Going from two incomes to one is always tough. If you own your house and you keep it, you’ll have to afford the payment on your income alone. If you can’t afford the house, move to an apartment, condominium or smaller house. Your kids will adjust and it’s better not to be financially strapped. You want to make sure you can afford the rent or mortgage along with your other bills rather easily. So, you’ll want to figure out your budget before you decide where to live.
A budget sounds intimidating, but it’s really not. You have to figure out monthly estimates for all your expenses and categorize them. Add them up. Then add up all your income…your job, maintenance support, and child support. Make sure your income is more than your expenses. If it is not, you’ll need to work a side job. I know that sounds stressful, but I’ve done it ever since I got separated and it’s doable.
You Need a Budget
When estimating my expenses, I estimate high instead of low. I’d rather have more money in a particular category than have to figure out how to pay it later. I’d suggest using YNAB, which is an online budgeting tool (stands for You Need a Budget). There is an annual cost to it, but this program has saved me thousands of times because it is so thorough. I used to use an Excel spreadsheet, and I was always missing expenses. With YNAB, every penny is accounted for. And I’ve found I save more using the program and loose less. There are videos and blogs to help you set it up. I usually maintain it once a week. I pay for everything using my credit card so that I can earn the rewards. Then I pay the credit card off every month. Your credit cards and bank accounts can all be linked to YNAB, so all you do is import your transactions each week, categorize them, and monitor it. You can even run reports to see how much you’re spending. It’s a fantastic program.
Co-Parenting and Budgeting
As for co-parenting and budgeting, my ex-husband and I use a shared Google spreadsheet. I put in any shared expenses that I paid for the month and so does he. Make sure to describe what each expense is. We settle the expenses at the end of every month. Whoever owes the other pays via Apple Pay through our iphones. It’s easy, collaborative and quick.
I’ve heard some parents deposit money into a joint account each month and then draw from there to pay for school fees, Halloween costumes, etc. That may be a more predictable way to go about shared expenses. If there is no money left in the account, you’ll have to talk about how to pay for the expense.
As I mentioned above, you may need a second job. I do instructional design on the side as well as teach piano lessons. Some parents wait tables, mow lawns, or appraise homes. You can find part-time jobs on Indeed or you could start your own business with a special skill. If you don’t have any special skills, you can learn them. Try Udemy for some cheap ways to build new skills, like web development. Remember, you won’t have the kids all the time anymore. Those are the times I use to work a side job.
I know it’s scary to be solely responsible for your finances. But, with a solid budget, some discipline, and some practice, you can do it. And if you have extra money every month, don’t spend more, save more. You’ll thank yourself when you have an emergency fund to draw from if your furnace breaks or you have a big car expense. I don’t agree with everything Dave Ramsey says, but I’d check out his site and read about his philosophy on money and money tips. Even if you find a few things helpful and implement them, you’ll be in a better place.