Becoming a foster carer is an incredibly rewarding experience. You open your heart and home to children in need, providing stability, care and nurturing. At the same time, fostering brings many financial considerations. As a foster carer, you’ll receive a fostering allowance to help cover the child’s expenses. However, you’ll likely incur additional costs. And you still need to save for your own family’s future needs. With careful budgeting and financial planning, you can achieve both goals successfully.
Track Your Spending
The first step is understanding where your money currently goes. Track every pound spent for 1-2 months. Categorise expenses as essentials like housing, utilities, food or discretionary like dining out and entertainment. This spending snapshot will illuminate areas to cut back if needed.
Build Your Emergency Savings
Experts recommend having 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses set aside for emergencies. This savings buffer allows you to cover unexpected expenses without going into debt. Aim to put away a portion of every paycheck until you reach your savings target. Having this emergency fund in place gives you financial stability before bringing a foster child into your home.
Review Your Fostering Allowance
Once you are approved to foster via an agency, such as Foster Care Associates Scotland, you’ll receive a weekly allowance per child placed with you. Rates vary by region, the child’s age and their needs. Be sure you understand what expenses this allowance is intended to cover. Budget carefully so the money stretches to meet the child’s needs. Seek support from your agency if the allowance falls short.
Identify Additional Costs
Next, forecast any new costs that may arise from fostering. This could include higher food, utility and transportation bills, clothing, nappies or school expenses, toys and activities. If you are fostering teens, factor in mobile phones, computers or driving lessons. Be realistic about these added costs so they don’t catch you off guard.
Explore Tax Credits
Some foster carers qualify for tax credits like child tax credit. This can provide added income during the years you foster. Find out which credits apply to your situation. Tax credits help offset the costs of fostering a child.
Create a Debt Repayment Plan
If you have any existing debts like credit cards or loans, create a plan to pay them off as quickly as possible. Group debts by interest rate, paying minimums on all but the highest rate debt. Dedicate as much money as possible each month to eliminating that debt first before moving to the next highest interest debt. This debt avalanche method saves money on interest charges.
Open a Savings Account
Next, open a dedicated savings account for longer-term goals like your retirement, a child’s university plans, or future family holidays. Set up automatic monthly transfers from your bank account so the money accumulates over time through compound interest. Foster carers need savings just like other families.
Communicate with Your Partner
Fostering will impact your family’s finances. So, discuss budgeting, savings goals and investing plans openly with your spouse or partner. Get on the same page about expenditures and how to allocate windfalls like tax refunds or work bonuses. Shared financial objectives help you make unified decisions.
Consider Your Future Plans
Finally, think about your future fostering journey. Do you plan to adopt your foster child someday? How long do you plan to continue fostering? This will shape your financial timelines. Connect with a financial adviser to map out strategies for meeting both your family’s needs and foster child’s expenses over the long term.
The rewards of fostering a child are immeasurable. But the costs are very real. With prudent budgeting, consistent saving and open communication, foster carers can achieve financial stability for their own family while providing a loving home for the children who need one.