GCUA: Budgeting for Single Parents

Allie Jackson

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Georgia single-parent households feel stretched thin when it comes to the budget, according to the Year-End 2014 Consumer Survey conducted by the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. Of the single parents responding to the survey, 45 percent said they are stretched to the limit, but still finding a way to make it each month. 

Thirty-five percent of the respondents said they live comfortably while 15 percent said the budget is just too tight to meet their family's needs. Only 5 percent said they are comfortable and have no financial issues.

The median income of a family with one working parent in Georgia is $40,985, according to the United States Census Bureau. The median is the middle number separating the higher half of the data sample from the lower half. Georgia has about 933,000 children living in a single-parent home. Nationally, there were approximately 12 million single-parent families in 2014.

An article at singlemotherguide.com reports one in four children younger than 18 - about 17.4 million - are being raised by one parent and 45 percent live below the poverty line.

Insider's Perspective:
Health Center Credit Union President Stacy Tallent said one of the most important budgeting tools for a single parent is a baseline.

"The first step in money management for anyone, not just single parents, is to know where you are. Establishing a baseline is especially important for single parents, as they don't have the safety net a second income can sometimes provide," said Tallent. "By accounting for every dollar properly, you also ensure you are managing your money instead of your money managing you."

Tallent suggests setting short-, mid- and long-term goals to track financial progress and to base monthly savings and spending on those goals to help resist daily temptations. He also said an emergency fund of at least $1,000 should be the first goal, followed by paying down debt, adding to the emergency fund and investing for retirement.

"Planning ahead on meals and clothing expenses can also be a huge help for single parents. You will be better able to take advantage of sales, coupons and cut down on recurring expenses," Tallent said. "Another advantage to planning meals is your family will have access to healthier foods and you are less likely to take advantage of more costly fast food options."

Tallent suggests being up front with children about the family's financial situation.

"Involve them in budgeting activities," said Tallent. "This will start them early on the path to financial literacy and give them a realistic view of the family finances."

Financial tips for single parents:

  • Pay yourself first. Make sure all the necessary bills are paid and food is on the table before paying down large debt. Make minimum payments on credit cards and hospital bills if necessary to avoid accumulating more debt. Call the creditor if you'll be late or have to miss a payment. Many will work with you to set up a reasonable payment plan. Also, focus on building an emergency fund for future unexpected expenses.
  • Know your tax credits. There are several tax credits and deductions available for lower-income parents with children such as the Child and Dependent Care Tax credit or the Earned Income Credit (EIC).
  • Shop smart. Be open to shopping at consignment sales and online bargaining sites, using coupons, going to garage sales or accepting hand-me-down clothes.
  • See how a credit union can help you better afford life. To learn more or to find a credit union to join, visit: http://www.asmarterchoice.org/.