How to make ends meet?

I’m a single mother of a 7 year old, without a car, with a minimum paying job, living with MY mother, no degree and minimal schooling. My mom wants us to move out because she wants to be alone. What should I do? Where can I get a better job and how can I make ends meet under my circumstances?

uh, welcome to the SDMB, I guess. Sorry you’re in a fix. Just remember, tomorrow might always be a better day.

How about the father of your child? Is he paying child support? If not, why not? Please don’t hit me with “I don’t want to deal with him”. It’s his kid, he has an obligation to pay. The extra money will come in handy. Perhaps while your kid is in school or staying with your mother you could look for another job. Had you thought about a factory job? Lots of women are working in union shops now days, and they can pay quite well. Even in this economy there are still some good jobs to be had for the under educated if you’re will to work. I can only tell you to take it day by day.

Can you type? If not, learn, which shouldn’t take that long if you’ve access to a computer.

Then it’s off to white collar world. Easiest way in may be as a receptionist, but possibly a position as a secretary or clerk is attainable. Right off the bat you’ll probably be doing better than minimum wage, and if you’ve got some snap, you can move to a better position.

Really, I’ve watched many people do this over the years. Several administrative assistants I’ve known have not attended college; and most have worked their way up through the white collar enlisted ranks. And they can wind up making a decent income.

Good luck!

In the meantime, make sure you’re getting every penny of federal, state, and local assistance that’s possibly available. Go to your county’s department of social services and ask for a case to assist you. See if your county has a job training agency/workforce development agency for job and/or career guidance. See if you qualify for any federal/state training monies due to your financial situation and then see if you can get a vocational job.

It sounds like you could benefit from a counselor. See if the local mental health association/Catholic Charities/etc. can provide pro bono counseling. Speaking of which, ask if there is a lawyer who does pro bono work and try to get your child’s father to cough up some child support. Depending on your state, you might also qualify for low cost/no cost health care since you have a kid.

Most counties offer more social support services than residents realize. (I do a bit of volunteering.) If you have the determination and drive–and tap available resources–you can create change in your life.

Your Mom wanting to “be alone” suggests there’s something else at work. Why would she abandon you in your hour of need?

Welcome to the SDMB. General Questions is for questions with factual answers. IMHO is for opinions and polls. There is no factual answer to your question, so I’ll move this to IMHO for you.

Good luck.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator

Ultimately, the government can’t solve this problem. It’s up to you to take responsibility for your future. Some temporary assistance would probably be helpful at this late date, though. Be wary, though. Gov’t agencies are looking to make you dependent on their services. You’re going to have to work very hard for the next couple of years. Don’t make excuses. Just get the job done. I don’t have all the answers, but I think I can offer some suggestions that might open some doors.

  1. Priority number one is to secure a place to live, at least temporarily. Find a friend or relative who can take you in for 4-6 months. Beg if you have to and stick to the agreed upon time limit. It will motivate you. Everyone has a friend or relative who will take them in in a time of need. If possible, try to negotiate some extra time at your current residence. You may be about to be evicted because your mother senses a lack of motivation on your part to do anything about your present situation.

  2. Unless the father is deceased, get child support. Don’t use it if for anything other than rent, child care, groceries, health insurance, or clothing for your daughter.

  3. Get your GED. You’ll need it. You’ll never have a stable career without it.

  4. Make sure you have a bank account and a couple of nice outfits for your employment search. If you don’t own anything suitable, borrow money, borrow clothes, or buy them at second hand stores. If your skills are lacking, you need to put your best foot forward. Punctiality and professional dress will help immensely, even in the hunt for menial jobs. Potential employers will know to take you seriously.

  5. Work full-time as a temp. It’s the easiest way to double your pay tomorrow. There’s no reason to work for minimum wage if you are reasonably intelligent. Check your phone book. If you live in a good-sized community, chances are there are a few to chose from ranging from indsutrial to office work. Accept any jobs at first, but request jobs where there’s the possibility of full-time employment with benefits. Some of the better temp agencies offer minimal benefits and accrued vacation time. Often, passing a simple competency test is all that’s required to secure a decent job. Temp agencies are used to dealing with people just coming into the workforce or those in transition, so they can often locate work that is within a short distance of your home or on a bus route. Some offer a pickup service or ride-sharing for those without cars. If you don’t have the skills or education to work in an office, be prepared to do some industrial work for awhile. It’s menial, dirty, and boring, but it generally pays well. You need to establish an employment history that includes something more than flipping burgers or ringing up purchases down at the mall.

  6. Start saving. Four to six months should be enough time to save for a deposit on a cheap apartment and provide a buffer for emergencies.

  7. Secure childcare. Even though your daughter is old enough for school, your job may mean you are not always available. Try to rely on friends or relatives. This is more difficult, so try not to put the burden on one person. No matter what they say, pay them. Even a small amount of money will demostrate that their effort is appreciated and they’re not being taken for granted.

  8. Put your social life on hold. You won’t have time for it. No dating, no parties. Your daughter is depending on you to provide for her future and you have work to do.

  9. Get some cheap transportation. Even if your job is close to home, you’ll need a car for grocery shopping, trips to the doctor, and expanding your range for new job opportunities. Do NOT buy a new car or a used car at one of those “$199 and a job” dealers. Find a used car for no more than about $1200 cash. Don’t expect it to be reliable, but try to get one that will last at least a year.

  10. Some other financial things … Chop up all your credit cards but one. Eliminate unnecessary expenses like the cellphone, cable, and trips to your favorite restaurant. Buy generic foods at the grocery store. Send as little money out the door as possible except for your modest living expenses and to pay down debt. Save whatever is left over.

My little boy’s father is deceased. He committed suicide 5 years ago and I’ve been in a depressed funk ever since. I know I need to get out on my own and support my little boy on my own but, I’m scared. Scared I won’t make enough money and will end up failing. I live in California and apartments are a minimum of almost $700.00 a month. How will I ever get a car when I pay that much in rent? It’s all so over whelming. But, I do appreciate all suggestions.

evilhanz took it into a lot more detail, and I agree with what he’s said. I’ll add that what he mentions about the temp agencies is one very effective avenue to pursue what I said.

Having worked in the white collar world for quite some years now, I long ago had the odd realization that many of my coworkers were not particularly well educated but they had at some point stopped looking for work in minimum wage jobs and had taken on office jobs that just plain pay better. Do that.

One secretary I had really had no education at all and we paid her (in today’s dollars) $30,000. For knowing nothing other than how to type. That’s a liveable wage; that’s where the corporate world is willing to start. She was not unique - just one I thought of; there were plenty of others.

I don’t really know anything about you other than what’s included in your post. I’m just trying to urge you to punch the envelope and go for the more lucrative employment.

Once again, good luck!

Did you ever look into Social Security survivor benefits for your child? I don’t want to get overly personal or inadvertantly step into any sensitive issues, but if the father had worked there is a good chance that monthly survivor benefits may be due. Don’t assume that he had not worked enough to qualify or that other circumstances disqualify your child from receiving benefits. I know of a case involving the child of an (IIRC) 19-year-old whose total earnings had been less than $10,000.00; he had died in an accident before the mother even knew she was pregnant and even though they were only engaged she was able to establish paternity and qualified for monthly payments of several hundred dollars.
Call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 between 7am & 7pm or go to their website at for further info or to file a claim. Benefits would be payable for six months prior to the month you file the claim, so the sooner you file the better.

I wish my friend M were a poster here – she’d have lots of advice for you, but I think a lot of it has already been said here. She’s a single mom of two kids with different dads who are spotty in their child support. HS diploma only and a few years of college. She’s basically worked unskilled labor her whole life, and I’m willing to bet she’s near the poverty line, with her 2 kids to support. But she’s owned her own house for about 10 years; it’s a handyman special, but it’s cozy and I don’t think she’d mind me disclosing that her payments are about $150/mo in her small WI town. She’s a master at pinching pennies and robbing Peter to pay Paul, but she also has excellent credit at her bank and can get loans at the drop of a hat. She drove an old crappy truck for years, and when it finally croaked for good she bought herself a nice new one.

She works hard, and she’s often stressed, but she’s very proud of her independence. Her next goal is to start her own business, and she’s well on her way with developing the products she plans to make. And she’s also homeschooling her kids.

Not really much advice here, but just an illustration that it can be done. I remember when M was struggling through school, I sent her an article about a woman who’d started out in a similar situation and was now some important person at the university. And she said she found the article very inspirational. So perhaps her story can help you.

One other thought: I remember when a bunch of my friends moved from here in WI out to CA, and they were constantly griping about the horribly high rents there compared to here. I’m not sure you’re up for this much of a fresh start, but maybe you’d find a different area of the country more affordable. I think apartments here in central WI start around $300/mo in rural areas. You could also look for a housemate (maybe another single mom?) to share expenses.

About being scared: Seconds on the advice to get counseling, but also remember that this is your chance to find out what you can do. You are stronger and more capable than you think you are. I guarantee it. Just take it one step at a time.

neisha, I’m a single mom of an 8 year old. I had him when I was 18, and have never gotten a dime from his father. No degree past high school. I’ve been extremely lucky in that my parents have been incredibly supportive.

Firstly, what kind of work are you doing? I lived with my parents until I was 23, and for the first 2 1/2 years of my son’s life I only worked part-time. I started out at $6/hour in a community newspaper as an office assistant, and my first full-time job as a receptionist paid $21,000/yr in 1996. I’ve gotten successively better jobs since then and am now making $50,000/yr (a comfortable wage for Chicago) including bonus as an admin assistant/database administrator, so I know from first hand experience that it can be done.

So my first piece of advice is to try to find an office job, like other posters said. Reception is an easy gig; it’s decent money if you have the minimal skills, which it seems like you do. Foremost, I think, is presentation: you need to look the part - get a couple of suits if you don’t have any. Even if you’re not interested in reception (who the hell is?) it can serve as an inroad to something more lucrative and interesting. Emphasize that you’re willing to do anything, no matter how menial, and to learn in order to move forward.

Luckily, your son is school age so child care won’t totally kill you except the after-school gap. My son is in an afterschool program at a public park that’s very inexpensive; oftentimes with publicly funded programs low income families can get a break on the cost. Or maybe his school sponsors a program. Or, if you know any other single moms maybe you can work out child care arrangements with them. When I was looking into moving out of my parents apartment I was hoping to find another single mom to split rent with; I don’t know if that would work for you but it’s an idea.

God, neisha this makes me realize how easy I had it. I feel for you, I know it’s lonely and hard. Check your e-mail as well.

I’m not sure what the programmes I’m thinking of are called in the US, but I know from previous threads on here that they exist - they are low income housing programmes where you are housed in privately owned accommodation and pay a significantly reduced rent.

As housing is going to be one of your greatest needs in the coming years, you might want to check out programmes like Habitat for Humanity which offer low income families the opportunity to own their own homes.

Also, check out woman’s organisations. They often have access to short to medium term rental accommodation which is never advertised on the open market (frequently at reduced rent and very often they provide you with a support worker as well).

The more initiative you show, and the more you can demonstrate your willingness to put in the hard work involved in getting out of the “poverty trap”, the more likely you are to receive help from non-government organisations.

Good luck.

You happen to be querying in my area of expertise. I work in public assistance and it is my bread and butter to get people on their feet. We DO NOT try to get people hooked on govt aid as was hinted at before. Trust me, poverty has been around a long while and will continue to be around as long as there are people. In fact, a great number of our programs are contigent upon getting and/or keeping a job. Here are some resources you might want to look into:

  1. HUD-(the Dept for Housing and Urban Development) this agency provides a variety of services to those in need of shelter. They can cover part of rent, offer low-income loans, and help with placement. In some areas, you can expect a waiting list, but let them know that your mom is closing her doors and that you don’t have a backup plan for shelter and that should speed things up.

  2. Your local public assistance office-I am not familiar with policy and procedure for Cali, but in our office, we offer Food Stamps, free medical insurance, employment services, and referrals to other agencies (including free pursual of child support, food bank, adult education, and other employment agencies) to help those in dire need. We also can provide info on how to seek mental health counseling and get wives and children out of violent households. (-Phew, no wonder I’m tired at the end of the day!)

  3. Hi Opal!- Always good for a great post when you’re feeling blue.

  4. Your local community action council or area development district- Ours offers subsidized child care and heating expense assistance.

  5. Churches and ministerial associations- These often offer a hand with clothing, food, and bar all else, they are often an open ear and a reassuring smile in the darkest of hours.

Hope this offers a little help with your immediate situation, and keep in mind that if you keep your eye on where you want to be, it’s harder to see the obstacles in your path. We’re keeping you in our hearts and keeping an ear open should you need it.