Divorce not only causes the loss of a spouse; but, it also causes great hardship for the family financially. The husband has historically been the major bread-winner in the family and when he leaves, so does his income. So, what do you do when you suddenly go from not having to worry about money to not having any? Believe it or not there are some financial steps you can take after the divorce to help ease the burden.
I remember this being one of my biggest fears when I was suddenly alone. I had helped my former spouse go back to college and earn a four-year degree, but I only had a two-year degree. And, at that time my job was a part-time position as we had wanted me to be home when the kids got home from school. I worked a 60% position and loved my job but there was no opportunity for it to turn into a full-time position and I didn’t qualify for benefits. Child-support helped but it didn’t pay half of the expenses of raising our children. I was also awarded the house – and also the mortgage payment.
There were countless nights of sleeplessness. How was I going to provide for the kids? How was I going to afford clothes for school, shoes, glasses, on and on and on went the list. Then one night I opened my Bible to Isaiah 54: 4-17. God spoke to me in those thirteen verses in a way I had never experienced before. He told me to replace the words “Jerusalem” and “servant” with my name, and the words “nation, city, and Jerusalem” with the word “home”. There was a whole new meaning to that Scripture passage! God took that passage and gave me the strength to move out of the paralyzing fear and into His presence and comfort. Things didn’t miraculously change overnight, in fact, I never had an abundance of money, but we always had enough.
Let me share with you the financial insights God gave me after the divorce.
- Stop All Spending. You are in an emergency situation and all extra spending has to stop until you have control of your finances. Now is not the time to use credit to keep up the lifestyle you had while you were married. That will only dig you deeper into a financial hole. It’s not going to be easy but right now you have to live with the barest of necessities.
- Set Up A Budget. If you have children in the home who are ten and older, sit them down with you as you go through a budget. They need to see how much money there is month-to-month and where it goes. Shelter, food, and clothing are necessary, but a home that is too expensive, eating out all the time, and the latest fashion label are not. They will survive. You may have to make big changes if it means you have to go back to school or work full-time. By letting the kids in on the planning, they can take ownership in the new family dynamic and you will find them more cooperative.
My children were 16 and 14 when the divorce was final and I was determined to stay in our home to give them some stability. Both the kids found jobs as soon as they were old enough to do so because they had seen on paper that there wasn’t money for any extras. They were willing to get jobs and earn their own money for clothes, shoes, entertainment, and eventually cars, gas, and insurance. Together we learned that little sacrifices could add up to big rewards. They learned the value of looking for sales on the items they wanted.
When my daughter was planning for her first prom she came to me with the dress she wanted. I had only so much money and told her so. I suggested we go to some other stores at the Mall and see what they had. We found the perfect dress on sale for 80% off the original price. We had money left over so we went to another store to look at shoes and found the perfect pair, also marked down drastically. We had money left over so we went to the accessory store and bought the jewelry to finish the outfit. The money I had available bought the dress, shoes, and jewelry. She never paid full price for any of her prom dresses (four in all!) and the very next year she bought the dress she had originally wanted for $20!!!
- Be Generous. Science proves generosity is good for your mental health. For my family being generous meant I continued to tithe on my income. If you are a person of faith I recommend you start or continue tithing. When you turn your finances over to God, something magical happens – it works! I know there are those who look at their budget and you can’t see where tithe fits. All I can tell you is that the money goes further after you’ve tithed. I had always been a firm believer in tithing but I had never invested in tithing where it was a priority. But I knew that in our current circumstances it was crucial that I continue tithing.
God was so very faithful to us and the provisions were indeed miraculous! I was able to send the kids to a private High School. We stayed in our home. I replaced our broken down car with a newer model. We were even able to take a yearly trip to Colorado to spend time with family..
A few years later I was sitting at my dining room table working on my income taxes. I’d almost completed the forms when my son came home and asked what I was doing. I explained the forms to him and how the process worked. He stopped me and said, “Wait, that’s your income for a year?” I said yes and he said, “But, Mom, that’s below the poverty line.” I responded that, yes, I knew that. He was quiet for a while and then he said, “How do you do it?” “Do what?” I asked. He looked around our nice home and said, “This. How can you keep us here, have all that we have, on that income? We don’t look like we’re poor at all and yet, we really are!”
I was able to share with him right then and there the biblical principles of tithing, which basically is when you give God the first 10%, not what’s left over, the other 90% will go a lot further. He will bless you in ways that you would never have dreamed of. My son stood there and said, “That’s amazing, Mom!”
If you are not a person of faith, I urge you to find somewhere to sow your money in generosity. Look for a cause you love that is doing work you admire if you don’t have a church home to give to.
Divorce changes every aspect of your life, but when you take all those changes to the Lord, He is faithful to help you through each and every one. There are many of you who find yourselves alone, scared, and in a financial nightmare. Don’t despair! There’s help!! I became a coach because I know there are life changes that leave you breathless with fear and uncertainty and I wanted to help women navigate through that! In fact, that is exactly what Big Blue Couch Coaching was founded on! I know what life can do to the most devoted of women. I have walked through adversity and come out on the other side completely whole, changed but whole. With these simple financial tips you can walk through your divorce with a better grasp on your finances too.
Joette Knapp is a Professional Life Coach, Speaker, and part of the coaching team at Big Blue Couch™ Coaching. After surviving losing her first baby, and two devastating divorces, Joette turned to her faith and discovered that God can take the ashes of her shattered life and turn them into something new and beautiful. She is passionate about helping other women walk through life-changing experiences and discover that there can be a great life on the other side.