How 'The Budget Mom' figured out her finances after divorce

"I have this little boy who depends on me and I have to figure this out on my own."

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Myelle LansatNews EditorMyelle Lansat is a former news editor at Policygenius, where she covered insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

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Before becoming “The Budget Mom,” a successful financial blogger and author, Kumiko Love struggled with money. But her divorce, and the prospect of becoming a single mother, forced her to focus on her finances and conquer the anxieties that had held her back. Love is sharing what she’s learned in a new book, “My Money My Way.” Love talked to Policygenius about her financial journey and what readers can expect from the book. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Pg: There are a lot of personal finance books floating around, why do you think your financial journey is a good entry point for readers?

KL: I address what I feel is often forgotten when we talk about personal finance, which is the ability to recognize, understand, and control our emotions by putting back in the word “personal” when we talk about finances. 

As unique individuals with unique dreams, goals, family situations, and income levels, we don't fit into one-size-fits-all solutions. When we try to apply these different methods and rigid rules and steps, we come out feeling guilty. We come out feeling like failures. We come out feeling like we're not good enough. We come out feeling like we're never going to be able to do it because we ignore the one thing that truly sparks lasting change — ourselves.

You start the book with a message about honoring yourself and financial health. What did it take to give yourself permission to tackle your own financial anxiety?

I really had to understand that it’s OK to want a certain life for me and my boy and the dreams I have in my head and my heart are OK to want and have. And that it's OK that those dreams are different from everybody else's. One of the things I had to give myself permission to say is, “This is not working for me. It's time to start doing things in a way where it clicks for me.”  

I started understanding how I learn as an individual and the unique way that I was receiving my paychecks and paying my bills and different expenses in my life. As a divorced single mom it's different for me. I had this “aha moment” realizing I don't have a choice. I have this little boy who depends on me and I have to figure this out on my own.

There’s a difference between knowing you need to get your financial house in order and actually doing it. How can people get started?

They need to ask themselves one really important question: Why do you want to get better with your money? There's a deep, underlying reason why there needs to be change in your life. And so much of the time we suppress this. We're like, “This is important to me, but you know what? It's too much work. I don't wanna look at it. I don't wanna deal with it. I'm scared to see it.” And so we suppress it without actually taking action. Emotion sparks action. I want people to feel something. 

How can people prioritize essential expenses and pay down debt? 

We have to realize that every single dollar that we spend in our lives is a trade off that we are making. We may not recognize it at the moment, but we have full control over the trade-offs we are making with our money every day. If we spend the money now, what are we giving up in the future? As a single mom now down to one income, I had to recognize the consequences of my spending and what trade-offs I was comfortable making. That might look like honing in on my food budget for one month, maybe not eating as extravagantly as I once did, but that meant that I could throw more money at my debt

Divorce can be difficult for people to navigate. What’s the No. 1 financial tip for people going through that process?

Your life as a single individual is different from the life you had as a married individual. That recognition was the hardest part for me. You really do have to approach your finances as starting over. When I was going through my divorce that entailed sitting down and literally recreating my budget from scratch. That was hard for me because that solidified this fear that I had as a divorced parent: This is truly now just me. And I think that's why it took me so long to actually sit down and approach that step. But it is the most important, crucial step because acknowledging where you are starting is way better than living in the unknown.

Image courtesy of Kumiko Love