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Clarification re: Single Mom Budget

Apparently I don’t always explain things as well as I think I do. Some people have become all out of sorts because they don’t agree with the methods I encourage in the Single Mom Budget (see the first and second parts of the post series).

Allow me to clarify, lest any other panties end up in a wad. (My God, how I loathe the word “panties.” No better way to say it, though.)

As I stated in the comments on one of the posts, this is not the way I budget at this moment. However, when I made the decision to get out of debt, the Single Mom Budget is the way I started.

The Single Mom Budget isn’t for people who have their financial act together. It is for people who, like me in the not-so-distant past, have one income and are drowning in overdraft fees, minimum payments, and the occasional payday loan. It’s for people who have never even thought about budgeting, or those who tried another budgeting system and failed. If you’re missing the most basic pieces of the puzzle, you’ll probably leave the whole damn thing in the box. And that isn’t helping you stop the cycle.

If you don’t think the SMB will work for you, don’t use it. However, if you find value in a system that starts where you are, not where someone else thinks you’re supposed to be, feel free to keep reading the rest of the series.

I haven’t gotten to the posts where we talk about things like saving money and graduating to a more mature budget. Right now all we’ve done is figure out what has to be paid first, start tracking spending, and make small adjustments to spending. Baby steps, as Dave Ramsey says, except I’m definitely no Dave Ramsey.

It’s difficult for me to watch people dismiss this method as unrealistic or not good enough. For me, it was far more realistic than the budgets that assumed I even knew where my money was going, or the ones that told me to put “just $20 a week” in savings when I didn’t even have money to buy groceries. And it was good enough that I can sit here now, with access to more than $3000 cash if I needed it (without using credit cards), when I never had any kind of safety net before in my life. Some people look at that number and think it’s nothing, but for me, it represents two months of barebones living expenses. So I think it’s pretty awesome since I had exactly zero saved 9 months ago.

Like I said, if you don’t think the Single Mom Budget is useful, go find something that works for you and meets your standards. But for those of you who arrived here through a Google search like “can budgets even work for single parents” or “I can’t afford to save” (both actual searches yesterday per Analytics), stick around for awhile. I can’t promise to fix all your financial problems, but I can tell you I know where you’re coming from and what I did to get myself out.

And I can do it without judging you and making you feel an inch tall.

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!


  1. Trish Dauterman says:

    This is very well written.  I especially like the line:  "If you’re missing the most basic pieces of the puzzle, you’ll probably leave the whole damn thing in the box. And that isn’t helping you stop the cycle."  So true!

  2. Sorry for any misunderstandings on my part that may have hurt your feelings. That wasn't, like I said, the intention AT ALL. Personal finance is not a one size fits all solution, you're right. For what it's worth, I did find you via Google and was very confused. After reading other posts by you, I see there is a big difference between where you are now and where it seems you are in the Budget posts you wrote. If you want me to show you exactly what I meant so that maybe it can be polished to improve the confusing bits, I'd be more than happy to do so because I think, after seeing the rest of your site, you offer a lot of valuable information. Here's my email if you want me to show you what I was talking about (ms mutant super model at gmail dot com) but I also understand if you're hurt by what I said and don't really think I could help you in any way. Regardless, I wish you the best of luck because as I keep saying, it is insanely important for Single Moms to have more positive messages floating around there. Good luck to you.

    • I don't want you to think this is a personal vendetta. Your comment was just the icing – for every email I've gotten saying the budget is helpful, I've gotten many others saying I suck. And I just lost it a little. But definitely not against you personally. I subscribe to your blog and love it!

      I'm glad you are willing to express your confusion even if it contributes toward a meltdown on my part. 🙂 Someone who doesn't read the site regularly could take things the wrong way, and I see that. I just want everyone, new or not, to understand where I'm coming from and what I'm trying to accomplish.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Budgets are like diets, they don't fit everyone.  If they did, there would only be one.  The way I budget would only work , if you really understand budgeting.  I spent my entire career on budgeting, planning and other financial stuff.  

  4. I am right now where you were…and I have to say these posts have been helping me.  So keep up the good work & don't let the "naysayers" get you down (I wanted to use another word there – wasn't sure how you felt about swearing). Your posts have met me exactly where I am right now. Thank you.

  5. It sounds like you've suffered a basic blogger dilemma – 500-1000 word posts rarely allow for much context and people's opinions come out without much thought online.  I agree, if somebody doesn't like the SMB, they shouldn't use it.  I'm definitely not but we aren't in need of it either.  🙂

  6. LOL, I hate the word "Panties" too!  But my best friend has a home video of her dad asking her sister when she was three and newly potty-trained: "Claire, do you have something special to tell Grandma?"  And Claire (in her baby voice) said, "GAMMA LOOK!  I VARE PANTIES!!!" 

    Now, that's all I think about and I laugh. 

    I like your post.  I think often times Single Moms are so swamped with LIFE that they don't think they have time to budget (my mom being one of them).  But it's SO IMPORTANT.  I wish more single moms did themselves the favor of taking out the time to do the things you suggest.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to you for writing personal finance advice for a very important portion of the population. You have laid out some very good principles to take positive steps towards a better financial life. There will always be naysayers no matter what you write. It's tough not to take it personally when you are pouring your heart and soul into your writing. But the show must go on!

  8. I thought your Single Mom Budget sounded a lot like my College Student Budget, actually! Or, even more, like my "Crap, I have to move across the country and pay first month's rent with no paycheck for a month" budget. Fortunately, I was always at least a little aware of what to do with my money, but at the most basic level, I think it was sort of the same situation in college: not enough money, too busy/tired to deal, and a bit uninformed about finances in general. (Not that I'm saying my college life was the same as being a single mom, by any means, just that at the most basic level, I can relate)

    Anyway, even as someone who is not single nor a mother, I've enjoyed reading about the SMB, and look forward to the rest 🙂

  9. Alltid Blakk says:

    I struggle to understand why people are upset. Budgeting is all about telling where you money should go. If you're not gonna be honest about it, then it won't work. Basically that's what you're saying. Be honest, pay the absolutely must have like rent. Don't think you can be perfect and cut anything, cos well when life catch up with you, and when it does, you are just gonna fall back into old habits. So prepair for those days as well. If you have to live pay-check to pay-check for a few months so be it. People can live like that for years, you can do it a few months.

    You did however forget the advantage about just being one grown up trying to find what to prioritize. For me, that made all the difference. No one to argue with, no one to sabotage the system for some reason.

    I really can't relate to SAHM, it's not somethig we got in the norwegian culture. But for some reason I don't think you can totally comperera it with a single parent. Yes, you do only have one income, and you're two grown ups. One take care of the home, and the brings home the money. As a single parent you have to do both. However, one less grown up to sustain on one pay-check. For good and for bad.

    Long comment, I think this struck a cord with me too. 🙂 Nice to catch up on you posting Andrea, I've missed your blogging.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I suppose it may be my panties you're worried about… 😉 

    I was just pointing out a few things that I felt were pigeonholed. 

    As for Alltid Blakk, Yes, i'm a SAHM and do have the advantage of time, but surely there are similarities when it comes down to ANY single income when youre speaking of FINANCES. Which is what the post was about. Not who has more time to scrub a toilet.

    I guess since I have a "perfect nuclear family", I should have kept my mouth shut. 

    Sorry if I upset you, Andrea. I do subscribe to your blog & will cheer you on from the sidelines. 😉

    • Alltid Blakk says:

      yes, I do see the similarities, and also there are differences. Some might be easier like time management, but then you got to work together with another grown up. Great if you're on the same page, and if you're not…

      The thing I find the most difficult as a single parent is the time.  When I'm tired and/or stressed I tend to make poor decisions. Not unique, but more likely to happen when you're trying to function as two people.   I think recognizing it and accepting the fact will help people. This is how it is – deal with it in small babysteps.

      I think (but don't know) as a one income household with two adults, time management wouldn't be the biggest hurdle. but you would have to stretch the money a bit longer. After all you would have one more person to feed, and might have hobbies and opinions on what is a "must have" 
      Though I do find it hard to wrap my head around the fact you might not need to pay for smaller children when it comes to daycare. As I said, SAHM is very uncommon for me. Our society are quite different.  (ex paid days off when kids are ill, low daycare prices etc)

      Good discussion though. 

  11. I hate the word panties too.   love the post.

  12. Sunisshining3 says:

    I'm late to the party here, but I have to say that I love the smb advice. It just makes good sense. I've gone through periods where I've had plenty of money (relatively) and periods where I've been scraping to get by, and as someone who's been there, that's exactly how you need to prioritize. Can it get repo'd? If so, that's a priority. Can you get evicted? If so, pay. Childcare – pay it. Food? Buy. Utilities? Yes, pay. Transportation? Pay … everything else … prioritize as necessary. It's easy to get intimidated by traditional "budget advice." This is real-life advice, especially in this economy. Good job.

  13. I just want to say thank you. I read the series, because no other budget would work for me. This has really helped me get on the right track to this whole, single mom, no help except a babysitter kind of living. I'm on my own for the first time in two years and feel like I'm drowning. So again, thank you, thank you, thank you. Let the naysayers be. They have obviously never been in this type of situation, where you need 110% of your income to survive.

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