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Good budgeting key for single parents

Whether a parent in Maryland started out as a single parent or wound up that way as a result of divorce or death, having exclusive child custody means having to make all the decisions on your own. It also means stretching the money available, whether from work, child support or both, to make it to the end of the month. With a little luck there is something to put away for your children's education or an emergency, such as an illness or needed repairs on a car.

As a result, intelligent budgeting is an absolute necessity. There are statistical estimates that some middle income couples spend as much as $241,080 to raise a child from birth to age 18, a burden that can be very difficult for a single parent to bear. Some corner cutting seems almost inevitable, so it is vital to sort out what is really a necessity and what may have to be put on hold when it comes to expenditures.

It is important not to let yourself become overwhelmed. Start out by listing all monthly fixed expenses. If there are bills that come due every three months or some other time period, it is a good idea to divide it by month, and set the funds aside every month in order not to take a big hit in a single month. It is essential to plan how to pay bills on time to try to maintain credit so that credit cards are available for emergencies.

At the same time, relying on credit cards to pay ordinary monthly bills is no good, and mounting interest on minimum credit card payments can quickly put a single parent in the hole and lead to financial ruin. Having some cushion of savings is also essential, as you can count on some unexpected expenses to crop up. Often, the family lawyer who handled your divorce, your deceased spouse's estate, or your child custody or support case may have budgeting tips or be able to recommend a good financial adviser.

U.S. News, "The Best Budgeting Strategies for Single Parents" Geoff Williams, Oct. 17, 2013

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