Being a single parent is a tough job. Although it gives you great satisfaction going through another successful day of nourishing your little humans to be responsible adults, it is still challenging.
It is especially tough to manage the family finances as a single parent with only one income. Nothing screams “adulting” more than trying to create a realistic budget and manage money with a single income. It takes knowledge and wisdom.
However, sometimes the task of being a single parent falls on your hands when you least expect it and finds you completely unprepared. Suddenly, you have all these mouths to feed, activities to pay for, and desires to fulfil.
It is no wonder you sometimes feel like you are drowning. Keeping your head above water might feel like an impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be so.
In our previous article, we analysed some very practical tips on how to thrive financially even with a single-parent income. In this article, let’s discuss some of the common pitfalls to avoid to help get you to financial freedom even faster.
Living beyond one’s means is a massive problem across all groups. Not only single parents. Living beyond your means is easy to do these days - thanks to all the money readily available at your fingertips from mobile loans, credit cards and easy access loans.
However, while getting a quick loan may seem like an easy way to fill in the deficit on your income at the moment, a little too much leads to a lot more problems later on. Living above what you can afford as a single parent is a big pitfall that you should try to avoid at all costs.
Although the income might be little at the moment, strive to create a life that fits the income and then work hard to improve every day. If your income can not allow you to take the kids out every weekend, then do not try to squeeze this expense into your budget. Instead, try to create alternative fun activities you can do with the kids during the weekends that are free or with a fraction of the budget.
For example, instead of going to the mall, why not make cookies at home and go for an outdoor picnic?
You have likely already heard of the philosophy of living a day at a time. It is an excellent philosophy for building a business, completing your book, building a new home, etc. All these tasks require a great deal of patience and effort - therefore require you to put in as much as you can every day.
However, it can be a little misleading to use this same philosophy regarding your money and expenditure. With a limited income, it is safer to plan your daily spending. Think ahead and use the little money you have at that moment to budget for any eventuality.
As a single parent, you no longer have the luxury of going ‘YOLO’ and spending recklessly because ‘kesho itajitetea’. No survival mode when it comes to single-parenthood.
For many parents, the sky is the limit when it comes to their children. So even when you are on a tight money leash, you still want to do all it takes to meet your children’s needs. You want to maintain the same standard of living you had when your other partner was in the picture.
Is your child accustomed to fancy weekend outs to the mall? Is your child suddenly demanding the latest PlayStation? Whatever it is, you want it for your child.
And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is always encouraged to be ambitious and aim higher in life. However, if your efforts to maintain a certain level of lifestyle for kids leave you frustrated and financially struggling, then it is not worth it.
There is no more crucial time to budget and track your expenses than when you are on a tight income. However, many people - not only single parents - feel like there is no need to keep track of their finances because, well, pesa ni kidogo.
However, no matter how small your income is, many benefits come with making a suitable budget and religiously tracking your expenses. These include:
Well, the truth is, life happens. For everyone. The cheeky little boy called life sometimes throws life’s curveballs randomly, and if luck is not on your side, the ball can hit you right in the face when you least expect it.
Imagine, one evening, you close your small business premises, go home happy and satisfied and ready to wake up to another day on the grid, but before you lay your head down on the pillow, a call comes through. The business you have struggled to build from scratch has burnt down to ashes.
The business is all you have. And as a single parent, you do not have another source of income. What do you do?
This is why it is crucial to have a safety net, especially as a single parent. A safety net can be in many forms:
It takes a lot to raise children to be responsible adults. It is a struggle to balance between instilling good personal, physical, mental and ethical conduct into them while still trying to meet your work obligations and ensuring they do not starve. In this battle, we forget to teach them about money and how to be financially responsible.
However, this aspect is very crucial, especially for a single-income household. Involve them in the budgeting process. Allow them to contribute and make suggestions. Let them be in charge of tracking daily or weekly expenses.
This way, the kids will not only learn to spend in moderation because they already know mummy or daddy doesn’t have more, but they will also learn a vital financial lesson that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Debt is not necessarily bad as many people would want to think. In fact, most of the wealthiest people in the world are those who have mastered the art of using other people’s money to make their own. If you have reached this capacity, then, by all means, enjoy the journey to financial freedom.
However, if you take small loans to satisfy your immediate consumption needs, you are digging deeper into financial ruin. It can be a tough call to avoid getting stuck into a debt cycle, especially as a single-income household in this era of mobile loans. Temptations are everywhere, and they make it seem like the easiest way out.
However, it is essential to be financially self-aware, especially now that the whole burden is on your shoulders. Avoid getting yourself stuck in the never-ending cycle of loans and the burden of servicing the loan interests.
You are doing your best already. You wake up every day and put your best foot forward for the family because you are all they got now. It can be overwhelming but keep the focus. It is always darkest before dawn.
As you strive to keep it together while you forge a road to financial freedom for you and your family, remember to avoid these mistakes as they can derail your journey.