A Single Parent’s Guide to Budgeting

You may be wondering “Why do i need to budget when i have no money to budget?”. Well believe it or not, because you don’t have a large disposable income as a single parent household with one source of income, it is even more important for you to keep track of where your money goes. This is what budgeting is all about. Helping you to spend your money wisely and saving up for what’s important in the future. 

A monthly spending budget is an important tool that gives you ability to afford your immediate needs like food, shelter and clothing while allowing you to save for your future goals. Your budget is a snapshot of your cash flow showing you where your money is coming from and where it is going. 

By budgeting and tracking your expenses, it makes you more aware of your daily spending choices so that you are sure you are making the right choices for your family. A budget should be a flexible guide that could accommodate your changing needs and situation as your family grows. 

Well believe it or not, because you don’t have a large disposable income as a single parent household with one source of income, it is even more important for you to keep track of where your money goes.

Ways to Use a Budget Tool

As a single parent family, you have one source of income and therefore, it is more important for you to manage it well with a budgeting tool that will help you:

  • Get the most of your money
  • Ensure you pay bills on time
  • Keep track of your cash inflow
  • Keep track of your expenses
  • Help you balance your spending between your needs and wants
  • Save towards your goals
  • Support your debt repayment

Building Your Budget

First, you must understand where your money is coming from. Make a list of all your income sources whether it is your job or other sources. Distinguish the difference between your gross income and net income. Net income is your take home pay after your taxes are deducted from your gross income. This is what you have left to use. 

Next, make a list of all your expenses. Start by categorizing your expenses like rent, food, clothing, utilities, internet and so on. There are two types of expenses you will want to distinguish:

  1. Needs – things you and your family must have to survive
  2. Wants – things you would like to have that gives you joy and makes life easier but not necessary to survive

There are different categories of expenses to keep in mind:

  • Fixed Expenses – bills you have to pay at the same cost each month like rent, car payments etc
  • Variable Expenses – expenses that vary each month depending on consumption or some other factor. This includes things like utilities, cell phone bills etc. 
  • One time expense – things that cost you money that come up unexpectedly. 

Now that you have a handle of the different types of expenses. You just need to write them down, keep track and identify areas where you can cut back or reallocate. 

Exercise #1: Identify your needs vs your wants

Item Need Want
1 Bicycle

X

2 Purse

X

3 Watch

X

4 Sofa

X

5 Bed

X

Exercise #2: Record Actual Monthly Income vs Actual Expense

Item Amount
1 Monthly Income $ 3,622
2 Food $ 1,422.16
3 Internet $   115.32
4 Cell phone $    58.55

In tracking your expenses, you might want to go online and get your bank statement, copy and paste it into an excel document and then categorize them. For food, you will want to add up any food you purchase whether take out, restaurant dine in or groceries. You might want to consider setting up a miscellaneous expense account to track all other expenses that are rare and not likely to fit in any other expense category. 

Now that you have an idea on how much you are spending for each category of expense based on your actual expenses, you can start to create a budget and adjust it to where you want to be. Carve out some disposable income (if possible) for savings and put aside some emergency fund.

Here’s a sample of a budget tool you can use: Subtract the actual amount from the budgeted amount to get your difference in value. If it is negative that means you spent more than you budgeted. If the difference is positive, you spent less than the budgeted amount.

Income Source Budget Amount Actual Amount Difference
Employment  $ 3500 $ 3500 $ 0
Child Tax Benefit $ 230 $ 230 $ 0
Total $ 3730 $ 3730 $ 0 
Expense Budget Amount Actual Amount Difference
Rent $ 1000 $ 1000 $ 0
Hydro $ 30 $ 26 $ 4
Gas $ 20 $ 20 $ 0
Food $1000 $ 1200 – $200
Total $ 2050 $ 2246 -$196
$ 1680 $ 1484 -$196

Tracking your budget may be cumbersome but it does help you make the right decisions on how to spend your money. Eventually you will get used to the budgeting process and help you spend wisely and save towards your financial goals.

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