How to survive on one income

Stacks of pounds coinsFirst, the bad news: being a single parent increases your propensity to be poor. In Britain, more than half of all lone-parent households are poor, and lone-parent households, as we all know, tend to be headed by women.

The trouble is, there's a lot stacked against a female lone parent. She can't afford not to work, but she can't invest the time in her job that other employees often can. There's no at-home partner to take the slack when things are tough in the workplace, so it's often very difficult for her to pitch in when pitching in is what's going to get you a bigger pay packet, or speedy promotion.

So surviving on one income is harder when it's a lone parent's income, rather than one income in a two-parent family, because while working and raising a child is always back-breaking, it's even more back-breaking when you arrive home to find you're on duty there, too - the whole time.

But on the upside, it doesn't necessarily follow that you'll be worse off.

"I am a single parent with three children and actually find I am better off now than when I was with my husband, as he contributes towards the children/childcare/mortgage so I actually have more disposable income than I did when I was with him." Bumblelion

And you're on the path to financial autonomy - and in some situations that can be literally priceless.

So how to make things easier to manage financially on one income? Mumsnetters suggest:

  1. How about sharing a house with another single parent and her kids? This is a bold suggestion which has had fantastic support on the Mumsnet Talk boards. The idea is that you can help one another out with childcare, and your children will have friends.
  2. Rent out a room in your house if there's a spare room (and if your ex-partner has moved out, the house might suddenly feel a lot more spacious). Under the government's 'rent a room' scheme, you can receive up to £4,250 a year from a lodger without paying tax. Talk to your mortgage provider before taking on a tenant, though, and make sure you update your household insurance. 
  3. Budgeting is essential. If you've not done it before, start now. Work out what's coming in each week or month, and how much you are spending each week or month. If there's a surplus, great; if there's a shortfall, you need to reduce your spending (or increase your income). Neither will be easy, but the worst of all worlds is to ignore the problem. Mumsnet Talk abounds with threads detailing how to survive on different budgets - get searching or start a new thread asking for help. 
  4. Be organised about bills: know when to expect them so that you can factor them into your budget. If you can't pay, contact the company involved straight away so you can talk about having a 'payment holiday' or deferring the payment.
  5. Be clear about which bills matter most, and prioritise accordingly. Not paying your rent or mortgage could result in you not having a home, so that's a priority; not paying council tax, hire purchase agreements, child maintenance, tax and a TV licence can result in legal action, so they're all priorities, too.
  6. Resist impulse buying: buy things when you need them or can afford them, but don't make the mistake of thinking that because you're in a single-parent family, your children 'deserve' more things. They don't, though they do need more of your time and love to reassure them that things are OK. 
  7. "I'm a single parent, work for myself, and don't run out of money. The secret is careful budgeting and I rarely buy new. But we don't want for anything." OverMyDeadBody


Disclaimer: Any content in our family money section is intended as general information only. For specific advice about your personal financial situation, get advice from qualified, independent regulated professionals.

Last updated: over 1 year ago