Single Parent Budgeting Guide: How to Budget Successfully

Onward Staff
July 7, 2023
Start managing shared expenses with your co-parent easily!

How to Budget: A Guide for Single Parents

Being a single parent comes with its own unique set of challenges, and managing finances is definitely one of them. Budgeting becomes even more crucial to ensure that you can provide for your child while also taking care of your own needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of budgeting step by step. From understanding what a budget is and why it's important, to creating a budget that works for you as a single parent. We will also delve into specific strategies and tips tailored to the needs of single parents, so you can effectively manage your income, expenses, and savings. Learning how to budget can be intimidating, but get ready to take control of your finances and secure a stable future for both you and your child.

What is a budget?

A budget is a tool that helps you manage your finances by tracking your income and expenses. It allows you to allocate money to different categories and make informed decisions about your spending. For single parents, budgeting can provide better planning and savings for future goals.

Why is budgeting important?

Budgeting is essential for single parents as it promotes financial stability and security. It enables you to track your earnings and expenses, make informed financial choices, prioritize spending limits, and save for future objectives. Moreover, budgeting can alleviate stress and anxiety by providing a clear understanding of your financial situation.

How to budget for single parents

Creating a budget is a crucial aspect of taking control of your finances. It involves assessing your income and expenses, prioritizing your spending, and establishing an emergency fund. Begin by calculating your net income and outlining your monthly expenditures, distinguishing between fixed and variable expenses. Determine the average amount you spend on each category. Adjust your spending habits to save money and reduce unnecessary costs. Set specific savings goals and implement a budgeting method, such as the 50/30/20 rule, to allocate your income to essentials, savings, and debt repayment. Regularly monitor and modify your monthly budget to ensure you stay on track and accomplish your monetary targets.

To take control of your finances as a single parent, it's crucial to create and stick to a spending plan. In this guide, we'll provide practical tips on budgeting effectively. Start by calculating your total monthly income, including net pay and any additional sources. Categorize your expenses to identify areas for saving. Set objectives like building an emergency fund or reducing credit card debt. Lastly, use a budgeting method like the 50/30/20 rule to allocate income towards essentials, savings, and discretionary spending.

1. Calculate your total monthly income

Calculating your total monthly income from all sources is an important first step in budgeting. To begin, gather information about your income streams, such as take-home pay, additional sources of income, and government assistance. Including all sources of income allows for a comprehensive overview of your financial situation.

Consider factors like part-time jobs, freelance work, or any additional side hustles when determining your total income. Remember to account for any deductions, such as taxes or health insurance premiums, that may impact your take-home pay. By accurately calculating your total income, you can better plan and allocate your funds to meet your financial goals.

2. Categorize your monthly expenses in a spreadsheet or tool

Categorizing your monthly costs is an essential aspect of budgeting. Begin by listing fixed expenses like rent/mortgage, utilities, and insurance, followed by variable expenses such as groceries, transportation, and entertainment. You can use tools like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or even Onward. Ensure you include debt payments and savings goals in your budget. After categorizing your expenditures, compare them to your income and make necessary adjustments. Explore areas to reduce costs or explore opportunities for additional income. By categorizing your expenses, you gain a comprehensive understanding of your financial demands and can effectively manage your finances.

3. Set budgeting goals

Setting budgeting goals is a crucial step in managing your finances effectively. To begin, evaluate your income and expenses, considering sources like child support or government assistance. Once you have a comprehensive understanding of your financial situation, prioritize your objectives. Identify what you want to achieve, whether it's building an emergency fund or reducing debt. Next, create a budget that outlines your income and expenses, including necessities like housing, food, and childcare. Look for strategies to reduce unnecessary costs, such as meal planning or cutting back on discretionary spending. Regularly track your spending to stay within your budget and make adjustments as necessary.

4. Follow the 50/30/20 budget method

The 50/30/20 budget method is a popular approach for single parents learning how to budget. It allows you to allocate your income towards essential expenses, discretionary spending, and savings/debt repayment. When following this method, make sure to assign 50% of your income to cover essential expenses such as rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and childcare. Reserve 30% of your income for discretionary spending, which includes entertainment, dining out, and personal items. Lastly, allocate the remaining 20% towards savings and working on paying off any debts you may have. By adopting the 50/30/20 budget method, you can effectively manage your finances as a single parent without feeling overwhelmed.

5. Make adjustments

To effectively manage your budget, regularly review and adjust it. Monitor your bank account, credit card statements, and receipts to track spending. Use budgeting tools or templates like spreadsheets and apps. Analyze expenses and find areas to cut costs, such as canceling subscriptions or finding cheaper alternatives. Consider irregular expenses like car repairs or major purchases. These adjustments keep your household budget accurate and up-to-date, helping you stay in control of your finances and reach savings goals. By comparing your total monthly expenses to your income, you can identify areas where adjustments are needed. It's also vital to allocate a portion of your income towards a savings account or an emergency fund for financial security.

How to Budget: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good income budget?

Creating a well-planned income budget is crucial for achieving your financial goals and priorities. Start by tracking your expenses to get a clear understanding of where your money is going. Avoid overspending by distinguishing between wants and needs, and prioritize essential expenses such as housing, food, and utilities. Additionally, make sure to allocate funds for emergencies and future goals such as education or retirement. By following these steps, you can establish a solid income budget that aligns with your financial aspirations.

Are there any resources or apps for budgeting as a single parent?

Single parents can find a range of resources and apps that are specifically designed to help them with budgeting. Budgeting apps such as Mint, YNAB (You Need a Budget), and EveryDollar are popular choices as they allow users to track their expenses, set budgets, and establish financial goals. These apps can be particularly beneficial for single parents who need to carefully manage their finances. Furthermore, there are numerous online resources and websites that provide specialized tips and advice on budgeting for single parents. These resources offer valuable insights into managing expenses, saving money, and planning for the future.

How can single parents save money while still providing for their children?

As a single parent, you can save money and provide for your children by creating a practical budget, finding ways to save on everyday expenses, exploring financial assistance options for single parents, and prioritizing long-term financial goals like building an emergency fund or saving for your children's education.

How can I prioritize expenses and meet essential needs?

To prioritize expenses and ensure essential needs are met, begin by identifying crucial necessities like housing, food, and transportation. Give priority to these essentials over non-essential expenses. Create a budget that designates funds specifically for meeting these needs, and regularly review and adjust the budget to maintain consistency.

How can I involve my children in budgeting and teach them financial responsibility?

To involve your children in the budgeting process and teach them about financial responsibility, start by having age-appropriate conversations about money. Involve them in creating a family budget by giving them small financial responsibilities. Teach them the value of saving, wise spending, and distinguishing between needs and wants. Encourage open communication and address any questions or concerns they may have.


Creating and sticking to a process is crucial for single parents to ensure financial stability and provide for their families while learning how to budget. By carefully tracking income and expenses, single parents can gain control over their finances and make informed decisions. It's important to calculate net income, list monthly bills, label fixed and variable expenses, determine average monthly costs, and make adjustments as needed. Additionally, single parents should categorize charges, set budgeting goals, and follow the 50/30/20 method as you learn how to budget. Budgeting allows single parents to prioritize essential needs while also saving for emergencies or future goals. Share your thoughts or any additional tips in the comments below!

Start managing shared expenses with your co-parent easily!

Onward Staff