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Budgeting for Single Millennial Parents: A Step-by-Step Guide

October 31, 2017

7 min read

If you’re also a single parent, it can be particularly hard to balance your household’s needs and wants, especially if you (and your kids) are used to living on two incomes.

Parents don’t tend to view their kids as just an expense, but that doesn’t change the fact that raising a child takes some serious coin. The USDA says parents can expect to spend about $233,610 on each child up until their 18th birthday –  and that doesn’t include college costs. On average, parents spend $12,978 per child each year –about $36 a day – on housing, childcare and education, food, transportation, clothing, health care and other costs.

If you’re a Millennial, you might already be in a tough spot financially: Your generation faces staggering student loan debt, lower employment levels, smaller incomes and a lack of affordable housing options.

Not all single parents have money trouble, of course, but if your finances could use some work, read these budgeting tips for single Millennial parents.

Step 1. Create a Budget

It’s easy to get to the end of the month and wonder where all your money went. Fortunately, it’s also easy to track your income and expenses by creating a budget – and sticking to it (okay, it’s not super easy, but making a budget is easier than running out of money). You can create a yearly or monthly budget (the choice is yours) but the basics are the same either way: Estimate your income (money coming in, including child support) and subtract your expenses (money going out). It’s worth noting here that you should always “pay yourself first” by setting aside money each money to save and invest. Make sure that’s in your budget, too.

If you have money left over – that’s great. Make a plan to spend, save, and invest it wisely. If not, you’ll either have to increase your income (by working more hours, picking up a second job or asking for that well-deserved raise) or find a way to cut your expenses. Be mindful of needs versus wants. Needs are things you need to survive – housing, food, clothing, child care, health care. Wants are things you’d like to have, but that you don’t need (such as your daily venti caramel macchiato).  

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. Here’s an example. You need a house – a place for you and your kids to stay warm and dry. You want a swankier house with a swimming pool. If you’re living beyond your means, you can’t justify the bigger house as a need. If you need to cut expenses, start by taking an honest look at where your money is going now.  Are you spending too much on things you want and leaving yourself with barely enough to cover the things you need?

You can make a budget the old-fashioned way using pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet, or you can use an app to make budgeting easier, faster and even fun (search for “budgeting app” in the App Store or Google Play).

The Stash Invest App for example, could be a great way to start your budgeting plan. Stash offers “Smart-Save”, a free personalized saving tool for Stash users to help them save the right amount of money at the right time.

2. Set a plan to spend money wisely

When creating a budget, it’s helpful to know how much you should be spending on things like housing, debt obligations and retirement savings. Here’s a quick rundown:

3. Check out Tax Breaks

As a single parent, you might be able to save money come tax time. You may qualify as “Head of Household” in the Internal Revenue Service’s eyes – which means you can claim a higher standard deduction when you file your taxes. In general, you qualify as Head of Household if you were unmarried on the last day of the tax year, provided more than half of the money needed to maintain your household and your kids lived with you at least half the year. (Check out the IRS’s What is My Filing Status.)

You may also be eligible for tax exemptions and tax credits that can save you even more money, including:  

4. Get your budgeting plan started

Budgeting takes works, and a lot of willpower, but if you make the effort, you and your family will be better off financially – now and in the future. Don’t be afraid to bring the kids into the conversation; even little ones get the connection between earning, spending and saving. Your financial goals will be easier to reach if everyone in the family is working together.

Once you’ve committed, getting started is easy.

Stash is one app for all your investment and saving needs. With Stash, you can create a unique, risk-appropriate and diversified portfolio to get you towards bigger goals, like your child’s college education or a down payment on a home. Want to open an IRA? You can do that on Stash too.

Stash is offering new users $5 to get you started investing. Remember, anyone can be a saver or an investor. All you have to do is start. You can claim your $5 credit here.

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By Jean Folger

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