An emergency fund is a good idea for any household, but having the savings needed to cover unexpected expenses is a necessity when you’re a single mom.
Why Do I Need an Emergency Fund?
Being a single mom is tough. As the sole breadwinner for your household, you have a lot of responsibility resting on your shoulders. Careful budgeting can help you make the most of your income, but there are still plenty of unexpected expenses that can pop up. For example:
- You are ill and can’t work for a few days, but you have already used up all of your vacation time.
- Your son breaks his arm and you have to pay a high insurance deductible.
- Your daughter is accepted into a prestigious music camp, but the tuition bill is due immediately.
- The refrigerator died unexpectedly.
- Your car needs expensive repairs.
- Your ex fails to pay child support on time.
- Your daycare provider quits and you need to send your kids to a more expensive center.
Having an emergency fund available will help you cope with these events without turning to your credit cards or risky payday loans.
How Much Money Do I Need?
How much money should you have in an emergency fund? The answer to this question obviously depends upon your current income and household expenses. However, many experts recommend having three-to-six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. This includes only essential bills, such as your mortgage, utilities, and car payment.
If the idea of saving that much money seems like an impossible task, start by creating a mini emergency fund of $1,000. This is the amount financial guru Dave Ramsey often recommends as a starting point in his seminars. While $1,000 won’t cover a job loss or a life threatening illness, it’s enough money to cover many of the more minor expenses you’ll encounter as a single mom.
How Do I Start an Emergency Fund?
There is no “correct” way to start saving money for an emergency fund. Every family has different circumstances, so you’ll need to choose a strategy that works for your situation. However, you can use the following tips to help you get started:
- Use overtime hours or extra shifts to earn money for an emergency fund. If this option is not available at your job, consider starting a side business such as babysitting or selling crafts to earn some extra cash.
- Many single mothers receive a substantial income tax refund around April 15. Instead of giving in to the temptation to use this money for treats, set it aside to beef up your emergency fund.
- Cut back on restaurant meals. Single moms often end up eating out because they feel like they are too busy to cook at the end of a long day. However, even taking your kids to McDonalds can cost $20 to $30. Eat at home as much as possible to watch your savings pile up.
- Ask your kids for help. Single moms tend to feel like they must protect their children from financial worries, but kids are surprisingly resilient. If your children understand that you are trying to save money, they will be less likely to ask for expensive toys or request that you spend Friday night at the movie theater instead of relaxing with a DVD at home.
The LoveToKnow Save article How to Save Money When You Have None also offers some tips that may be useful for single moms.
Getting Help from Government Assistance Programs
If you are having trouble meeting basic needs for you and your children, you may qualify for government assistance. Some of the programs available for single mothers include:
Do not be afraid to take advantage of the resources that are available to you during this difficult time in your life. There is no shame in doing what is needed to help provide for your children.