Making More with Less

By Deirdre Hally Shaffer, MSW, LCSW

One of the transitions accompanying divorce is adjusting to a new, and often lower, financial situation. The income that supported one household now has to support two households. In many circumstances, spouses who stayed home to care for the children and the business of running the home find themselves searching for employment. If that individual is returning to the workforce after many years, skills will need to be learned or updated. The process can be overwhelming especially in tandem with the other life adjustments that occur with divorce.

Financial creativity in areas of employment, budgeting, and savings can help to secure a foundation for moving forward. Feeling safe after the frequently experienced trauma of separation and divorce is vital for psychological and emotional healing. Moving from financial uncertainty to financial stability helps reduce anxiety and fear, fosters individual empowerment, and creates a sense of hope for the future.

For the partner who may have been unemployed or underemployed outside of the home, making a list of skills and interests may provide some direction in choosing a career path. Networking, updating a resume, utilizing professional online resources and social media are ways to identify job leads. Listing and checking off goal-oriented tasks will help to build a sense of control and presents a visual way to measure progress.

Consideration of health and retirement benefits can be a factor in a job search. What is important to you to feel secure financially? Perhaps private disability insurance will reassure a self-employed individual. Learning a new skill like online bill paying may help a financially unskilled person develop organization for monthly expenses. Education regarding future planning can happen by meeting with a financial planner and an accountant. The more clearly you see your short and long term finances, the more empowered you will feel.

In terms of spending and saving, create a monthly budget that allows for necessary expenses as well as emergencies. Be conservative in your spending! Do you need the upgraded cable package? A monthly pedicure? Can you reduce grocery bills by shopping for sales? How about thrift stores for clothing? Will you rent instead of own a home to save on taxes and maintenance costs? Looking at answers to these questions may involve examining the way you think about material items. Rather than feeling resentful that your life has been downsized, consider being grateful for what you DO have and embrace some minimalism in your life!

After the dust settles, many people find that divorce has led them to exciting new careers, opportunities, and a more authentic way of living. With finances, as with most other areas of life, we can create beauty and contentment by thinking positively and leaving the past behind. Focusing on the many blessings, big and small, that enter our lives every day is the true path to happiness.


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