A divorce is the second most stressful life event you can experience, after the death of a spouse1. Financial disruption can add to the stress. Read on to learn the 7 easy steps on how you can create a post-divorce budget that can help you take control and purse your goals.
- Money Date
Your first step is to open your calendar and book a two-hour “Money Date”, an appointment with yourself when you’ll take a detailed look at your finances. Set up at a cozy café, or wherever you are comfortable and focused. Bring a laptop, notebook, pen, calculator, calendar, and passwords for your online accounts.
- Get Clear About your Goals
Your short-term and long-term goals will provide perspective for making your budget, and motivation to stick to it.
Looking at the next 12 months, ask yourself, “what are my short-term financial goals this year?” Perhaps you need new furniture, or a vacation, or you’re going back to school. Write down all the things you’d like to accomplish in the next year and estimate what they’ll cost.
Now, looking at the bigger picture of your life, ask, “what are my long-term goals and dreams?” Perhaps they’re related to retirement, sending a child to college, or making a long-distance move. As you list these goals, jot down any questions you have. We can help you evaluate costs.
- Add up Your Income
Next, list every source of money that you regularly receive. If you work, include your total monthly paycheck after taxes. Income alimony, child support, and any other sources of income2. Tally up your monthly income and write that amount here.
PAYCHECK + ALIMONY + CHILD SUPPORT = YOUR INCOME
- Write Down Your Expenses
Now, List your regular expenditures. Even if cash flow isn’t a concern, it’s vital to know where your money is going.
- Start with your FIXED EXPENSES
These are your non-negotiables: things like rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, credit payments, groceries.
- Then, list your VARIABLE EXPENSES
These are the discretionary, flexible categories like clothes, entertainment, dining out, and savings. If you can, include a “fun money” category for treats.
- Prioritize and Adjust as Needed
With your Income and Expense in hand, you can fine-tune your budget, adjusting it to fit your lifestyle and goals.
Ideally, your Monthly Income covers both your Fixed and Variable Expenses, with room to spare. If not, you might have some decisions to make. Start by reviewing your Variable Expenses3. Then, consider ways to add income. Revisit your budget often and adjust according to your priorities.
- Assemble Your Dream Team
Now is the time to assemble a superhero team to support you in pursuing your goals. Include your financial advisor, divorce lawyer, and accountant. You may also want to include your close friends, your therapist, and even your personal trainer or nutritionist. Their support can help you stick to your budget.
- Make it Practical
To stay on track, create a practical approach to follow regularly. Consider using a simple budgeting software, such as Mint or YNAB. Reach out to your support team regularly and be sure to call on us to help put numbers around those long-term goals you’re saving for.
Change might be tough, but so are you.
By keeping to a budget and staying focused on your goals, you can run the divorce marathon and cross the finish line stronger, wiser, and more financially prepared for what’s ahead.
You’ve got this!
1 The American Institute of Stress, 2017
2 The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.
3 U.S News & World Report, August 28, 2014