Single mothers are more likely than two-parent couples to face debt, lower credit scores, and bankruptcy. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported that single-mother households were overwhelmingly likely to face poverty. About 85% of single-parent homes are headed by women, and of all the single-parent homes, around 47% were in poverty. Between housing payments, utility bills, food, clothing, and childcare, single mothers can find themselves strapped for cash, as they struggle to recover their credit scores and evade declaring bankruptcy.
If you are a single mother in a bad financial situation, your first step is to seek a financial counseling program such as free consumer credit counseling. If your situation is not dire, embarking upon a debt management plan might be the best choice for you. If your financial situation is grim, you might wish to enroll in bankruptcy counseling, if you need to file for bankruptcy.
Financial difficulties are a serious problem that tends to plague many single mothers. When raising a child or multiple children, having only a single income can make any financial emergency into an issue that can keep one teetering on the verge of bankruptcy for years.
Below are a few DO’s and DON’Ts that will allow you to make better choices about your financial situation in a manner that will benefit both you and your kids:
DON’T Spend Using Credit Cards –
It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending money you don’t have. Credit cards are designed to allow you to carry a balance, but it’s important to remember that interest accrues every payment cycle. This means you’ll not only be forced to keep paying for purchases you may not have been able to afford in the first place, but also that you’ll end up paying more over time. If you can help it, make sure you pay for everything in cash. This will keep you from spending more than you actually have in your bank account and give you a better feeling for where your money is being spent each month.
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DO Seek Out Opportunities To Build Credit –
While it’s a good idea to pay in cash whenever you can, it’s also necessary for you to build your credit score. Keeping a line of credit available and paying off the balance in its entirety every month is not only a reasonable way to defray costs for a few weeks, but also a good way to build your credit score. As a rule, make sure not to spend any more than you know you’ll be able to pay off in a single cycle – this will help you avoid accruing interest and will keep your credit score high.
DON’T Take Out Payday Loans –
There is perhaps no financial move worse than taking out a short-term Payday loan. These loans are designed to prey on people like you – people who may have major debts to pay and who need money quickly, people who have few other options when emergencies come up. These loans are not only designed to cost you more over the long run, but they also feature predatory practices that can haunt you for years to come. Never take out a loan that you cannot pay back, and make doubly sure that any loan you take out does not feature the predatory interest rates inherent to payday loans.
DO Negotiate EVERYTHING –
While you may owe money to many people, this does not mean you have to pay everything at once. If you owe money, call the agencies to which you owe money and negotiate for a payment that you can actually afford. Many companies have programs that benefit working single mothers, allowing you to reduce or even postpone some payments. Other companies are willing to take a realistic look at what you are capable of paying and are happier getting something than they would be getting nothing. While there is no guarantee that a company has to negotiate with you, it never hurts to ask. Try to negotiate with your insurance companies as well. It never hurts to try and negotiate a pay raise with your employer. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that you want or need.
DON’T Ignore Your Debt –
One of the worst things you can do is to ignore your debt. It doesn’t matter if the phone calls have stopped or if you have moved – the record of your debt is still following you, and you may be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Failure to take your debt seriously is what can get you in the most trouble, putting you on the road to wage garnishment and other major consequences like legal actions. If you want to manage your debt and rebuild your credit, you must be willing to look at your problems in a calm and rational manner.
DO Hire A Non-Profit Credit Counseling Agency –
Above all else, it’s wise to seek help. As a parent, it can be difficult to admit that you don’t have all the answers. If you are in debt, though, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out a bit of debt management help. A non-profit credit counseling agency can help you to get back on track and accomplish many of steps the listed above. Your debt doesn’t have to define your life or the life of your children. Reaching out for help is the best way to move forward with your life.
You can only repair your credit score if you make regular, monthly, on-time payments on your bills, including student loans, utility bills, and credit card debts. The rationale behind this, according to Credit.com, is that regular monthly payments have a positive effect on your credit score, while late or missed payments ruin your credit score. The site also mentions that the effort of making all of your payments on time will salvage you financially from the occasions when you make other mistakes like using too much credit or going over your credit limit.
The financial experts agree that if your debt-to-income ratio exceeds 30 percent, you are likely to have a debt problem. This is the point at which you can turn to your debt management plan to see where you can cut back on spending. Remember: Items like organic food, designer clothing, and even entertainment splurges like concerts or going to the movies are NOT necessities. Basic, decent clothing, food, and safe housing for yourself and your children, however, are fundamentally necessary to the well-being of your entire family. It is best to begin repairing your credit score and take steps away from bankruptcy by eliminating non-essential spending from your budget.
Here’s some great info on government assistance programs designed to help single mothers: https://kidsaversnetwork.com/family-parenting/how-to-get-help-assistance-as-a-single-mom/
Many single working mothers simply cannot afford to make timely monthly payments without financial assistance. Lowering your rent and bill payments can help you tremendously in getting on strong financial footing. You might wish to apply for Section 8 housing vouchers. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), www.hud.gov, has a wealth of resources about assisted housing applications and income limits. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, www.liheap.org, has programs for families in need of help to reduce utility bill costs, too. You might also be eligible for an ACCESS card or EBT card – which can be used to purchase food and some goods, such as shoes – or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF. Check with your local Department of Human services (DHS) for more information, or to determine if you qualify.
Budget-Friendly Ideas For Single Mothers –
We realize that cutting out all fun from your life is not a realistic means of debt management. You and the kids can still have fun, for little or no cost. Take the kids to a museum, because many museums have admission fees that are actually “suggested donations” and can thus be waived or take them to a free-to-the-public art gallery. How about a nice long walk in the park followed by a picnic? The whole family will benefit from exercise and mental stimulation, and you won’t rack up credit card debt in the process.
The library is another wonderful haven of entertainment for people of all ages. Your kids can check out books, movies, music, and even toys. Many cities, such as Pittsburgh, have toy lending libraries where kids can try out new toys — and you won’t have to spend a cent. Many places also hold toy swaps. Simply donate an item or two that your child has grown tired of, and take home a new toy or three in return. How about family story-telling time? If you use your imagination, your kids will never be bored, and you’ll never be bankrupt.
Being a parent is HARD work, but being a single mother is a million times more difficult. Single mothers need to realize that there’s help out there for them. They just need to be brave and ask for it. Your state most likely has a ton of programs designed to help single mothers just like yourself. You won’t have to rely on these programs forever. They are just some stepping stones to help you get back on your feet and back on a solid financial path.
You can be debt-free and have an excellent credit score even if you’re a single mother. It will take some hard work, discipline, and a frugal attitude, but it can be done and Advantage CCS can help make that happen! Give us a call today at 1-866-699-2227 or visit us online at www.advantageccs.org.