Hi! I'm Josina,

Are you a struggling single mother?

Does it feel like the world is resting on your shoulders?

If you want to overcome the feeling of hopelessness and reclaim your optimism and joy, read on...

I'm a fourteen-year veteran and I can give you some tips and tricks that will help you on this journey. It's not a secret that single motherhood is not easy. Let me help you stay sane. I will share with you, my wins, failures, and strategies to keep going. The parenting mistakes I've made like in Coping with a Problem Child as a Single Mother, as well as wins like in A Story About a Battle for Custody. This site also features recipes for busy mothers and how-to videos. My journey is far from over, but I've learned so much that I want to share with you. Our lives may be unconventional, but we're living it on our own terms! Join the community and sign up for a weekly newsletter to receive updates and stay informed.



I'm proud to say I am a single mother. We're a minority group, but that's ok. I have been on this journey for the past 13 years, on and off. Since my marriage dissolved 13 years ago, the road has been both arduous and smooth, more so the arduous part. I don't consider my children or myself victims, but a genuine example of determination and endurance.

What is it like being a single mother?

It ain't easy. Some days I feel like Atlas, carrying the celestial vault on my shoulders. On other days, I believe if I can get through this, I can achieve anything. I'm the mother of two girls, five years apart. Initially, my goal was to just keep them alive until they can survive on their own, but I've realized that it's not my only job. My job is not only to supply a food, clothing, and shelter - the basics, but to make sure they grow up to lead fulfilling lives on their own and become productive members of society.

Single Motherhood is like a daily spin of the wheel of fortune. There are days when things go as planned, but you don't really have time to plan, only to react to the unexpected, which occurs frequently. You expect the unexpected to happen, but you secretly hope it doesn't and you know you're not that lucky. Occasionally the wheel of fortune is in your favor and things are going your way. Your daily routine starts off without a hitch and you drop them off to daycare or school at 8:00 am on the dot. You know that if you arrive at the daycare at exactly 8:00 am and not a minute later, you're guaranteed to arrive at work at least 20 minutes early. However, you have more than a few days in succession when the wheel of fortune spins in the other direction. Because of circumstances beyond your control, you end up dropping them off 8:05 am which guarantees that you'll be at least 10-15 minutes late for work. To make matters worse, you opted not to stop for gas on the previous day when you noticed the gas needle was showing only a 1/4 tank left. You convinced yourself it can wait until tomorrow because you vowed to leave at least 10 minutes earlier. You can't afford to stop as you're already running late for pick-ups from the daycare and they charge by the minute for late pick-ups.

You know the wheel of fortune has not spun in your favor when your child walks into the room before you've acknowledged a new day has begun, to say they have a stomachache. Your heart sinks because now you have to decide which is more important-'my job' or 'my child'. Countless times, I've had to make this choice. Whenever I get sick, my choice has always been work. My fear of being obsolete has always superseded my sickness. I've gone to work feeling weak and dizzy and even drove in this condition. However, my child is a different story. How could I send her to school while she wasn't feeling well? I had to make a choice, fast: (A)stay at home with her and risk being viewed as unreliable; (B) send her to school and let the school nurse call me to pick her up and still being viewed as unreliable; (C) call her dad and let him plan with his mother. "C" was my preferred choice. I didn't want to risk staying home or have to leave work early for an emergency which in my case occurred at least twice a month.

According to the United States Census Bureau, single parent (mother) households have been on the rise since the beginning of the 1950s. As of 2018, the percentage of children living with their mother alone averages to around 30 percent across the main demographics of whites, Hispanics and blacks. Minority households are disproportionately high in comparison to white households.

It's widely known that children raised in single-parent households are more at risk compared to children raised in two-parent households because of socioeconomic disadvantages. Depending on their age, they're well aware of the limited opportunities available to them. The benchmark of a solid foundation in life begins with: living in a good school district; Taking part in extra-curricular activities and even the ability to afford hobbies that would contribute to their cognitive development. Sadly, they may not have access to nutritious foods. These experiences can have lasting psychological effects that extends into adulthood. Their future may go one of two ways. It may either trigger in them an insatiable drive to succeed or stagnate their ambitions due to low self-esteem.

The Ultimate Challenge

Although being a single mother is difficult, it's not an excuse for neglect. One of my biggest challenges as a working mother, is being present. Not only physically present, but mentally present. The stress of being the only parent or even adult in the home is overwhelming. Children continue to need nurturing and consistent attention to satisfy their emotional needs. This part of parenting is not exclusive to single mother homes, but is potentially more pervasive if the mother needs to work outside of the home. It leaves children to look out for themselves after school. I relied heavily on my oldest daughter, at 12 years of age, to assume the role of caretaker and surrogate parent while I was at work. The cellphone was our mode of communication during the journey from school to home. I used to drop them off in the mornings, then it became necessary for them to go to school on their own, both ways. I instructed my oldest to call me immediately after being dismissed from school, right before they were ready to walk home. I stayed on the phone with them until they were safely inside. It wasn't always smooth sailing.

There were days when the phone is dying, they lingered behind to chat with friends or didn't call me at 3:00 pm exactly. On one occasion, they nearly burned the house down from misuse of the microwave and black smoke was pouring out of the house. My anxiety level would rise at the same time everyday around 3:00 pm, then come back down a little once I received their phone call. On returning home from work, I often found them either fast asleep in the living room or in my oldest daughter's bedroom. If I had been lucky, my job would've been close enough to allow for me to drop them off and pick them up each day. Job flexibility is a privilege, not a right. My anxiety was in full effect for the hours after school until arrived I home from work. Also, my stress level and patience were incessantly high.

As much discipline as you try to instill in your children, you can't catch everything. When the cats away, the mice will always play. Reportedly, they brought friends in the house, made mischief, forgot to do their homework and ate junk for dinner or didn't eat at all, etc. Since I was often too tired to follow-up on anything, if it wasn't serious, I usually let it slide. This came back haunting me later, see Mental Health Issues and Single Parenting. More often than not, they were asleep by the time I returned home from work. I didn't have the time or energy to make them a nutritious meal. Usually, I would grab a quick bite from the kitchen, then head off to bed. I Wake up the next day and repeat.

Perseverance Is Key

We need to keep in mind that the casualties of a broken home are the children. They need constant care and are probably the most fragile in the situation. As we're nursing our wounds and feverishly trying to keep the raft afloat, occasionally, we need to take a pause. We should spend time just talking to them, even about mundane things. Talk to them about their interests, friends or even heavier topics that're possibly on their mind. This role is rough and sometimes it feels like we can't see beyond the clouds, but we must remain optimistic. Even in times of stress, failures, and setbacks, we've had plenty of moments of happiness too. Every challenged faced, passes and the by-product is resilience. As a single mother of 13 years now, I can say with confidence that it's not a life sentence, and it gets easier, with time. You find that as they get older; They have more independence, but it doesn't mean they no longer need you. It only means their needs have changed and you may need to make a few minor adjustments.

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  • Josina Miles

Money is always tight when you're a single working mother. We still make financial decisions that put us in an even more vulnerable position and doesn't set us up for rising above our current situation.

1. Buying Fast Food for Lunch

The operative word for a single mother each morning is, 'rush'. We don't have time to prepare lunch, so we rush out the door and worry about it later. Lunch can be very expensive, especially if we opt to buy it every day. We justify our choices by resting on the fact that we need to eat. Since we have to eat, we have to buy food, and for that moment in time, our only goal is to satisfy our hunger. We decide that we'll worry about it tomorrow. The problem is that we don't plan for tomorrow, we delay our worry until tomorrow.

Prepared lunches can be very expensive; a slice of pizza, even if it's just one slice can break the bank. It can cost between $4 or $5 dollars for one slice and of course you need something to wash it down. Salads are even more expensive and can easily cost somewhere between $9 and $11 dollar for mostly iceberg lettuce is in-fact supper cheap to buy at the grocery store. It all add ups. If you're spending between $7 and $15 daily for lunch, plus the coffee you purchased on the way to work; and depending on where made your purchase, you could spend $18 dollars a day.

That's a whopping $90 a week or $360 for the month! That's more than all my utility bills combined. This is costing you an arm and a leg. Taking the time to plan your lunch menu on the weekend before shopping for the week, and prepare your lunch either in the evenings or waking up a little earlier to do it, will not only save your waistline, but your pockets.

2. Buying Ready-Made Food for Dinner

I can't lie, I used to do this all the time, especially on the weekends. Who has time to cook dinner every day when you're arriving home close to 7 pm daily and having sat in traffic for 45 minutes prior to arriving home? I didn't have the energy to cook, and there was even a time when I stopped cooking altogether. I went semi-raw vegan (I didn't subject my kids to this dietary experiment) for a year and decided that cooking wasn't necessary.

Not cooking gave me a lot of freedom because I only ate a handful of things as a vegan. I often grazed on little things here and there, ate leftovers which meant eating the same thing all week long. The beginning and middle of the week was easy because they got the bulk of their nutrition from whatever they ate at school. Whenever they weren't in school, I opted to buy fast foods such as pizza, burgers, and other grab and run foods. They didn't mind bec

ause they didn't want to eat the copious amounts of tasteless greens, rice and beans I ingested.

I don't have to say that this wasn't the best idea. Buying fast food became a major expense. If you're ever wondering where your money is going, look at his category. I only did it once or twice a week, but even if I'm buying 'real' chicken at Chick Fila, it still cost me upwards of $16 dollars for 2 meals. I could've made chicken dinners for the entire week for that price, and with fries! It was saving a lot of energy from not cooking every day, but I was paying dearly for the convenience of not having to cook, and not just financially.

My kids were getting used to eating processed, sugar laden, nutritionally deficient meals and I couldn't reverse the damage. I created little sugar monsters, and they soon had no interest in eating anything else but pre-packaged fast foods.

3. Regularly buying stuff to reward yourself

As single mothers, we do A LOT, and sometimes we get no love for it. We may even feel like our kids take us for granted. We do so much for them, put them first and we get nothing in return. Is it wrong to reward ourselves for all the hard work we're doing daily?

There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to something you want and not need from time to time. It becomes a problem if the rewards are happening too frequently. We don't need a new impressive blouse every week so we can look fresh at work.

Sure that new blouse made you feel great that day, but how did you feel the next day? How did you feel when the electricity bill arrived in the mail you had to choose between eating that week and paying the bill?

These little decisions will not permanently harm your financial future, but a series of small setbacks can lead to a major financial disaster.

4. Wasting Time and Energy

'Time is Money', ' You Reap What You Sow', you've all heard these clichés. So, how are you spending your time? Why? Because time is a commodity. Your most likely selling your time for money and you're reaping the rewards for only those times when you're actively selling your time. The rest of the time, you may breathe a sigh of relief that you did the time and now it's time to rest, but the problem is that you may not be quality using that time. It doesn't have to mean that you're making money every minute of the day, but that you're using your energy wisely and paying it forward.

Examples using your energy wisely are: cooking a nutritious meal for dinner; helping child/children with homework; working on a project that will reap financial rewards, reading to increase knowledge and competencies, cleaning up to avoid compounding chores. Examples of wasting time are: going shopping after work, watching tv for hours after arriving home until bedtime.

Not Tracking Your Spending

I firmly believe that we should run a home like you're running your own business. In my twenties and early thirties, I was very lackadaisical with my money. I never kept track of my spending and would often get caught at the register with insufficient funds. I got a little wiser and started calling the bank prior to making any transactions, but this only helped a little. I endured monthly overdraft fees other fees to where I started viewing them as an expense. This strategy and attitude kept me poor and hopeless until a nice man from the bank gave me a little advice.

While I was arguing with him, saying that I cannot keep $100 in my account at all times, he suggested that I separate my monthly expenses from my personal expense. I go into more details in '10 Financial Tips for Single Mothers'. This small change made a huge impact, but I took it a little further than that. In the old days, I used to jot down the amount of money I had in my bank account and what bills I need to pay in a notebook or piece of paper. I never thought of doing anything as sophisticated as using a spreadsheet, even though I used it occasionally at work.

I setup a budget in a spreadsheet at first because I wanted to figure out how I could pay off my credit cards. Once I really started looking into my spending, it was an eye opener and I realized why I couldn't hold on to money and always came up short when I needed to pay my bills. First, my daily coffee habit which included the weekends was a major concern. I could've made coffee at home and take it to work with me, but a part of my habit was not just drinking the coffee, but stopping for the coffee. It was a part of my routine and it was hard to shake. Second, my inability to plan how I would allocate my paycheck had me in panic mode by week two when I realized that I had another week and a half to go until my next paycheck, and I barely had enough money to fill up my gas tank.

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  • Josina Miles

One of the greatest threats to our financial futures is debt. When your debt to income ratio leans heavily on the side of debt, it's debilitating and makes day to day living unbearable.

Don't Wait All Year for a Refund

It feels like a lifetime waiting for the next paycheck. You do all the things you're supposed to do with it...pay the bills, restocking the house with food, buying things the kids need and have been waiting on for a while, but you're still cannot pay all the bills this time around. You will need the next paycheck to make up the difference and even then it still won't be enough. Next month it starts all over again, but you can't seem to catch up, much less get ahead. You're running a race as fast as you can, but there's no finish line.

The only time you're able to catch up or even get ahead is at the end of the year when tax season arrives. You look forward to that big tax return and you feel like it's worth it. The problem is that you have to wait an entire year to get that refund and finally get the chance to catch up. You really don't have to wait that long.

Whenever you start a new job, they always have you fill out a few forms like W2 and W4, among others. What is the W4 form? The W4 form determines how much money they withhold from your paycheck. They call this allowances. You tell your employer how much to withhold based on your current circumstances. Depending on how you fill out the form, you can have either too much or too little taxes withheld. If you have too much taxes withheld, you won't get a large paycheck, but you may have a relatively large refund at the end of the year. Alternately, if you have too little withheld, you will have more in your paycheck, and a smaller refund.

My preference is the latter. The government is not a bank, but like a bank they will keep your money and invest it. You don't have your money to spend or invest during the year. The ideal scenario is breaking even. At the end of the year, the government doesn't owe you anything and you don't owe them anything. To make sure you're maximizing your income during the year, use the IRS website's withholding calculator to figure out the ideal number of allowances and submit a new W4 form to your employer.

2. Do your own taxes

There will always be people who will try to take advantage of your ignorance. Companies such as H&R Block will charge you upwards of $200 for each form and sometimes, a percentage or your refund. While it's more convenient and you want to take any changes missing tax break opportunities, you should be able to keep 100% of your refund or at the very least pay a small preparation fee.

I learned to do my taxes while I was in high school and I was working for a car dealership as a cashier. I never pay to do my taxes, except for the online apps which I highly recommend. One salesman would come into the office to make copies of his tax return forms. One evening, he showed me how to fill out the forms and explained the differences between the forms. As a teenager at my first job, I had no problem making sense of the 1040EZ. I did my taxes every year after that and even started doing it for friends.

Today, I no longer use the paper forms, which you can pick up for free at your local library. I have been using Turbo Tax for years. I love the automation of it all. You really need not do anything but confirm and deny changes from the previous years. You don't even need your W2 because they pull in your tax information directly from the IRS website. The fees I paid years ago was very reasonable and have never needed to have them take it out of my refund, which is an option. I pay a nominal fee, wait and the refund is in my bank account in two weeks.

Another option is free! The IRS website has a list of free tax preparation income based offers.

3. Do Reduce your monthly expenses

Do you know your debt to income ratio? Even if you're not in the market for a house or trying to get a loan, it's important that your debt to income ratio is within the manageable range. According to consumerfinance.gov, your debt to income ratio should not exceed 43%. This is the highest percentage your debt to income ratio can be before in order to quality for a home loan, if you're in the market for one.

How do you calculate your debt to income ratio?

Add up all your expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income. Your gross is the amount you have before they subtract taxes and other deductions. For example. If your gross monthly income is $2800 and your total expenses are $1500. Then your debt to income ratio is 54%. This isn't ideal. You only have two options: increase your income or reduce your expenses. The former is normally my choice, but it's possible to break even by of increasing our spending when our income increases. We must learn to reduce our spending first, so that when our income increases we can resist the urge to overspend.

Some ways of reducing your monthly expenses are: cutting cable or the extra phone line; cancelling monthly subscriptions for premium channels and other subscriptions; make larger installment payments such as paying every 3 or 6 months can reduce your monthly payments; taking advantage of automatic withdrawals to further reduce monthly payments.

4. Do Create a Budget

When you hear the word 'Budget', it sounds a little old-fashioned. As old-fashioned as it is, it never went out of style. If you will run your house like a business, a budget is not only a necessity, it's a requirement.

A budget helps me manage my money by allowing me to visualize my priorities, plan for the future and gives me a control over my destiny.

Setting up a budget doesn't require a lot of technical skills but knowing basic math helps. You can start by jotting down your monthly expenses on a piece of paper and keeping a record of your spending the old-fashioned way. If you're technically inclined, you create one in a spreadsheet and let Excel do the calculating for you.

created with Microsoft Excel. If you don't have a licensed copy of Excel installed on your copy. Sign up for a free web version that includes a lite version of the Microsoft Office suite.

5. Don't Buy Cheap Things

Living within your means is not the same thing as being cheap. Being cheap doesn't mean that you're living within your means. While it's true that we assign a value to things based on popularity and need, we instinctively know when something is a bargain and when it's not.

If you're a single mother with limited funds, you cannot afford to be cheap. While the dollar store can be a lifesaver when you're in a pinch, but it shouldn't be your weekly stop when shopping for household items. You may think paying a dollar for body lotion or home décor is a deal, but it's not, when the top ingredient is mineral oil or the decorative item is plastic.

When you're spending your hard-earned dollars, the goal is to buy quality things that are not only good for you, but will last.

I would characterize cheap things as those items which are mass produced. The items didn't require a lot of human labor, only machines and the materials cheap and easy to produce. I stopped going to the dollar store to buy school supplies for my kids and opted to buy at Target. I buy things that are more personal to their tastes and I get a better shopping experience. I still use the dollar store when they need stuff for school projects. I can pick up card boards, glue, scissors and other stuff that I know they will need to for a one-time project, and not need to use repeatedly.

6. Don't Sign up for a House Phone

People still use house phones? If so, why? When I bought my second home 12 years ago, I thought about connecting a house phone, then changed my mind. My dad and I argued every day about this in the beginning. He still has a house phone and so does my aunt, but they both have cell phones. Is it just the force of habit or do they enjoy paying that unnecessary bills? What they're paying for is unsolicited advertising. I hear them complain about telemarketers calling them non-stop and in spite of blocking numbers; the calls are relentless.

I wondered at first if I could really get along without it, but then I realized that I didn't need it at all. The same thing goes for cable. I could never imagine paying north of $100 for cable each month even with bundled services.

7. Don't do payday loans

Many years ago, I worked in a call center and received a call from someone asking to speak with one of my co-workers. I figured it must relate to work and they're following up on a previous conversation. That wasn't the case. They were trying to track down my co-worker to recoup money for a payday loan. I could hear the cracking in my co-worker's voice as they tried to explain their lag in making timely payments.

Payday loans fall in the category of predatory lending. It's easy to get the loan as long as you have a job that pays you consistently, but the interest rates are exorbitant ranging between 200-250% depending on the terms. It's close to impossible to pay this back. I can't think of a single emergency that would necessitate this loan, unless you had no intention of paying it back. A family member or a good friend (proceed with caution) is a safer bet, and they probably won't charge you interest.

These types of loans are not meant to be helpful. Their purpose is to profit off of your desperation and lack of ability to plan or take decisive action in your finances.

8. Don't bother with credit cards

Credit cards are not meant for everyone, just like a buying a house, a new car and college. Unless you're running a business, you don't need a credit card.

Why do we need credit in the first place? We need it because the things we want or need to purchase is out of range. Since we don't have all the money now, we borrow it intending to pay it off later. Buy it now, worry about it later. The problem with this method is that there is no guarantee you'll be able to pay for it later. Life happens. When you're certain that nothing will go wrong, something goes wrong and you need emergency funds. It's costing you more to pay for it later than to pay the full cash amount today. Why would you want to pay more?

Credit cards do more harm than good because they set you up to fail. Accepting free money doesn't increase your income, it increases your debt. If you didn't have the money to pay for the item in the first place, then how are you expected to pay it back?

Removing credit cards from your life forces you to use the money you already have to pay for the items up front. It enables you to prioritize you spending and delay gratification. You have no choice but to think about whether you really need that item or can live without it for a little while.

9. Don't eat out regularly

Eating out is a luxury that we too often regard as a necessity. It's understandable that we're often stretched so thin, we're forced to take shortcuts. We just want to make it through the day. The problem is that each day is a replica of the day before and when we continue on this trend; it creates more problems.

One reason eating out regularly is bad is because it's not good for your health. Foods prepared outside are the home are usually not healthy, but made for taste. You may end up getting more than you bargained for and the cost is your health.

Another reason eating out regularly is bad for you is because it's expensive. You're paying for the convenience of not having to cook yourself. The cost of family meals at a fast-food joint these days can be up to $30-$40 and that's just for one day! Can you imagine spending this amount of money several times a week?

Cooking your own food guarantees that you know exactly what's going in the pot which minimizes health risks. You're able to buy more, cook more, and save some for another day. Who doesn't like leftovers? Finally, you can save more of your money and have more adventures with your children that they will remember for a lifetime.

10. Do Pay Yourself First

You are number one. It never occurred to me that I should count me as a bill payment. When allocating your paycheck, be number one on the list. This is the first step in building your savings, emergency or investment fund. You're probably already doing this with the help of your employer. When you signed up for 401K, the payroll takes this out before they deduct taxes. You don't even realize that it's missing and you're able to make due on what's left over.

Living paycheck to paycheck is the antithesis of security. Treating yourself to more stuff immediately after receiving your paycheck is not the same as paying yourself, it's the same as giving your money away.

The benefits of paying yourself first are: allowing you to build an emergency fund; save towards investing your future and systematically build security.

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