■ Chronicle News Service
Life as a single parent is not easy. In addition to the challenge of raising a child without another parent in the household, single parents face many of the same challenges faced by married parents – only they must do so on just one income.
Stress is a reality for many single parents, and much of that stress can be traced to the financial burdens of single parenthood. Single parents often find themselves looking for ways to save money, and the following are a handful of ways to do just that.
Resist the urge to overextend your budget
Many expenses, such as groceries and housing, are necessities. But single parents know there is also tremendous pressure to spend money on things that have nothing to do with need. For example, come the holiday season, single parents may feel pressured to buy youngsters everything on their holiday wish list.
It’s easy to succumb to such pressure out of guilt or in an attempt to make sure kids don’t feel cheated when they receive fewer gifts than their friends. But if succumbing to such pressure will stretch your budget, this might have grave consequences down the road.
The same approach can be taken when making big-ticket purchases. If a new car will bust the budget, then shop for a pre-owned model, ideally one that is dealer certified and still covered under its original warranty.
Explain your financial situation to your kids
Keeping kids in the dark about your finances may lead to trouble or create undue stress. For instance, if kids are not aware that money is tight, then they may struggle to understand why they can’t have the latest must-have sneakers or fill up the grocery cart on trips to the store. But parents who explain the idea of a budget and define that budget for their kids will likely find their kids are willing to cooperate and make good partners with regard to staying within the budget.
Pay bills on time
Allowing bills to go unpaid or routinely paying them late is only adding stress to a situation that, for many single parents, is already stressful enough. Interest payments and penalties for paying late can quickly add up and turn a significant but manageable bill into an albatross that can loom over your finances for months if not years.
If your credit card bills have already spiraled out of control, consult the credit card company to see if you can work out a payment plan in which interest will stop accruing so long as you continue to make agreed-upon monthly payments. Companies may be willing to work with you, and such a payment plan is less likely to have a negative impact on your long-term credit, something that cannot be said for declaring bankruptcy.
Trim entertainment costs
Another way to save money is to trim the amount of money spent each month on entertainment. Cable television has become increasingly expensive in recent years, but there are alternatives that can be considerably less expensive. In lieu of paying for cable television, subscribe to a streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu Plus that charges a fraction of what cable companies charge but still offers a substantial amount of current content.
Going it alone on the parenting front is a huge financial challenge, but keeping your kids in the financial loop can help reduce the stress. MS