As a new widow, you may be faced with the challenge of managing money for the first time on your own. This is something I had to adjust to as a 26-year-old widow, as I discussed in the first part of this grief recovery guide. No matter how you handled money in your marriage, you’re going to need to make some adjustments now. These money management tips for widows from a widow will help you feel less overwhelmed.
Re-Evaluate Your Income
If your spouse provided some or all of the household income, you will need to re-evaluate your finances. In my case, I was the sole bread-winner, so my monthly income did not change. However, I did need to take some time off to move, grieve, and adjust to life, so I did not work for over a month. I had to examine my savings and other income streams to determine when I had to go back to work.
If your income can no longer support the bills you have, you might need to change some aspects of your life. We will talk about that in one of the next sections, but for now, figure out how much money you realistically have available each month. If your spouse had a life insurance policy or retirement account that you will now have access to, factor that into your finances. Keep in mind that you may not have access to the funds right away, so you will still need a way to cover bills in the meantime.
Contact Billing Companies for Extensions, Payment Forgiveness, or Cancellations
If you need some time to get your finances in order, contact your billing companies to ask about payment forgiveness or extensions. Most lenders and utility companies have programs set up for financial hardships. For instance, if you have a car loan, you should be eligible for one “skipped” payment each year. You will still have to pay the interest for that month, but the payment itself will be tacked on to the end of the loan. That may free up a few hundred dollars you can use elsewhere.
If there are bills purely in your spouse’s name, you may need to switch them to your name or cancel them completely. The billing company may ask for a copy of the death certificate in the process. I got five copies of my husband’s death certificate, and I only used two of them. You can request these from the funeral home or crematorium. They usually cost $5-$15 each.
Avoid Taking on New Debts
You may be tempted to take out a loan or credit card to help you cover your costs for a while. I would strongly advise against that. Going into debt will only put more stress on you in the future. Stress makes depression worse, and it makes it harder to process emotions. Rather than putting yourself in a difficult situation later on, try to keep your costs as low as possible and live off the money you already have. You’ll be happy you did, I promise.
Reduce Your Bills as Needed
There is one less person in your household now. I know that’s tough to think about. Nevertheless, you may not have the same needs now that you did when your spouse was alive. You may be better off in a smaller house, with a smaller cable bill, when a smaller phone plan, etc. After my husband died, I got rid of cable completely because he was the only one who watched it. Get your bills as low as possible so they’re easy to manage each month. With less financial stress, it will be easier for you to handle the emotional elements of being a new widow.
In part three of this guide, I’ll go over some dating tips for widows that you can use when you’re ready.