Chances are divorce will lead to significant changes in your financial picture. Regardless of what your joint tax bracket was and how much wealth you and your spouse may have accumulated, when you eventually receive your fair share of the marital assets and face a new set of financial obligations going forward, you will typically feel a change. How you deal with that change could mean the difference between living with financial security and not. It’s therefore critical to stop, take a deep breath, and consider what your expectations will be following your divorce.
As a first step, look around. At your surroundings, and not only the four walls. Look at what you’ve accumulated during your marriage. That includes furniture, electronics, and jewelry. Then ask yourself two questions: Have these tangibles brought you happiness? And if they did, are they still? If you require extra money to regroup after your divorce or are downsizing, you can look to your possessions as a means to finance your future. Even if you’re staying put in the marital home for a while like I am, letting some of the stuff inside it go, such as the engagement ring you no longer wear, can provide you with an economic boost. Whether you wind up using the proceeds from your sales to open a retirement account or grow one, start a business, or indulge in a few of the items on your bucket list, including a much-needed vacation, the point is you could be sitting on a gold mine you never realized you had.
The best part of thinking about money this way is it ensures I live well on my new budget while continuing to save for my future.
The second step is not to accumulate more possessions in place of what you already gave away or sold. During my marriage, my husband and I allocated a significant amount of money to our home. We prioritized construction projects, decorating, furnishings, and filling our house with souvenirs from our travels. After we divorced, my priorities shifted. Now whenever I make a purchase, whether it’s for my home, my family, or me personally, I ask myself: Do I need it? Do I need this sweater? Do I need that pair of boots? Do I need to order dinner on a Tuesday? Do I need to go out to lunch more than once during the week? Do I need to buy a new bag? Usually, the answer is no.
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When my answer is yes, it’s because I’ve already asked myself this next question: Do I want it? This question has little to do with need. No doubt about it, I indulge myself sometimes because doing so is what I know will make me feel good. Being indulgent, by the way, doesn’t indicate what I’m buying is expensive. My purchase could be a cup of coffee, something I could make for free at home. What it does mean is that I’m careful not to be impulsive and honestly assess whether what I’m spending my money on will improve my life in some way, however small. Finally, I determine whether the benefit of such a purchase will outweigh any possible detriment spending that money could cause, such as the inability to pay for what I need or meet my monthly financial obligations. If I go through this analysis regularly, I can pretty much assure I never suffer from buyer’s remorse. It’s a learned skill, one that I’m improving every day with practice.
By far, though, the best part of thinking about money this way is it ensures I live well on my new budget while continuing to save for my future. There are few things I need in this world, one of them being a lot of square footage. In fact, fewer would make me happier, and I look forward to a time when I will have less to manage. What I can’t live without are new experiences and seeing places I’ve never been before, which is where I allocate any extra spending money I have and set my sights. Living well means drinking a cup of tea in peace, alone or in the company of family, friends, or an intriguing stranger, in a beautiful atmosphere of my choosing, even if that’s my home where I try to surround myself only with the material objects that still hold personal significance to me. The rest can go and has already begun to as I gradually let go of the past. It’s a life that won’t cost me nearly as much as my married life did yet one I know no amount of money could ever buy.
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