Single Minded Moms: Single Mom Meets Budget

By Jessica Pegis

Single Moms, do you know where your money goes every month? I don’t. But I’d like to. Instead, it seems like the last expenditure always pushes the needle to empty before we fill up with new dollars and start all over again.

Lately, though, it seems like our expenses invariably expand to match the money we have. But hold on a minute there! If my daughter Simone and I can get by on X amount of dollars one month, why do we need Y dollars the next month?

So I’m about to embark on a budgeting journey,  and I hope you’ll come along for the ride. I want to know where my bucks go, and how to stretch and save them. I’m a single mom who is prepared to cut out some things and even more prepared to save for those things Simone and I really need and want (oh, yeah).

And those bills? They need to be zapped. Does “the best service for the lowest rate” sound good to you? Does to me too.

So let’s start with what this column won’t be.

It won’t be written by a financial expert.

It won’t assume that budgeting “ought” to be at the top of everyone’s To Do list.

It won’t make you get fancy with a spreadsheet.

It will chronicle my personal journey through better money management–one I have never taken before. (And since I was walking and talking when the Beatles did their first North American tour, that’ll give you an idea of how many years we’re dealing with.) You’ll watch me stumble. You may even see a tantrum or two as I attempt to trim our grocery bill through the miracle of comparison shopping.

In the end, I hope this will be a journey we share with each other. I’d like to hear about your experiences with budgeting, especially if you’re a novice like me.

Who am I? A single mom and self-employed writer and editor. One child, 11-year-old Simone. We feed and water two pussycats plus Candy the hamster. This is our fourth year in expensive downtown Toronto, where we wish to stay.

I earn a nice income, but some of my fixed expenses are high, such as downtown rent and Canadian income tax. We drive no car and rely on public transportation. Our biggest luxuries are movies, the National Ballet, and eating out. Our major expenses are rent, phone, internet, cable, insurance, medications for Simone’s asthma and allergies, and orthodontia. As a self-employed person I have no company benefits but we do enjoy beautiful free health care provided by Canada.

So that’s us. The Single Mom Meets Budget column will be your window on our progress in the upcoming months. Some days, it’ll be baby steps, but I do promise complete candor and all the forensic zeal I can apply to the question: Where did the money go? To make the journey more fun, I’ve even got a little red book for taking notes, making lists, and storing receipts for reviewing.

You know, money has never impressed me much. I’ve freelanced most of my life. I’ve saved and spent; I’ve loaned and taken loans. Fifteen minutes is my maximum time expenditure for locating the best price point. Working till I die? Perfectly OK (as a writer, I probably will).

But when you’re a single parent, one day it hits you: you need to make that money work better and harder for you and your child.

So let’s make it official. Budgeting is no longer a bad word. We can do it, and we can help each other too.

Next installment: Dumping Your Phone Company

What are some things you’ve done to try and stick to a budget on a single mom’s salary? Leave your suggestions or comments below.

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