Single-Handedly Mastering Your Money

An area that can often be overwhelming for single moms is finances — or lack thereof — and how to make ends meet.

I frequently sabotaged my budget with the art of emotional spending. I would convince myself that “I deserved it” or “I would be a better mom if only I bought this or that.” There were so many of these emotional lies that I allowed myself to believe. Unfortunately, these actions were followed by guilt for blowing my budget once again.

In his book, Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey states, “you need to tell your money where to go before it leaves.” I never considered my money needing to be ”told” where to go, it seemed to be making tire tracks the moment it hit the bank.  Dave also points out that, “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” These were thought-provoking statements but, I wondered how I could do this while managing the feeling of being overwhelmed.

I believe the answer to my question was to write down my goals and take one step at a time. I knew I wanted to “master my money” or at least give it a swift kick to the starting line. I searched online and found a Financial Peace class in my local area; these classes are free and free is good. Be sure to inquire about scholarships for the book and program materials if you cannot afford it. 

Since I leaned toward emotional spending, I found the envelope system that I learned about in this class worked best for me. I labeled my envelopes, “tithe,” “grocery,” “rent,” “ family clothing,” “ family hair,” “savings,” “emergency,” and  “family fun money.” Using cash to pay for things rather than swiping my debit card made me more aware of my spending habits. Cash is a bit harder to let go of and puts a little skin in the game. The first time I went to the grocery store with just my “grocery” envelope, I broke out in a sweat knowing that I only had what I budgeted for groceries with me and I may not be purchasing Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter ice cream for a while. But, I was on a mission to master my money. I told my money to get into these envelopes  and with a few tweaks here and there, I started getting the hang of budgeting. Don’t be surprised if the first time or two you find yourself standing in the frozen food section with Ben & Jerry’s in one hand and toilet paper in the other, debating which one you can live without.  

You may be having some of the same thoughts I did when I first started budgeting. Like, “how can I possibly put any money towards a savings account or emergency fund when my entire life is an ’emergency’ and there’s nothing to save? Starting small is better than not starting at all. 

Challenge yourself to get creative with finding ways to save money.  Here are a few ways that I’ve found useful:
Couponing
There are several online apps with great money saving tools (check out Walmart Saving’s Catcher)
Go to the Library for books & DVD’s
Barter babysitting services with other single mothers
Stay-cation at the beach, movies in the park, community family activities
Search online for local community sources for food banks, rent assist, oil changes
Brown bag it for lunch
Netflix of Hulu instead of cable
Garage sale
A temporary part-time job

It can actually be fun to find creative ways to find extra money. Try to start with a $100 goal for your emergency fund and then increase to $250 then $500. I was amazed and relieved when my first emergency arrived and I had the money to pay for it. Once you have met your goal for an emergency fund, move on to your savings goal.

I am not saying it will be easy at the beginning, but stay focused on your goals and dreams. It can be a real confidence booster as you begin to meet some of your financial goals, and before too long you can set more goals to move you forward in other areas of life. 

STARTING POINTS

Write down your goals
Take one-step at a time
Take Financial Peace University Class or other financial classes
Start an emergency fund

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