The way most people live these days is drastically different than in generations past. People are generally waiting until much later in life to marry and have families. Considering this, many women will be single for at least part of their adult lives. Also considering the current rates of divorce, there is a reasonable likelihood that many women will find themselves single again at some stage after marrying. Those time-honored gender roles tend to suggest that most women are not great at putting their own needs first, though when it comes to personal finances, women must consider their own needs and wants in order to secure their financial future.
First and foremost, build yourself a solid budget and stick to it. This is just good sense for absolutely everyone – single, married or divorced. Examine your monthly expenses, remembering to include everything from housing costs, utilities, groceries, car payments, gasoline, insurance and esthetics. Do the same for your income. Subtract your expenses from your income, and see what you've got leftover. You can divide the remainder up based on what you'd like to save and what you'd like to budget toward discretionary spending. Don't forget to factor in money towards repayment of credit card debt, student loans or any other debts you may have. You'll want to get debts paid off as quickly as you can in order to save yourself those pesky interest costs. You should also examine methods for reducing costs, like eating meals at home or reducing the amount you spend on entertainment expenses.
Avoid Giving in to Impulse
It's probably true that most women love to shop. It can be hard to avoid giving in to impulse when you find a great deal on a pair of cute shoes or a new outfit. It's also important to avoid emotional spending. Learning to avoid unnecessary expenditures can really help to improve your financial situation – especially when you've got other expenses that are more urgent, or when giving in means you have to borrow money on your credit card. Try to spend only what you've allotted to yourself for discretionary spending, or budget for larger items like a big holiday or a car over longer periods of time. If you're unsure if you're being impulsive or giving in to emotional spending, try waiting a day or two before making up your mind about an item you're considering buying. If you've changed your mind or forgotten all about the item before the time period is up, you've made a wise choice in walking away.
Save for Rainy Days
It's an unfortunate fact of life, but we can all expect things to go wrong on occasion. Keeping some money stashed away for those rainy days will help you to afford those unexpected expenses when they do come up. Think of vehicle or home repairs, or an unexpected illness that could keep you away from work for a long period of time. No one wants to worry about money in times of distress, so having a rainy day fund will help you to get over the hurdles life throws at you. Even if you're only able to set aside $25 a week, it'll add up over time. Get yourself a high-interest savings account to stash away your cash. You can then transfer your savings into other forms of investments with even higher interest rates once you've got a healthy stockpile. Just remember to set realistic expectations for yourself. Don't save more than you can realistically afford, but don't underestimate the importance of saving either.
Buy a Home
Purchasing a home is a big step for anyone, whether you're doing it on your own or as a couple. Purchasing a home is generally a solid investment that will reward you in the future, especially since renting is essentially the same as giving your money away to someone else. As a single woman, you'll need to ask yourself a number of questions before buying. Can you afford this home on a single income? Is the area safe for a single person to live in? Will you need roommates to help pay the mortgage? What will you do if you marry or have a family? Make a list of what you want and understand what you can afford before you contact a realtor and start looking at what's out there. A condominium or town house can be a great option for single people, especially since they're generally smaller and less expensive than stand-alone houses. Keep in mind that you don't need to commit to living in your first home for the rest of your life. As you further establish yourself financially or as your needs change, you can move on to bigger and better. The important part of buying your first home is establishing yourself in the market and starting to build equity.
Consider Your Retirement Plans
Even if retirement seems like eons away, you'll want to start thinking about it as early as possible. Financial security isn't only about achieving your short-term goals; you've got to consider your long-term goals as well. Even if you do intend to marry, you'll need to ensure you can take care of yourself in your retirement because statistically women tend to live longer than men. Build your budget so you can set aside some money. You can use monthly deductions or make yearly lump sum contributions to a retirement savings plan.
Don't be Afraid to Invest
So you've managed to budget and save your money. Now you've got a healthy stockpile of cash to get you through those rainy days. What should you do with all that extra cash? Though investing may seem like a scary thing, have faith in yourself and believe that you can learn the ins and outs of the finance world. You can always enlist the help of an investment manager or finance expert to guide you along the way. One of the biggest benefits of investing is the opportunity to earn extra money on your initial investment, referred to as return on investment. It may take a little courage on your part, but the payoff could be huge. Do some research and only take on as much risk as you feel comfortable with.
Invest in Yourself
Always keep in mind that you've got to enjoy life too, so don't completely give up on spoiling yourself once in a while. Go on a holiday, to a day spa or treat yourself to something truly special once in a while. View it as an investment in yourself and your own happiness. They key is making it a special treat, not an everyday event. You'll want to ensure that you budget for these occasional indulgences as well. Remember, it's not worth going into debt over a pair of shoes or a holiday.
Before You Walk Down the Aisle
Though it might be an exciting time when you're considering taking the plunge and getting married, don't forget that you really need to have a serious talk with your new partner about money before you get married. Though this may be an awkward discussion to have, you need to know what that person earns, what debts they owe and what their financial plans are for the future. When you make those vows, you're also agreeing to a financial partnership with your beloved. You will need to know that their goals and spending habits are compatible with yours and that you're not marrying someone who will drain you financially, destroying all the hard work you've done to create a financially secure life for yourself.
The Bottom Line
Long gone are the days of considering single women to be spinsters. Women are becoming more and more comfortable in taking control of their own finances, shaping their financial futures and turning their goals into realities. There's no doubt that making big financial decisions independently can be a bit frightening, but there are also a lot of perks. You can enjoy complete control of your own financial situation, without someone else's financial interests impacting your own. Whether you're young and never married or newly single, it's never too late to grasp the reigns and take control of your financial destiny.