Financial Tips for Single Parents from a Banker (and a Mom Who’s Been There)

Financial Tips for Single Parents from a Banker (and a Mom Who’s Been There)
By: Beth Ireland Last Updated: February 27, 2020

When you’re a single parent, financial decisions loom even larger in your life. Stephany Leonard, Teachers Credit Union’s Valparaiso Service Center Manager, has been there. With her professional expertise and personal experience, Leonard offers tips for single parents to find financial success.

“Give your finances the attention they deserve,” she said. “Money affects your mental health, the stress level in your house, and your ability to make wise decisions about everything else in your life. And the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to make financial progress.”

Leonard recommends single parents take the time to think about and plan for the future and to have faith in your dreams and aspirations.

“It’s easy to focus on just getting through each day,” Leonard said. “But if you want to improve your life and your finances, you need to set goals and focus on reaching them.”

Following these tips is a great way to achieve the peace of mind and self-assurance that comes from knowing you’re on the road to financial independence and security.

Set up a budget

As a single parent, the first and most important step is to set up a monthly budget and follow it.

“If you are stressed about your money, chances are you are financially unorganized,” Leonard said. “That’s where a household budget can help — to document how much you take in, how much you pay out, and to provide clues as to how you can stretch your dollars a little further.”

Leonard said TCU offers a free monthly budgeting calculator to give you a better view of your monthly finances.

Live within your means

Once you have a set budget, prioritize your needs over your wants.

“Successful single moms do not replicate their neighbors’ two-parent lives,” Leonard said. “Instead, they build their own lives on their own terms and within their own means.”

Living within your means can feel challenging, especially when it comes to spending time with your children. Finding creative ways to have fun on a budget builds your relationships and models habits to help your children prepare for a healthy financial future.

“Be unique when it comes to family fun,” Leonard said. “It doesn’t have to always revolve around something expensive. For example, many communities offer no-cost festivals and other events.”

Save for the future

For your own mental well-being, make sure you save for those rainy days.

“Because there is just one earner in your family, it’s especially important to live within your means, pay down debt, and save for emergencies,” Leonard said. “Many of us know the importance of saving but can struggle to do it. One of the best ways to start saving is to make it automatic.”

TCU members, for example, can opt into Everyday Savings where every purchase made with a debit card is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred to a savings account.

“A few cents here and there is a good way to start building a cushion,” Leonard said. “And TCU’s checking accounts, for example, offer cashback for certain debit card transactions which also add up to savings over time.”

Plan for the future

Planning for a solid retirement is important for everyone, and more so for the single parent.

“Get serious about retirement planning and take advantage of any investment benefits offered by an employer. Also, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice about investment strategies,” Leonard said. “It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. At TCU, you can meet with one of our financial planners free of charge.”

Another excellent tip is to investigate life insurance to provide for your family should anything happen to you.

“I understand the hesitance, it’s one more monthly expense in an often very tight budget,” she said. “However, there may be no one else to take care of your children financially if you’re gone. A life insurance death benefit would make sure there is money to pay for continuing education and so on.”

With the help of Leonard and other TCU financial experts, any single parent can set their family up for a healthy financial future.

To find out more on how you can start off on a firm financial path, stop in at any TCU service center today, or visit