During and for many years after my divorce, financially surviving just meant trying to put food on the table and keeping a roof over our heads; many times working three jobs. As I’ve shared in the past, there were many months that there was more month than there was income. But slowly over the years, my financial situation has improved. I found ways to save money, to earn extra money through side hustles, and started bringing in more income on a regular basis.
I believe in providence and divine compensation for all who have faith and are doing God’s will.
In 2020, I was able to sell my twelve-year-old Chrysler mini-van, which was needing expensive work done to it to buy myself a (new-to-me) smaller Jeep SUV (better MPG too). Thankfully, my mechanic offered to purchase my mini-van, as is, for what I had hoped to receive from a dealership for a trade-in. It was a win-win and what I call a “God thing” because I knew he had done a lot of repairs to that van at a huge discount, often not allowing me to pay him. A few times no charging me anything for any repairs. I was glad his hard work, had paid off for him as well, as he now owns it.
To complete my vehicle purchase, I needed to take out a $15,000 loan (at a low-interest rate) which got me really thinking about my other debt––those pesky student loans. Obviously, taking out a loan was not ideal, but I didn’t want to have to worry that my next vehicle was going to need repairs again anytime soon.
Establishing My Goals.
In 2012, a year before my divorce, we sold our marital home. The goal then was to get out of debt (mostly student loan debt for both) and eventually purchase another home, after saving a 20% downpayment. I had gone through Dave Ramsey’s books on my own to learn what I could about becoming at peace financially. Through my reading, I learned how to take control of our money, master the budget, save for emergencies, and then crush the debt.
Obviously, my divorce and the years since have put a speedbump on many of my financial goals, but that didn’t stop them. For a short time, as a single mom, we were on food stamps, and depending on my ex-husband to provide. I hated feeling like he had that kind of control over my life and my financial peace. He could decide to stop paying and I’d be in a panic, unsure how we’d survive.
That actually happened in November and December 2019. All of the sudden child support just stopped. He decided to take time off work and for some reason thought he wasn’t required to help support his child during this time. It’s not like I could say, Sorry, I don’t feel like supporting you this month, so you don’t get to eat. I still had to keep providing everything I always had. No breaks, no excuses. Also, we weren’t receiving any food stamps or other assistance so this became a stressful time really quickly.
Once things got back to normal, in early 2020 before the pandemic, I made it my goal to become completely financially independent from my ex-husband. I was so ready to show him that I didn’t need him or his money anymore, that I could survive and even thrive, without his assistance. Even during the pandemic, I’ve been able to get the ball rolling in that direction big time.
In order to make larger payments, and pay down the debt, I would need to increase my income. I started freelance writing more and eventually applied for a part-time job (for the regular paycheck). This is also something Dave Ramsey suggests in his books––picking up a side job to crush the debt. (Yes, I’ve still been writing my book and serving women through my ministry during this time. It’s about finding a balance between the many jobs while giving myself grace knowing I’m doing the best that I can.)
In the last 5-6 months, I’ve paid down over $2000 in debt. That may not seem like a lot but I’m just gaining momentum that will carry me throughout the year, and in the years to come as I tackle every cent of the rest of the $72,000 I owe ($59K student loans; $13K vehicle loan; $0 credit card debt).
I’m using the Debt Snowball Method to get this paid down as quickly as possible. This means that because my student loans are not currently accruing any interest (normally they’re at 6-8% interest rates), I’m only paying the minimum on those while I’m paying down as much as I can on the vehicle debt which has a 3% interest rate. Once I’m paying interest again, I will readjust to paying the loan that has the smallest amount owed; which is what Dave Ramsey suggests.
What’s Best for You?
Rebuilding financially after divorce depends entirely on what’s important to you. One of my closest friends, who’s also divorced, wanted to retire at age 62 because she works a stressful job at a hospital. She worked on that goal for more than a year, working on paying off her vehicle, making sure she had money set aside for emergencies plus her monthly living expenses, and knew everything she needed to know about retirement benefits. She recently put in her resignation while she looks for a part-time (hopefully stress-free) job.
My friend lives in a house that she owns and loves. I’d prefer to have a condo somewhat close to a beach. She wants to garden at home, I want to travel around the country and the world. My goal is to be debt-free by the time I’m 50 years old (it’s coming hard and fast) and mainly living off my book sales (writing more books over the next few years is another goal).
You get to decide what your future looks like and how you will achieve the goals you set for yourself. And we’ve all learned in 2020 that there may be some layoffs and setbacks along the way. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stop moving forward, both in our healing and in our financial planning.
Make a Plan. Take the Steps.
Now, looking back I wish I could have set aside my half of the 401K that I cashed out shortly after my divorce. But I realize it was needed and I trusted that I was making the right decision for my household at the time. I’ve had to take baby steps over the last seven years, but the point is I was always taking steps in that direction, even if it seemed like I was going backward at times. Steps in any direction are still movement!
What steps can you take to financially survive or recover from financially infidelity? Check out these other posts:
- You Need a Budget (Rules of Financial Freedom)
- Stay-at-Home Moms Can Financially Survive Divorce (Expert Advice)
- Recovering from Financial Infidelity (Signs + Steps to Recover)
- Tips for Getting Back to Work (After Divorce)
And I will compensate you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten; The creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust––My great army which I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied. And praise the name of the Lord your God Who has dealt wondrously with you. And My people shall never be put to shame. And you shall know [without any doubt] that I am in the midst of Israel [to protect and bless you], And that I am the Lord your God, And there is no other; My people will never be put to shame. – Joel 2:25-27 AMP
Have you set any financial goals for the new year or this new chapter of your life? Are you feeling any more at peace about the future after divorce? (Remember, I survived as a once stay-at-home mom and other women have too. You will survive as well! Keep the faith.)
May God bless your healing and rebuilding journey,