Living with debt is like sharing your mental space with a vampire. It feeds on your happiness, sucking the joy out of what would otherwise be festive occasions. Get a raise? That’s not more money in your pocket but someone else’s. Every unexpected bonus goes to paying down the past instead of saving for the future or — gasp! — treating yourself to something nice.
Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to have a fairy godmother wave her wand and absolve you from this torment. You’re on your own — but what can you realistically do in a world of ever-shrinking paychecks amid growing expenses?
It’s not easy, but you can get ahead with planning and the right luck. Here are five smart ways for single moms to pay down their debt.
1. Lower Your Family Planning Bill
You already know that kids are expensive. Daycare alone can take up nearly as much of your paycheck as your rent payment. You might have dreamed of a big family, but adding more mouths to feed while in debt is dangerous.
Instead, investigate your family planning options — and include the price in the discussion. For example, some reversible birth control choices like the IUD or implants cost more upfront but can save you a bundle over time and free you from having to remember a daily pill.
If you’re very concerned in today’s post-Roe era, consider discussing permanent options like tubal ligation — it can be incredibly liberating to enjoy intimate encounters free from the fear of unwanted pregnancy. Plus, you never have to worry about running out of cash to fund future family planning needs, and most women recover enough to return to normal activities after the first day or two.
You might not want to refinance your home now — interest rates are rising. However, you have options if you bought a car with lousy credit. You can refinance your auto loans, and lower rates mean more of your monthly payment goes toward principal, meaning you’ll own your ride free and clear much sooner.
Furthermore, talk to your credit card companies. They may be able to lower your rates if you have been with them for a while and have a good payment history. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call.
3. Work the Program
Here’s the thing about government assistance in the United States. There are options available, but they don’t come to you. You have to seek them actively.
For example, you still have a limited time to apply for the public service loan forgiveness that runs through Oct. 31. Are you struggling to afford food? You may qualify for nutritional assistance, which comes with added benefits. For example, you may be eligible for a free Lifeline cellphone and service if you receive food stamps or Medicaid.
4. Do the Hustle
You have a lot on your plate as a single mom. However, that doesn’t change the unfortunate reality that most wages remain stagnant, even as inflation soars. You might be among the many Americans who have far less buying power today than ever as their paychecks effectively shrink compared to the cost of living.
Therefore, it benefits you to pick up a side hustle for extra cash. It may someday blossom into a full-time business. However, even if it doesn’t, it provides a second income stream for paying down debt and carrying you through rough patches like recessionary pay freezes and layoffs.
What can you do? Consider the following activities to bring in side cash:
- Babysit: Can you watch more than one little one? If so, you could provide a useful service for another single mom while supplementing your income.
- Pet sit: Many people dislike putting their precious puppies and kitties in boarding facilities when they vacation. Help them by caring for their pets a few times a day in-house.
- Tutoring: Do you have your degree? If so, online companies like the Princeton Review will hire you to work one-on-one with students from home.
- Transcription: You used to have to buy a machine. However, you can now find online transcription jobs that let you work this side hustle without investing in a foot pedal.
5. Live Tiny
Pay down your debt by reducing your living expenses. It might mean some pain for you and your kiddos — after all, even single-bedroom apartments now rent for $1,700 a month, and those with extra beds and baths demand higher prices. This tip could require you to get creative.
The easiest thing to do is move in with a relative if you have that option. More families are choosing multigenerational living for the multiple benefits, including letting you pay off debt. However, what if the prospect of spending time under the same roof as toxic family members threatens your mental health?
Have you considered RV or van life? You will have to deal with considerable inconveniences, most notably getting sufficient water and power and emptying your grey and blackwater tanks.
However, you could find someone to let you tap into their water and electricity — perhaps in exchange for paying the monthly bill. You could have an inexpensive living solution that finally removes the landlord monkey from your back and lets you put your income toward something other than life’s necessities for once, like paying down debt and maybe even taking a vacation.
This solution is best when your children are young and don’t resent moving into such a tiny space. You could run into arguments if you wait until they’re older and more concerned with privacy.
Pay Down Your Debt
Debt sucks the joy from your life. Anytime you get a little extra, you must do the responsible thing instead of rewarding yourself.
Consider the above smart ways to pay down your debt. You can unburden yourself, live comfortably and get back to enjoying life with your kids.