Stefan herself became a single parent by choice. When I asked about her own experience as a single mom, she noted that because of the age gap between her two sons (one is 22, the other 8), her challenges are more unusual than the average single parent's.
"On any given day, my little one will have a skinned knee and the older one will call home to say he's lost his phone/wallet/laptop/whatever," she says. "Don't think for a moment that they're any easier to manage once they go off to college - they're simply further away!"
"The biggest indulgence in our household is that both of my boys love to go out to dinner," Stefan says. "It's a good way to treat them and spend time together. I don't know why this is such a big deal, but they love it. Maybe it's because we don't do it that often!"
Tips from Head of Household: Money Management for Single Parents
- Create a budget. Then stick to it. When your children bug you for items you can't afford, you can simply say: "It's not in our budget" - a much better response than "Because I said so."
- Pay yourself first. No matter how little money you have, it's important to save for a long-term goal (e.g. college tuition or retirement), so put this in the "necessary" column of your budget. An automatic transfer into a 401(k) account is a great example.
- After a divorce, work quickly to clear up any bad credit rating issues arising from your marriage; or, if your joint credit rating was good, have credit bureaus transfer old account information to a file under a new name.
- Even more than couples, a single parent needs to have an up-to-date will. Unless you have complex finances, you can do this without the help of an attorney. Sign it, date it, have it witnessed, keep it in a safe accessible place, and make sure your executor knows where it is.
Head of Household: Money Management for Single Parents by Kara Stefan, published by Praeger (Abc-Clio), $29.95.
Kirsten Denker is a freelance writer and mother of two.