Paycheck to Paycheck: How 4 Real Single Moms Make It Work

Anna Williams
Posted

Paycheck to paycheck shriverWe all know single moms—and single parents, in general—have it harder.

And tonight, “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert“—a documentary film produced by Maria Shriver, chronicling the heroic struggles of one single mom of three—will air on HBO.

The film is one spoke in Shriver’s multifaceted report, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink,” and her overall societal push to help single women raising children to shore up their financial status. That’s an effort we can get behind.

And, because today there are 10 million single moms making it work, day by day, we decided to profile and celebrate four who were willing to share their tips on how they’re doing it. Read on and get inspired.

brooke son

“I group-text my support system for any tiny ‘mom win’ … or ‘mom fail.’”

Who: Brooke Randolph
Age: 33
Location: Indianapolis
Occupation: Mental health counselor and VP of social services at an international adoption agency

I am a single mom via adoption. My nearly seven-year-old son, born in Samoa, joined me a year ago. A schedule and routine is essential, even though I once would have resisted a stringent routine. Lots of hugs, high fives and teamwork keep us on the same page.

It helps that the after-school program at his school is wonderful when I need to use it. It can be a struggle to get dinner on the table by 6 p.m. every night so he can be in the bath by 7 p.m., but scheduling the Y and dinner plans in my phone helps keep me focused. I also rely heavily on grocery delivery from GreenBEAN and Amazon, especially since we have food allergies.

My parents are so helpful when he is out of school. I have paid babysitters only twice and mostly depend on my parents, my brother, my son’s godfather, or trading child care with friends.

I am so, so thankful for a scholarship to my son’s school because it truly is the best environment I could imagine for him. We buy used uniforms. I shop sales and Amazon Subscribe and Save.

Because of our allergies, I don’t scrimp on food, but I do watch for sales and stock up. My freezer is full of frozen meat, blueberries we picked together, and applesauce made from apples we picked together at an orchard. I don’t buy clothes for myself, and I am lucky that I have several friends who can pass down clothes from their kids.

RELATED: Kids & Food Allergies: 4 Ways to Keep High Costs in Check

As for my advice to other single mothers: Make sure you have support! I intentionally sought “mom friends” while in the midst of the adoption process. While I don’t meet up with them as much as they’d like, I can group-text them for any tiny “mom win,” stressful moment, question, or “mom fail” to get support, encouragement and advice. Sometimes you just need to vent.

One of the toughest parts of this job is being the only one to determine what is best for your kid. I talk to my mom frequently as well; sometimes you just want to hear other opinions or get validation. In my case, specifically with adopting an older child, my son has to be my top priority. He is extremely smart, so I have learned to talk to him about things and even be honest about what things stress me out and make it hard to be a good mom. Working as a “team” works for us because he is so compassionate and because he knows that he matters more to me than anyone else in the world.

RELATED: Parenting 2.0: What It Takes to Raise Kids in America Today

yvette“From life insurance to prepaid college tuition, I’m making sure she will be taken care of.”

Who: Yvette N. Harris
Age: Forties
Location: Miami
Occupation: Owner of a lifestyle public relations company

I am a single mom of a beautiful, amazing, spirited little girl named Nya (Nya means “purpose”). Nya is a huge part of my daily life. When she was born, I made a decision to make sure she would be a part of my life and not just included in it.

I own a lifestyle public relations company, so my daily schedule can be a bit hectic. She is currently in a home-school program that allows her to expand her mind in a more creative manner. I have Nya involved in everything from African dance, gymnastics, French heritage and science to a weekly dose of playdates every weekend. With that said, I am grateful for my single-mom community collective that comes together to help with car pool.

Working for yourself can be a bit challenging; I have changed my business model of who I do business with because I am the sole caretaker of my daughter’s needs. Finances are something that weigh on my mind. But I’m working all that out to make sure I will be able to afford all of the things I want to expose her to. From life insurance to prepaid college tuition, I am really looking at ways to make sure she will always be taken care of.

RELATED: The Money Moment That Made Me Realize I’m a Mom

I sometimes have to take Nya with me to my meetings if the babysitter gets sick. I remember having to take her to a presentation for a grant for a client when she was about four months old. I breast-fed and she fell asleep in her carrier for the whole presentation. The funny thing is that everyone kept asking me questions about her and saying how adorable she was. I never really made it through my presentation, but my client got the grant.

My daughter is amazing and has such a go-with-the-flow spirit. When we go to Starbucks, she will ask, “Mommy, is this a meeting, or are we just here for chit-chat?” She knows how to govern her behavior accordingly.

I am always working to make sure I have some balance that includes quality time with her, quality time for myself, and working on my business and personal development. One of the things we like to do together is our vision board and our gratitude jar. It’s important that I teach her about hard work and that we can’t just go to the ATM machine without Mommy actually working to make the money to put in the bank. I have finally reached the point where I am limiting the work I do on the weekends. It’s a work in progress, but I am getting there. Now we make time for movies, trips to the farmers’ market, and riding our bike to the beach.

RELATED: Dreaming Big: How 4 Real People Reached Their Ultimate Money Goals

I think because I had my daughter at an older age (I was 41 when I gave birth), it allowed me to have maturity and really be present for her. I love being a mother and I savor every moment. It’s all about the balancing act, deciding you can do anything you set your mind to and having the community around you. It really does take a village.

  • EJR8726

    While I truly appreciate the women sharing their stories and that as single moms they have struggled, your heading – paycheck to paycheck is very misleading based on these women. I am not a single mom, but my husband and and I struggle paycheck to paycheck in spite of both working often more than one job -usually one full time and one or more part time. This was why I was so interested in the article – again I appreciate the hard work of these women, but this is not what I was looking for or expected in an article headlined :P aycheck to Paycheck.

    • ksgirl73

      True. The title is very misleading. I was hoping for some tips on cutting costs from this article and that’s not what it intended to be.

    • Rona

      I have to agree there is nothing here about paycheck to paycheck. This needs to be renamed very misleading and I was disappointed. I guess it was just about driving traffic to a topic that most people are interested in. Talk about a bait and switch.

  • G

    agreed. This article spoke nothing of the struggles of living paycheck to paycheck.

  • Dani

    I really do appreciate this article. True, it may not be about living paycheck to paycheck but as a single mom, I can definitely relate. I read many of your articles but often they are about how married couples make things work. Thanks for this article. I hope more about single moms will follow.

  • Letsbethruthful

    This was a thoughtful and maybe helpful but not for me. I am enployed working mom living paycheck to paycheck. I do not own a business and not a single mom by choice. Nice gesture but not very helpful.

  • itpaystobeinformed

    I agree with all the other comments, the title is very misleading to me. These women may be living paycheck to paycheck on their income but as I was reading all I could think about was how much more their children had growing up than mine ever did. I am raising 4 children on my own and not by choice either! After paying the rent, utilities, car payment, car insurance, phone bill, food, and gas there is nothing left over and some months there is not even enough to cover those bills. My kids don’t have gaming systems and never have, their clothes come from thrift shops and I don’t get clothes unless they are given to me. There is never enough food for me or my children. My kids don’t go on school field trips because I can’t afford to pay the cost of the field trip. Everyday at work I go hungry for lunch because there are never any leftovers for me to take. I don’t want sympathy and never ask for anything EVER! The only reason I opened up here was because it made me angry to hear these women say they live paycheck to paycheck when in reality they do not! One woman said she found free fun! THERE IS NO SUCH THING! It may be free to get into a park but it takes gas to drive there! Gas is not even close to free!

  • crdol

    I agree that the title is misleading. I appreciate the encouragement that people can live paycheck to paycheck, but no where in the article did it really discuss this as a reality. It talks about being a single mom but these mothers don’t fit into the typical demographics of the average single mom. Being in their 40′s with an established career doesn’t speak to those living paycheck to paycheck. I love the articles on this site, but they seem to be geared towards the upper middle class which is shrinking. The average person in most of them who is dealing with debt and increasing their savings seems to make at least $50,000 a year. My peers who are all college graduates don’t really make more than $35,000 a year. We are all eager to increase our savings, pay off our student loans and perhaps start a business. As encouraging as these articles are they seem to lean towards “if you don’t make at least $50,000 per year we’re not really sure if it’s possible for you.” I disagree with that since I’ve cut my debt in half over the last year on a meager income. I’d like to see something about the real average American.

  • ryr

    I also have an issue with the title of this article. I am truly happy these single moms are able to create a wonderful life for their children, however those of us who are single moms because of absent ex-husbands/fathers who feel their children are no longer their responsibility when the ink dries on the paper or mothers who became single parents because of a slip up. These mothers truly do live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes they don’t get to the second paycheck because the money is already spent. Why not give these moms something that can be used. Many don’t have the awesome support systems these women have nor the great jobs. These moms truly struggle day in and out. I am a single mom myself and have a support system but like many my ex-husband felt his job was done at the divorce. I have a good job actually 2. It is even a struggle for me sometimes. Can’t imagine what it would be like without half of what I have. Please interview a more diverse income bracket so the article can be more helpful to a broader range of single moms.

  • bettyboo

    I totally agree with the sentiments below. These women have a story to tell, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant on a financial website. Learnvest, I love you. I even listen to Alexa on sirius, but the articles are starting to miss the mark. We have someone here who CHOSE to be a single mom, knowing that she was living paycheck to paycheck. I would also suggest that there is a difference between a single parent and a DIVORCED parent.

  • tankgrrlny

    The title of this article is less than accurate. As a single mom who is literally living paycheck to paycheck I found this article insulting and not at all helpful.

  • tracy

    Yes, prepaid college tuition is not a reality for most single moms. This year I will have two in college, and hopefully for the next …….13 years. Yikes. It is tough to get food on the table for most single moms. This are the shrinking middle class moms, I, too, would like to see a paycheck to paycheck article on those of us in the growing lower classes.

  • http://www.ovlg.com/ Amy Nickson

    I agree with the others. The phrase “paycheck to paycheck” makes it seem to be an article that speaks of some tips through which single-moms can downsize their daily expenses and live a financially secured life. But there’s nothing of that sort. I have been an avid reader of this website but it’s really disappointing to see an article with a misleading title. This article really needs to change it’s title.

  • http://www.ovlg.com/ Amy Nickson

    I agree with the others. The phrase “paycheck to paycheck” makes it seem
    to be an article that speaks of some tips through which single-moms can
    downsize their daily expenses and live a financially secured life. But
    there’s nothing of that sort. I have been an avid reader of this website
    but it’s really disappointing to see an article with a misleading
    title. This article really needs to change it’s title

  • guest

    what does Shriver know about poverty. it is sad hen a man leaves a home whether thru death or divorce but when a woman decides to have a baby???? this is not fair to the child or children. Many young woman go on welfare get much from government so living on a paycheck to paycheck and still going to Starbuck is not a necessity

  • Jenn Deloach

    I do a paid for surveys site and I make around $150 a month. It won’t make you rich but it covers my electric and water bill lol. It’s the only real way I have found to make money online. Here is the link check it out,

    http://www.cashcrate.com/5388789

  • Jenn Deloach

    I do a paid for surveys site and I make around $150 a month. It won’t make you rich but it covers my electric and water bill lol. It’s the only real way I have found to make money online. Here is the link check it out,

    http://www.cashcrate.com/5388789

  • Jenn Deloach

    Ive been a stay at home mom for almost 4 years. Its been hard trying to make money with a little one. I have found a few real ways that you can make a couple hundred dollars online easily. Check out my blog and good luck,
    cash4moms.blogspot.com

  • Jenn Deloach

    Ive been a stay at home mom for almost 4 years. Its been hard trying to make money with a little one. I have found a few real ways that you can make a couple hundred dollars online easily. Check out my blog and good luck, cash4moms.blogspot.com

  • Rose Anderson

    Very helpful information.
    I do a paid for surveys site and I make around $300 a month. It won’t make you rich but it covers my electric and water bill lol. It’s really not hard. Here is the link check it out,
    http://www.cashcrate.com/3626426/3