11 financial steps to a rich life as a single mom

Single.mom.kissing.piggy bank

It’s no one’s Plan A. But being a single mom does not mean you’re destined for the welfare line, free school lunches for your kids, or living in your parents’ basement.

The first step is to convince yourself that your new life will be one that is full, joyous and financially rich. For some people, it can take a long time to believe. Maybe you’ll have to fake it till you make it (as they say). But nothing is possible unless you can see the end goal.

Here are a few steps to get you going:

  1. Embrace that you are now financially independent. Yes, you may receive child support and/or alimony. And if you think that you are legitimately entitled to that money you should accept it guilt-free. But remember this: That money could go away any time. He could lose is job, skip town, become disabled or pass away at any moment. You cannot control that. But you can control how much you earn. And you can earn far more than a judge may order you be paid. Plus: It is critical to your ability to move on emotionally in this phase of life if you are not connected to your ex and your former life through bi-weekly payments. It is your respons
  2. Get a grip on how much you you’re spending. I’m a big fan of Mint.com, a free online tool where you plug in all your bank, credit card, brokerage and mortgage accounts to get a snapshot of all your finances.
  3. Get a grip on how much is coming in. Mint will help, but I recommend a visit to your accountant – your tax situation will be very different when compared to when you were married.
  4. Check on your credit score for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. I go into the reasons why in my post here .
  5. Set some short- and long-term goals financial goals. Short-term might be to pay off a credit card bill, build an emergency savings account, or make more than you spend. Long-term include buying a home, saving for your kids’ college, or investing for retirement.
  6. Set quality of life goals. There is no point in paying off a credit card bill if it means you work so much that you never see your kids or have time to exercise. Consider free time, quality time, the health and wellbeing of your family. Think about how your money and life can work together.
  7. Decide to make more money. Take a mentor out for lunch to learn about opportunities in your profession. Research going back to school. Consider starting your own business. Talk to your boss about telecommuting and other life-balance arrangements.
  8. Get rid of bills for stuff you don’t need. Haven’t been to the gym in six months? Get real with yourself and cancel that bill. Look at your cell phone and cable statements – can you trim down your services?
  9. Go on a shopping diet. No more trips to the mall or Amazon.com to browse. Make a strict list before stepping foot in Target, and do no stray into the cosmetics departments for a “treat” – and I don’t care how great of a deal you find! By making each purchase a conscious one, you will feel empowered and confident about your money.
  10. Think about spending money in ways that will make you money: Pay for yard service, and use that time saved to build a business. Invest in a dishwasher and spend that extra time studying for a degree that will earn you more money. Send out your laundry and devote those hours to fun family time.
  11. Give yourself a break. Getting back on your feet after a divorce can be a long process full of setbacks. But this can also be one of the most exciting and empowering times of your life.

14 thoughts on “11 financial steps to a rich life as a single mom

  1. I have so much that I KNOW people could learn from and the humor to make it an enjoyable experience… All my life I’ve been told I could write a book….. It’s true… Can you point me in the right direction of running a successful blog???

  2. Im a single mom living in the Caribbean. I work really hard to provide for my self and my son, plus send my self back to school and to be financially independent. My problem is i cant seem to make ends meet and move out my moms home. Every busy i try or venture in , im unable to keep it a float , due to the minimum wage im earning. I need advise on the way forward and achieving my goals.

  3. These are all great points, and mostly common sense. I make a pretty good salary, am pretty frugal, and still wonder how any parent, married or single, has much left after a paycheck. Of course, a lot of kids today do get a whole lot more “benefits” (phones, laptops, music) than I remember getting as a kid because of all the parental guilt and desire to “keep up with the Jones’s”.

    I talked to one mom with four grown girls who had once all been in cheerleading, and she said they were spending $2,000 each “season” on EACH daughter to keep them in uniforms, poms-poms etc. One of my sister’s kids do sports, and I suspect they are spending similar with uniforms, bats, gloves, additional coaching traveling to games. BLECH. Nothing against sports, and having a kid in them, but, honestly, is most anyone’s kid good enough to warrant spending thousands a year for what is generally recreational?

    “And if you think that you are legitimately entitled to that money you should accept it guilt-free. ” – LMAO most EVERY woman I’ve met thinks they are legitimately entitled to any man’s money. I’ve even read stories of single mommies getting child support for their kids from their 2nd husband – the STEPdaddy -after a divorce. Most mommy’s just want men’s money, and don’t care whom they get it from.

    1. I had to take a few deep breaths before I responded to this comment. While I agree there are plenty of mommies out there that are more than willing to take as much of daddy’s money as they can there are some of us that don’t. I was a stay at home mom for almost my entire marriage. That was a privilege but it wasn’t always easy. My ex traveled all over the world, sometimes for months at a time. I felt stuck at times. Too many kids and not enough time to get a job. Have you paid for daycare Darth? Then came the end. I stare at the ceilings most nights wondering how I can support myself and three kids with no job and no education. I am fully aware this is my fault. Do not rub it in. I wasted time. By many accounts I am entitled to that money. I took care of running the house and raising the kids while he furthered his career. But I don’t feel that way. I am in school, raising our boys alone because he still travels constantly and trying desperately to find a way to make money so I can tell him to keep his money. Darth, please remember some of us mommies do not want a mans money. Emma, thank you for the idea of taking a mentor out to lunch to learn about opportunities and lessons. I would have never thought about that one.

  4. “Have you paid for daycare Darth? ” Nope. Thankfully, I got wise to the foolishness of marriage before I ever stepped into one and had kids with a woman who would leave. I also – very, very thankfully – got wise to how single moms work after dating too many seeking after a long-term commitment and marriage.

    And after dating those too many single moms who showed me that most – not all, but enough to make a man think all – single moms just want a man’s money, regardless of whether he’s the real dad, or the stepdad. Just when I think maybe there is hope that some single moms might be decent, another single mom I meet reminds me not to ever trust one for any reason. Heard another delightful story today from a young single mom who has had an on and off with her bad boy baby daddy (in and out of jail, of course), but admits she is “settling”to marry a Poindexter that she “likes, but doesn’t love” because he has a job and she needs a man to pay her and her deadbeat dad’s kiddo. After she’s drained Poindexter, she’ll cheat on him – likely with her ex because they’ve been so on and off -then leave Poindy. She comes to the marriage with nothing, but she’ll walk away with everything this Poindexter owns and not bat an eye. THIS is the true vision of most single moms today.

    I would NEVER recommend that a woman be a SAHM for their kids in this day and age. Does being a SAHM have value? Yes, I certainly think it does. It isn’t just the expense of daycare, as it is also parents being responsible for raising their own kiddos whenever they can. However, in the crazy world of false commitment that is still called “marriage” in this age, no man or woman should make themselves vulnerable to the other spouse leaving, since it happens all the time (although more frequently it’s the wife who files for divorce, to be honest.)

    In my opinion, noone should get married, ever.

    1. Good grief Darth, your outlook makes me really sad – for you. There are good and bad men AND women out there. I think your attitude might attract the wrong type of women.

        1. But Darth you keep saying that you have this new, fake peresona – swearing and acting aloof with the intent of feigning “bad boy.” When people are phony it is because they are ashamed of their true feelings. What are you hiding?

  5. Thank you Emma. I just learned 7 days ago that my hours would be cut in half. I divorced 2 years ago, I’ve supported the kiddos and myself for 7+ years, and been employed 13+ years, full time. I have gone to school, when I can work it around the kids and my work. So my schooling has led me over 3 years to the level of a sophomore in college. I married young, bought into the religious/faith koolaid. My then husband earned next to nothing, and still does – OH! But he’s going to have his master’s degree in (manipulation and abuse — wups, sorry, that statement wasn’t supposed to make it on the blog, oh well) organizational development and leadership. I’m trying to do everything I can, as I have for the last three years. I’ve always had a stable job in healthcare, but the way the industry has shaped up (yes, I believe in looking at Forbes, Fortune, and Success, and following business like a hawk to keep ahead of my industry to help me follow where I ought to focus my degree in order to land the best possible job), I just don’t have an edge where I need it , at the right time.

    I’m frightened, but know there’s not a thing I wouldn’t do for my three boys to keep a roof over their heads. I do not collect support from their father, I applied for aid from the state (my first time ever, I feel ashamed ) , and help with daycare assistance. I guess i’m more mad and upset with myself, as I walked down the aisle to marry and devote 11 years of my life to a man & support him, knowing full well I needed to obtain my degree sooner than now. I argued with him, went to class “against his wishes” and scored A’s, and have continued to do so. I’m hoping to pull my networking resources together, and I am freaked out to travel for my job, as I don’t want my ex pulling ANY custody battles with me (we took the mediation route…. 50/50 custody the entire way, but he keeps an eye on his pocket book, and the children = his pawns for tax returns & image maker).

    I am hoping to get ahead of the industry and break in wherever I an. I am trying to also submit my photos to a modeling agency to try and see if there’s any way to break into that realm… I know..stupid thought, but it was at the urging of my co workers. Thanks for your resourcefulness and wit, I appreciate your professionalism Emma!

    1. Hi Lydee, your situation sounds stressful and scary but not impossible — at all. I appreciate that you feel inadequate because you don’t have a degree (especially compared to your ex’s education) but far from impossible. Without know much about your situation I wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense to invest the time and money in updating your skills, opposed to just finishing a degree? You can always do that later if it is important to you for personal reasons, but focus on financial ROI on your education now. Thoughts?

  6. Great post, important info for all single moms. Sometimes just a daily reminder to keep on keeping on even when they are struggling is important to. Some days are bad and they may have to take a financial step backward (use a credit card to buy groceries cuz the cash ran out, etc), but one bad day does not make a bad lifetime. It’s important to keep the goal in mind no matter where they are financially today. Love your site!!

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