Of the many things in your life that will change after you get divorced, you can’t overlook your financial situation. You may be going from a two-income household to a one-income household. You may also have new expenses that you didn’t have before, such as renting an apartment or paying child support. The best way to prepare yourself for what is to come is by creating a smart budget for after your divorce.
Start With Your Income
The starting place for your post-divorce budget is to calculate your income. Look at all sources of income that your household receives in a given month, including your wages from work, Social Security income, military benefits, disability benefits, and child support or alimony from a previous relationship.
You should only include tips, bonuses and commissions in this calculation if you have gotten them consistently over the last few years and can reliably count on them in the future. If you do not yet have an income – if you didn’t work during your marriage – that’s okay. You can skip this step and come back to it at the end to determine how much you will need to make in a new job to cover your expenses.
List All of Your Expenses
The next step is to make a comprehensive list of all of your household’s expenses. This may take some research into your past bills and spending habits, especially if you were not the main person in charge of your finances during your marriage. Your list of monthly expenses after you get divorced may include:
A rent or mortgage payment
Banking or accounting fees
Homeowners or renters insurance
Medications or medical bills
Parking or public transportation
Phone, cable and internet bill
Put the actual or approximate cost of each expense per month next to the entry to calculate your total spend. Organize your list of expenses from most important to least. That way, if you go over budget or need to save money somewhere, you can easily eliminate things at the bottom of your list. You can also pause paying for non-essential items in a month where you have additional expenses, such as if your car breaks down or you have a medical emergency.
Calculate the Difference
Once you have accurate numbers of how much money is going in vs. how much is going out, subtract the difference to see if you are over budget, under budget or breaking even each month. Ideally, the disparity between your income and expenses will leave you with extra money for savings or a windfall if something should happen, such as the loss of your job. Do what you can to achieve this by assessing your spending habits and eliminating non-essential expenses – especially in the beginning, while you are still getting used to your life as a single person.
Tips for Budgeting and Saving Money After a Divorce
Getting in control of your financial situation can be difficult, especially if you aren’t used to being the breadwinner or paying the bills on your own. Use these general money-saving tips to help you reach your financial goals post-divorce:
Track your daily spending carefully so that you can see where each dollar goes.
Give yourself a budget for entertainment and non-essential items and stick to it.
Consider creative side jobs or freelance work for extra cash.
Revise your budget as necessary to remain realistic for your living situation and goals.
Be prepared to make difficult decisions if you have to, such as selling the family home.
Adjusting to your new life after a divorce could be the perfect time to implement better spending habits. For further information and professional assistance on how to budget after a divorce, speak to a financial advisor.