Why “You Need to Make A Budget” Is Bad Divorce Advice

Woman holding a fan of $100 bills as she contemplates her budget.

Taking care of yourself has to do with more than how much you spend.

One piece of advice almost everyone going through divorce hears is “You’ve got to create a budget”. Although this is extremely practical advice, I think it sucks.

You’ve just ended your marriage. You might have just moved. You might not have your kids all the time. You might be looking for a job. And, oh yeah, you feel like CRAP! Yet now you’re supposed to figure out how to put more restrictions on yourself and create a budget?! Yeah, it just sucks as far as advice goes.

What you really need is a spending plan. A spending plan is all about you taking responsibility for how you choose to spend or not to spend your money.

OK, so you might think this is just a case of puh-tay-toh po-tah-toh, the word budget has a negative connotation for most people. And who needs more negativity as they’re putting their lives back on track after a divorce? No one I can think of.

Divorce is tough. You deserve to take care of yourself in every way possible. And, yes, this does include the words you use.

Words are incredibly powerful and can completely color your experience. For example, would you rather have a really uncomfortable meeting with someone you’ve just met or a first date? Both descriptions are of the same event, but one sounds horrible and one exciting.

Try it for yourself. What’s something you say to yourself that always makes you feel bad? Now, how can you change that into something more encouraging, or powerful, or even just nicer? (If you’re having a hard time with this idea, read about my experience with learning to use kinder words.)

Language is important. It can make advice completely worthless. It can also make the same advice inspiring and incredibly valuable.

So, would you rather create a budget or a spending plan?

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly divorce adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

4 Tips For Decreasing The Cost Of Your Divorce

If you’re struggling with the cost of divorce, here are 4 tips to help you save on attorney fees.

With the average cost of divorce in the US at $15,000 (investopedia.com), it’s really no surprise that most people cite cost of divorce as one of their top 2 concerns when getting divorced. $15,000 is a hefty sum to most couples. It’s not unusual for couples to seriously consider staying unhappily together rather than getting divorced simply because of the cost. Some couples decide to get divorced and then start saving for it.  They’ll choose to continue living together (which is very difficult for most) to minimize expenses and start saving so they can eventually get divorced. Even those couples who are more comfortable with the average price tag of a divorce don’t want to have to pay more than necessary.

So how do you cut the cost of your divorce?  Follow these four tips and you’ll significantly your divorce cost.

  1. Keep a notebook, file folder, or spreadsheet that you use to record EVERY interaction you have with your attorney and their staff.  The reason for this is that going through divorce is stressful and when you’re stressed you aren’t always thinking at your best. It’s incredibly easy to forget that you’ve asked a particular question before. Although your attorney and/or their staff will be happy to answer your question again, they’ll also be happy to bill you again for doing so. These records are your defense against forgetfulness that costs you additional attorney fees. Before you contact your attorney or their staff to ask a question, check through your documentation and see if you’ve already got the information recorded. If you can find the information yourself without contacting your attorney, you’ve just saved yourself unnecessary fees. (What do you keep in your notebook, file folder, box or spreadsheet? The short answer is EVERYTHING. You’ll want to record the date, time and duration of every phone call you make to your attorney’s office along with the information shared during the conversation. Save all of your email and text correspondence between you and your attorney’s office.  You’ll also want copies of all the documentation you and your attorney exchange.)
  2. Realize what your attorney’s role is in your divorce. Many people going through divorce expect their attorney and/or their staff to help them with all of the emotional and financial repercussions of divorce.  The truth is that no matter how sympathetic your attorney and their staff are, unless they’ve been trained as a therapist, counselor, psychologist or divorce coach, they’re probably not the best source of support for dealing with any of the emotional repercussions of your divorce.  Similarly, unless your attorney is a CPA or financial expert, they probably are not the best person to help you figure out complex financial matters regarding your divorce.  Making sure you interact with your attorney and their staff only to deal with the legal aspects of your divorce will save you not only the fees but the heartache of acting on well-meaning but erroneous information. 
  3. Approach your divorce from a business perspective.  Whether you realize it or not, when you got married you essentially created a business in the eyes of the government. The legal document that will be enforced with your divorce is to create the legal separation of your business (marriage) into 2 separate parts.  When you allow your emotions to enter into the negotiation of the divorce decree, then you can be guaranteed that the cost of your divorce will increase. I’ve spoken with many attorneys over the years who each have stories of divorcing couples who fought about ridiculous things like who gets which Wii game and who gets which Tupperware. One hour of each of their attorney’s time usually costs more than the items being argued over. Keeping discussions that you involved the attorneys with to a minimum will definitely reduce the cost of your divorce.
  4. Come to your attorney with as many things agreed upon between you and your soon-to-be-ex as possible.  If you and your soon-t-be ex can have a calm discussion as equals, it’s in your best interest to sit down at the kitchen table and agree on the division of as many things as possible without the need to involve attorneys. It might be simple to decide who gets the china and who gets the big screen TV. If that’s the case for you, then document as much of that stuff as possible. When you can each go to your attorneys with at least some of the separation of the assets, debts, real estate and even child care and support already worked out, the cost of your divorce will be dramatically less than if you had nothing agreed to. 

The fact is divorce is expensive. However, by using these four tips you can significantly decrease the cost of yours.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

How To Effectively Co-Parent With A Bully During Divorce

Divorcing couple wondering how they'll ever co-parent.

3 tips to help you mitigate the meltdowns while co-parenting during divorce.

A typical divorce is dramatic and traumatic for everyone involved. Divorce means that lives get changed forever – first and foremost your life, your kids’ lives, and your soon-to-be-ex’s (S2BX) life.

Although for some people the thought of things never being the same is a blessing. The blessing is no longer having to deal on a daily basis with temper tantrums, intimidation, insinuations, inquisitions, bossiness, or put-downs – the hallmarks of an emotional bully.

These people yearn for freedom from the drama and trauma of their marriage. They look forward to the end of walking on eggshells around their spouse so they can rebuild both their self-esteem and their self-confidence.

As much as you are looking forward to being divorced, your kids aren’t. They love both their parents. For them the thought of being separated from either of you is painful and scary.

Learning to co-parent with a bully is critical. Your kids deserve to feel as safe and loved as possible during your divorce. Co-parenting is the quickest way to achieve that. And the hard truth is that as the non-bully the bulk of this learning will fall on your shoulders.

Co-parenting is the term used to describe an ideal type of parenting during and after divorce. It implies that the parents are able to work together for the sake of the kids. Although, few parents are able to achieve this during the divorce process, it’s still an excellent model to work toward.

But, when divorcing an emotional bully things generally get worse before they get better. That’s because big changes like divorce can bring out the worst in all of us. Bullies know they can get what they want through coercion and threats. They’ll usually step up their efforts before they ever consider changing tactics.

Most people who divorce a bully feel powerless when the bullying behavior escalates during divorce. Even though you’ve probably been living with your bully for years and have developed your way of coping with it, it’s still pretty normal to feel powerless now.

You just need a few new ideas and skills to work through all that divorce brings with it and to take care of your kids.

You can easily find all kinds of information about how to co-parent. And as great as this information is, there’s a problem with it. Every last bit of it assumes that neither parent is a bully.

So how do you effectively co-parent with a bully?

You take the basics that are out there and you overlay these three tips.

  • Keep your communication brief, Informative, friendly, firm (BIFF), and avoid apologies. Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. is the President of High Conflict Institute. His book BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns gives over 20 examples of BIFF responses for all kinds of situations. Learning to communicate in this way will decrease the chances of your bully having a total meltdown based on something you said, texted, or posted.
  • Keep your eye on your end game. This tip is all about strategy. Reaching a divorce settlement requires negotiation. With any negotiation, you need to know your minimum requirements and what you’re willing to give on. Once you know what you must have, it’s much easier to determine how you want to interact with your S2BX. You’ll be able to evaluate your actions and responses against how they might impact your end game.
  • Keep clear about what is and isn’t OK with you. Knowing and respecting your boundaries is important not only for your self-esteem, but also for how you’re modeling adult behavior. Remember, your kids are watching your every move and learning tons about being an adult from you and from their other parent.

Now, just because you are divorcing it doesn’t mean that your S2BX stopped being a bully or that you suddenly know how to deal with them (even after reading this article). You’re going to make mistakes and that’s OK. It’s just all to easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior especially when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, powerless, exhausted, lonely and overwhelmed as you’re dealing with your divorce and learning to co-parent.

So, if you happen to make a mistake and wind up on the receiving end of a temper tantrum from hell, remember that it’s OK and breathe. You’re still learning and this is just another lesson. Your lesson might be to remember that you can’t control how your S2BX behaves. Or your lesson might be there’s no sense in assigning blame to either of you because blame just makes you a victim. Or it might just be that your BIFF communication wasn’t quite as non-inflammatory as you thought.

Regardless of your lesson, remember that it’s OK. You can achieve the freedom you desire for yourself and your kids. You just might need to ask for some help or support to co-parent with a bully during divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with the challenges of your life now. read more articles about Life After Divorce.