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Single Parenting on a Budget

March 3, 2017

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For those of us who have children, we are aware that parenting is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Some of us, though, are taking this responsibility on with only a single income.

Teaching Children about Money

In 2016, Statistics Canada released a report stating that over 1.6 million Canadians were parenting solo. With statistics like this, budgeting for a family on a single income becomes even more important.

Financial Coach, Lindsay Plumb from Moola Financial, in Victoria has some great tips on budgeting for single parents:

  • Create a budget that includes rainy day savings, car and/or house maintenance savings, birthday/Christmas savings
  • Teach your kids about how money and debt work
  • Use your language carefully; ‘We are using our money for ______ instead of ______’ rather than ‘We can’t afford ______’”

Creating a budget and sticking to it can be hard. Harder still is sticking to that budget when you’re living on a single income. To ensure your financial success, we’ve outlined a few of our top budgeting tips:

Food

As a single parent, it’s likely that one of the first things you do on payday is head to the grocery store. With that in mind, it’s important that you go with a plan and budget prepared. Try browsing through the weekly flyers at your local grocery stores, clip coupons, create a shopping list and sign up for loyalty cards. Another helpful tip is to grocery shop online. This deters overspending and will help you set your own grocery shopping rules such as: produce must be $1.99/lb or less, meat must be $2 per portion or less, bread $3 or less. If you prefer to shop in person, add up the numbers as you shop; you’d be surprised at how much money you will save just by holding yourself financially responsible at the grocery store.

Tip: Save on groceries and get up-to-date flyers and coupons by downloading easy-to-use mobile phone apps like Checkout 51 or Flipp.

Housing

Let’s face it – housing in BC is expensive, especially when you have a family. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2015 Rental Market Report, the average two-bedroom apartment rental in BC was $1,136 per month with significantly higher costs in the Greater Vancouver and Victoria areas.

If you are struggling to make ends meet due to high housing costs and if you are earning less than $35,000 per year, you may qualify for the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) through BC Housing. The program provides low-income, working families with cash assistance to meet their monthly rent payments.

To obtain more information about this program, visit the BC Housing website.If you do not qualify for the RAP but are still struggling to make ends meet, consider putting away half of your monthly housing payment away into a separate account each pay period instead of attempting to pay the whole balance off one cheque. By putting the funds into a separate account, you are less likely to spend that money before your next paycheque comes.

Clothing

If your children are like most, they are HARD on their clothing. Tucking away an extra $15 to $20 a paycheque (we suggest putting it in their piggy bank) can be helpful when your little one rips a hole in his favourite jeans or has a sudden growth spurt and no longer fits his shoes. With children constantly outgrowing their clothing, second hand stores can also be a great alternative to buying new. Many of these stores also hold monthly or quarterly sales that help you save even more on already reduced items. Keep your eyes peeled, sometimes you can get 50% off your entire purchase.

Tip: Download the Varagesale app. VarageSale is the family-friendly app to buy and sell new and used items locally.

Transportation

It’s shocking how much it costs to get around town. Whether you use your own car or public transportation, figure out how much this costs you monthly and make room for it in your budget. Transportation costs need to include not only your car payments and insurance, but your gas and repairs. To save on gas and overall wear and tear on your vehicle, try carpooling with a co-worker or alternate weeks with other parents driving to school, swimming lessons or soccer games. A good rule of thumb is to keep your transportation cost at, or under, 15% of your total take-home income.

If you’ve reached the end of the month and have money left over, you’re doing great! If you have debt (and realistically who doesn’t?), you now need a plan to pay it off.

According to a 2016 Statistics Canada report, household debt reached an all-time high with $1.67 of debt for every $1 of disposable income. What this means is that people are spending money they don’t have the ability to pay back in a reasonable time frame now more than ever.

To help mitigate this growing problem, try making a list of all your debts and start by paying the ones with the highest interest rates first. Make sure you continue to make the monthly payments on any other debts. For more on this topic, read our blog on balancing the budget.

Find a Solution

If you find yourself drowning in debt and are barely making your minimum required payments, it’s possible that a consumer proposal or a bankruptcy might be right for you. Get in touch with one of our Licensed Insolvency Trustees or Qualified Insolvency Administrators today, to get on the path to becoming debt free. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation where we will discuss all your debt-relief options and get you set up for a more comfortable future for yourself and your family.

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