Saving at any stage of life can be a real challenge, but saving as a single parent comes with its own unique hurdles. Between the high costs of childcare, growing household expenses and a real shortage of time with less income, it can sometimes feel impossible to find spare money to put aside.
Whether you’re on your own, or sharing the expenses and savings across separate households with another parent, money has to stretch a little further when you’re raising kids by yourself. And with the rising costs of education, savvy singles know that the more we put away today, the better prepared we’ll be to support our kids’ education down the road.
The good news for all of us is that less spending and more saving can always be done, no matter what your parenting arrangement or budget is like. Some or all of the following savings strategies can help.
Making a realistic budget is a necessary first step to any savings plan worth its salt. Figuring out your monthly expenses and the income you have to pay for them will quickly show you where you might need to cut back – and where there is a little wiggle room to put away for rainy day funds and future education savings like RESPs.
If you’re separated or divorced, there are likely some spousal and child support payments that will need to be factored into your budget, and also changes in the amount of tax benefits you quality for. Talking to your financial advisor or consultant can help you gain control and confidence over your new budget and savings goals.
From how you shop for groceries to how you budget for vacation – even tackling DIY birthday parties and gifts – single parents are adept at being pretty creative about how they save and spend.
It’s also more important than ever to find your village – the friends and family that you can lean on and lend a hand to in turn. It can be nice to team up with other families to share in the cost and the fun of joint birthday and holiday parties, carpooling, babysitting and even monthly dinners.
The money you can save by spending less with more creativity can add up to considerable savings for your child’s future education savings.
Top up your savings with grants
A key feature of RESPs that can benefit all parents is the access they provide to government grants: the Canadian and provincial governments offer incentives to save towards post-secondary education in the form of grants.
It’s worth talking to your financial advisor or consultant about how to apply and take advantage of these grants – the more you can top up your RESPs today, the more you’ll save in the long run.
Some parents take up side gigs to earn a little extra money to pad the budget and put some away into savings – an especially useful strategy for single parents on a budget.
From investing in real estate to direct-sales and at-home businesses, there are plenty of creative ways to add a little extra income into your spending and savings plan.
Single parents often also qualify for more tax benefits, and sometimes even higher amounts of the federal Canada Child Benefit. These types of tax relief and tax-free extra income can help boost your bottom line and give you the extra money for regular savings.
How you save is just as important as how much: whether you like to put a designated amount of money aside from every paycheque, or make an annual lump-sum deposit after tax returns, holiday gifts or work bonuses, finding a method that lets you save up while still living well is key.
At the end of the day, the best thing single parents can do to prepare for their kids’ future education is to start saving early – the more you can put away now, the easier it will be to help cover the costs of your children’s post-secondary education down the road.