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How to support your family on a single income

Creating a family budget on a single income can be a challenge, but these simple steps will maximize your money.

6 min read

Being a parent or guardian can be very rewarding, but it can also be challenging—especially for families with one income. But a limited budget doesn’t mean you have to limit your life. Taking control of your spending may seem daunting, but we’ve got some simple steps to help you tackle your finances. Read below to see how to support your family on one salary.

Why you should budget on a single income 

A budget helps you set spending limits and feel empowered by your money, especially when finances are tight. As a single income family, creating a budget can help you with monthly planning, hitting saving goals, or repaying debts. Getting in the habit of reviewing your budget will help you see how you're spending money and then plan on how to make it go further or where you may need to cut back.

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Tips to get the most out of your single income

Before you look into how to budget your current income, it’s worth checking if you can increase your earnings. Follow these quick tips to see whether you can grow your net income: 

  • Review benefits that may be available to you—there are many different benefits available these days, so make sure you’re claiming the ones you and your family may be entitled to. This could include grants toward household bills, disability allowances, or help with childcare fees. Check out your local government resources to see what support may be available where you live. 
  • Consider early debt repayments—review how much your debts, such as credit cards or student loans, are costing you. Paying off debts sooner will not only improve your credit rating, but will free up money that was going toward interest payments.
  • Make the most of your savings—any savings is a great start and growing your funds will set you up for a better future. Look for comparison websites that will help you find saving accounts with the best interest rates and you could even consider investment options such as purchasing funds or stocks. 

3 steps to creating your one income budget

1. Make a list of all monthly costs 

Making a list of all your monthly costs doesn’t need to be hard, so get started by sitting down and reviewing your spending each month. You can either track your debit and credit card purchases online or review your receipts. Think about a few main spending categories:

  • Essential costs can include rent payments, childcare, healthcare, grocery trips, and car expenses. This could also include utility bills, internet tariffs, insurance policies, and taxes. 
  • Entertainment spending you and the kids are used to, such as trips to the movies or eating out. 
  • One-off costs that have occurred over the past 12 months. These are often unexpected costs, so you’ll want to factor in some cushion, such as an emergency fund, in your budget. 

2. Break down your budget 

A great way to analyze your spending is to apply the 50/30/20 split rule: 

  • 50% of your salary should be reserved for everyday needs 
  • 30% for additional treats and entertainment
  • 20% goes into savings

Using your list from step 1, see how your monthly expenses compare to each of these 3 categories. If your costs are much different than the 50/30/20 split, it’s time to reconsider your spending habits. Review the needs category and see if there are any areas you can move into treats/entertainment, such as shopping items. 

Unsure where to start? Go for a bank that does it for you—with N26 Insights you can easily understand your spending because all transactions are categorized to give you an overview of exactly where your money is going.

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Different N26 spaces to save money.

3. See where you can streamline

As a one income family, it may seem like there’s no room to save, but often a handful of small changes can make a big impact. Try our tips on how to reduce your costs quickly and easily:

  • Services and Utilities—check your current payments to see if you’ve automatically switched over to a higher rate and, if so, use comparison sites to check for lower rates. Find out when your other contracts are ending so you can set reminders to shop around for a good deal when the time comes.
  • Transportation—if you commute to work by public transport, check to see if it’s cheaper to buy a monthly pass. And if it’s not too far, you could consider walking or biking to save money and stay fit! Using a car comes with it’s own set of costs, so shop around for better insurance deals. You could also consider upgrading your car to a newer, more fuel-efficient model, if your budget permits.
  • Shopping—a treat from time to time is deserved, but before you head out, make a list of the things you need to help you avoid any impulse purchases. Online shopping is also great for finding the best price across multiple stores.
  • Fitness—if you haven’t used your gym for 6 months, chances are you won’t get back there anytime soon, so cancel your membership. As an alternative, jogging is excellent for your health, completely free, and you can start at any level.
  • Entertainment—getting out and about with the kids is great for their development and it doesn’t need to be expensive. Look into free activities near you such as art galleries, nature walks, or museums.

Budgeting can take some research, but that time and effort will pay off later.

Now that you have a clear plan for building your savings, you’ll need a bank that helps you make the most of it. With N26 Spaces you can get up to 10 sub-accounts to help you organize and achieve your saving goals. You can even name each space to help track your goals, and set up Rules—or automatic transfers—between spaces and your main account to make savings a cinch.

Seeking help during tough times

Running a household and raising kids is a big task for any family and when you’re managing a single salary you may sometimes run into financial challenges. But you’re not alone–there are ways to find help. First things first, reach out to your financial institutions and see if they’re able to support you, like lowering your monthly debt repayments. Then check for other local programs that help struggling families during difficult times to see what may be available to you and your family. 

And although it can be challenging, if you’re under financial pressure try reaching out to those closest to you. Sharing your situation with friends and family can be a great stress reliever, and they may be able to support you with advice or even financial help. 

Check out our guide here for saving in tricky times.

N26 Instant Savings

Earn interest on all your savings and instantly withdraw anytime — with no conditions
Savings Account.

Your money at N26

For single parents or guardians living on one salary, it’s important to get the most out of your bank. With N26 savings account, you can receive instant push notifications for transactions, so you can track your money at all times. You can also keep your budget under control with daily spending and withdrawal limits, set directly within the N26 app. See all N26 budgeting features

When it comes to budgeting for activities and trips for your family, N26 goes even further by supporting your savings goals with N26 Perks. All N26 accounts include exciting offers from our partner brands—ranging from travel to education to entertainment—so you can get a great deal and still stay within your budget.

Can you live comfortably off one income?

Living off one income can be challenging—however it’s possible with some planning. This can mean managing your spending habits and thinking about where you can make changes. If you can reduce your living costs and create a family budget, you should be able to live comfortably and still add to your savings.

Why should I create a budget as a single parent?

Being a single parent likely means that managing the household budget falls on you. If it’s sometimes difficult to make your money stretch, creating and sticking to a budget could relieve some of the financial pressure. This can be achieved by organizing your spending and detailing how your salary is divided up. A realistic budget can help you and your kids live a comfortable lifestyle and give you piece of mind.

What resources can I use to create a single income budget?

There are lots of ways to create budgets, from online calculators to excel worksheets. In a digital world, one way to budget is using an app on your smartphone. These are equipped with savings features that can streamline your spending, through push-notifications and regular transfer set-ups. View our recommended budgeting apps here. They can also act as a daily money dashboard for you to regularly review spending. N26 accounts offer a wealth of budgeting features to give you an overview of exactly where your finances are going—from setting daily spend limits to categorizing all your spending.

How do I discuss my single salary budget with my kids?

Being open and honest with children about your finances is a great idea. Having these conversations help show kids how important it is to manage money. Make it as fun and engaging as possible, creating games so they can understand how budgeting works and how it may affect your family’s lifestyle.

What financial help can I get as a single parent?

Managing a budget on a single income can be difficult, which is why governments often offer benefits and tax breaks for single parent families. Check your local government resources to see what benefits may be available for you. They often include tax credits, childcare support, or food vouchers. It’s a good idea to check in regularly too, as they often change. Also research local non-government programs because they also offer support for families with financial difficulties.

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