received the news. How it all goes down will also ultimately affect and decide on how the financial situation is between the two of you.
Hopefully, you will both go about the separation amicably, and will able to talk through things sensibly to find the best solution for all of you. If not, you will unfortunately have to go through a solicitor and fight for your money and assets.
Fortunately in my situation, we are being amicable about it and have had decent conversations about finances.
If you are a single mom starting over low income or wondering about how to do finances in a single parent home, this article is for you.
#1 Think About Housing
With housing, there are a few options that you could consider with your ex-partner:
- You stay in the house and he pays you spousal support to cover the additional costs (e.g mortgage)
- He stays in the house and you move in with family/rent somewhere
- You both move out and sell the house
Obviously there are other possible choices but these are the most likely. Also before anyone bites my head off I am writing this from an average woman’s point of view, I am aware that there are women who earn more than their partners!
At the moment personally, I am in the house with our daughter, and he has moved in with his parents. It works out best for us this way at the moment as my mum has moved further away, school and work are nearby, and his parents have 2 spare rooms (one that he can stay in, one that our daughter can stay in).
This is where your finances begin to change. You are generally going to have to spend some more money – whether that be from renting or covering the current costs.
For me, I don’t want to have to rely on him, so I am preparing myself for the possibility that the house will be sold and that I will need to find somewhere to rent. I have started looking at places to rent in the area – and wow – they are expensive!
This is definitely something that I would recommend you do – be prepared for the eventuality that you could be moving out and renting somewhere else. Have a search for local property in your area and don’t be tempted to get a palace when you could be saving your money for something else.
#2 What Help Are You Entitled To?
This is really important, especially if you think that you will not be receiving help from your ex. You need to check and apply for whichever benefits that you are entitled to, and do it sooner rather than later because it will probably take a few weeks (or longer) for them to sort out.
If you are in the U.K, go on the gov.uk website and use the benefits calculator – where you will input all of your information and it will work out what you should be entitled to.
You will need to work out how much child maintenance you get as well. Hopefully you will be able to come to an amicable agreement with your partner, but it still throws up the question, how much exactly should you be getting from them? It depends on a few factors, such as how much they earn, how much you earn and how often your child stays with them. You can use the Child Maintenance Calculator to work it out if that helps.
Look into getting some free legal advice as well – speak to your local Citizens Advice and they will help you through it all.
#3 Adjust Your Budget
I’ve created this budget workbook for you to be in control of your finances once and for all. Not only is it super pretty, it’s really simple to use as well. Girl, I got you.
You may need to adjust your budget with the changes in money, or even make a whole new one! If you haven’t budgeted before, now is definitely the time that you need to start.
But don’t worry, it’s really simple and straightforward – and it will mean that you can see exactly how much money you have and how much you spend each month.
I have a few posts about budgeting that discuss it all in detail that I suggest you read through, but for this post I will just mention my favourite type of budgeting – the Zero-Sum budget. I was using it without realising that was what it was called! It’s really easy, and I wouldn’t budget any other way now.
Basically, it is where you allocate all of your money to a certain place. So say you have £1000 per month coming in – you need to allocate all of that £1000 to different categories.
If you don’t do that, what tends to happen is that after paying bills, you see all of the money that you have left over, and think that you can go and spend it all on the things that you have been lusting over such as new clothes or loads of meals out. What this means however is that many people are not reaching their financial goals because they are not putting money aside for them each month.
It’s kind of impossible to save money for a new holiday, a new house, retirement – whatever it is that you are saving for – if you don’t actually save any of the money! That is where the Zero-Sum budget comes in and saves the day.
You need to first work out all of the money that you have coming in, whether that be from your income, new benefits that you will be receiving, child maintenance payments etc.
This is why it is helpful to speak to your ex and work out how much he will be giving you each month. However – I don’t recommend relying on him to do this – but for the sake of budgeting, we will assume that we will be getting the amount agreed.
Once you know how much you have coming in each month, you need to look at how much you have going out each month. Look at your internet banking in the direct debits section, or at your bank statements, and write down everything that comes out each month.
There may also be recurring fees which you could forget such as kids lessons, annual insurance etc. Go back through as many as you can, because it’s really important that you don’t miss anything.
Write down all of the expenses, and if you have any left over, allocate this to a job as well. You may want to put it in savings or into a sinking fund (both are very important and you should really strive to do this).
Another good thing about budgeting is that you can see areas where you are overspending or just spending unnecessarily. Not many people like to admit that they are spending too much, but we’ve all been there!
Take a look at your budget categories and see what you could reduce or eliminate. Now I don’t mean things like house insurance or life insurance, but things like warranties that you don’t need, that dreaded gym membership, the all-singing-all-dancing TV package when you only watch 2 channels.
Food shopping is often a category where overspending occurs, because we can tend to think with our stomach instead of our head! Practising things like meal planning will really help you to keep on top of your grocery bill.
#4 Allow Yourself Some Treats
When your budget has changed and you need to adjust everything, it can be awfully tempting to cut everything down to the bare bones, especially if you are stuck in limbo.
However, I think it is important to allow yourself room in your budget for some treats. You’re going through a big life change – a very emotional and potentially stressful one – and doing things that will make you happy should be high up on your list.
This could be getting a takeaway in, going for a night out with friends, doing your hobby (hockey in my case) – whatever it is that you want. It will be good for you to do this, so don’t feel bad about spending money on yourself.
Try and get a support network together for yourself as well – don’t feel bad about asking for help, as you will likely need it during this difficult time.
#5 Focus On Earning Extra Money
This is as good as an opportunity as any to start earning some extra money for yourself and your family, and it may end up being essential. I would always recommend to not rely on one income stream, or even the benefits and child maintenance that you are promised.
There are unfortunately many, many occasions where benefits have been stopped (and people have had to pay them back) and where child maintenance is not paid.
There are lots of different ways that you can earn extra money – the most obvious being to increase your hours at work or find an extra job. I have started looking at weekend jobs as my daughter will be with her Dad on the weekends. Take a look at job sites, I find good ones are Indeed and Gumtree.
If you are unable to get out of the house to work any more due to needing to be at home with your children, there are a variety of different ways that you can earn extra, such as:
- Dog boarding, dog walking, cat sitting, small animal care*
- Mystery shopping*
- Entering surveys*
- Entering competitions*
- Matched betting*
I’ve also put together a post of 100 ideas that you can make money on the side which should hopefully help with some ideas. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking starting something new, but earning extra money will give you the security that you will really need. Earning extra money has enabled me to do so much more and be much happier than when I wasn’t.
Over to you – can you think of anything that would help with managing finances when you are a newly single parent?
It’s good to not feel alone. After 23 years together and 6 children we have decided to separate too. This past month I have been sorting all the above things you mentioned too. It’s tough but onwards and upwards, things can only get better x
Aw sorry to hear that Debbie, that must be tough. Glad you don’t feel alone though 🙂 we will get there! x
I’m so sorry to hear such bad news! It must be exhausting thinking about all these financial details, I hope you’re doing okay and will be able to handle it.
The only thing I can think of is saying you should have your daughter’s interest in mind when deciding these things.
The fact that you’re on good terms helps a great deal! Other parents continue to fight after splitting up and that only leads to trouble.
Schools, camps, college, these all cost money and I’d say it’s important to have a clear focus in mind when figuring out your financial future as a separated couple.
Thanks Adriana! That’s a good point about future costs, I think we will be ok but that’s definitely helpful for other parents in the same situation 🙂
So sorry to hear your news. I’m still on my own after separating over 9 years ago. It’s tough, luckily my ex and I get on and that definitely helps. I will be following your blogs with this thread now as I always struggle – I’m fine but it’s always the extras that get me – already I’m thinking about 3 lots of new school shoes, uniform etc. The one thing that is so hard is the competition between the two partners – when you have two parents that think differently about money it’s hard to be the one that has to say no all the time. Anyway, just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you and will be following you and hoping to pick up some more great tips
Jackie, thank you so much for commenting, that’s really sweet of you. I’m happy to hear that you and your partner get on, that must help a lot.
Yes, I think you’re spot on with the competition between parents. I know that I can’t compete in that respect already, lol! Good point about the school stuff as well. My mum has said that she will get my daughters new school shoes though so that is helpful 🙂
Sorry for the bad news….and sorry for the stess about bills & co gave you but this post is detailed and helpful for everyne is in a similar situation!!!
Thank you Giulia 🙂
So sorry to hear this. However amicable it is, it is stressful and money worries just add to that. Two really do live more cheaply together than separate.
One aspect you haven’t touched is how to separate your finances. Immediately this probably doesn’t seem important compared to the sheer lack of money problem… but it can cause lots of problems going forward if it is ignored and so it’s best tackled sooner rather than later.
See https://debtcamel.co.uk/splitting-up-finances/ for details.
Thanks Sara, you’re right. I may add that into the post 🙂 I didn’t mention it mainly because I don’t know how I’m going to do it myself!
Hi Francesca, I’m sorry to hear about the news. I know it’s a tough time for you, your daughter, and your family, but I hope and believe that things will get better from here. It’s not easy to be a single parent, but budgeting can and does make a big difference in our lives. Wishing all the best coming your way.
Thank you 🙂 I am confident that budgeting will be a big help!
Sorry to hear your news. You are a very capable woman and will manage this well.
Aw thank you Sarah 🙂
Sorry to hear about your news Fran, it’s great to see you taking a positive spin by trying to help others by sharing your situation. I’m sure plenty of people will be in the same boat who find this article really useful!
You’ll come out on top, don’t worry!
Thank you Jamie – I hope so 🙂
Very sorry to hear the news. It is a tough situation and in regards to finances, it’s also tough as you’re going from one household to two. However it definitely helps that you are on top of the finances and planning/budgeting for the change. I have a lot of respect for single parents. Not only is it tougher financially but also with time. Even with my wife and I, things get hectic with the kids.
Thanks Andrew. I am definitely grateful for being on top of my finances and knowing how to adjust my budget. Just want the money side of it to be sorted so that I know where I stand!
Sorry to hear this! I’m sure you’ll find a way to work it out and become financially independent…you got this!
Aw thank you 🙂 I hope so!
So sorry to hear the news! It must be tough in your situation and even though I’m not married myself I can somehow be in that situation as well. My boyfriend and I bought a house and we have a 3 year old together…..anything can happen.
Thank you for being so open and sharing the news. Your post will help others who may be in the same situation.
It’s nice to know that you both are still on friendly terms because what matters the most now is your daughter.
Thank you Melanie, that’s a really sweet comment! I hope so…and yes I hope it continues to be amicable for our daughter 🙂
As a single mum of twins me and starting up my own business , I sometimes feel like we will never be able to afford the mortgage or holidays abroad. I have been a solo parent since they were 4 weeks old, with no maintenance payments and no contact . I have achieved renting with my girls, but I was allocated £10 or less a month for housing benefit and I just couldn’t afford to live , it was very exhausting and financially I struggled.
We have moved in with family and even though I am grateful for the support, it feels pretty shitty thinking the prospect of owning or renting own home is pretty slim and a long way down the road . My beautiful girls are 3 now and I am focused on managing my money as best I can but not depriving myself of treating myself well, it’s always a challenge when you are a single mum with no other parental responsible adult to share finances, childcare or concerns.
I can see that you have your head on your shoulders and your situation will be manageable , however I hope you look to ode around you who are close to you for emotional support.
All the best
Thanks for your comment Frances, that sounds tough. You sound like a very good mummy, and how amazing doing it all on your own! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had no help from the Dad. 🙁
Are you earning extra money so that you can save?
SO SORRY TO HEAR THIS, SO BRAVE TO TELL US, YOU WILL SURVIVE XX
Thank you Sindy 🙂
So sorry to hear this Francesca. For you and your daughter I hope everything goes amicably. It seems like you have a good plan in place and are thinking through the different options. I wish I had some great advice to give. I just hope everything goes as smoothly as it could.
That’s ok 🙂 thank you for your kind words!
So sorry to hear about the news. It can be so challenging for everyone at this point but the key is to focus on the important stuff such as your cute little daughter, your home, the financial issues etc. I hope everything goes smoothly and I am confident this experience without doubt will make you a better and stronger person.
Aw that’s sweet, thank you very much 🙂
Sorry to hear of your news 🙁 Remember to think of yourself as co-parenting and not as a single parent 🙂 You will be a single person (who is co-parenting), not a single parent. A single parent is someone who has no help from their child’s other parent, with a child who doesn’t see their other parent, either due the other parent’s death or disinterest/irresponsibility. It sounds as though you and your daughter’s father will be able to co-parent successfully, which is great news and so important for your daughter. From reading your blog, I’m confident you’ll get through this and settle into your new financial routine, while supporting your daughter through this difficult time.
Very true Jodie, I hope so! Thank you 🙂
I’m sorry to read this Francesca. You will no doubt be in for some tough time ahead but I’m certain that with your positive attitude you’ll be just fine. X
Hey Jules! Thank you 🙂
Great article Fran! I’m sure that you will handle this situation like a pro and your finance will be very soon back on track! All the best and good luck 🍀
Thank you Anna!