It’s no one’s Plan A. But being a single mom does not mean you’re destined for the welfare line, free school lunches for your kids, or living in your parents’ basement.
The first step is to convince yourself that your new life will be one that is full, joyous and financially rich. For some people, it can take a long time to believe. Maybe you’ll have to fake it till you make it (as they say). But nothing is possible unless you can see the end goal.
Here are a few steps to get you going:
Embrace that you are now financially independent. Yes, you may receive child support and/or alimony. But remember this: That money could go away any time. He could lose his job, skip town, become disabled or pass away at any moment. You cannot control that. But you can control how much you earn. And you can earn far more than a judge may order you be paid. Plus: It is critical to your ability to move on emotionally in this phase of life if you are not connected to your ex and your former life through bi-weekly payments.
Get a grip on how much you you’re spending. I’m a big fan of Mint.com, a free online tool where you plug in all your bank, credit card, brokerage and mortgage accounts to get a snapshot of all your finances.
Get a grip on how much is coming in. Mint will help, but I recommend a visit to your accountant – your tax situation will be very different when compared to when you were married.
Check on your credit score for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. I go into the reasons why in my post here .
Set some short- and long-term goals financial goals. Short-term might be to pay off a credit card bill, build an emergency savings account, or make more than you spend. Long-term include buying a home, saving for your kids’ college, or investing for retirement.
Set quality of life goals. There is no point in paying off a credit card bill if it means you work so much that you never see your kids or have time to exercise. Consider free time, quality time, the health and wellbeing of your family. Think about how your money and life can work together.
Decide to make more money. Take a mentor out for lunch to learn about opportunities in your profession. Research going back to school. Consider starting your own business. Talk to your boss about telecommuting and other life-balance arrangements.
Get rid of bills for stuff you don’t need. Haven’t been to the gym in six months? Get real with yourself and cancel that bill. Look at your cell phone and cable statements – can you trim down your services? Also, sell stuff you don’t need (Read: Should you sell your engagement ring after divorce?).
Go on a shopping diet. No more trips to the mall or Amazon.com to browse (at least not without checking out the newest Amazon promo codes!) Make a strict list before stepping foot in Target and do not stray into the cosmetics departments for a “treat” – and I don’t care how great of a deal you find! By making each purchase a conscious one, you will feel empowered and confident about your money.
Think about spending money in ways that will make you money: Pay for yard service, and use that time saved to build a business. Invest in a dishwasher and spend that extra time studying for a degree that will earn you more money. Send out your laundry and devote those hours to fun family time.
Give yourself a break. Getting back on your feet after a divorce can be a long process full of setbacks. But this can also be one of the most exciting and empowering times of your life.
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