Today, we’re featuring a guest post by Patty, from Working Mother Life. Enjoy!
If you’re like most single parents, you struggle with having the full burden of taking care of your kids along with meeting daily and monthly living expenses. Life as a single parent can be hard — yet it doesn’t have to be all drudgery. Having fun is important, particularly the type of fun that can bond you as a family.
Yet finding room in your budget for enjoyable activities can be challenging, especially if you are having trouble making ends meet. As a single parent myself, I had difficulty justifying paying for various outings when I was under a lot of stress just trying to get the bills paid each month. Yet by adjusting my budget, I was able to make room in my budget for more family fun. Here is how you can do the same.
Allow Technology to Do the Work for You
When you’re a busy single parent, a lot of things can fall by the wayside — things you should be doing, but that you simply don’t have time to get done. For instance, you might be one of the 57 million Americans without an emergency fund, or you may fall short in your general savings along with 60 percent of Americans.
With that in the back of your mind, it’s hard to think about budgeting for fun. Luckily, technology can help you get on track with your savings, investment, and spending goals.
In terms of saving and spending, there are various different expense tracker apps that allow you to see where you stand financially in real time. They can be extremely helpful if you want to run a tight budget; in fact, a poll showed that 69 percent of budget app users strongly agreed that an expense tracker was instrumental in reaching their spending and saving goals.
While spending and saving day-to-day is important, it still misses a whole other aspect of personal finance: investing and retirement. If this is an issue, then you could turn to a robo-advisor for help. These help you consider investment options, such as retirement, and risks involved. Surprisingly, according to a 2017 study, 62 percent of consumers haven’t heard of robo-advisors despite how useful they can be.
These are just a couple of major considerations to make before starting to budget for more family fun.
Set Up a Fun Money Item in Your Budget
If you’re on a tight budget, you know that the best way to ensure that something is paid for is to get it in your budget. So why not put a line into your budget for fun? Depending on how much extra cash you have each month, this amount might not be a lot; it could be as low as $15 or $20. But once you have it budgeted into your monthly expenditures, you know that it is available to spend for something fun to do with your kids.
With an expense tracker app, this becomes extremely easy to manage. You’ll be able to set up the fun category with ease, and then you can save money on a week-to-week basis, allowing you to plan a family outing with finances in mind.
Take Advantage of Direct Deposit
You know how it works: once money is in your bank account, it is all too easy to spend it. So why not avoid the temptation altogether by setting up a separate savings account with direct deposit? It doesn’t have to be a large amount — even $10 a week will add up over time. The trick is that when you don’t have the money readily available to you in your checking account, you will be less likely to spend it. Then the money has a chance to grow in your savings, and you will then be able to use it for something big, like a vacation for you and your kids.
This becomes much easier to figure out with a robo-advisor. It could help decide on what bank account to choose, or it could recommend sticking with your current savings account. If you want to use a high-interest account, then a robo-advisor could make a recommendation based on your goals.
Look for Low Cost Fun
There are plenty of things that your kids may want to do that cost plenty of money. Even a trip to the movie theater could set you back $100 if you aren’t careful. But having a great time with your kids doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Try to find fun things that are not super pricey, like hosting friends at your house for play dates, going to the movies for cheaper matinees, or taking hikes at state or local parks.
Cut Costs Further
If you’ve been tracking expenses, you may have already eliminated some of the more obvious expenditures in your budget. Now you can tighten your belt even further by examining costs around your house. Can you get rid of cable? What about turning down the heat, or using less electricity or water? It’s up to you how to slim down the essentials in the budget; nonetheless, it can be done. Reducing these bills can free up some extra money in your budget, which can then be shifted to more fun budget money.
You may not be able to squeeze that much extra money out of your already tight budget for fun. In that case, consider getting creative to earn some extra funds for your fun money. If you have a skill, pick up some gigs on the side, like selling crafts on eBay, taking pictures, or writing articles as a freelancer. Or have a yard sale to raise money for a trip that your kids want to take. By working together as a family to achieve your goal, it’ll make the experience that much better.
By Patty Moore. She started blogging when she got the idea for Working Mother Life, her personal finance blog. Check it out to learn more about her journey as a single mom.
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