Good Money Habits for Single Parents with the creator of “Distilled Dollar”: Part II

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Matt is a licensed CPA and founder of Distilled Dollar where he shares how he and his fiancée went from living paycheck-to-paycheck to building wealth. With his fiancée’s help, he’s distilling down $$$ topics in pursuit of financial independence by the age of 35.

Matt, do you recommend any specific apps or budgeting tools that could simplify the process of budgeting?

As I mentioned previously, Mint.com is great for tracking your spending, and it’s free. Use this to gain that honest clarity. You may be shocked to see where your paycheck is going.

Another one I use is CreditKarma.com. It’s free and they provide a rough estimate of what your three-digit credit score is. This is helpful for knowing if you’ll qualify for an auto loan or mortgage. What really earned them points in my book is I noticed my credit score drastically went down in one month. I learned there was a fraudulent $2,500 charge on my credit card, which was promptly removed. Thanks to online tools like Mint or Credit Karma, I was able to stay ahead of the game.

Are there any assistance programs available that can help with monthly expenses like rent, groceries, or bill payments?

See if there is a VITA or Ladder Up event near you. These are entirely free services for people low incomes (last I checked it was anything below $50,000). There are plenty of extremely qualified people there who are friendly and nice.

Having helped both organizations, I can tell you it is extremely rewarding to give and receive help. I love putting a smile on someone’s face when they learn they qualify for an extra few hundred bucks on their tax return. I recommend checking out either group.

What’s the best way for a single parent to prepare for the holiday season?

My number one tip is to treat each day as its own monthly budget. What I mean is that, with the holiday season, we’re no doubt going to find ourselves spending more than we originally anticipated. By viewing each day as its own month, we can effectively tackle and string together multiple successful budgets without feeling too bad about those slip ups.

As the holiday season comes to a close, I’d encourage anyone who isn’t currently saving to start a new savings habit in 2017. You can start small by saving one percent as mentioned above and building up, or you can save $1 on your first paycheck, then $2 on your second, $3 on your third, etc. If you slowly build up your ability to save, then you won’t feel as many growing pains in your lifestyle.

Any final advice for single parents (or anyone) looking to improve their financial life??

If you’ve felt the struggle of not making ends meet before, then you might be lucky since you’re extremely motivated to never go back to it. For me, the motivation to be financially independent was sparked during the Great Recession. I was broke, and my parents were essentially unemployed.

Moving forward, start small and save for that rainy day. Go a step further and make that rainy day fund mean something more, such as a college education fund. Let your savings transition from sacrifice into small pieces, buying your future freedom.

Thanks, Matt!

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