How to be a supermom or dad on a single income

“People think that budgeting has to be a complicated and time-consuming process."
“People think that budgeting has to be a complicated and time-consuming process."

Parenting is tough, parenting alone is even tougher, and if you're one of the 54% of South African mothers who classify themselves as single, it's likely that you're raising the next generation on a single income.

According to research from Old Mutual’s 2019 Savings and Investment Monitor only 20% of these single mother's say they regularly get financial support from the father, 29% say "every now and then", and 50% never get financial support.

While single mom's make up the majority of single income families, there are plenty of dad's out there going it alone too.

Must read: Black single fathers: a forgotten, but ever-present phenomenon

However, South African women earn significantly less than their male counterparts and those without matric are even more vulnerable to pay-discrimination, with an average pay gap of 33%. An education isn't a guarantee of equality, as women with degrees also experience this inequality, and generally start off earning 5% less than their male counterparts.

Watch Karabo Ramookho, Strategic Retail Marketing Manager at Old Mutual, discuss the topic here:

So how can single parents make their money stretch while also raising financially savvy kids through setting the right example?

A number of concessions apply in South Africa, such as the 2018 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that single parents may have their application for exemption of school fees assessed on their own financial situation, and not on their and their child's other parent's combined income.

Karabo Ramookho, Strategic Retail Marketing Manager at Old Mutual, provided us with her top tips for single parents:

Set a budget

At the core of great financial planning sits a budget, and no one understands the importance of having and sticking to a set budget better than a parent, says Ramookho. 

"People think that budgeting has to be a complicated and time-consuming process, but there’s a vast array of apps that you can use, like 22Seven, that can make your life easier," she says.

Get excited

Another helpful hint is setting savings goals that both you and your children can get excited about, and to be clear and precise about what your goals are and give them timelines.

"Knowing what you are budgeting for helps you to stay focused, giving you the right motivation when deciding what expenses to cut," says Ramookho.

Include the kids 

Ramookho also recommends including your children in the process.

"When you involve your children in your financial journey, it helps them to understand the bigger picture," she says. 

"While they do not have to know all the details of your income and spend, introducing them to the basics from a young age can provide them with the tools they will need when they become adults."

Also see: School fee exemptions made easier for single parents

Find a partner 

Partnering with a qualified financial adviser can be hugely beneficial, she suggests.

"In the same way that your kids have coaches for sports and other extracurricular activities, it is essential for moms to enlist the services of an accredited financial adviser who will coach them towards their desired financial future."

‘Pay yourself first’

Adopting a few basic principles will also help set you up for the future you want.

"We have a saying at Old Mutual which is ‘Pay yourself first’. As a sole provider, it’s important to protect yourself and your ability to generate an income, as well as provide for life after retirement, and for your dependants."

According to Ramookho, a comprehensive financial plan for a single parent should include the following: a retirement plan; a risk plan that will pay out should you be unable to work due to illness or disability; cover that will pay out to your dependants should you pass on; and savings for education, emergencies and other goals such as holidays.

Prepare for the worst

It is also vital to have a will in place that clearly states how you would like your estate to be handled, who should act as a guardian for your children and other wishes that you would like to be followed in your absence.

Sometimes, the best laid plans (or budgets) can get knocked off course by an unexpected school activity for the kids or an emergency dental procedure, Ramookho says. At times like these, your credit card may seem like a quick solution.

"If you find yourself taking on debt to service monthly expenses or meet short term obligations such as emergency expenses, make a series of conscious decisions along the way to reduce your expenditure and channel even the smallest savings towards paying off credit cards or personal loans as soon as possible," she concludes.

Chat back:

Share your money saving tips with us, and we could publish your story. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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Read more:

7 tips to feed your kids healthily on a tight budget, with 4 yummy snack recipes

OPINION: What the 2019 Budget means for education, child grants and your family’s wellbeing

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