Handling Holiday Finances During & After Divorce

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By Beth Cone Kramer, Senior Editor - December 13, 2016

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Whether you’re going through a divorce or working to rebuild your post-life divorce, the holidays can be financially stressful. Your email inbox and TV ads are filled with Black Friday deals weeks before Thanksgiving and the kids have given you their lists, which seem to grow with each year. At the same time, you’re struggling to keep your checking account in the black. Maybe your teens give you pushback about how things were “better” when you were married and could afford to buy them whatever they wanted. (More likely, it just seemed that way.)

How can you celebrate the holidays without experiencing a credit card hangover in January but still stay in a festive mood?

New York attorney and divorced mother of three Leslie H. Tayne, author of Life & Debt: A Fresh Approach to Achieving Financial Wellness, says the holiday season can be a financial challenge for divorced mothers, especially if you aren’t accustomed to budgeting. Finances may now be stretched between two households and working mothers may face time constraints. In addition, you may worry you are unable to provide for your kids as you have done in the past.

Below, Tayne shares 10 tips to deal with holiday finances during and after divorce:

1. Take Deep Breaths. Your life has likely changed for the better in many ways. You’ll get through this.

2. Don’t Go it Alone. Find an experienced friend or a professional to help. Rely on your resources.

3. Know the In’s and Out’s. Be aware of the money coming in and the money going out.

4. Change Your Mindset. Taking control of your finances is a positive.

5. Get Out a Notebook & Pen. List money that is coming in each month. Also, list monthly expenses and when they are paid. Don’t forget the mortgage or rent, car and credit card payments, utilities, loans.

6. Balance Your Income and Expenses. If money going out is equal to or greater than money coming out, you’ll need to cut expenses, which may include holiday spending.

7. Figure Out a Gift Budget. Divide by the number of kids and focus on age-appropriate gifts that make sense. Younger kids may be content with smaller gifts; teens may have greater expectations.

8. Be Open…to a Point. You can let teens know this year is challenging and you’ve set aside a certain amount for gifts. If the amount is $100 per kid, for example, ask them to select a gift at that price point or a few smaller ones.

9. Be Creative. For family members or friends, offer to bring a dinner or dessert. If you’ve always given gifts to teachers, the mail carrier, and others, bake cookies or give a hand-written letter of appreciation.

10. Remember, this shall pass.

What can you do if your ex or soon-to-be ex can afford to shower the kids with gifts or is taking the kids on an exotic vacation?

Focus on the benefit for the kids. Share special experiences with them like a day at a local museum or a hike, which they will remember long past when the toys are missing parts or that sweater is out of style. Use the time the kids are away to take care of yourself.

Value the holidays as a special time to spend with family and friends, to start new traditions, and to celebrate your relationships. Bring your kids to volunteer at a toy drive or a food pantry and express gratitude for what you do have. The memories you share during the season will last far longer than those piles of wrapping paper, toys, and gadgets.

For more tips on budgeting all year-round, check out Leslie H. Tayne’s book, Life & Debt: A Fresh Approach to Achieving Financial Wellness, available at the book’s website or on Amazon.

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