Budget Not Bankruptcy

“How am I supposed to pay that much and continue to live?!”

For most noncustodial parents the amount of child support that they are determined obligated to pay comes as a shock. In many states the amount of child support a non-custodial parent is obligated to pay can be as much twenty-five percent (25%) of their gross pay, in some cases more. Too bad we don’t get to live on our gross pay! Before a W-2 employee makes any decision about how to spend his income, the state and federal government have already taken their “fair share.” If the noncustodial parent is obligated to maintain health insurance, that gets cut out of the check next. A 401k? Are you also required to pay some of the marital debt?

School loans? It’s easy to see how the paycheck of an individual faced with divorce can be whittled down pretty quickly.

The key to survival is disciplined spending. It is imperative that noncustodial parents stretched to the limit by child support payments make a budget and stick to it. Here are some tips:

  1. Learn to find bargains. You would be amazed at the deals you can find at thrift stores and online through local services such as www.craigslist.org and www.ebay.com. You can find both new and used tables, vacuum cleaners, books, clothes and toys for the kids at extremely discounted prices.
  2. Make meals at home. No more $7.00 lunches. For a little more than $7.00 you can buy enough bread, lunchmeat, condiments and snacks for a week of lunches. If you have to, buy a cookbook with simple recipes. You’d be amazed at how much money you save.  Cooking and sharing a meal when you have your children translates to quality time free of outside distractions, costs less, and teaches everyone some new skills in the kitchen.
  3. Buy used movies. $20 can buy you four used movies at your local rental palace. It costs $20 to rent four movies; you might as well wait a few months and own them. Children will watch their favorite movies, over and over again.
  4. Give up luxuries ie cable. The children may revolt, but there are other ways to keep them busy. Play games in the evening, go to the park and play during the day. You can get streaming video over the internet. If you must have cable, get the most basic package.
  5. Be a member. Get member passes to places like the Zoo. The passes pay for themselves after a few visits. Make sure you buy passes to a place that you would visit regularly or it may not be worth it. Get a library card.
  6. Visit friends and family. It’s much cheaper than taking the kids to a movie and more fun.
  7. Brew your own coffee. $3 for 8 ounces of water filtered through grounds? It adds up!
  8. If you need a cell phone, talk after 9 p.m. and on weekends. Cell phone rates are cheapest at nights and on weekends. Get a conservative plan and DON’T go over your monthly allotted minutes. Got a cell? Consider getting rid of the land line.
  9. Budget your time. Bargain shopping and cooking your own meals requires planning. Learn to budget your time so that you can budget your money.The courts can be very unsympathetic to noncustodial parents that fail to pay their child support. The penalties range from a strong rebuke and attorney’s fees for opposing counsel to jail time. If you can stick to your budget and cut out some extras you’d be surprised by what you have left.An entire culture has developed around the benefits of frugal living. Believe it or not, you might actually find that cutting corners leads to a happier, more productive, and even spiritually more fulfilling life. If you want to learn more about frugal living, check out the bestseller: Your Money Or Your Life or The Simple Living Network.
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