Making ends meet as a single mom is really challenging.
It is stressful and overwhelming not knowing how you will earn enough money to get by. There are more expenses to be responsible for and it’s hard to find a way to cover them. There’s the added cost of daycare, housing, healthcare, and so many more. Many small things that perhaps weren’t as noticeable when there were two salaries, or one higher salary covering everything.
This is the moment when it helps to sit down, take a deep breath, and start planning out what your options are. Because there are options. I was able to go from earning just $16/hr to over $100,000 per year in just a few years by researching the right career for my interests and skills, then mapping out the steps to land the right job.
In this post I’ll go over some solutions and options to consider in order to increase your income as a single mom.
Contents and Quick Links
Evaluate your current career
When you are newly single and need to consider what your financial future will look like, start by evaluating your current career path.
How long have you been in your field and do you love what you do? What are your future pathways and earning potential cap? Are you satisfied with your current earning growth potential as well as the inherent earning limitations?
Also think about what you want your future to look like. How much do you want to be earning 10 years from now? Does your current career offer this salary range?
Stay with your current career but plan for growth
If you came to the conclusion that you are already in a good job or career because there is the potential for higher earnings, think about what you need to do now in order to plan for future growth.
Review what additional training or certification options are necessary for continued growth. Additionally, meet with your manager to discuss your goals. If your employer knows that you are dedicated to your job and interested in moving up in the company, they can provide insight into the steps necessary that you may not have considered.
You will also be on the radar to be considered for future roles within the company. When a new position or opportunity opens up, you want to be the first person that comes to mind to fill that new spot.
Consider changing careers
As you weigh the cost and time for additional training as well as the potential for earning increases over the next 10 years, you may come to the conclusion that your current path is too limited. This is when you should consider a change in career.
Is there something else you wish you were doing? What would it take to go after a different dream?
Start by brainstorming what your options are. What career paths are exciting to you? Of those options, which ones offer the earning potential that you need? What training opportunities are offered in your area and how much school is required? How long will it take to complete training? Will you be able to work while you train? How long will it take from when you finish training to the when you earn enough money to meet your financial needs?
Also, who will watch your child during the time when you are in class or training? Is there daycare offered through the school or program? This can be very valuable.
If you aren’t sure where to start, look up your local vocational programs, Jr. College or university and then review programs online. Read through the various programs and see if any sound exciting. Research the total cost, length of the program and earning potential upon completion of anything that you find interesting.
Utilize your local recruiter
Another great resource is your local recruiting agent. These are trained professionals that seek out individuals with certain skill sets and match them with the right job. They have an idea of what is needed, what training and skills you need, and how much those jobs are paying. Find a local recruiter and review the skills you have, what skills you’re interested in learning, and then explore the positions that are in demand.
There are a number of quick online training programs that you can use to learn a new skill. Learn a programming language, become a certified VA, or learn Google AdWords online and then offer contract services through your local recruiter.
I had been a stay-at-home mom for over two years when my husband passed away. I was completely reliant upon his income and had no career to speak of. Suddenly I was a single mom and fully financially responsible for every household expense.
We didn’t plan for the unexpected, there was no life insurance policy in place and I had no back-up plan. I needed a job and an income, fast.
Note: Don’t let poor planning land you and your family in a similar situation. Visit Why You Need A Family Emergency Binder to learn how to be prepared for the unexpected and provide for your family.
The first job I could find was working for an ophthalmologist, who offered to train me to become an optician and ophthalmic medical assistant. I started at $16/hour and worked my way up to $18/hour. This wasn’t going to be enough to plan a secure financial future on. I needed to plan further ahead and evaluate my options.
I had a college degree, but it wasn’t set up to build a career on without additional education. First, I researched what careers paths were available with the background I had. I narrowed it down to a few options. Next, I researched how much additional school was required for each career pathway, where the programs were located, how long each would take, and how much each would cost me. Finally, I narrowed my choices down to the shortest and cheapest option that was close to family. I knew I didn’t want to relocate and that I would need to rely upon family and friends to help with daycare.
Consider taking out a student or personal loan only if and when you absolutely need a little extra short term coverage for monthly expenses. Going into debt is not a great option and you should have a clearly defined timeline of how long you will require assistance, then a clear plan to pay that money back.
Be sure to research grants and scholarship opportunities, especially programs meant to support single moms. I ran a quick Google search for grants for single moms and the College Grants Database looked like a good place to start your research.
Depending on your situation, another option to consider is simply borrowing from family or friends. My mother-in-law covered a few hundred dollars a month during the time that I went back to school. This helped immensely as I needed gas and childcare money and simply couldn’t work even part-time while studying. I knew that once I completed my program, I wouldn’t need the extra support and that I’d be able to pay her back.
Revisit this post later by saving it to your favorite Pinterest board!
Add supplemental income with a side hustle
The $100 Startup
This is the book that convinced me to pursue starting this blog. It provides both the motivation to find your side hustle and go after your dreams, as well as a practical guide on how ordinary people have built side hustles on very little investment.
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gigs
These are common solutions that can work for some. As a single mom, I don’t find them lucrative enough. If you have some downtime, they could be a easy option for some spare income.
Sell on Etsy
If you are crafty and love to make things, this can be a fun way to earn extra income.
In addition to selling on Etsy, you can start a crafting blog or YouTube channel and collect ad revenue.
Create an online course
If you have a particular skill that you can teach to others, Udemy and similar online course platforms can be a great way to earn income off your existing skills and training.
Additional ideas to investigate:
- Earn an online certification and provide consulting services (such as Google AdWords or programming)
- Sell things you have at home (temporary income)
- Refurbish and sell items
- Become a Virtual Assistant (VA)
Lower your expenses
It’s quite possible that you don’t even need to change anything about your current work. You may love your job and be comfortable with how much you earn. It’s also possible that with a few adjustments to your personal finances and spending, you can save enough money to meet your financial goals.
Here are some ways you can save more money by lowering your expenses:
Track your expenses and establish a budget
This is such a common theme throughout almost all my articles. It is so important to track your expenses and understand where your money goes. You simply don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you stand right now.
Once you have tracked at least three months of your spending, you can identify spending categories with more excess spending. Find ways to cut back in those areas and then establish your budget.
Visit How To: Track Your Personal Finances to learn how to track your monthly expenses. Be sure to download the FREE pdf Monthly Expense Tracking workbook and worksheet from the Resource Library.
Next, visit The Beginner’s Guide To Creating a Budget You Can Stick To to learn the exact steps to set up your new budget. Again, there is a free downloadable worksheet to help step you through the process.
Rent out a room in your home
I did this for close to two years when money was particularly tight. I rented a room to another single mom and while I was very hesitant to have a roommate, I had never in my life had one before, it was a very good experience. Not only was it a huge financial help, it was really fun to come home and have someone to talk to. We were able to help each other out with sitting, chores and errands and it was really nice to have someone to lean on and not feel so alone.
If you own your home, his is simply another way of renting space to a roommate. Only they are called tenants and they help with your mortgage. I highly recommend this to anyone that isn’t settled with a family yet as it’s an amazing way to lower (or even completely cover) your mortgage. I have a full post on the topic, read more at House Hacking: What It Is And Why You Need To Know About It.
Buy a multifamily home
Real estate investing is an amazing way to quickly build wealth and earn passive income. If you want to buy a personal home, consider the benefits of buying a small multi-family home instead. Similar to house hacking, only you don’t have to rent a room in your own space, you can rent the other unit(s) instead.
This can fully cover your mortgage, which greatly lowers your financial needs. The more units you have, the more money you make in rent. With some investigating you can often find a multi-plex for only slightly more than the price of a single-family home. And then you don’t have to pay the mortgage, your tenants do that for you. What could be better?
Check out Real Estate Investing: 6 Pivotal Reasons To Get Started Today
I also include a section on how to afford real estate, even if you don’t have a lot of money saved for a down payment.
Airbnb a room
If you love meeting new people, consider renting a room via Airbnb. This can be a great way to earn a little extra income on your terms. You get to choose who you rent to, and how long they can stay.
Convert a basement or garage and rent it out
If you have some unused space in your home that could be easily converted to a separate unit, that’s some easy money you could be making! Why go buy a whole new multi-plex property when you can convert what you already have?
Move to a cheaper area
This can be a difficult decision, especially if you have a local support network of family and friends. However, if you live in a really high cost of living area, you may be better off moving to a different area. The stress of constantly feeling financially burdened is difficult to bear. There could be better opportunities, for less cost, elsewhere.
Shorten your commute
There was a time that I was paying $400 a month in gas. I also had the car payment and maintenance on top of this. Eventually I moved closer to my work and started utilizing public transportation. My transportation budget went from $800/month to just $150. That’s a huge savings.
Run the numbers and see what you spend in car maintenance and fuel to commute to your work. Then explore how your expenses would change if you relocate closer to your work, sell your car for something cheaper and more fuel efficient, or start commuting via bike or public transportation. A few small changes could make a huge difference.
Negotiate lower bills
This is probably one you are already familiar with, but it often goes overlooked simply because life gets in the way. However, lower your cable, internet and cell phone bill can save you a significant amount of money. Make it a priority, schedule some time in Saturday morning, and see how much money you can save.
Change mobile carrier
I’ve been with AT&T for so long that it never really occurred to me to research other options. That recently changed when I read an article comparing different phone plans and learned just how cheap they have become.
Check out Nerd Wallet’s review of cheapest cell phone plans.
As well as their review of Project FI plans.
Whether you are a single mom by choice or newly divorced with financial assistance, it is hard to make ends meet as a single parent. It’s important to look ahead and determine what your financial goals are and how much money you want to be earning a few years from now. Take this one step at a time. Just as there is no real get rich quick solution out there, it takes time to grow your income.
Once I realized that I needed to further my education in order to earn the income necessary to support myself and my son, I researched a ton of possible options, then narrowed my choices to one program that was local, cheap and fast.
I borrowed the money necessary to get through the year of school and training and minimized my rent by living with family. Once I finished my program, I was able to make a comfortable income, move closer to my son’s school and my work, and begin paying off debt and saving money to invest.
Seeking out a new career path and going back to school was the best decision I could have made. I can’t imagine where I’d be now if I hadn’t made this decision. Look ahead 5-10 years and decide where you want to be and what you want your life to look like. Then plan how you will make that happen.
- Start by understanding your financial needs by tracking your finances and establishing a budget. Find ways to cut your spending down and lower your overall financial needs.
- If you aren’t sure where you want to be 5-10 years from now, visit How To Define Your 10-Year Goals And Live Your Best Life. Go through the process of setting your personal and financial goals for your future.
- Now that you know what you want to accomplish, think about how you will get there. Run the numbers and determine if you can achieve this by staying in your current field or if you need to research other career opportunities.
If you stay in your current field, negotiate a raise or add certifications or training to increase your income.
- If you determine you’re better off with a career change, narrow down your options, keep running numbers and then create your timeline and plan to complete school or training.
- Regardless of income, it’s always helpful to add a side hustle to save or invest extra earning. Research some ways to add extra income.
- Take action. Change is scary and difficult, and life is hard enough as a single mom. But know that action is how you will create the life you want for you and your family.
Take action today by signing up for the FREE Financial Clean House email course! Take control of your finances by learning the exact steps to:
- Track finances
- Set a budget
- Payoff debt
- Calculate your net worth
- Review your retirement plan
- Save more money
- Set your long term financial goals
It Will Get Better says
Love your blog and thank you so much for taking time out to share this very valuable information. Anything for African American women with screwed credit, lost everything car, house etc. no help with two kids, no way of getting back in school because of defaulted loan, no one wants to hire after 1,000 resume submitted, no money to start up anything and poshmark sells are slow. Birthdays, and holidays are coming and still stuck in the same situation. No friends or family to help out. Been praying for two years that things will change for the better but I guess the prayer is falling on dead ears.
Hi there, I’m so sorry to hear how difficult things have been for you. I can hear the pain, frustration and loss of hope in your words. I just want to send a big hug your way. And please, hold onto that belief. It will get better!
Thank you so much for your comment and for reaching out. You have inspired me to gather helpful tools and information specific to your situation, and help many other single moms with similar struggles. I just reached out to a couple recruiters and county job/skills training specialists so I can write new content to help you. I will notify you directly as soon as it’s ready. I will also provide the post link here, to direct others in the future.
All the best, Dawn