When I was first getting my financial act together
I read a lot of articles about money management. All of the articles from the biggest websites and media companies said basically the same thing: stop spending so much, invest in the stock market, and pay off debt. They were generally pretty vague and assumed a base level of income that I wasn’t at. So, they were helpful only up until a point.
At the same time, I was reading a lot of personal finance blogs. Blog tended to have more details and a personal bent. The stories are more ‘here’s how we paid off our mortgage’, and ‘here’s what we invest our money in.’ While these were way more helpful than the other articles I was reading, something else caught my eye- most personal finance bloggers were in a relationship and sharing money.
There are very few single female personal finance bloggers. It can be weirdly difficult to find advice on handling money as a single woman.
I’ve been in a heteronormative relationship since 2014, but we don’t share money. I’m financially single, and it’s had a huge impact on my finances. Since not everyone is in a relationship, let alone a straight relationship, I wanted to talk to some women who are single and thus handling their finances entirely by themselves.
Being single means totally different things for your money than when you’re in a relationship. There’s no one there to pick up the slack, and there’s no one else to call the credit card company when there’s a mistake. You don’t have to share info or money with anyone, and you never have to compromise with someone on finances.
I believe there are different financial rules for men and women
(thanks to the patriarchy), and I believe the same thing goes for single people vs people in a relationship. The circumstances are different, so therefore the actions are different. Handling money as a single woman is a unique situation, and needs unique advice.
All The Single Ladies
I asked two women are who single and have no children, and one single mother to share how they manage their money so we can all bask in their wisdom.
How do you handle your money as a single woman?
: I don’t have a system, really. Just the incredible power to wake up and spend my money however I please. I keep an eye on my spending, and I try to eat at home more, and pack my lunches, because my takeout spending can be CRAZY.
I do tend to keep a larger emergency fund. There have been times in my life that I have had to suffer in a terrible situation at a job because I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I had so much debt! I had no savings! There were no other means of support. So, I amassed a nice cushion, and I’m actively working to grow it now. I seriously want $100,000 in an old-fashioned savings account – one that doesn’t fluctuate with the market. I like my workplace now, but I still want that cushion. It’s good padding against unwanted circumstances.
I would like to add that I don’t know if I do anything different from any single dude who manages their own money, except I buy bras and pink razors and necessities for my tough monthly lady days.
The Lady in Black
: My system is probably not drastically different from anyone else’s (including the married folks). However, how I think about the various line items may differ. As a divorced, single mom, I don’t have the luxury of a safety net.
No one’s there to help out. I am solely responsible for the well-being of myself and my child. While this is empowering, it’s also terrifying. I learned the hard way that the only way to manage my money properly was to make it work for me. And for now, my priority is saving
for anything and everything. HSA, emergency funds, vacation savings, camp tuition, school shopping, life insurance, etc.
C (aka The Single Dollar)
: I am extra-attentive to maintaining my large network of friends, because I need them! So I allocate more of my money to them — mostly in the form of paying to travel to see them, but a little bit in terms of small gifts — than I might otherwise.
I would also say that my income tends to get allocated differently than that of many couples I know. I live more cheaply (shared housing, old car) than I need to in part because it’s important to me to be in a really solid position financially, because there’s no second income in the family. Oh, and I also had to think about who to designate as the beneficiaries for all of my retirement accounts and so forth. That required a lot of thought about who and what was important to me, not just checking the husband box!
What is your biggest financial concern as a single income household? What about handling money as a single woman stresses you out?
Amanda Page: My biggest concern is healthcare. You can’t plan for what it will cost just for a routine visit. I have no idea what a trip to my primary care doctor will cost. I get bills that range from $83.58 to $550.21 for the same visit. Then I have to call and explain to billing that I did or did not get blood work done. I have to ask questions about why I’m getting two bills. I don’t understand why we continue to use this system. Healthcare is the only thing that we consume this way. We wouldn’t walk onto a car lot and say, “I’ll take that one,” before knowing what it costs.
The Lady In Black: My biggest concern as a single income household is the possibility of loss of income. My little money machine works well right now only due to my healthy amount of income. While I’m trying hard to squirrel away lots of cash, if I lost my job I’d be screwed.
C: I have two: one is job loss (no second income) and the other is housing. I am ok with shared housing, luckily, but even so, I don’t share bedrooms — that’s a cheaper way to live. I worry about the ever-increasing cost of housing a lot.
How have you increased your income?
While I was paying off debt
, I took on extra teaching jobs and graded math tests online. I took on some freelance writing gigs. Right now, I’m working on a grant that pays for my time for planning a project. I’m also offering my services as a humanities professional and/or project evaluator for other people’s grant-funded projects. I’m currently editing an anthology, and I get paid for that, as well.
I also intend to go up for promotion next year, and that will come with a pay increase. To get the promotion, I need to make sure I deliver in my day job, so I’m working to do that, as well.
C: I don’t have any magic tricks here, alas. I try to stay attentive for work on the side, and do sometimes pick up a freelance project, but my full-time job is exhausting and I have a lot of hobbies/other things that are important to me, and those occupy most of my spare time. (I also work in a field that is extremely weird when it comes to salary — ordinary advice about increasing income doesn’t apply in 90% of cases.)
Any favorite money hacks that you can tell other single ladies about?
Kate at Goodnight Debt
told me about crockpot liners
and they have changed my food costs. I have had to throw out three good crockpots in my life; those liners changed my game. I’m also a big fan of not having a million clothes to choose from. Once a year, I spend $100 at TJ Maxx and then I wear those clothes in constant rotation.
Also, I just don’t do expensive dinners. I don’t drink. My lifestyle is pretty low key, and my budget reflects that. I don’t spend a lot on going out, and I never have to pay for two, since I am blissfully single.
The Lady in Black: Well, for those ladies out there who are dating, I’ll give you these few tips. First meets are for happy hours. Cheap, bustling and fun. Second dates are for taco nights or something similar. Cheap, more intimate, and fun. And if you make it to the romantic getaway weekend, shop for smaller resorts/areas during “shoulder seasons.” Cheap, more privacy, and fun.
The other thing I’m all about right now is the packaged meal service. It might not be the cheapest solution but the amount of time, aggravation and planning it saves me far exceeds the cost.
C: The power of sisterhood! I’ve lived with other single women, cooked with them, shared clothing and cars and books and music with them for my entire adult life. You can live larger than your income when you have a wide network of people to share your life with — you don’t have to be in a romantic or legal relationship with those people!
Do you have a favorite resource you can recommend?
The Lady in Black:
As a single lady who’s dating in her late 40’s with a 10-year old child, it’s been hard for me to find my tribe but the PF blogger community is amazing
. I’ve learned more about finances in less than a year than my whole life before.
As far as finance apps, I love STASH and do have a brokerage account. Much of my savings is automated through CapitalOne360. I do utilize a financial planner but don’t rely too much on her. And when it comes to budgeting and tracking, I kick it old school with MS Excel.
C: I’m a big fan of Mint as a visualization tool, and I like reading others’ blogs, especially people that are more middle-low income and share their budgets — examples help me think through my own issues, even though of course everyone’s situation is different.
Thoughts on being a single mother
The Lady in the Black:
As a single mom, my priority is caring for my child’s past, present, and future. What does that mean? Well, I’m the flame keeper of my kid’s childhood memories. That means being present-minded enough to create and capture positive life experiences in the here and now.
In short, I need to invest as much as I can in building both an amazing human being with strong value while also building a legacy of strong childhood memories. And some of that requires cash money (not all, I grant you.) I do tend to splurge a bit on toys and other superfluous “wants.”
I also spend time educating her about money. As far as her future, I’m on my second year of saving for her college/art school/tour Europe/fly to Mars fund. I’m proud of myself for at least trying to save for her future. I’m pretty lax about a formal “allowance” system but do occasionally throw some cash into her “jar” so she has money of her own. I don’t place restrictions on how she spends it or when.
If you have thoughts or advice on how to organize and handle money as a single woman, please leave your thoughts in the comments!