Living well and having a small budget might seem like an unlikely combination at first. Typically, living well means having the ability and means to afford more than bare necessities. Living well is often associated with words like indulgence, leisure, and freedom to buy things regardless of their price tag. Small budget, on the other hand, is perceived to be all about restrictions, ongoing pursuit of the lower price tags, and lack of any indulgence beyond daily essentials. Is it possible then to successfully marry these two, and live well on a small budget?
I believe so!
In fact, I’ve lived reasonably well through rather extended times of having a small budget while caring for my little one as a single mother. Being a single mom in a vast majority of cases means having a single source of income (sadly many fathers avoid paying child support so it is not a reliable or significant source of income). Whether your income comes from your job, a welfare cheque, the unlikely child/spousal support, or your own business, your financial resources are very limited. For a single mother, terms like financial diversification and living off passive income or dividends are often non existent. Not because single moms are not financially savvy (because they are), or don’t understand how to invest to get desired returns (because they either understand it, or can easily learn how to).
It’s because single mothers don’t have the logistic ability to implement a financial “plan B” and set aside money for any meaningful investment. Any extra income they get goes to either to cover unexpected essential expenses or service a debt that was accumulated because there was an essential expense that had to be taken care of. It can truly be a vicious cycle for someone who is responsible to provide for children without any other help. Many single moms are extremely hard working and prioritize the needs of the children above all else. When there is a need to cover a large health, housing or education expense, there is little choice for them but to take on debt that hurts their financial situation for years to come. And yet, single mothers are able to achieve a high level of emotional well being with the right perspective and daily focus.
A lot of interesting studies have been done to observe how finances related to human happiness and life satisfaction. Nearly all of them found that overall money are only one of many factors that help people feel like they are living well. In this article, you can learn some fun findings on why money can’t buy you happiness.
Being a single mother myself, I fully admit that having enough money each month makes me feel more relaxed, capable, and satisfied that I can pay the bills on time and not worry about groceries, housing, or other essentials. There have been a few times that I received a bonus from work, or my side gig finally paid off, and I was able to go somewhere nice or splurge on something beyond typical purchases. But overall, I have observed that it’s my mindset and daily focus that makes the biggest difference in how I feel as a person and a mother. When I say this, I am not talking about the popular belief that when you think positive, great things always happen. I am talking about spending some time to understand what makes me happy as an individual and a mom, and having that be at the forefront of my daily life.
Good jobs and bonuses come and go, family support might not be an option, health is not guaranteed, and tomorrow is not a given. This is not a pessimist’s list but a mere reflection of human life. We might be scared sometimes to think in those terms, but I think that being honest about it frees to focus on things that do last and make us feel good. Being mindful of the blessings in your life, no matter how small or mundane helps us realize that living on a small budget is really not an issue. When we stop comparing ourselves and our achievements with other’s, we see the beauty of our own life as it is. Time with your children, helping them learn and learning from them, being someone who is raising a good individual on her own makes you blessed, abundant, and capable of experiencing fulness of life and well being.
Ask yourself – “What does living well mean to me personally and what are some ways I am already living well, regardless of finances?” “How is my single parent family doing well and how can we celebrate together in ways that connect us and enrich our lives?”
Tip: if you are overwhelmed, tired, and cannot think of anything just ask your children! Kids often notice and remember things that we can overlook, and their truth is often more meaningful than our own.
After you ponder those things and come up with answers that feel right in your heart, you can take a look at your small budget and see if there are areas where you can shift a few things. If your wellbeing means having a beloved pet at home, make sure to include it in your budget and make cuts in areas that are less significant (i.e. Netflix subscription, or regular nail salon visits). If your family adores Christmas time, see how you can make it incredible every year by setting aside $25-20 each month towards your Christmas fund. There are many ways to shift expenses to align better with the things that affect your well being most, but it is important that you know what those things are first. Many of us get trapped into viewing our budgets through the lens of someone’s else life and priorities. You can get off this hamster wheel by learning more about what really matters to you and aligning your finances (no matter how small) to fit your true vision of living well.