My mom used to call me “The Saver”. If I received a crisp $20 bill from my Aunt Joyce on my birthday, I’d hang onto it. I liked having peace of mind, tri-folded nicely, in my back pocket.
Savings gives us security.
Divorce gives us, well, debt.
That’s where I found myself (ahem, of my own volition–the divorce, not the debt) at the ripe old age of 35 with two small children.
It took me three years to recover financially from the greatest financial setback I had ever experienced. I couldn’t fall back on my parents because mom was up in Heaven, while dad was down in Florida: retired and re-married. (Though he was of great emotional support, not-so-much financially.)
It was time to put my big girl pants on.
Here’s what I did that helped me:
- I found my saving grace in my therapist Dr. O who kept telling me, “You can do it. You are doing it.”
- I sold my ring to get liquid funds to use to retain a reputable but affordable lawyer. This was a very difficult decision to make, obviously. That transaction could be a blog of its own. Remember: the first consult with a divorce attorney is free! Go get free advice from as many lawyers as you want! I did. Then, armed with pages and pages of free notes and advice, choose who you want, and who you think you can afford.
- I went back to work full-time. Sure, I was afraid of losing “mommy” time, but now my kids see strength and power and stature in me that they never would have seen before.
- I tutored and freelanced on the side to save cash for Christmas.
- I downsized my home. Randy Pausch quoted in The Last Lecture that “Things don’t matter; people matter.” This has become a family mantra for us Three Musketeers.
- I asked other parents at soccer games and school functions for financial advice and wisdom, which led me to stalk Dave Ramsey and other money gurus on Pinterest.
- When bill #2 came from my lawyer, I cried in my car. So I called my dad for that emotional support. He told me that our credit union had the lowest interest rates, and I could take out a personal loan. (This helped me save my IRA, 403b, kids’ college funds, and my pension. Still in tact! Phew!)
- So I begrudgingly took out that personal loan. But the sweet, old woman who helped me fill out the form assured me that my situation was temporary and would get better. And it did. I was able to pay that loan off pretty quickly once the dust settled.
- I used my tax return to pay off my credit card, and then I shredded that card. Now I only have one card (from my credit union with the lowest APR) and it’s limit is only $5,000.
- I read article after article about getting and staying ahead. And I keep reading them.
A quick trip to the store offered me the chance to buy a “bill and budget planner”. This truly helped me stay on track because now I divide my monthly paychecks into “Pay 1” and “Pay 2” (ya, know like Thing 1 and Thing 2).
“Pay 1” is the biggie–my mortgage comes out automatically the first of the month. What’s left on my ledger goes to gas and groceries and other smaller bills that come the first through the fifteenth. “Pay 2” offers some wiggle room to save or splurge (gotta get my highlights) because my mortgage doesn’t come out of that one.
So knowing that my mortgage is deducted the first of the month, the paycheck before that is always labeled on my Google calendar as “Pay 1”. I also look at my Google calendar for upcoming necessary purchases (school stuff, camps, birthday parties, entertainment) then I work those into the appropriate column in my budget planner. (Left column each month is Pay 1. Right column each month is Pay 2. While Pay 2 has a longer list of more bills, since none of them are my mortgage, I still have that wiggle room.)
I also maxed out my HSA at work, which helped me pay for dental work and a trip to the ER.
Lastly, I opened a savings account at my credit union: a different bank from that which housed my checking account. (Separation of church and state!)
That’s it! Dr. O was right. We can do it. We are doing it. And I’d like to think I’m still “The Saver”…except this time, I saved myself.
(This blog was submitted to @ReeseWitherspoon @hellosunshine.)
(Meg’s sweater @toryburch.)