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Five financial tips for single parents

someone counting dollars

Growing up, I often heard if you want something done well, find the busiest person in the room and ask them. More often than not, that incredible person is a single parent. Single parents are some of the strongest people on this earth and deserve recognition for their hard work and support for their challenges.

Single parenthood is common in our society today. In fact, 24 million children are being raised by single parents (Livingston, 2018a). There are many different reasons why parents choose to be single including death, divorce, or by choice. Single motherhood is fairly prevalent in the United States with 21.4% of children living with only their mother compared to 4.4% of children living with only their father (Anderson, Hemez, & Kreider, 2022).

Research shows that one-fourth of single parents (27%) live below the poverty line (Livingston, 2018a).  Budgets are strained, finding affordable childcare is a hassle, and saving for the future may feel impossible at times for single parents. These financial issues can be extremely stressful on single parents and limit resources, creating emotional and physical challenges for the whole family and individuals within it (Ganong, Coleman, and Russell, 2015).

Despite these challenges, single parents still show up every day for themselves and their children. So, it’s time to provide these amazing parents with the support they deserve by sharing five financial tips:

  1. Housing

Bringing in enough money to support a whole household is a challenge for many single parents. Not only that but daily chores and cleaning can be a time burden for single parents doing everything themselves. One way to ease this issue is to live with friends and family. This is not uncommon as one in four single parents live with their own parents (Livingston, 2018a). Living with a friend who is also a single parent is also an option. Whether it’s a friend or family member, having another adult to contribute to childcare, chores, and even bills can ease the weight of single parenthood.

  1. Child support

While not all single parents are single due to divorce or separation from a partner, a large majority of public resources for single parents focus on child support payments (Cancian and Meyer, 2018). Child support can be an unpredictable source of income that can change from month to month. The U.S. Census Bureau (2018) found that 69.3% of single parents were due to receive child support payments but unfortunately, only 44% receive the full child support payment.  This can create havoc on single parents’ budgets if they cannot rely on child support for financial support.

It may be best for to leave child support out of the budget if your co-parent is not financially reliable. For example, rather than relying on child support to cover housing costs, food, cell phone bills, insurance, and food expenses - use your own income. Use child support to cover non-necessities like TV subscriptions, gifts, travel, and other things your children want.

  1. Childcare

Childcare is expensive, no matter the family structure. But for single-income households, childcare takes a large chunk out of their budget. According to (2021), 85% of families are spending 10% or more of their income on childcare.

There are ways to decrease the cost of childcare like scholarships and tuition waivers for low-income families at childcare centers. You can also reach out to nonprofit childcare centers as some receive grants to help support families with childcare costs. It is worth looking into possible eligibility for tax breaks such as the Child Tax Credit

  1. Credit

Single parents can often struggle with debt and late payments. These financial challenges not only impact their day-to-day budget, but also their credit and future purchases. Buying or renting a home, lending a car, or even securing a loan can be challenging for single parents with poor credit.

To improve your credit score, it is essential to first see what is wrong with it through a copy of your credit report. Make a plan on how to improve it whether that means cutting down on credit cards, making payments on time, or using free credit monitoring services to keep track of your scores.

  1. Budgeting

Finally, it is essential to set up a budget or spending plan. There are many different apps and websites that will help you assign a role to every dollar you earn like gas, food, rent, and bills. These resources can also help you track your expenses to give you an accurate picture on how your money is used and where you can cut back! There are also many resources on budgeting through University of Illinois Extension.

Author: Kayli Worthey, Human Services Programming Administration Graduate Student, Child and Family Life Center Graduate Assistant, Eastern Illinois University


Anderson, L. R., Hemez, P. F., and Kreider, R. M. (2022, February). Living arrangements of children: 2019. United States Census Bureau.

Cancian, M., & Meyer, D.R. (2018). Reforming Policy for Single-Parent Families to Reduce Child Poverty. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4(2), 91-112. (2021, June). This is how much childcare costs in 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from

Ganong, L., Coleman, M., and Russell, L.T. (2015). Children in Diverse Families. In Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science, R.M. Lerner (Ed.).

Livingston, G. (2018a, April). Facts on unmarried parents in the U.S. Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from

Livingston, G. (2018b, April). About one-third of U.S. children are living with an unmarried parent. Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from

United States Census Bureau. (2018). 44 Percent of Custodial Parents Receive the Full Amount of Child Support. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from