Tip No. 3: Plan your lifestyle
A single parent has many competing financial goals. How should you prioritize them? That's where lifestyle planning comes in -- deciding how you would like to live now, as well as in the future.
"Thinking of retirement as something in the future often results in postponing or no savings," Cullinane says, "especially when the immediacy of paying today's bills looms." To get started on lifestyle planning, you need to know how much you're spending now and how much you're likely to spend in the future. Then, compare that with your income now and your likely future income.
"Bucket budgeting" can help, suggests Cullinane. For this, you create four different accounts: one for fixed monthly expenses such as food, mortgage payment and recurring bills; another for long-term expenses, such as retirement, replacing appliances and cars; a third for emergencies; and a fourth for discretionary spending.
"Put the appropriate amount of money into the first three, and whatever is left is your discretionary or 'fun' spending," says Cullinane. "If there is nothing left for that month in the 'fun' bucket, you simply go without -- you don't dip into the other buckets. Harsh, but necessary."