You raised your children, and you quickly realized how expensive it was – raising grandchildren is no different. At this point in your life you may be retired or only working part-time, and raising grandchildren on a fixed income requires budgeting to make ends meet. Here are a few tips to make your dollar go farther and your caregiving role a little easier:

Create an organized plan

Your original spending plan was for one or two people, but now that grandchildren are in the mix, your spending will change significantly. It might seem a little overwhelming. Take a deep breath, grab a pencil and paper, and make two lists. On the first list, write down the money you have to spend each payday. The second list should include all of your expenses such as food, housing, transportation, insurance, clothing, education expenses, medical, and allowances. If your expenses exceed your income, look for ways to reduce your spending such as buying groceries in bulk, carpooling, or shopping around for new insurance.

Understand your benefits and options

Now that you are your grandchild(ren)’s primary caregiver, you need to establish your legal status to take advantage of benefits. You might adopt them or obtain legal custody. Whatever route you choose will be helpful, as it will affect eligibility for government assistance such as Social Security benefits. In addition, the new legal-status could qualify you for employer-sponsored benefits should you already have a job or plan to return to work. If you are unsure where to start, consider building a team to help you work through the financial, tax, and legal concerns that accompany your new caregiving role. Seek the advice of a financial planner, accountant, attorney, or social worker who are all more than qualified to assess your unique situation and give you the best advice.

Seek out helpful programs

Becoming a caregiver is a huge life change, but there is help available and you should most certainly take advantage of it. Find out if your grandchildren qualify for Social Security, food stamps, or your state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. If you are a homeowner, consider taking out a reverse mortgage to convert home equity to cash. For the renters out there, contact your city or county’s housing office and inquire about rental options for grandparents raising grandchildren. Cost-saving programs are out there; you just simply have to ask.

Every situation is different, so the best advice is to seek legal counsel before making any important decisions or changes. Once you are headed in the right direction, you can start implementing cost-saving practices to stick to your budget and move forward in this new journey.

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