I’m 38 years old and I’m a solo parent to one girl, aged 20 months.
I currently work in HR as a Talent Operations Specialist. I work 40 hours a week, but I’m about to going down to 36 hours. As well as my salary, I own shares in the company I work for. It just went public so they are worth around £300,000 before tax. Every quarter some of the shares vest so I get a little extra income.
I would say I’m fairly relaxed about spending money. My parents would probably say I’m extravagant! I will order take-away once a week or, in normal times, go to a restaurant and get a sitter probably a couple of times a month. At the weekends pre-COVID I would take my daughter out for lunch or we’d go to soft play or days out. I spend quite a lot on clothes, both for me and my daughter – sometimes up to £300/month, although not every month. I’m not a bargain hunter at all because I don’t have the time or patience. I prefer to pay a little more for better quality so that things will last longer.
Day to day I don’t really have a budget. Long term I don’t feel confident at all. In fact I’m going to be speaking to my uncle, who’s a financial advisor, about how to invest for the future. I want to make sure that I’ll have funds available for my daughter’s education if needed.
When I was pregnant, I was obsessed with money. I was extremely anxious that I wasn’t going to be able to afford childcare. I had, (and still do have), spreadsheets with monthly expenditure and was modelling various different scenarios, all of which left me short between £250 and £500 a month. I had about £10,000 in savings and was planning to use £500 a month to subsidise nursery costs – I had worked out that this could almost last until my daughter got some free hours aged three, but it still felt precarious. That might sound ridiculous to some people but I’m naturally risk adverse and the thought of eating away at that little nest egg was stressing me out!
What I wish I had known when I was on statutory maternity pay is that I was entitled to receive Universal Credit. It would have given me peace of mind and I wouldn’t have spent so much time and energy worrying about money rather than enjoying my baby. I would say don’t miss out on what you’re entitled to because you may be embarrassed or perhaps too proud to ask for help.
When COVID hit, the nursery my daughter was supposed to be going to closed and so we moved in with my parents. They provided full-time childcare from the end of March to the beginning of June 2020 so I could return to work from maternity leave at the end of March 2020 as planned. From June to October 2020 my daughter was with a childminder four days and my parents one day. Because I was saving money on childcare costs compared to London prices, I was paying more money into the government tax-free childcare account during these months than the childcare was costing in order to benefit from the government top up.
In September 2020 I was given a pay rise at work and had put in an offer on a larger flat, which was made affordable thanks to the stamp duty holiday. We moved back to London in October 2020 and my daughter started going to a new nursery where our new flat would be, which was £15 a day cheaper than the one she had been signed up to! With the top up from the government and the pay rise I was no longer worried about money and was able to afford everything without dipping into my savings.
Fast forward a few months and the company I work for became public, meaning I could sell some of my shares (total value about £300,000). I have a new job with the same company, which gave me a £8,000 pay rise. I have never had so much money in my life and I honestly never ever thought that I would be in the financial situation I’m in now.
People definitely make judgments about my finances just because I’m a single parent. A couple of weeks ago a friend reached out to say that her and a few of my Mum friends had signed up for a soft play membership. She said “It’s a lot of money, (it’s £35/month), and I know we’re very lucky to be able to do it, but I also didn’t want to not tell you”. I feel there is a misconception that single Mum = poor or struggling financially.
I feel extremely lucky to now be in such a good financial position. Long term I’m looking to invest some of the money I have, potentially into a second property that I would rent out to provide a steady income.
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If you would like more information on benefits or support with debt, we suggest Entitledto or Turn2Us for easy to use benefit calculators, Citizens Advice for general benefit and debt advice, National Debtline, or Business Debtline if you have your own business that it’s debt.