Money-saving tips for single parents
We help you negotiate the financial maze of single parenthood.
What you’re entitled to
As a single parent, it’s particularly important you get your hands on all the benefits, grants and other government payments you’re entitled to.
You’ll already be familiar with well-publicised initiatives like Child Benefit, Statutory Maternity Leave, Tax Credits and Child Maintenance payments. However, there are lots of other, lesser-known benefits which can also prove to be financial lifelines.
Help with a new baby
First, check out the Sure Start Maternity Grant. This is a one-off, Social Fund payment of £500, designed to help towards the cost of a new baby.
The Maternity Grant is aimed at parents on a low income. There are various criteria defining who can claim it, which you can find out about on this page of the Directgov website.
The second one-off grant you can claim early on isn’t income-related: The Health in Pregnancy Grant is a £190 payment, to help mothers with costs in the run-up to your baby’s birth.
You’re entitled to this money if you’re at least 25 weeks pregnant, you’ve been given health advice from a midwife or doctor to help you and your unborn baby stay healthy during pregnancy, and you’re usually resident in the UK.
Just bear in mind that the government intends to stop paying the Health in Pregnancy Grant for women who reach the 25th week of their pregnancy on or after 1st January 2011.
Help with childcare
If you have a child aged three or four, he or she is entitled to a minimum 12.5 hours of free early learning every week, for 38 weeks of the year. This education can take place in nurseries, playgroups, preschools or at his or her childminder’s.
To find an early education provider and location that suits you, have a look at this Directgov guide.
To more easily meet childcare requirements, parents also have the right to ask their employers for flexible working arrangements if their child is under 17 - or under 18 and disabled.
You must have also worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, and be responsible for your child on a daily basis.
A detailed guide to your rights and responsibilities relating to flexible working can be found on the Citizens Advice Bureau website.
Childcare Vouchers are also well worth investigating. These are vouchers your employer may offer to help with your childcare costs. In some instances they’ll be offered in return for a reduction in your pay - known as a ‘salary sacrifice’.
However, you need to be aware that receipt of Childcare Vouchers may affect the amount of Tax Credits you can claim. To work out whether you’d be better off taking the vouchers or the Tax Credits, use this HMRC calculator.
Some schools run their own holiday and after-school childcare schemes, providing an affordable option for single parents who can’t always take time off work during these periods.
To find out about the school holiday schemes in your area, use this Directgov search tool.
And finally - you could cut the cost of a nanny using websites like NannyShare or The NannySharers. They make it easy for you to search for other parents in your area who are also looking for childcare.
You agree to arrangements between you, hire a single nanny for both/all of the children involved, and split the costs accordingly.
Essentials for less
We all know about eBay - but there are now lots of other initiatives that let you pick up valuable baby and child equipment at a fraction of the normal price.
The National Childbirth Trust regularly runs ‘nearly new’ sales all over the UK: You can find the sales near you here.
Related blog post
- Chiara Cavaglieri writes:
Highlights this week include £15 off pumps, BOGOF on kids shoes, huge savings at the big department stores, 40% off cinema tickets, free days out at National Trust places, free perfume samples, over 75% off games at Sendit and over £26 off the Mad Men box set seasons 1 to 3!Read this post
And if you’re on a low income, you may also be able to claim cash or vouchers from your local authority to go towards specific everyday essentials.
For example, if you earn under £16,190 - or are on income-related benefits - you can get £340 per year to pay for school lunches.
Certain authorities will also help with the cost of school uniforms. You can find your local one here.
And a government scheme called Healthy Start provides free vouchers every week, which you can swap for milk, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and infant formula milk. You could qualify for this scheme if you’re on benefits, or are pregnant and under 18.
There are now several companies who specialise in low-cost or good value breaks for single parents and their children. The Single Parent Travel Club, Single Parents on Holiday, Mango and Small Families are all worth checking out.
Finally, for money-saving tips and loads of other useful advice, check out the holidays sections of the NetMums website.