Getting Back on Track: Finances After Divorce, and Two Apps to Help

There’s no doubt that most people’s pocketbooks take a hit during a divorce. There are attorney fees, court fees, and living expenses that might not even be your own. Sometimes you have to split some of the debt that you and your spouse had incurred while you were married. Once the dust settles and you have a signed divorce decree in your hand you might suddenly wonder how the heck you’re going to get your life back on track, and the challenge might seem more daunting if children are in the picture.

As a mother of two children, I was overwhelmed by the sudden switch from a two-income family to a single-income family. During the divorce I had borrowed money from family to cover my attorney fees. I hadn’t started receiving child support checks yet and it felt like I was drowning trying to stay on top of bills and daycare costs. I wasn’t even living on my own, my kids and I were living with my parents, so I didn’t have rent to cover either. I’ll admit that my pre-divorce spending was a little frivolous, I spent way too many mom-trips at Target, but I also had been willing to open lines of credit to purchase large household items like beds and appliances. My divorce decree split some of those credit purchases between me and my ex, but I still was responsible for payments on some of those old marital accounts.

Prior to the divorce I had been struggling to maintain a budget, but without help from my ex to cover some of the expenses that were supposed to be mutual expenses I couldn’t keep up with it. After the divorce, and when I clearly could discern my own expenses, the budgeting tool I had been using was working. It helped me to see where my money was going. It also helped me to realize that I am just NOT a budgeting person. Don’t get me wrong, I have seriously reigned in some of my overspending but I am a person who has to see what money I have on hand in order to understand where I need to be a penny-pincher and where I can splurge. Enter these two fantastic apps that I tried that tell me just that: Dollarbird and PocketGuard.

Both apps will tell you the same thing: how much money do you have left to spend? The difference between them is how involved you want to get with them. After my year of budgeting with an app, I decided that I would rather take a rather simplified, yet more involved approach to my spending. So I use Dollarbird. If you prefer to be more hands off, connect an app to your bank accounts, and let it do the work for you then PocketGuard ought to do for you.

Here is what I like about Dollarbird:

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Dollarbird calendar view
  1. No frills approach. It looks simple like a Google Calendar/Excel spreadsheet.
  2. You set it up initially with your account balance and some recurring incomes and expenses.
  3. An optional reminder every night tells you to enter in your daily expenses.
  4. The calendar shows a daily balance weeks in advance.

 

 

Cons:

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Dollarbird unconfirmed expense
  1. The initial setup can be tedious if you have a lot of spending categories that you’d like to analyze.
  2. There’s no automatic transaction import from bank accounts (but this is a feature I like, I’m just putting it here for those who prefer it).
  3. You have to go into the app and confirm your recurring incomes and expenses on the day they occur. This could inaccurately display what you still have in your wallet if you’re not paying close attention.

 

 

 

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PocketGuard home screen

Here is what I like about PocketGuard:

  1. You can link your bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
  2. Imported transactions can be tagged and marked for expense  and income items you choose or the app will choose for you, and you can also mark them as recurring.
  3. You can set spending limits and budgets and like some budgeting apps it has suggestions with partnered companies to help you save even more.

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    PocketGuard spending limits (a.k.a. budget)
  4. The app will tell you what you have left to spend that day, week, and month and has charts that show you in “real-time” your spending habits.

 

 

Cons:

  1. You can’t adjust or change a tag for a transaction if it is pending.
  2. I couldn’t quite figure out how it determined how much was left in my “pocket” to spend for that day, week, and month (as mentioned above in #4).
  3. You have to pay to upgrade if you want it to track your cash wallet.

 

What I like about both apps:

Both apps are available to use as phone apps or via a web browser. I found that it was easier to set up Dollarbird on my web browser and it was easier to set up PocketGuard on my phone. Once I had the initial set ups completed I could easily navigate through both the web and apps. Both apps also have paid upgrade options, but after having spend $15/month on a budget app I wanted to cut the cord somewhere.

I like that both apps help me to track and manage my money on a day-to-day basis rather than show me what categories my spending fall under in my budget. I like that I can look ahead at the calendar and decide based on when bills are supposed to be paid and have a pretty darn close estimate of how much money I’ll have available if I spend $50 going to a restaurant for dinner.

So, now, a year after I filed for divorce and 6 months after my divorce was finalized, I finally have a strong grasp on what my finances look like. Honestly, seeing what money I could potentially have each day of the week based on what I enter into my Dollarbird app helps tremendously in easing my anxiety over that paycheck-to-paycheck feeling. I’ll leave you with these following thoughts to harnessing your spending and financial situation after divorce:

  1. Get your spending on track. Use a budget app or money tracker if you need to.
  2. Cut the fat. Don’t spend where you don’t need to.
  3. Funnel a small portion of your paycheck directly into a savings account and DON’T TOUCH IT! (I have 5% of my checks automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account.) Base your budget around the larger portion of your paychecks that get deposited into your checking account.

Good luck, y’all and if you have any suggestions for me, comment below.