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Tips for a single mom: How to budget and save your money

Being a single mom is tough - you have to look after your child's well-being, your career and finances, all the while trying to stay sane. Read this for financial tips.

single mom Image for illustration purposes only.

Single parents are amazing multitaskers: Juggling a kid, finances, and a career is tough even with a partner, but you do what you have to do to be the best parent you can be. As many parents - single or otherwise - will say: having a child changes your outlook on things and makes you reevaluate your priorities.

Among those priorities is making sure that your child is provided for and making sure you always have enough. We talked to Manila-based entrepreneur, musical buff, and single mom Nica about how she worked around budgeting and saving.

Budgeting and saving are unique processes

“Single parents―I don’t want to discount single dads―have unique needs. That’s the first thing you need to understand,” she said. The challenges of parenting differ between single-parent incomes and dual-parent incomes. While there are plenty of ways to budget one’s funds and ensure that they have enough for everything, the budgeting and saving process is unique to every parent and his or her income.

Some may choose to go fully digital, using apps on their phone or tables on their computers; others will go the old school route and do books.

On saving

single mom Image for illustration purposes only.

“I used Excel,” Nica shares, “I liked being able to see it and plan around what I had. It was a challenge in the sense mostly that I would peek at it every so often and think: ‘how do I save more?’”

She goes on to say that learning to save is a habit that one needs to form, that even the small amounts will add up to something substantial once it’s become a habit to tuck away cash from a paycheck. Having a goal in mind is especially helpful, given that you’ll know what you’re putting your money towards.

“My first goal was to ensure that my daughter had her future secured, even in the beginning, so when I had enough, I invested in bonds. After that, I put some of my savings into other investments, and a business I run with my siblings.” She stresses that having goals will focus on how you save and eventually build funds for whatever you might need. Once a goal has been achieved, you move on to the next one, and you learn to compartmentalize each of your saving goals.

There’s also a need to have a savings fund to dip into for emergencies, she says. She also places importance on having your kids declared as dependents on your healthcare, and that includes PhilHealth, as it cuts back on costs.

She says that this is especially important when there are certain chronic factors in play. You never know when you might have to make a trip to the emergency room because your child is having an asthma attack, or if they contract any other sicknesses. “It helps to be prepared.”

Staying on budget

single mom Image for illustration purposes only.

“The trick to budgeting is to put the bills first―after savings―after all, you can’t spend what you really don’t have. Like I said when I started planning things―my budget, savings, all of it went to an excel file that I could check at any given time. That was 30% on bills, 40% on our basic needs, and 15% savings. The rest went to investments.”

She says the program was the most reliable at the time, seeing as smartphones and finance-tracking apps weren’t in vogue yet. Being able to see where she was putting her money also allowed her to be more focused at everything she was doing.

“It’s all about knowing what you want to do, really, and factoring in that you’ve got a life other than your own to care for.”

Being able to stay on budget isn’t easy, especially when transitioning from having to take care of only yourself to also taking care of a child. A lot of luxuries go out the window, or get cut to lesser things.

“My idea of a nice weekend became being able to relax and watch cartoons with my daughter, as opposed to going out to have drinks with friends,” shares Nica, who also posits that a social life is still possible on a budget, albeit maybe on a lesser scale. She was lucky enough to have a support system. “My family was there for me all the time. They helped me―not in the monetary sense, not always―but they were there for us, and that was what mattered.”

Having a strong support system also helps when it comes to living on a particular budget. As a child grows, she said, they’ll have questions and wants and needs that may not fit into the budget. “When she was older, I began to explain that we couldn’t always get her the toys or the things that she wanted immediately. It helps when you talk to them about these things.”

She went on to express that it never hurts to start a child’s financial education early. Nica says she would eventually set aside a small amount in the budget for minor things that her daughter would like to have, like crayons or a certain small toy. Budgeting gets easier as the kids get older, it really is when they’re babies that it’s a little difficult, she says. “Between immunizations and diapers and food, it was tough, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

single mom Image for illustration purposes only.

Her final piece of advice to single parents is to have a contingency plan. “The future can be uncertain. I talked to my family about what we’d do in case I pass away prematurely.”

She said that making plans like that is a difficult conversation to have, but one that needs to be had. Remember always that it’s your child’s future that you need to plan for, the one thing that you always need to have in mind as you do what you do.

“The life you bring into the world is a gift. As much as you teach them, you also learn from them. While I may have already known to budget and save, it is a very different thing when I was doing it for me, and when I was doing it for her. I suppose that’s the most important thing to remember: ‘I’m doing this for her.’”

This article was written for The Asian Parent by MoneyMax, the Philippines’ leading comparison portal for insurance, loans, and other financial products. Learn more at

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