How To Survive Financially As A Single Mum

Our ‘women in finance’ series focuses on the financial issues that women face.

From gender equality in the workplace to financial planning, this series takes an in-depth look at key topics of discussion.


When you’re a single parent, money can be a constant worry. How will you pay for everything on just one income? What happens if you’re unable to work?

If you’re a single mother, chances are childcare is left to you, which is great in some ways because you get to spend more time with your kids. However, it can often leave you burdened with the bulk of financial responsibility, which can be a big cause for stress.

Whatever your situation, you’re most likely worried about how to survive financially as a single mum, especially if your income is limited or you don’t get much help from your other half.

Your kids rely on you, so it’s essential to plan ahead. With some basic financial planning, you can live well, without worrying about money.


Single Mum On A Budget

Everyone knows that the key to keeping on top of your finances is budgeting, which can be easy if you do it properly. Set aside some time (perhaps when the kids are in bed) and do the following:

  • Go through all your direct debits/ standing orders and write them down (e.g. Rent – £300, etc).
  • Cancel anything you don’t need (e.g. an unused gym membership, a free trial you forgot to cancel).
  • Write down your essential monthly expenses (e.g. groceries – £200, travel expenses – £100, childcare – £200 etc).
  • Add them up so you have a total.
  • Subtract this number from your monthly income. 
  • What you have left is how much you can spend each month. You can divide this by 4 for a weekly budget (although be careful of 5-week months).
  • Use an app that tracks your spending, so you can easily keep on top of it.

It can be daunting looking at your finances in this way, especially if you don’t have much leftover.

Don’t stress, as there are many more things you can do, when learning how to survive financially as a single mum on a budget.

  • Can you get a better deal for any of your bills? Do a quick search on a comparison website for things like your broadband, car insurance and electricity.
  • Go through your transactions for the last few months and see if there are any areas where you can cut down. 
  • Think of some money-saving alternatives (e.g. cook in more, buy second-hand or look for sales).
  • Find someone in your support network to share childcare with, instead of paying for it. This could be sharing school pick-ups/ drop-offs or using playdates to babysit for each other.


Planning Ahead

Budgeting is a great way to manage your finances, but what happens when one of your pipes burst, or you have a medical bill to pay? Planning for the unexpected is an essential part of how to survive financially as a single mum.

  • Put money aside every month (you should ideally use 20% of your income for savings or any debt repayment).
  • Only use your savings for emergencies.
  • Always keep your emergency fund topped up. If you have an urgent expense that blows your savings, cut back for a few months or work extra hours, to build this back up again.
  • Never live off credit cards or loans. They can be useful to bridge the gap between paychecks, but never rely on them. If you’re already in debt, a financial advisor can help you find a way out.
  • Upgrade your medical insurance, so that you’re not constantly covering costs with your savings.
  • Get Insurance. A great way to give yourself peace of mind when you’re a single mother, is ensuring your family is covered, should the worse happen. Getting Life insurance and critical illness cover are two things you should definitely have.
  • Get repair cover for things like your boiler or washing machine. This is particularly useful when you’ve got young kids running around. You can get cover for just a few dollars a month in most cases, and this will dramatically reduce your chances of needing to dip into your emergency savings.

Everything can seem overwhelming when you’re worried about how to survive financially as a single mum. It can be easy to always prioritise your kids’ needs, over your own. While that often comes with the role of being a parent, it’s important to reward yourself, every now and again.

Being a single parent is hard, but with some simple financial planning, you can make sure that you’re always prepared to look after yourself and your family.

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