'It all starts with a plan': top saving tips for single parents during the lockdown

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"Here are top tips for single moms to help them take control of their money." Photo: Robyn Edwards.
"Here are top tips for single moms to help them take control of their money." Photo: Robyn Edwards.

At least 2.8 million people lost their jobs in South Africa during the hard Covid-19 lockdown, the National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile survey revealed.

And with the pandemic being an ongoing uncertainty, there's no telling when many people will bounce back from financial setbacks. 

But there are ways to cope, says Robyn Edwards, a single parent and marketing manager at Metropolitan. 

Edwards spoke to News24 about ways that single parents can take back control of their money.

This is one article in a series on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on ordinary South African families. Find the full series here: Behind the Mask

Read: Local couples reveal how they share their finances

Make lifestyle changes

"My advice would be to look at where you can make lifestyle changes that will help you to recover," says Edwards.

She recommends asking yourself things like: 

  • What are the things I can do without?
  • Where are the areas where I can save?
  • What are the things I can do to stretch my rand? Bulk shopping? Looking for deals and specials?

"Once you have identified these areas where you can cut back, put your plan into place. Yes, things will be tight for a while and you will need to be disciplined, but it will be worth it when you are back on your feet and in control of your finances," she told News24.

Edwards believes that once parents start with precision budgeting, as explained above, it will be easier for them to see what they can contribute towards a savings plan.

During the lockdown, she managed to save by taking the money that she could have used to buy extra new clothes for herself and her son, and channelling it towards her savings account for rainy days.

"I was very fortunate that I didn't lose my income, but that is never a guarantee with our current economy, and so my savings goals shifted to making sure that I have a contingency fund should I lose my income," says Edwards.

Must read: 'Life is more than settling debt': How to teach your kids the value of money and saving

Savings plans

"It all starts with a plan. As a single mom with a lot on your plate, there is probably not much anyone can teach you about multi-tasking, ball-juggling, or planning with military precision," Edwards says. 

"All you need to do is to apply that same focus to your finances". 

Edwards says there are several policies and savings vehicles available with smaller monthly contribution requirements, which will allow you to securely put money away while benefitting from the power of compound interest. 

She stresses that it's important to view these contributions as part of your monthly budget - consider them a non-negotiable "expense".

"For a long-term savings goal, such as retirement, I would recommend you try and put something extra into your existing retirement plan wherever you can - with the cost of living increasing the way it is, this is always a good idea," recommends Edwards.

"For short-term savings goals, I would suggest joining a stokvel as well as having a monthly debit order that goes off the same day your salary is paid, into a separate savings account. However, I will caution that you must be very clear and disciplined with what qualifies as a short-term savings goal," says Edwards

An excellent option for a plan is one that "offers increased flexibility so that you can access a portion of funds in the event of an emergency, while the long-term component keeps your money secure and [is] able to earn interest," says Edwards.

Also read: 'Focus on time, not money': How to have a holly, jolly frugal festive with your family this year

Focus on time over gifts

As a mom, there's no doubt that you want to give your child the best in life - and this extends to material possessions too. But it is not always possible to buy that new toy or outfit - and even if you can afford to, you shouldn't necessarily do so, says Edwards.

Instead, she suggests focusing on the quality time you spend with your child. "When your child is grown, they probably won't remember what you spent on them, but they will remember the love you gave them and the special times they had with you."

Edwards suggests putting away money you would spend on nice-to-haves and saving it towards your child's education because this will make a difference in your child's life.

She believes that the effort we make in finances will make all the difference, and recommends that single parents try to upskill themselves. 

"There are lots of online resources, podcasts and financial courses out there that will help you understand important financial concepts and get a handle on your finances," says Edward.

It also helps to chat to a knowledgeable family member or friend, or contact a financial adviser, who can help you manage your money.

Read the full series here: Behind the Mask


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