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As a mom, we want to be like superheroes to our kids. We’re willing to claw out eyeballs to keep them safe, and they see us as fearless winners. What they don’t see, however, is when we’re waist-deep in debt and struggling to make ends meet.
Being a single mom is stressful enough, but adding in all of our expenses takes it to a whole new level. There’s this constant worry of not being able to support your family and suddenly the feeling of defeat creeps in.
I was right there in that spot. I was right there in that mental hell, but to date, I’ve paid off over $28k in debt in less than four years, even when I had just a few dollars to my name. When I say you can pay off debt as a single mom I mean it.
You don’t have to know exactly which way is out when you’re trapped in a dark tunnel, you just have to keep going.
Compare your income to your expenses
If you’ve been doing the Bird Box Challenge on how bad things are for you financially, it’s time to peel back your blindfold and look into the light. Knowing exactly where your income stands in comparison to what you’re spending each month is the only way to find a remedy. And yes, it may burn!
The best way to do this is with a budget. This is your own personalized spending plan that allows you to take back the steering wheel over your finances. You’ll be able to easily keep tabs on all the money coming in and leaving out versus trying to do it all in your head. We all know how that ends.
Subtracting all of your expenses may cause you to feel one of two ways: relieved because you’re not as bad off as you originally thought or panicked because you don’t have much of anything remaining.
If you’re panicked, try not to curl up into a ball. I remember budgeting for the first time and damn near needing a paper sack to breathe into. Y’all, I had nothing!
My expenses outweighed my income and I literally had no idea until I wrote everything down so please don’t feel alone. I know there is a remedy, and although it may not be fun it’s completely worth it.
If you don’t have a budget I wrote a post for budgeting beginners!
Find extra money in your budget
The paycheck to paycheck lifestyle is vicious. The main culprit? Your expenses outweighing (or almost outweighing) your income. It’s literally like you’re working only to hand your whole paycheck over to someone else, which makes it hard to pay debt as a single mom!
The thought of giving up something you love may give you hives, but it’s only temporary. The quickest and easiest way to lower your expenses is to get rid of the ones that are non-essential. This will be those you are paying for regularly but don’t exactly need.
Let’s take cable for example. I know *gasp* but do you really need it? Is it really benefiting your life so much to the point that you’re willing to barely scrape by just to catch the latest episode of whatever?
Personally, this expense was the first to go and four years later I still don’t have cable. There are just some things that have to be sacrificed for the greater good and being able to financially support your kids without stretching $20 until the next paycheck is the best feeling ever. Better than HGTV.
That being said, comb through your budget and pick out the expenses that aren’t benefiting your life, your children, or your finances. Kick them to the curb, and use that extra money to put towards your debt.
If you don’t have much you can get rid of, try reducing the expense instead. For example, I couldn’t get rid of my cellphone, but I did switch to a prepaid plan which saves me $55 a month.
Making extra money
Sometimes, no matter how much you cut and reduce, you still find yourself coming up short. To be blunt, you need to start making extra money.
Being a single mom, you’re not only having to pay for yourself, but you have a part (or all) of your little ones’ expenses as well. That’s a lot, and unless you’ve landed your dream job, you’re probably not making a bankroll.
I know, you’re probably screaming at the screen about how you don’t have time to pick up an extra job, and I would too, but I’m not talking about punching another clock here. Even though you could pick up a small part-time job if you’d like, I’m talking about side hustling.
A side hustle is anything you do for extra money but does not have to be done on a regular basis. When I was tackling my credit card debt I knew the income from my day job wasn’t going to make the cut. I barely made enough to cover rent, let alone any debt, so I started charging my college classmates for helping them with their papers.
Soon after, I jumped into freelancing and was making up to $400 a month writing for others in my spare time!
If you know how to alter clothing, consider offering your services to those in your area for a fee. Like to bake? Take a few orders from those who salivate over the pictures you post to your social media account.
See where I’m going? The possibilities are endless, and when you’re doing something you like/love on your own time then it’s not a “job,” it’s a hustle! Check out these 10 easy ways to earn extra money!
Check out these posts next!
- The Debt Snowball vs Avalanche. Which is Right for You?
- The Simple Trick to Paying off Credit Card Debt Fast!
- 10 Easy Ways Moms Can Make Extra Money From Home
- 27 Best Business Ideas for The Future Mompreneur
- Senseless Spending Making You Broke? Try These 8 Tips
- How the Cash Envelope System Keeps You from Bulldozing Your Budget!
- The “Broke” Girl’s Guide to Saving Money
- What is Your Money Mindset? How Your Thinking is Affecting Your Finances!
- 8 Tips You Need to Know When You’re Moving Out for the First Time!
- Simple Tips to Create a Bomb Budget When You’re Paid Bi-weekly
- The Simple Trick to Paying off Credit Card Debt Fast!
Set realistic financial goals
It doesn’t matter how hard you work your butt off, if your goals are unrealistic then you’ll never reach them in the time you said you were. Or worse, you won’t reach them at all.
What happens when we don’t reach a goal? We start to feel lousy about ourselves and lose motivation.
How many times have you started paying off debt but quit soon after? Uh huh, I’ve done this a few times myself and we don’t want that!
If you know you only have $100 in spendable income (*the amount of income remaining after all expenses are paid) from each paycheck, don’t set a goal to pay $200 a month on your personal loan. Although it sounds nice, if you’re paid bi-weekly then that is literally taking all of your extra money.
Realistically, you may find yourself needing an extra $20 that you put towards your loan and we all know there’s no getting that back. Thus, you start swiping a credit card which puts you into more debt or wind up with an overdrawn account.
It’s important to set realistic goals. These goals should align with your current situation before you start this journey. This will help to keep you laser-focused and remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Simply put, it’s hard to follow a map (your action plan) if you don’t even know where you’re going (your goals).
When creating your goals, ask yourself:
What do I want to accomplish (be specific)?
When do I want to accomplish this?
How am I going to accomplish this?
For example, let’s say you want to pay off credit card debt. Your goal should look like: I will pay off $500 in credit card debt by March 12, 20XX. To do this, I will pay $50 from each paycheck and start a side-hustle.
Start making small contributions to savings
Paying off debt can appear to be more of a priority than having money sitting in some account. Sometimes we feel more at ease seeing a debt balance go down rather than a growing savings, but you need to start putting money back ASAP.
As mentioned above, when you put all of your extra money towards debt you risk going into more debt.
Think about it. If you have $200 remaining after your main bills are paid (rent/mortgage, light bill, etc.) and you gave that whole $200 to debt then you’re basically living life on the edge. There’s going to come a time when you need $10 for tissue paper you forgot to buy or when you need to fill up your gas tank more than usual.
That’s just life, but if you gave up everything then what money do you have to pay for those unexpected expenses?
That’s right, nothing, so now you’re digging through your wallet for the credit card you were trying to pay off. I call this the “yo-yo effect.” This is when you pay off debt then go right back in it.
I was trapped in this routine for years, throwing all of my money towards my credit cards. The sight of my balances made me sick, and I just needed that gratification of seeing them lower. Without fail, I was right back to needing the money I had used for the payment.
Whether it’s just $15 you save from each paycheck, that $15 will be a lifesaver. I recommend starting off with small amounts so a) you don’t take away from other expenses and b) you can ease yourself into the routine of saving money. It’s like riding a bike so you start off with training wheels until you find your balance.
I like to use Digit for my “uh oh fund.” It was designed for those who aren’t the best with saving money so after analyzing your spending behavior on the account you link, they go in and save your spare change. Sometimes it’s a few cents and sometimes it’s up to $10 depending on my account balance. I do, however, recommend setting an account minimum balance limit.
You can save for multiple goals with Digit or just contribute to the ‘Rainy Day’ fund. They have a no-overdraft guarantee and unlimited withdrawals, unlike most financial institutions. Whenever I make a withdrawal on a business day the funds are deposited into my account the next day.
You can try it free for 30 days before it switches back to $2.99 a month. If you find that you don’t like it just deactivate the account!
When I finally realized that putting money aside was the key to stopping the “yo-yo effect” I was able to continuously lower my debt balances until they were non-existent. As I paid off balances, I had extra money to add more to savings and other debts.
Take advantage of lump sums and assistance
Whether it’s a tax refund, court settlement, school refund, or whatever, most people will receive a large sum of money at least once in their lifetime.
Before you burst through the doors of endless retail bliss (hello, Target), put a portion of those funds towards your debt and/or savings. This will give you a huge leg up, and help to melt away some of the financial stress you’ve been having trying to pay off debt as a single mom.
As far as the assistance goes, recipients of government benefits often get a bad rep. Some people view them as lazy, comfortable with where they are financially, and “moochers.”
Literally, I’ve heard it all and some of these stereotypes actually scare people away from applying. If you are qualified to receive help paying for expenses like groceries, childcare, and utilities then take that help! You know that you’re working towards a brighter future for your whole family and that’s the only opinion you should care about. I received government benefits, and I am not ashamed of it.
These programs are designed to be a short-term lending hand, so use them to your benefit. Take the money that’s been freed up and use it towards your debt. Once you get to a place where you’re more financially stable then you can remove yourself from the program.
Celebrate each small win
Making a payment on a balance is a major part of paying off debt, but your mindset is everything. This journey won’t be a quick one, and it definitely comes with obstacles that will put your determination to the test.
If you haven’t heard, it is your thoughts that control your actions. So many of us have quit and just accepted that being in debt and barely making ends meet is just a part of our lives we cannot control. If this is the way you think, you’re just going to quit again.
Your mindset has to nurture the type of results you want to have so “think” wisely. Be your biggest cheerleader and keep yourself motivated to continue chugging along.
Celebrate each small win girlfriend, because this journey is bound to have its ebbs and flows.
Even if it’s just a $30 payment you made, at the end of the day you overcame and conquered. You are the superwoman your kids think you are.
If you need additional help, I HIGHLY recommend taking my free debt payoff course to help kickstart your journey. I’m sharing the strategies that have helped me pay off debt as a mom on a single income. There were times I felt like I barely had two dimes to rub together, yet I’ve made so much progress. Click here to grab your spot!