Raising children can be challenging, period. Raising children on your own will be even more of a challenge. Much of that challenge comes from the fact that single parents are often women who are unemployed or underemployed. Here are some budget tips for the single parent.

No matter what your financial situation is having a budget is a good idea, but when you are very limited on income a budget is a necessity.

These budget tips for the single parent can help you get started:

1. Take full advantage of all the resources that are out there. Many states offer a lot of help to single mothers and their children. Just ask around at your local social services office for recommendations on what services you qualify for. And don’t feel uncomfortable asking either, that’s what these services are there for. Someday you can be the one who helps out a single parent!

2. Save as much money as you can when you go shopping; make lists, cut coupons, etc. If you can, find stores that sell off-brand items at lower prices. I recently read an article about people who go to stores that sell outdated merchandise for a fraction of what they sold for originally. Even though these items had gone past their “use by” date they were still good to eat. And, if you’re really in a bind try your local food pantry.

3. If possible, join a warehouse-type store that allows you to buy in bulk and stock up. I do that myself. I try to go once a month and stock up on toilet paper, meat, frozen foods, etc. I do spend more on that one trip but throughout the course of the month, I save a lot. Plus, I only have to go out and buy groceries once or twice a month to get fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk.

4. Be honest with yourself and find what things you can cut down on or cut out of your monthly budget altogether. Many of us waste more money during the course of the month than we like to admit. Write down all your monthly bills and then take a long honest look at things you can cut back on. For example, do you eat out or get a coffee every day? If so, that may be something you can cut back on. I don’t think you should cut it out completely since we all need those little perks now and then, but you may be able to cut way back and save a lot of money without too much “hardship”. If you have a car you can shop around for car insurance. And don’t skimp out on maintenance, even if you have to do it yourself. I had a friend who thought she couldn’t “afford” to have her oil changed. The problem was that it went bad and it ruined her whole engine. Her car basically had to be totaled.

5. You can, and should, learn to do more things on your own. Before you pick up the phone to call someone try to find the information yourself. There are many common household and automotive repairs that are very easy to do and it will cost you a fraction of the money you would pay if you hired someone since the labor is almost always the highest part of the cost.

I hope these budget tips for the single parent have helped.

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