Divorce is one of the most devastating things you can go through, not just emotionally but financially, as well. Many women come out of the process with a financial situation that seems disastrous. Part of the reason is because the divorce process is so expensive, but part of it is because they are often left having to pay bills with less money than they had before. That said, I promise there is hope. In this article, I want to offer you 8 money management tips to help you feel less stressed and more optimistic about your financial situation.
8 Money Management Tips for after the divorce
1. Figure out what you have.
If your divorce just wrapped up, you’re probably intimately aware of what you have when it comes to money. Now is the time to make a list of all the bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and any other accounts you may have. Knowing what you have is the first big step to effectively managing your money. Keep the list in a place where you can access it any time you need.
2. Live in housing you can afford.
So often, people getting divorced want to stay in the family home for reasons that include: not exposing the children to more change, not wanting more changes for yourself, feeling comfortable where you live, the sentimentality of the home, or fear of living someplace else.
But, if the family home is too expensive or makes your budget too tight, it’s a bad choice. You want some flexibility in your monthly budget, so don’t be afraid to explore housing options that give you some breathing room. You will be surprised at how less stressed you will feel paying your new mortgage or rent, and how quickly you will get used to (and even enjoy) your new home.
3. Close credit accounts that you and your spouse shared.
If you and your ex were both on a credit card or loan, it’s important to have your name taken off the accounts you’re not keeping. But the safer move is to close those accounts all together (so there is no risk that you could be tied to a debt your ex runs up). Get new credit cards that are only in your name.
4. Monitor your credit.
Run a credit report on yourself regularly so you can keep an eye on things. That way if there is an account with your name on it that you forgot about, and your ex starts using it, you can shut it down fast. It’s not a lot of work to monitor your credit. There are free services out there that allow you to check your credit as often as you like, and it doesn’t hurt your credit score. Create a routine where you log into the site once a week to check on things, or set an alert with the site you use to monitor your credit so you’ll be notified of any changes.
5. Start an emergency fund.
This might seem daunting if you’ve never had an emergency fund before or if your budget is really tight. But it’s important to have some money to fall back on when you have an unexpected repair or medical expense or travel need. Even if you put $100 per month in the fund, you will be surprised at how quickly it adds up! Just make sure to leave this money alone unless you have a true emergency. It’s tempting to use the money for other things, but it’s important to keep this money set aside for the real emergencies that inevitably pop up.
6. Budget, budget, budget.
I know it’s not sexy to talk about budgeting. And we hear the word budget so often that it’s easy to tune it out. But budgeting is really just about having a plan. If you know what you have coming in and what you need to pay for, you can plan. That’s what is most important. It’s uncomfortable to learn what you can spend. Or that after taxes, your income is lower than you thought, but knowledge is so powerful, and will help you make such better financial decisions.
7. Look for little places to cut back.
Denying yourself all treats and extras is not realistic or sustainable. You deserve to enjoy things! A more realistic approach to reducing your expenses is to cut back on the extras. Instead of a fancy coffee shop drink each day, treat yourself to it once a week and make your own drinks the other days. Or, allow yourself a shopping spree twice a year—once at Christmas and once on Mother’s Day. Consider your monthly expenses and see where you can cut back. For example, do you really need every movie channel available? Cutting a couple of them will reduce your cable bill.
8. Celebrate your money successes.
You are working so hard and you are a great mom! Don’t forget to celebrate when you have those “wins,” like when you get a great commission check or you saved money on something, or you just really really want something. Look at your money in a positive way. You deserve it!
In closing, finances are stressful for everyone, and even more so for single parents. Remember that finances are stressful no matter how much money people have. Even really wealthy people stress about money. It’s normal. But, if you have knowledge about your finances, you are empowered and if you appreciate what you have, you will be more at peace and less fearful about the future. I wish you all the best!
Tracy Coenen, CPA, CFF, is a nationally recognized CPA and forensic accountant, who focuses on finding hidden money in divorce cases. A solo practitioner for over two decades, Coenen also works in the areas of fraud investigation and corporate litigation. Coenen is the creator and founder of the Divorce Money Guide, a 10-step handbook for men and women getting divorced aimed to help determine if a spouse is hiding money. She is also the creator of the Post-Divorce Money Guide, a 10-step handbook in managing your money after divorce.