Help – This Single Mom Doesn’t Budget!

U.S. Coins and Paper Money

I have a confession—I don’t have a budget.

Sure, I’ve created them a few times, but actually sticking to them, nope. Once I entered the professional world in my early twenties, I wasn’t making great money (not that I am now) but I was sure I didn’t need a budget on my limited income. As time has gone by and my expenses have grown and gotten more complicated I find myself forever playing catch up on my bills and making somewhat impulsive and unnecessary purchases. I’ve got this chick, Sallie Mae, on my back every month wanting me to cough up ridiculous amounts of money I don’t have to pay for my fancy education. I don’t check my bank statement nearly as much as I should (though I did after the Target scandal) and it’s often because of fear.

I don’t want to face things that will cause me further stress. I don’t want to face not having enough in my savings account to support my daughter and me in the event I wasn’t able to work. Not having a budget and not being smarter about my spending in saving is something I can’t ignore any longer, and is a big priority for me this year.

Clearly I’m doing something right if I’ve managed to hold down my own apartment since I was 21. My bills get paid, sometimes late, but they get paid…eventually. Within the past couple of years I’ve made some smart investment choices with securing rental and life insurance. I understand when I make good decisions and I know when I make not so good decisions…like avoiding my frenemy Sallie when she calls…and emails….and calls. I’m in denial – I work in nonprofit and yes, the rumors about pay in the nonprofit field are correct – even with years of professional experience and a four year degree, I’m underpaid. But that’s no reason to not be smarter about my money.

I know there are simple adjustments I can make that would increase my savings, but would require me to spend less on things we just don’t need. To be quite honest I’m in no environment to be at all careless with my money. I am singlehandedly supporting my daughter, and if I don’t have the means to support our expenses I’m literally screwed. I have no mother, father or set of grandparents I could move in with for a limited amount of time to get on my feet.

What’s interesting is that I grew up in a household with three other siblings and a single mom who worked multiple jobs. I didn’t have the luxuries my daughter has, life was tough, and sometimes we didn’t have food in the house. Money was hard to come by and we stretched, and I mean s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d every single penny we had to ensure our basic needs were met. And sometimes they weren’t. I look back and get upset because I know I need to be better. My mother didn’t manage what money she did have well, and I saw that. We didn’t have conversations about savings, college, or money management. Survival is what was important in our house, and I don’t want to continue that pattern with my daughter.

As much as I am in denial of not having a budget, needing to save, and curbing my spending I’m hopeful. I admit I need help with money management and have already begun seeking assistance to create a plan for my family. Everyone has got to start somewhere and I’ve love to know some tips as to how you manage your money, and stick to a budget. Perhaps apps that help to stay on track. I swore for the longest time the only way I was going to save money was if someone stole my credit card and debit card. Self-control…that’s something I’ve got to work on!

What advice would you give this single mom who’s never had a budget before?



  1. Budgeting was not my friend until I had my daughter and even in the beginning I still just managed as I always have until one day I was just messing around with excel and found this graph/checkbook template and decided I would commit myself to tracking all my income (salary, cash gifts, lotto scratch off, etc) and all my expenses. To my surprise yeah I was paying my bills, I was surviving, daughters needs were being met BUT I was wasting so much money on frivolous things that over time really added up. I was really able to see how much i drank in coffee/tea because I was too lazy to make a cup before I left the house, the vending machine on campus was making a ton off of me, and let’s not even talk about eating out because I’m so busy between work, school, daughters activities, church activities, friends calling last minute let’s hang out, and so forth. Budget also made me ask myself some simple questions …. Why do I have cable in 3 rooms? Why do I have more than basic cable when we are rarely home? Why did I not sign up for the budget plans with companies if they are available? Why pay for long distance on a house phone with a cellphone? Talking about cellphones do I really need the major carrier when there are some great local cell carriers with good service in this area?
    The budget graph allowed me to see what I was contributing to savings verse what I could be contributing. Most of all my budget graph showed me how I could tweek and plan for things like 1 big traveling trip a year for my daughter and I.

    Personally people could talk about a budget all day long and I could even think about it in my head all day but it wasn’t until I dedicated my time and physically did one religiously that I was able to really understand and see the benefits of one for my life. I too started working non profit 3.5 years ago and last year student loans cane back to be paid, I bought a new car, my daughter started school and new activities, I pay out of pocket for 2 college courses for an endorsement on my degree and I’m moving next month ….. BUDGETING HAS BEEN KEY last year and continues this year!

  2. Oh yeah my favorite phone app is called Manilla ….. It simply allows you to see the balances on accounts payments due, and reminds you off your bills. It had a huge list of companies …. i track everything from Netflix account, student loans, credit card, utilities, car company, even my insurance plans (renters, life, car) and recently they updated that you can share the app with someone incase you have a roommate or spouse paying on same bills.

  3. I’ll be honesty, budgeting was not my best friend. I don’t know if it was being responsible for the money wasting, but this year, I decided to commit myself to my budget, and it’s amazing how much money we spend on things that’s just not need! My hubby gave me a number to work with for the month (because honestly–telling me to just buy what I want was not working it for our finances). By tracking down how much we’re spending, money is going a long way after all.

  4. The best advice I have is to just start.

    Get a piece of paper and pen and write down all of your bills and when they are due. It’s important to at least know what you have coming in and going out each month. I’m actually going to write a post about my budget book next week. Thanks for being so honest about this, you are not alone.

  5. I’m with Laila. Like Nike slogan says-Just do it. Sometimes emergencies will arise and you will have to make decisions out of the budget but you will at least have a foundation. Good luck to you and let us know how it goes :)