Single parents face a lot of adversity. Whether you are a rookie or a seasoned veteran, it is an uphill battle for most. One factor that makes the single parent hill difficult to climb is the ability to budget for child support. Whether you are paying the child support or receiving it, there is a lot to consider when adding this money to your budget.

When You Owe Child Support

When you begin owing child support, this can become a major expense. That payment can seem like an obstacle that cannot be conquered.  Here are some tips that can ease your anxieties and make this obstacle easier to overcome:

1. List your fixed and variable expenses.

Your fixed expenses are the expenses that stay the same from month to month (mortgage or rent payment, car payment, utility bills, etc.). Write down all of your fixed expenses and look to see if there are areas where you can make cuts such as a cheaper phone, internet, or cable TV plan. Next, make a list of non-essential or variable expenses. Review those and see where you can make additional cuts. Eating out, gym memberships, and car washes are all examples of expenses that can be cut or made cheaper.

2. Set up a regular payment plan.

In life, there are many bills that need to be paid and your money may be stretched in every direction. Setting up a regular payment plan can ease your mind about child support payments. Payment plans make sure that your child support is paid on time. They will also help you avoid the harsh penalties that come with missed payments such as license suspension and incarceration. These regular payments can be set up at your local bank or at The Office of Child Support Enforcement.

3. If your circumstances have changed, request a child support modification.

Let’s face it, life can be a rollercoaster and changes can happen at the drop of a hat. If your situation has changed and you cannot afford to pay child support, visit your local Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). Submit a modification request that will fit your current situation. Even if you are denied, those requests stay on file and could help you in future requests. Even if there is a month where you cannot afford to pay the whole amount owed, pay what you can to avoid harsh penalties.

When Receiving Child Support

When you start receiving child support payments, it can be difficult to understand the best ways to use this money. Here are some tips to best use this income:

1. Estimate the monthly costs of raising your children.

This is a good exercise to do to see how much you actually spend on raising your children. Use this as an action plan to decide the best way to divide up the money you are receiving. This will promote spending your child support money wisely and help you focus on raising your children.

2. Consider child support as extra money.

This may not be possible in every situation however, it is a good idea to create a budget where your child support payment is considered as extra income. Receiving your child support payments may become inconsistent which makes it difficult to rely on that money. When this money is considered extra, you can use it for the next month’s expenses or even for future educational endeavors.

Whether you are paying or receiving child support, budgeting for it can be complicated. By assessing your expenses and creating a plan, you can better arrange for this money to find a comfortable place in your budget.