This is a guest post by my friend, Bryan from bucksandcents.com. Bryan is a money-savvy blogger and also a single Dad. In this post, he shares with us his tips for raising kids without going bankrupt!
Although this advice is aimed at single dads, it also applies to single moms and traditional nuclear families too! Enjoy!
One of the hardest things I have had to overcome in my life has been going through a divorce with young kids. Co-parenting and raising kids as a single dad is also equally challenging.
One of the biggest challenges for raising kids as a single dad has been dealing with the financial impact of living a new lifestyle as a single parent.
That new lifestyle often includes things such as alimony, child support, housing costs, retirement payouts, and generally reducing all of your wealth since the date of marriage by 50% or more.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Below are some of my best-kept finance tips for raising kids from a single dad’s perspective.
Table of Contents
1. Examine Current Costs and Priorities
When I was married on a single income, my housing costs were clearly my biggest expense. I was living a keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle and senselessly loving every minute of it.
At the time I thought I was making the correct decisions for my family by providing them opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them by living in certain communities and being a part of the social elite suburbia class.
The reality was however that living a Jones lifestyle only brought massive amounts of debt and stress to my family and affected our health significantly.
Going through a divorce is expensive even if it is amicable. There are still payments that have to be made for your lawyer, the Courts, and other costs.
Many people try to determine where they are going to live and some have to purchase new automobiles, or pricy health insurance.
Examining my current costs and priorities was the first step I had to undertake because I had to see if it was even financially possible for me to stay in my current house and raise my kids.
My financial examination concluded that with the cost of my divorce, on top of my other financial court-ordered obligations, I could no longer afford that lifestyle.
I sold my house and found a new place to live. My priority was to significantly reduce my housing cost which I did. I ended up reducing my housing costs by 85%.
I purchased a townhouse and ended up searching for a place to buy a money order near me (who has checks anymore) so I could pay cash for some of it.
Being able to pay cash for a place to live was a huge financial win for me.
2. Develop Financial Goals
Going through a divorce is so tough because it involves change. It is changing every particular point of your life and your finances.
It involves coming up with new routines; some by choice and some not.
One of the things I regret in my former life was that we did not take family vacations. The main reason was that we never had the money to do so.
Open communication, including financial communication, with my previous spouse played an immense role in the lack of activities we did as a family.
We didn’t set goals or discuss what was important to us financially in raising kids.
My life today involves setting and achieving goals. You have to set financial goals if you want to improve your finances. If you don’t set financial goals, nothing in your family will change.
Additionally, by discussing and having financial goals, your kids also benefit. They get to bear witness on the process of financial goals at a very young age. Explaining to your kids that we are not going to go to the movies this weekend because we are saving for a family summer trip somewhere can have a huge positive impact for them.
3. Demonstrate Budgeting
I accomplish my goals through creating a budget. In order to achieve those things, I had to get on track with learning how to create a budget and following it.
A lot of my former life consisted of impulse purchases and it significantly lacked financial planning.
I didn’t want to live that way anymore so I turned over a new leaf and created a new routine. My new routine consisted of frugal living strategies and colorful spreadsheets with several budget categories.
I was able to come up with a monthly surplus which I used to pay down debt.
4. Planning is Key and Saves Money
As a single parent, raising kids can be a struggle and challenge each day. All of a sudden there is just one adult now to provide everything for your kids.
This can affect everything from meals to household chores and even parent-teacher conferences at your kid’s school. Getting their school supplies together and looking for free stickers online to decorate their binders and laptops with all defaults to the single parent.
That is why planning is so essential even when it comes to meals and clothes for your kids. By planning correctly, you can save significant money in these two areas.
4a. Finance Tips For Meals
Having a clear and concise meal plan saves a lot of money. Each week I will write out a seven-day meal menu. This is difficult to do considering one of my kids has an eating disorder. There are not a lot of meals that he will eat.
However, writing out a schedule of meals does help. Often times I will include input from my kids as to what they would like to eat for the upcoming meals for the week.
Sometimes I will use my Betty Crocker crockpot (yes I am a single dad and have one!) and take a look at recipes and cheap meal ideas because it’s a huge timesaver to cook a meal that way.
I will also go to discount grocers and save roughly 30% to 40% on the cost of groceries than buying at premium grocery stores.
Then there are also times where it doesn’t make sense for me to cook dinner. This is especially true on nights where we have school activities and we don’t get home until 7 PM.
One of the best money-saving secrets raising kids has to do with actually going to restaurants.
Yes, you read that correctly.
There are so many restaurants now that offer kids eat free deals on certain days of the week that it actually makes more sense to go eat dinner out at a restaurant instead of cooking.
One time we went to Applebee’s and my total bill was $7.78 to eat for my kids and I. At that price it is worth it for me to go out and eat!
4b. Finance Tips For Clothes
I don’t think many people would debate that boys are a little bit harder on things particularly their clothes. Over the years, I’ve come up with some finance tips on how to save money with their clothing.
Initially, I thought I was being smart by going to secondhand stores like the Salvation Army and purchasing their clothes there.
On the surface, it seems like such a good idea to purchase used clothing considering how fast young boys grow.
Nobody wants to spend $15 on a pair of jeans only for their kids to outgrow them in four months. It’s like the worst when you drop $100 for clothes only to have them outgrow them within months.
I decided that I would start purchasing kids clothes new from Walmart. I decided to do this for a couple of reasons:
- First of all, I am purchasing new clothes and not used clothes so the condition is much better. Some of the things I bought at secondhand stores (such as jeans and athletic pants) were really worn out and I ended up having to throw them out because they just did not hold up.
- Second, if you buy new clothes at Walmart they are pretty much the same price as what you would pay at a secondhand store. Considering your kids are going to be outgrowing these clothes within four to six months, it actually makes more financial sense to buy new clothes.
- Third, I regularly purchase pairs of shorts and T-shirts at Walmart. They typically cost between $3 and $5 each. You are going to be really pressed to find prices any lower than that for new clothing for kids.
- Fourth, I shop Target back to school sales. I am fortunate enough that my kids are still at it at a young age where they’re not too concerned with clothing labels YET. If you catch the Target sale for their Cat & Jack jeans you can purchase a pair of jeans for under $5 dollars if you use your Target Red Card. The sale usually happens in the fall and it is one of the best sales I come across each year for kids clothing.
5. Increase Your Income With Side Hustles
Increasing your household income through side hustles is something I do often to help boost my finances. There are rare moments where I do have downtime during the day. Or there are times where I just need a little bit of a mental break.
I like to fill that void by completing micro-tasks. One of my favorite things to do is to make money with surveys which is a lot of fun for me. I have made some decent money as well.
The money I make from side hustling all goes towards covering my car payment for the month. So it’s like I’m driving for free when that happens.
Not to mention there are sites like Prize Rebel where you can actually earn free gift cards to restaurants. You can also send those gift cards as gifts to other people. Prize Rebel actually sends a gift card to the recipient of your choice.
So that’s a good way to send somebody a gift without paying for it!
6. Changing Your Lifestyle Improves Your Finances
When you change your lifestyle, other doors open up. Change in your life still creates a new opportunity or a new way for you to do things in your life.
There are ways you can improve your finances, even as a single parent. But you have to be open to changing your lifestyle.
Sometimes that requires making big changes and huge sacrifices.
I never thought I will be a single dad raising kids. And as hard as that is, I found a make a way to make it work.
I came up with new routines and found new ways to save on my family finances. The lifestyle I have now with my kids is more rewarding than my past Jones lifestyle that I lived. I no longer have to work 12 hour days to pay bills.
My kids and I regularly do family activities such as going on vacation, going to parks, or even flying drones.
That has all been possible because I have been open to change in my lifestyle. I still have struggled here and there, but the lifestyle I have built with my kids now is much more rewarding now than the past 15 years of my life.
Hopefully, my kids will see that same message someday when they are older.