Divorce and Money – Basics of Budgeting

June 13, 2022

Know this: Finances are the leading cause of marital troubles. Doesn’t that tell you that finances are one of the most important parts of staying in love – more important, even than fidelity, at least statistically speaking? So be a grownup and do all of your research, and then talk with your spouse or if you’re in the middle of a divorce, you need to do this for yourself.

Your math skills are as important as your verbal skills here. Go one by one through the items with paper, pencil, and calculator or an excel spreadsheet at hand.

If you’ve never done a budget before, here’s a quick how-to:

Make a list of your monthly fixed expenses, and put the dollar amount next to each, like this:

Fixed Expenses

  • Rent or mortgage (does mortgage escrow for taxes and insurance)
  • Property taxes (if applicable and not included in mortgage payment)
  • Property Insurance (if applicable and not included in mortgage payment)
  • Utilities (phone, internet, gas, electric, water, sewer, trash service)
  • Food & Supplies for the home
  • Maid Services
  • Lawn & Pool services
  • Health Insurance premiums and co-payments
  • Car payment(s) or transportation expenses
  • Car Insurance
  • Car Wash
  • Gasoline & Oil
  • Parking & Tolls
  • Credit card debt payments
  • Other loan payments
  • Medical expenses
  • Taxes (if self-employed)
  • Miscellaneous expenses
  • Emergency Savings

Now make a list of monthly discretionary expenses, and put what you feel is a reasonable dollar amount next to each:

Discretionary Expenses

  • Entertainment (restaurants, theater, sporting events etc.)
  • Hobbies & recreation
  • Meals outside the home
  • Clothing/Shoes/Accessories, etc.
  • Grooming
  • Gifts to others
  • Gifts to your children
  • Travel
  • Drycleaning
  • Non-Prescription medication and vitamins
  • Cosmetics and grooming
  • Club Dues and memberships
  • Education/Professional development expenses
  • Religious Donations
  • Investment Savings

Children expenses

  • Nursery, Babysitting, Nanny, Daycare
  • School Tuition
  • School Supplies, books and fees
  • Extra Curricular activities
  • Lunch Money
  • Private Lessons/Tutoring
  • Clothing/Uniforms
  • Health Insurance
  • Medical Expenses
  • Grooming
  • Summer Camps
  • Miscellaneous

Payments to Creditors

  • Credit cards
  • Student loans
  • Mortgage/HELOC debt
  • Unsecured debt

Add up your fixed and discretionary expenses and write down the total.

Now add up your income:

Income

  • Husband NET income (take-home pay)
  • Wife NET income (take-home pay)
  • Owner draw from a business or K1 income
  • Interest income
  • Corporate – Dividends or K1 Income
  • Stock Investment income
  • Trust Income
  • Rental income (minus expenses)
  • Freelance work
  • Income from any other sources

Add up your total income and write down the total.

Now subtract total expenses from total income.

If the result is a positive number, your budget appears to be healthy, assuming that all the numbers you’ve estimated are close to reality. If it’s a negative number, then you need to either increase income or reduce expenses until the final sum comes up as either zero or a positive number. Otherwise, you will be going into debt each and every month and that debt will mount, and guess what – you’ll be in financial trouble. That’s a fact, not something that will take care of itself.

Here’s where true adult behavior is a must. You must realize that the budget exercise is not a homework assignment that you can do incompletely or poorly; there is no grade of “C” where money is concerned. You can’t add up your numbers, come up in the negative, and throw up your hands and say “I hate money. This doesn’t work. Why even try. Forget it.” Well, actually, to be perfectly accurate, you can, of course, and many do. Those are the folks who end up in financial trouble; they have mounting credit card debt or overdue bills and they’re constantly stressed about money. You can join them if you like.

But if you want to be free of financial stress and worry, you have to accept that you’re not done with your budget until you get an “A,” a grand sum total of income minus expenses being greater than or equal to zero. If your numbers add up to a negative, you will be in the red. You will. You cannot accept this and figure it will “all work out somehow.” It won’t, I guarantee you.

You must – I cannot stress this enough – you must keep working with that pad and paper or that excel spreadsheet and adjust those numbers on the budget until you have a healthy and realistic budget. This means you will have to make real-life choices that will change the way you are going to live: choices about the size and location of your home, the amount that you and your spouse will earn, the kinds of cars you will drive (or if you’ll take public transportation to save money), whether you’ll join a health club or choose jogging to stay in shape, and even when or if you will have children. Money affects how you live. How you live affects your money. Make choices that both of you can happily live with and choices that will keep your financial picture healthy.

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