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.

How Bankruptcy Works

Bankruptcy is one of those topics no one wants to think about. Admitting you can’t pay your bills kind of sucks, especially if you live in the US, where we are taught from birth that it’s our duty to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and contribute to society. We know we’re supposed to pay back what we owe, and that’s the way it should be. But what happens when you just can’t handle all your expenses and don’t know how else to fix it?

Despite our best intentions, sometimes bankruptcy is the only way out of a bad situation. I filed for Chapter 7 in 2006 after my overspending, inability to find a job, and stupid choices caught up with me. There was no way I was going to ask my friends or family for advice - I knew none of them had ever dealt with something so embarrassing. (I was actually wrong about that one. Plenty of people have filed bankruptcy; they just don’t talk about it.) While I found a lot of good information online, I also found a lot of BS that made me more ashamed and scared than I already felt.

I’m far enough beyond my bankruptcy to stop feeling ashamed of it. Was it a great moment in my life? Of course not. But I refuse to let fear or embarrassment keep me from using what I know to help other people. If you want to know exactly what steps you need to take to file for bankruptcy protection, you’ve come to the right place.

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Tracking and Adjusting the Single Mom Budget

This post is the second in a three-part series on budgeting for single moms (and dads!). Our needs are different from those of the general population, so I think we need budgeting advice that reflects those differences. If you missed the first post, you can read it here. Check back for the next part of the series coming soon!

Last week I introduced the Single Mom Budget - a system that prioritizes spending according to a single mom’s lifestyle instead of one geared toward married couples. If you’re following along at home, you should have a budget that accounts for the following (in order):

  1. Food
  2. Shelter
  3. Clothing
  4. Transportation
  5. TV and internet
  6. Debt
  7. Everything else

Now, onto the fun part! (sarcasm)

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