Breakdown of a Break-Up Budget

I was so frustrated that I had just paid to renew our mailbox when he came home and said that he didn’t love me anymore. It wasn’t the first thing that came to mind, but it was close. The moment he closed the door behind him, I began to make an initial survey of what I would have to do in the coming days and weeks to get him out of my life, and one of those unpleasant tasks was to get my own mailbox, to shell out yet another $86 just because in my town, they don’t deliver the mail.

While the break-up had a great number of repercussions across my life, a lot of my initial fears stemmed from a financial point of view: how would I cope with daily living expenses, when my income would stay the same or perhaps even shrink in the coming months, as I hid under a blanket, never leaving my home? This was not a question I could answer immediately, but one that had to be taken day-by-day, until eventually I’ve looked up and time has passed, and I’m still living in my apartment, paying my rent earlier than ever, and have even paid off some of my outstanding debts.

Let’s break it down.

Move On, Not Out.

When I shared rent with my significant other, there was a time when I paid a nominal $400 a month for our apartment. I look back on those days with a wistful, teary nostalgia. My apartment is a small studio above a garage, which typically in my region would rent for about $1250/month plus utilities. Our landlords rented us the space for less than that, and they subtracted extra money each month for snow removal and other yard work, all of which was done by my ex. My rent has now more than doubled because I don’t have time, energy, or interest in shoveling snow four or five times a week.

When my ex moved out, he didn’t tell anyone (I mean, he barely told me), so I became solely responsible not only for handling what would happen to our lease, but also his half of the security deposit and future rent. While I was glad I didn’t have to search for another apartment or live with roommates, I also knew that it would be a stretch for me to meet my monthly expenses. Without a game plan, I wouldn’t be able to pay for my place, so the first thing I did was talk to my landlords. While they weren’t flexible on the price, they were flexible on timing, and offered me other ways to decrease my rent, like babysitting for their kids. In a pinch, it’s always good to know there are options, and it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Eat Your Feelings.

Though I had a hopeful expectation of seeing these areas decrease when no longer a cohabitating couple, food-related areas of my budget that saw the greatest increase. At times, my grocery budget has been up almost 40%! Of course, I don’t have someone to split the bill anymore, and I’ve been eating my feelings. But I have also noticed that I have begun to invite friends over more often to share meals, which is an area where I tend to splurge because I always want my guests to have something special.

You Can Be So Productive When You’re Not Cuddling.

In the initial days and weeks following the fallout, I felt grateful to my past self for creating a small emergency fund. While my savings was nowhere near the recommended six months of living expenses, I certainly felt this sudden, sharp increase constituted emergency enough to dip into my stashed cash, especially if it meant not having to leave my apartment, since moving is itself an expensive endeavor.

I had been so concerned that my sadness over my breakup would lead to a relative inefficiency and difficulty with motivation, but in the months since we split, I’ve been far more productive than the time we were together. I not only spend more time working, but I have actively accepted little extra sources of income that otherwise would have put such a strain on my relationship that they wouldn’t have been worthwhile.

I take on new projects, say yes to extended dog-sitting, and generally find that time I was once devoting to my relationship has been replaced with more opportunity. While I don’t see this as a particularly even trade, or one I necessarily would have wanted, it has allowed me to pay off some of my outstanding bills and to pursue some goals that had been on the back burner as I enjoyed brunches and walking and other couple activities.

Emergency Funds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.

Any major “life stage change” will have financial repercussions, though some of them will offer the luxury of arriving slowly, with more time to plan and to stay in control of your finances: a wedding, for example, or the birth of a child. Still, unexpected changes can arise, and having even a small amount of available cash is a great way to buy peace of mind in the meantime.

Hopefully, a little cushion will be for you like carrying an umbrella on a cloudy day, a sure way to know it won’t rain, but even if it does, at least you’re covered. I’m not sure how I would have navigated the breakup without this extra funds, and women in particular can be vulnerable to these issues. I’ve made it through the hardest (and most expensive) days of the break-up, and my financial future looks brighter, if not my dating prospects.

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