When you’re single everyone wants to know the secret key to survival. It is even more important when you are going through a separation or divorce. I hate to spill the beans so early, but the answer is simple…..MONEY. And being across your budget, knowing where your money is being spent and how much is coming in each week.
If you are not mathematically-minded that’s okay; you need to simplify your life and your spending, bringing everything back to basics. It is critical that you know how much money is coming in and how much money is going out, making sure funds are left over. It is just a simple math equation. But to get to the answer you need to do a deep dive into your living expenses, and that’s what we’re here to do.
Over the recent weeks, several of our clients have struggled with their financial situation. Simple not understanding the importance of a budget and given it is the end of the financial year, it is a great time to review your spending. Starting this year with a fresh outlook and a plan to get back in the black. It is paramount that your budgets are updated and reviewed if you are separated or are going through a divorce. You can no longer live as you did before. It is also critical to your emotional health at such a stressful time that you have a clear understanding of where your money is going. So, it’s not just about the money; it’s also about the other factors that come into play and making sure that you feel secure. And security comes from knowing that you have enough money to cover your debts and hopefully a little spare.
Ignoring your financial circumstances is the silliest thing you can do. What you need to do is address the issue straight on, and to do that you have to have a clear idea of how much debt you are in and how much money you are bringing in each week. Putting your head in the sand and ignoring your position will only make everything worse. And emotionally that is the last thing you need to deal with. But so often finances can be the breaking point when you are dealing with all other kinds of emotional stresses. People think they will leave this till last as they feel there are other more important issues to deal with and they simply don’t have the strength to deal with their money concerns.
‘So obviously if your debt outweighs your income, then you’re in trouble, and the longer this continues, the greater the problem becomes.’
Now, this can be scary, but they say most growth happens in the face of fear. And l can attest to this. If you know, for instance, that your debt is far more than your income, it’s time to put the brakes on right now. If you can’t do this alone, then seek out a professional. Sometimes just talking to an expert about the state of your budget can make all the difference because you may not be able to see the quick fixes. And l promise there are always quick fixes. You can also locate tools online that can be used and apps that will help you keep track of your expenses and understand where all your money is being spent. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard, ‘I have no idea where my money is going?’
‘You may have heard this all before but be, please don’t ignore the significance of a budget’.
There is no doubt that initially, addressing your spending behaviours can be hard. In my instance, I used to spend money because it made me feel better. Rather than thinking about the unhappiness, I was living. I would go out and shop for gifts for other people, including myself to try and address the unhappiness that I felt inside my relationship. It also got me out of the house while l ignored the loneliness l felt. Looking back if l stopped ignoring my situation, I could have saved a fortune.
Today, however, my outlook on money is completely different, and I only spend cash on assets that are acquiring in value. It could be that my mental clarity and direction in life has changed. I no longer find it enjoyable to go and spend hours in a shopping centre. Because I don’t have a purpose and a reason to be there or trying to fill a void by buying things that might make me feel better. If only for a short period. It is so much easier looking in the rear-view mirror, but all I was doing was perpetuating my problems rather than addressing them in the first place.
So, no more ignoring your spending, let’s get this under control:
‘Fixing your life doesn’t just mean leaving an unhappy relationship or the shock of being told you are no longer loved. The approach to happiness is holistic and must address every part, so don’t underestimate the power of controlling all areas including finances.’
Step One: ( A position – Income)
Step two is looking at your income and the total of your funds. Here we are talking about income from your job, child support, tax A and B, spousal maintenance or any other including rental income. You may also get a regular bonus or commission from your job. Add this all up. Now you can tackle this one of two ways. Divided by 12 and get a monthly average, or if you want to be more actuate you can do it as per your monthly totals.
Step Two. ( B position – Expenditure)
The first action is to look at where all your money is going. I want you to do a spreadsheet looking back over the last 12 months. Look at where all of your money has gone—so using actual figures. Look at amenities, such as gas, electricity and water. Add each bill up for the last 12 months. Once added together, with a yearly total for each area divided by 12. (So let’s talk about the gas bill. You’re going to add up the last six gas bills because you get them bi-monthly. Then divide by 12 because there are 12 months, and you’re going to get a monthly figure. This is the total amount you have spent in the last year on gas.)You will do the same thing for electricity and water. Then move on to other expenses such as the internet, vehicle costs, mortgage payments/rent, and so on. Dividing all yearly totals by 12 to get a monthly totally.
Then tackle your food bill. This area has a lot of wastage. Think of the amount of take away coffees and lunches you may buy in a week and times by 52. The total may shock you. Your weekly grocery bill and that sneaky fast food a few times a week. Go over your credit card statement or your debit card and have a look back at actual figures.
Also, review such things as presents. Work out how much you spend every Christmas, how much you spend on birthday presents, how much you spend on Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and presents throughout the year for friends and family. Add that all together and you get a total and divide that by 12.
If you had a credit card, with an outstanding balance, I want you to use the credit card limit for this exercise. For example; let’s say your credit card has a $10,000 limit, but you have $8,400.00 outstanding. I want you to times that credit card limit of $10,000 by 3%. ($10,000 by 3% is $300 or $5,000 by 3% if that is your limit being $150). Now use that 3% figure in your budget. $300 per month is the figure that I want you to use in your monthly. You also need to include any mortgages, car or personal loan repayments at today’s repayment amounts.
‘All of a sudden you have a clear picture of where all your money is going. With calculations done you now have your debt position or expenditure’.
We now have an A position and have just completed your B position.
A position – income
B position – expenditure
Now that magic number, drum roll, please! We are going to work out your C position. Either a negative cash flow or a positive surplus. Let’s take A – B = C
All of a sudden reality hits and for some it may be hard. If you have a negative surplus, straight away you need to stop what you’re doing and address this problem because it will only compound month after month. If you have a positive position, I want you to make sure that it is at least 10% of your wage. This 10% is your rainy day money.
There is a possibility that you are still shaking after finding out your financial truth and feeling a little sick in the stomach. But this is a step in the right direction and kudos to you. Now to address this moving forward, I’ve had many clients who have done some completely outside-the-square thinking. Which has benefitted their bottom line.
- They’ve sold unwanted clothing on eBay.
- I had a client that went through their partner’s garage and took everything that had a price on it back to Bunnings. They ended up getting $10,000—or just under $10,000—in credit notes back from Bunnings.
- Selling unwanted furniture, goods, clothes, shoes, camping gear that you haven’t used for years that you can put on your local Facebook group and buy swap and sell.
- Renting out your spare room. (One client pays back her monthly mortgage this way)
- Walking dogs.
- Selling your hobbies at markets or online.
- Sell your car if you work inner city and use public transport or shared vehicles.
- There are apps where you can rent out your car to people who don’t have a vehicle.
- Get paid to do market research. ( A client of mine get roughly $400 A month)
- Become a Customer service rep. ( check this out online for after-hours work).
- Baked goods or cater for additional income.
- Consider house sitting or moving in with a family member and renting out your home.
- Cleaning services or repair person in your spare time.
- Write people’s CV and charge them.
- Ask for a raise.
‘Every little bit adds up.’
With your extra money consider paying down the debt with the highest interest rate first. (This is normally a credit card facility). It is the accrued interest that is keeping your poor. So get a handle on it. Cut up the card if you must but don’t spend another cent unless you can afford it and it is not credit.
The next part of this is to go back over your providers and see if you can get a better deal. Ring your gas supplier, and ask for a cheaper rate or move somewhere else. This hard work will all pay off.
Now attached to this blog I’ve added a budget template. I want you to download and use it, and get this under control. Security is knowing you can pay your bills. Ultimately one of the strongest positions that you can have as a single person. As part of our 5 Steps to a Seamless Divorce, the area of finances is key to a positive outcome and future. We spend time and effort on this because no good comes from ignoring this area of your life. Empowerment comes from investment and investment cant happen if you live outside your limits.