I have always been careful with money to ensure I can afford the things I want in life. Before I was in a domestic violence situation, I was doing reasonably well financially. I had a good job, saved hard, owned a decent portion of my home and I had the funds to travel each year.
When I moved in with my ex-partner, he earned less money than I did, barely owned any of his home and he had two children to pay for. Whilst on paper there was an imbalance, he assumed we would split everything 50/50, and in the spirit of partnership and harmony, I agreed.
I wish then I had known how irresponsible he was with money. Looking back, this explained why he had so little when we met. He would buy extravagant items and put them on credit cards, wasted money on things we didn’t need, paid over-the-odds for convenience and he would get very angry if I ever questioned his spend.
Even though we both earned a reasonable salary, within months of moving in together we were drowning in credit card debt and had to make arrangements with the bank to pay our home loan.
When I walked away from the relationship 5 years later, my financial situation and net worth were halved. To make matters worse, I faced the cost of buying a new home and setting it up, plus legal fees to pay for the separation.
At the time I was an executive in the construction industry, but the weight of the role, becoming a single parent and my emotional rebuild was too much. I left my job and took one that was more junior, less stressful and paid 30% of my previous wage. It was tough to stay afloat – I bought discounted food from the local church supermarket and took in overseas students as borders to help pay the bills.
I hated the anguish around money, so I took action to reduce my woes and start rebuilding to a healthier financial position. Here are the steps I took:
· I reviewed my budget, removed the things I didn’t need and found cheaper solutions where possible
· I entertained my friends at home instead of going out (it was lovely to be able to do so, as they weren’t welcome when I lived with my ex)
· I paid my electricity, water and rates bills in installments each fortnight in accordance with my wage cycle to avoid any large bills
· I accepted kindness from friends – hand-me-downs for my son, recycled furniture, help with home maintenance and plants for my garden
· I reviewed my mortgage and my insurance costs to ensure I was getting the best rates
· I created a menu plan each week and only bought ingredients for the plan, which reduced wastage
· I made food from scratch (in addition to saving money, it also improved the quality of my diet)
· Where possible I bought things that were on special or during sales
· I joined a library to save money on books and magazines
· At the end of each pay cycle, I would place any money I had left over (however small) into a savings account.
As I rebuilt my life, my confidence grew. A few months later, I felt ready to take a slightly more senior role and this eased the financial pressure. Within 18 months, my career and income were back on track.
That was almost 5 years ago. I learnt a lot during that time and developed some good financial habits that have stayed with me. I still keep unnecessary purchases to a minimum (with the odd splurge), I manage and monitor a monthly budget and I try to get the best price for everything I buy.
The most important part of my financial rebuild was my attitude. I was determined to get back on track and not get caught in a money rut. Becoming financially independent was a big part of my recovery, and I never doubted that I could do it.
The hard work has all paid off. Despite the fact my household has a single income, I have saved more during this time than I did when I was with my partner. I have also taken my son on holidays around the world and bought an investment property. All of this was possible by taking simple steps to be prudent and planned with my money.
Other financial support
If you are currently experiencing financial challenges as the result of domestic violence, there are resources that are available to assist. These include:
CUA (Credit Union Australia – cua.com.au) offers a service that enables victims of DV to discreetly set up and keep a bank account that cannot be accessed by the perpetrator, enabling them to save money that can be used to escape the situation.
Domestic violence services often offer financial and debt counselling to support women to navigate their financial situation and connect them to services and resources.
Centrelink provides some assistance through a crisis payment. For more information, please visit https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/crisis-payment
1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) offers free and confidential counselling to help people experiencing or rebuilding after DV.
How can WorkHaven help?
As a founder of WorkHaven, I understand how tough it is to rebuild after domestic violence. Our coaching program, Free from DV, supports victims to become survivors and we provide guidance to get back on track in all elements of life, including financially. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.