We’ve all probably heard of the common stereotypes about single moms. One of the most common stereotypes involves money – more specifically how single moms don’t have much of it. This is something I definitely did NOT want to become my reality. Stereotypes are only true if you allow them to be. For me, it was time to figure out how single moms can get ahead (instead of being left in the dust socially and financially)!
How Single Moms Can Get Ahead (Finally)
This is a guest post written by Choncé, a freelance writer who’s obsessed with frugality and helping others increase their savings rate, pay down debt, and work toward financial stability. Check her out over at My Debt Epiphany.
In 2013, I found myself living as a single mom and utilizing government assistance to get by. While my story starts off rough, I went from low-income and struggling to financially stable and earning nearly 6-figures in less than 5 years.
I want to use my story to demonstrate to you how single moms can get ahead in our world today.
Define Your Breaking Point
We all have a breaking point that just sends us over the edge. For me, it happened on a normal day when I wanted to wash my clothes…
To my surprise, I didn’t even have a few quarters to wash them. I’d spent all my money on food, housing, and bills. I started to look on the ground of the parking lot at my apartment complex for quarters. Then I realized how silly I looked and got mad.
All of the sudden, all these thoughts of rage filled my head.
I should be able to afford to wash my clothes. This is stupid. I’m tired of living like this!!
Everyone’s breaking point or rock bottom moment is different. The key is that you have one of your own. This will allow you to get angry enough at your situation which will motivate you to change it.
(A Note from Derek: My breaking point was a $75 student loan bill that I couldn’t afford to pay…From that point on, things were different!!)
This groundbreaking moment will help you change your mindset. Instead of feeling pity for myself, I decided to create a plan to improve my situation and create a better life for myself and my son.
Let Every Move Be Intentional
If you’re a single mom looking to improve your finances and get ahead, it can seem like an uphill battle.
It’s difficult being the only one with an income and having to juggle parenting, housework, and all other responsibilities. This is why every move you make should be intentional and bring you closer to your goal.
In 2012, I moved out with my son to finish college at a state university. It was tough, but I secured a flexible part-time job and found side gigs on Craigslist to bring in extra money.
- I rented a one-bedroom apartment for $579 per month and shared a room with my son. He was only 2 years old and couldn’t have cared less about this.
- I made such little money that I qualified for government assistance. I first learned how to budget money by budgeting my food stamps for the month. And, I received medical assistance so we didn’t have to pay for health insurance.
- Another benefit I took advantage of was childcare assistance. This allowed me to take my son to the campus childcare when I went to school.
- I joined a College Parents Group on campus and found support from some of the other single moms in the community.
After gaining the temporary support I needed, I was able to finish up my classes, make professional connections on campus, and land a PR internship at the school.
As you can see, every decision I made was very intentional because it brought me closer and closer to my goal. I built up my professional experience as I worked my way through college and it paid off.
Whether you decide to go back to school or not, narrow down a goal and work backwards to reach it. Every decision you make should bring you closer to your goal – not further from it.
Want to know how single moms can get ahead?… Well it should come as no surprise, but it’s crucial that you keep your expenses low and live a simple lifestyle when you’re trying to improve your finances.
Living in a one-bedroom apartment while I went to school was worth it. I probably would have driven myself crazy had I tried to pay for a larger home. It likely would have led me to get another job and graduate later than I’d planned.
Even when I did graduate and got my first ‘Big Girl’ job, I was only making around $28,000 per year. Plus, I had about $30,000 of debt which included a student loan and car loan.
I no longer qualified for government assistance, but still decided to live a simple life and keep my expenses low….I basically kept living like I was in college for a few more years.
- My apartment had no fancy bells or whistles – I didn’t even have a dishwasher!
- We ate most of our meals at home.
- And, we also took advantage of free entertainment and events in the area.
There is always something to do for free with kids whether it’s an outdoor event, an activity at the library, or a simple play date with friends. Committing to living a simple lifestyle and sticking to a budget allowed me to spend less and put more of my money toward debt and savings.
Get Out Of Debt
I know it’s easier said than done, but single moms often don’t have the luxury of falling back on another person’s income or resources when life happens.
It’s best to eliminate liabilities like debt as soon as you can so they don’t hold you back. I started by using the avalanche debt repayment method which means you focus on the debt that is costing you the most interest first so you can save money on your payments over time.
(A Note From Derek: Personally, I like the Debt Snowball approach, but do whichever you wish…Just get out of debt!!)
- I tackled my high-interest car loan which was around $9,700 at the time. My monthly payment was $233.
- I started by making small extra payments of $40 per month. Then I tried to round my payment up to $300.
- After that, I added $100, then $300 extra.
Some months I was even able to make an $800 extra payment (see my next point to understand how I was able to increase my debt payments over time). When I received my tax refund, I put the entire amount on my car loan and paid it off for good. That freed up $233 in my monthly budget.
The funny thing is that I’m technically still supposed to have that car loan today since it was a 60-month loan. I can’t even imagine how much interest I would have paid over these last few years if I’d kept paying the minimum on this loan.
You don’t have to settle for a low income. In fact, you can make as much money as you want. The internet provides hundreds (if not thousands) of legitimate opportunities to make money online.
This was crucial for me when I wanted to boost my income. As a single mom, I really didn’t’ have the time or energy to work a second job at night or on weekends. I wanted to work from home and be able to spend weekends with my son and tuck him into bed at night.
- I started by applying to creative writing gigs on Craigslist when I was in college.
- In 2015, I took that to the next level and decided to become a freelance writer. I majored in journalism so being able to earn a living from writing was literally a dream.
Some other things I did to make extra money included:
- applying for focus groups,
- selling things online, and
- doing virtual assistant work.
In 2016, the income I was making online surpassed what I was making at my full-time job so I decided to quit.
Last year, I nearly earned 6 figures from my online writing business.
(Another Note From Derek: BOOM!!! You go Choncé!! That is SOOOO awesome!!! To everyone else out there, it IS possible. Get out there and do it!!)
In the traditional journalism field, it would have taken me several years and job changes to work my way up to that salary.
Realize the Storm Won’t Last Forever (Unless You Do Nothing and Let It)
When you’re improving your finances and working to get ahead, it’s important to realize that your season of sacrifice and facing hardships won’t last forever.
After following these steps, I’ve been able to completely turn my finances around. While I’m no longer a single mom, the lessons I learned about personal finance during that stage in my life still benefit me today. I no longer loathe budgeting and instead I use it as a tool to help me reach my goals.
- I’ve been able to pay off $30,000+ of debt in less than 3 years and save money for emergencies.
- My son is able to attend private school for the second year in a row – something I thought we’d never be able to afford!
- To top it off, I’m grateful for my freelance business that allows me to wake up each day and do work that I love.
Single moms can certainly get ahead by following these steps and the sooner you get started, the better.
Now you know how single moms can get ahead. The only question now is, “Will you?”
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.