We all need money. You can live on a little or a lot, but you need some. For most people, one of the biggest challenges as you move through a divorce is how you will manage financially. With everything up in the air, just thinking of your economic future can quiver the most stalwart heart.
You may have to adjust your lifestyle, work more hours, choose free entertainment, walk instead of using a gym, or learn to cook from scratch. At first, these new ways of being in the world may seem like a hardship, but they open doors and catalyze opportunities you never dreamed existed. (A great book to help you shift your fiscal perspective is: “Your Money or Your Life” by Dominguez and Robin)
Here are some ways those financial constraints will benefit you. When you figure out how to manage with less, you build self-confidence. When you walk outside, you soak up more vitamin D, use all five senses, and commune with nature. By going to free concerts, no admission day at your local museum, street fairs, and using the library for books, DVDs and CDs, you may actually find yourself connecting with your neighbors in a completely new way.
One of the biggest issues with money is how it symbolizes control. But there are myriad ways of developing a sense of financial control, whatever your circumstances. The obvious one is to make more money, less obvious is re-thinking your relationship to money vis a vis the time it takes to earn it.
A trick you might like is to remember anything you buy really costs much more than its actual price tag since you make purchases with after tax dollars. If you know how much you make an hour, after taxes, you can see how much time any expenditure really costs. It’s simply a way to reconceptualize your finances, and help you make better decisions about all your purchases.
Another key cognitive technique is to ask yourself if you have to scratch every itch. Perhaps, you can delay gratification. Try waiting until tomorrow, or even next week, to see if you still have a burning desire for X, Y, or Z. Get in the habit of talking yourself out of buying things. Will a particular purchase improve your life; or, as they say in the ‘hood: will it complete you? Chances are, it won’t.
If you have the inclination, it might be a good idea to think back to your childhood and how money was handled in your family.
Did one parent break the bank while the other was frugal?
Did either parent feel deserving of luxuries?
Was money part of the family’s conversation, or was it not discussed?
Was saving valued?
Were you given everything?
Did you earn your own money?
Did you have an allowance? If so, did you save any of it?
Were you taught how to manage your money?
Were your parents responsible with their funds?
Did your parents fight over money?
By examining the family’s financial values you can readjust your thinking and choose what kind of relationship you want with money now.
It is natural to obsess about money during a divorce. In addition to legal fees, there is a continual barrage of concerns related to a reduced standard of living (for most people). I know it’s hard to imagine, but your finances can actually improve; especially, if you are no longer with a spendthrift.
Getting on your feet financially post divorce is typically quite a slog and requires new ways of thinking about money, especially if you have had a tendency to buy things you couldn’t afford. Living on credit is a way of life for many, but it doesn’t have to be. While getting out of debt is often an arduous process, if you persevere you will feel a lightness you never thought possible. Owing money can feel like the sword of Damocles hanging over your head creating more stress every day. Here’s the good news: you have the power to take charge of your finances and turn them around. The book I mentioned earlier, “Your Money or Your Life,” is an amazing tool, and it’s a quick, easy read. You can even borrow it from the library, for free.
A few practical suggestions to get you started:
Free is best. Try Craigslist or freecycle.com.
Learn to delay gratification. Even five minutes can give you time to re-think a purchase. Ask yourself: Will I really be happier if I buy this? Sometimes, you might be; but, more often, whatever it is will only provide a smidgeon of joy or a few minutes of distraction.
Unclutter your space and clear your mind. Not only will it provide a great opportunity to give things away, it will allow the energy to freely flow throughout your environment. This can have a profound effect on your mood and outlook. Just experiment and see how it feels. Start small. Give one thing away. You don’t need to liquidate everything. It’s symbolic of your new way of being in the world.
Charity. You might think giving time, money, or resources away while you are struggling to make ends meet will put you over the edge, but nothing could be further from the truth. Generosity, of any kind, reminds you how you’re connected to everyone when you feel alone and isolated. In addition, it is empowering to help others, and creates good karma. When you see what a positive effect you can have it activates inner strength, and personal power. Last but not least, you will undoubtedly shift your perspective on your own troubles as you see others struggle with theirs. That doesn’t mean your issues are less important. They are crucial to you, and that’s as it should be. Looking at your situation in a new light gives you opportunities to feel less singled out for pain, and connect with others.
Worrying about your financial future is part of the process of divorce. It’s scary, but you can handle it. Help yourself to an extra portion of patience and love as you change and grow through these new challenges.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang