In her new book, Let’s Have Some Tea: A Single Mom’s Conversation, Mantombi Makhubele shares her journey as a single mother to two young children. It was tough going at first, and she worried about how to put food on the table. Today she is a consultant, author and mom to two university students. We asked her to share her top 5 financial tips for single moms.
1. Know where you are financially and take responsibility
Mantombi’s first tip is geared to taking control of your finances.
- Know how much money you have coming in
- Know how much you spend
- Spend within your means
- Say no if you can’t afford it
“This is about knowing how much you have and where it goes. This will enable you to become the driver of your financial destiny instead of allowing circumstances to dictate to you,” she says. “This also helps you set boundaries. When you know how much money is coming in, how much you are spending on groceries and school fees and other items such as petrol, you know when you have to say no.”
Use this handy spreadsheet to work out your budget.
Taking responsibility means spending within your means, including choosing a reasonably priced school for your children. “Sometimes you want to compare yourself to the Jones’ and take your children to the most expensive school, which you end up spending all your money on,” she says.
“Rather choose a reasonably priced school, a reasonably priced car, look for accommodation that has a reasonable rent where you and your children are safe and have enough money left to buy healthy food.”
Mantombi says this can be hard. When you see the Instagram posts you want to live the fashionable glamorous life. But for most single moms this isn’t affordable. “You have to budget for everything, even when you are out with friends.”
2. Invest in yourself
“You are the most important person in this equation,” says Mantombi. Which means you must put yourself first and put some money aside to invest in yourself.
- Know your skills
- Know how much you can earn
- Learn new skills
- Complete your qualifications
- Start saving
Single moms often put all their money into their children’s education. Mantombi says this ends up causing more financial stress. The constant worrying about finances takes up all your energy and makes it much harder to cope with life. You may want to give your children everything you can, but in the long term allocating some resources to yourself will pay off and give you opportunities to earn more.
Mantombi is passionate about single moms looking after themselves. “The mother needs to be fine,” she says. “Because if the mother is fine the children will be fine.”
You can lessen financial stress by knowing your skills and how much you can earn, and upskilling so you can earn more, progress in your job or change jobs.
“Make the decision to take you far,” she says, and don’t feel guilty about investing in your own growth. Mantombi followed this advice herself. “After becoming a single mom, I did a master’s degree. I was a journalist but didn’t have a degree. Having a masters gave me job security.”
Investing in yourself also means you should put some money aside.
Mantombi says you should start saving, even if it is R50 a month.
“Saving regularly starts creating the consciousness that you are putting something aside for times of opportunity, like that new course, or something essential such as a burst tyre.”
3. Start paying off debt
- Start small
- Pay all your creditors
- Pay extra when you can
“This is to make sure you have a clean credit record,” Mantombi says.
She encourages single moms whose debt has overwhelmed them to start paying a small amount towards each debt each month.
“Start small. If you owe five people, rather pay all five R100 each.”
This brings peace of mind and means you can start to relax knowing that you don’t have people coming after you to pay debts.
“Peace of mind is important for a single mom.”
And as your income increases, start paying more so you can pay off your debt.
4. Invest in a home
- Give your children security
- Make sure the environment is safe
- Spend within your budget
When your credit record is clean, invest in a home and create security and a better environment for your children.
“Look for a reasonably priced home in a safe area,” she says. “Work within your budget, don’t buy too big. If there are 3 of you and the place has 3 bedrooms that is fine.”
The idea is that you buy a home for which you can pay the bond each month without stretching yourself too much.
5. Make some extra income
- Investigate investments
- Start a side business
When you are settled and have a little to invest, Mantombi suggests you can start investigating investments such as unit trusts to grow your money.
“Also learn how to start a side business – something that fits in with your lifestyle. For example, if you love fitness, consider offering classes on the weekend for single moms. Anything that doesn’t affect your work too much.”
And as this grows it could become a full-time job!
Peace of mind
Mantombi’s five tips are practical and designed to help single moms on their journey to success. There is nothing overwhelming, and she insists on keeping it simple.
“I usually work on a rule of 5 for everything I do,” she says. This keeps it simple, which is really important because as a single mom there are just so many things you have to do and keep up with.
Her final message is to keep control of your finances: “Take responsibility for what you have, stay within your financial resources and work with that.”