How to Make Ends Meet As a Single Parent

Parenting is one of the best -- and hardest -- jobs in the world. When you're trying to care for your children on your own, the job gets even more difficult. Careful planning and budgeting will help keep your finances manageable, but it's important to reach out for help, too. You may not have a partner in parenting, but you don't have to raise your kids on your own.

Prioritize your spending. A family vacation or new car might be nice, but they probably aren't essential. Make a list of all the things in which you must invest sometime in the future, such as a college fund for your child, life insurance, paying off the car, home improvements and paying off credit card debt. Make a second list of things you'd like, but don't need. You can look forward to items on the second list once you've addressed the essentials.

Seek help. Many states offer financial assistance such as food stamps, daycare vouchers and medical insurance to single parents with young children. Visit the local county assistance office to see if your family qualifies for any funding.

Make a budget. When you are reliant on a single income, you have to make every penny count. Make a list of all your current expenses and see if there is anything you can eliminate. For instance, you might skip cable and use the Internet at the library. Set a reasonable dollar amount for food, gas, clothing and other essentials. You may find it helpful to use cash for essential purchases instead of paying with a credit card so you can more easily keep track of how much you are spending.

Look for non-traditional employment. One of the many challenges of single parenting is trying to find childcare while you work. It may be possible for you to make some money from home, however. Think about your skill set. You might write or edit for a journal or newspaper. You could sell crafts or baked goods online or at a local market. Perhaps your neighbors could use a housekeeper and would allow you to bring your child. Pursue as many options for extra income as possible.

Have fun without spending money. It's tough to say "no" to your kids' requests when money is tight. Instead of focusing on what they are missing, find ways to spend time together that don't cost a cent. Your kids will pick up on your good attitude. You might go to the park or curl up with books at the library. Or plan a "staycation" by writing down all the free things there are to do you in your community. Pick a "staycation" week, go through your list and come up with an itinerary, just as you would for a vacation away, and have as much local, free fun as you and your kids can handle.

Find a support system. Trying to make ends meet as a single parent can be extremely stressful. It's important to find a way to decompress and relax. If you can, talk to your family and ask for help if necessary. Otherwise, consider joining a local church community or support group for single parents 1.