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Single moms carry a heavy burden

Aside from managing all the expenses that come along with a split from their partner, divorced mothers have to navigate the costs of running a household on their own. This can include their rent or a mortgage, buying groceries and the expenses of child care.

Raising a child from birth to age 17 can cost a married, middle-income couple over $310,000, according to analysis from the Brookings Institution. These expenses can hit a single mom — who already contends with potential lower lifetime earnings — even harder.

A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reveals the average cost of care per child was unaffordable for 97% of single mothers in 2019. And among singles, mothers of minors had the lowest levels of median wealth — only about $7,000 in family wealth — compared to say, single women without children ($65,000) and single men without ($57,000) and with children ($59,000).

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Why ‘mommunes’ makes financial sense

Whether you’re splitting rent and groceries or sharing child-rearing responsibilities, having a support system made of other mothers, family members and friends can help.

“When I had to leave my husband, all I could think about was how I now had to figure out how to do everything on my own — buy a house on my own, pay my bills on my own, and raise my child on my own,” Batykefer told The New York Times.

Her divorce was finalized in February and she now shares custody with her ex-husband, according to the publication. She and Gilder have plans to eventually move out together into a fixer-upper that they can remodel.

“I never thought about finding another single mother to live with and do it together,” Batykefer said. “We just fell into it.”

The New York Times interviewed members of other mommunes, including Carmel Boss, who founded CoAbode, a house-sharing platform for single mothers. Boss was inspired to start the platform after her own divorce two decades ago.

She told the publication she estimates around 300,000 single mothers have created profiles for home-share matches on her site.

Other ways to make ends meet

Whether you’ve moved into a mommune, or taking it solo by the day — here are three tips for you to manage your expenses.

  • Plan your monthly expenses: Create a budget to track your monthly expenses, like groceries and rent, along with all the extras, like school supplies and toys. Budgets can also be helpful to work towards financial goals, like paying off debt or saving for that long-awaited Disneyland trip.
  • Look into tax credits: Come tax season, you’ll want to get your receipts in order and check for any tax credits you may be eligible for, like the child and earned income tax credits. You could claim up to $7,430 depending on how many children you have and how much money you earn.
  • Build your savings cushion: It’s incredibly important to have some emergency savings in place. About a third of single moms said they wouldn't have been able to handle a $400 emergency expense in 2019, according to the St. Louis Fed analysis. So start setting some cash aside each month just in case you run into an unexpected crisis, like a big medical bill or loss in income.

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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