No one plans to be a single parent, but the reality is true for many mums (and dads) in the UK and the world over. And likewise no one plans for the one steady income coming home (we’re talking about couples in this instance) to get cut though redundancy, companies folding, or losing big contract.

In the UK, there are 1.8 million single parent households, and 650,000 of these homes bring in no money outside of benefits. It’s clear then that if you find yourself in this situation, you really aren’t alone.

But what can you do to stay afloat and not drawn in the cost of living? Getting a job seems the obvious option, but that can take a while…here are some immediate things you can do to survive on one income (even if it is just benefits).

1. Stop using your children as an excuse

Yes – you read right. Having children may be the reason why you can’t take on a full-time role that has inflexible hours, but if you use them as an excuse for not doing any type of work that can make you financially viable then you’re deceiving yourself.

If you can’t work in one way, there are many other ways you can work – try it out. If nothing fits, is there a product or service you can make or sell to others? Could you sell someone else’s products or services (the good old Avon, Kleeneze or another type of direct marketing product).

2. Plan, plan, plan

Fail to plan, plan to fail – so the saying goes, and it’s true! If you’re in a rut, you may feel like there is no obvious light at the end of the tunnel, but you need to plan to see one.

So, if you’re a single mum who is looking after the children full-time, for example, have you thought about how you will work when your youngest child starts nursery? Is there a course you can do now, or in a year or so to stay relevant in your chosen field of work?

Don’t allow yourself to feel like you have no options – you have to use everything that’s available to you. If you don’t know where to start, the Mothers Who Work Club should be your first port of call. Speak to other mums who seem to have it together and find out what they did. Ask friends and family for some support and advice. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to feel like there are no other options available to you – there are!

3. Banish credit card debt

Using the little money you have to pay for money you owe is no fun. It can have a higher financial drain on your income than you can afford. While you might wonder how you can afford to pay off your credit card when you’re already scrimping to survive, not making a feasible plan to pay off your debts means you drag out your financial situation even longer.

Think of it as the same as ripping off the plaster on a cut, screaming for a second but feeling better a short while later. Yes, the squeeze will be uncomfortable, but it’s less painful than peeling the plaster off slowly and feeling each hair being pulled along.

A website we love that’s bumper packed with advice on paying off debt is the <a href=”http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/pay-off-debts”>Money Saving Expert</a>. You’ve probably seen Martin Lewis on TV at some point – check the site out and start making a plan to get debt free now.

4. Live beneath your means

Yes – really! It still amazes me the type of cars I see when I pop along to the local Lidl supermarket…new BMWs, New Mercedes – do you get the picture? If the middle class are shopping at discount food stores when they (seemingly) have more available to them. If they’re doing it, the main reason is to spend wisely.

If you’re still shopping in the same expensive stores you’ve shopped in when you had a higher income coming in as you do now that there is less money coming in, you aren’t making the most of your money.

Are you paying for Sky TV when you could buy a digital receiver and save on the extra outgoing a month? Do you have a couple of mobile phone contracts when you really only use one main one? it’s simple things like this that can help you get out of a rut.

5. Be creative

Learn to use money creatively, and you’ll be amazed at how far you can stretch it. A movement that we love is batch cooking and meal planning, for example. Cooking in bulk free up your time to do other things, but it can be cheaper than cooking separate meals every night.

Batch cooking can go hand in hand with meal planning, which involves setting out the food your family will eat for the week, and only buying the ingredients required to make it happen. You plan breakfast, lunch and dinner, and because every meal is planned ahead, you don’t spend more than necessary.

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