There are three critical components to thriving financially as a single mom, all of which you can control:

1. Use the time + money + energy equation to create abundance in every part of your life.
2. Create a lifestyle that you can afford now (not when you were married, or where you hope to be in 2 years. Now.), including a savings plan for emergencies and retirement.
3. Focus on earning.

This is a recipe for wealth that affects all areas of life, and nearly every decision you will make. All three elements — earning, budget, and resources spent — are all intimately intertwined. To understand how, let’s look at the last one.

Focus on earning

When you’re going through a life change, whether divorce, death of a loved one, new baby, job change, relocation, in the likely event that money, time and/or human resources are reduced, the natural impulse is to tighten up and hunker down. Frugality is a wonderful, powerful thing—one I urge you to cultivate and maintain throughout your life, even when you have money coming out your ears. Frugality has nothing to do with how much you earn or spend, and everything to do about being conscientious about your resources—money and otherwise—and managing them with a sense of gratitude and abundance to make your life and the world around you better.

Frugality, however, can be a slippery slope to a scarcity mentality. Scarcity mentality is the belief that all your resources—money, jobs, love—are limited and must be hoarded. Here’s a classic example: Your husband announces he’s having an affair, and leaves within a week. He earns more than half the household income, all of which he takes with him when he moves out of the house he shared with you and your two kids, and into the apartment of his mistress. You, understandably, panic. Your bills are beyond what you can afford on your own. The payment on your house is huge. Your name is on the mortgage, which puts your credit at risk.

You quickly go through the monthly expenses and start slashing like mad. That is exactly what you should do! Gym membership that you never use, canceled! Tell the kids that this time you will indeed enforce the household rule that the thermostat will not go above 66 degrees in the winter, commit to doing your own nails and cancel the Christmas trip to the Bahamas.

Is this you? I’m loving this story, and it is exactly what you should be doing (though, 68 degrees maybe?).

However, let’s look at the math. Aside from the vacation, those cut-backs add up to a couple hundred dollars per month. That is not going to make a significant difference in your ability to afford what was a two-income household, much less afford a large mortgage that was financed with two salaries.

A common mistake is when people panic—and moms are especially prone to this—they focus on how much they can save each month. Savings and frugal living are passions of mine, and comes with all kids of residual benefits aside from immediate cost savings. In fact, I argue you should NOT clip coupons. Clipping coupons requires hours per month with very little return on investment of that time. Instead, the absolute best, proven way to get ahead financially in the short- and long-term, build wealth, take control of your time, and have the freedom to create a life for yourself and your kids is to focus on earning.

Let’s say that in addition to slashing the fat from your budget, renegotiate your phone plan and commit to a few Crockpot dinners en lieu of take-out each month, that newly single mom also commits to a plan to earn more money. The residual benefits are astronomic.

In the example above, if the mom after receiving the “Peace Out” bomb from her kids’ dad, committed her lunch hour and Saturday afternoons to freshening up her resume, working her network like crazy, applying for new positions and / or strategizing with her boss about her career goals. Within a few months it is very reasonable she could increase her income by five-figures—income very much needed immediately, and have residual financial and professional benefits for the rest of her life. Plus, by focusing not on the Sunday Clipper, but on big goals and investing in her own worth, she actually gains very real control over a chaotic situation.

Many women find that single motherhood is a fantastic motivator for driving them to risk going for their professional goals—and earning a lot of money along the way. Christina Brown, 28, launched, a lifestyle blog for women of color, as a hobby project while she earned about $50,000 per year working in public relations in New York City. When she became pregnant, and a single mom, Christina jumped fulltime into her entrepreneurial endeavor. “I had to kick it into high gear when found out I was having a baby, and was a big motivator to earn to take care of her.” Motherhood drove Christina to increase her blog’s adverting rates, double down on strategy, and button up her processes. Within three years, went from $0 to $100,000 in revenue, while Christina works from home and spends lots of time with her daughter, who often models toddler fashion on her mom’s web sites.

Money, of course, isn’t just about surviving, paying the bills, securing a future and enjoying nice things. Building a great career that you love, modeling that passion and success for your children, is incredibly satisfying — especially when you accomplish it in the face of what you believed was impossible.

The Kickass Single Mom Adapted from THE KICKASS SINGLE MOM by Emma Johnson with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2017 by Emma Johnson.


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