Home > Managing Debt > How One Woman Survived Divorce & Bankruptcy

Comments 2 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Divorce can simplify finances — if for no other reason because there’s a lot less potential for miscommunication. Just one person is making household financial decisions, so it’s a lot easier to know what’s going on. Indeed, a recent Credit.com survey found that 51% of divorced women say that they are very satisfied with how they’re managing their finances post-divorce.

It’s still far from simple, though. Tomi Tuel, the author of “101 Things I Learned AFTER My Divorce,” said that, financially speaking, she felt less stress after her divorce and bankruptcy.

    Call now for a FREE consultation
    CALL 844-639-6956

    As a young family, she and her then-husband had purchased a house. He worked in construction, and she worked at a winery. Told that a master’s degree in marketing would assure her a job as a brand manager when she got out, Tomi went to graduate school. The winery changed hands, though, and her job plans fell through. She switched gears to study accounting. At about the same time (the mid-1990s), her husband’s construction business was running into trouble, as was the industry in general.

    The couple used credit to try to keep afloat, and the debt kept growing. Tomi estimated their stack of credit cards was about an inch thick. And so they found themselves saddled with business debt and student loans. Her husband was working three jobs — and they were deeply in debt — when he told her he wanted out of the marriage.

    A Bit of Control

    “At that point I had little control over anything: my emotions, my children, my marriage, and least of all, him,” she recalls. “The only thing I could control was my half of the finances, so I got busy and made a plan.”

    Tomi said that though she wanted to pay off her portion of the debts, as a newly single parent of a not-quite-5-year-old son and a 22-month-old daughter, she didn’t see how she could pay off the money owed to creditors and also take care of her family’s day-to-day needs. She also hoped to start college accounts for her children. It soon became clear that wiping the slate clean would give her the best shot at financial recovery. She estimates that bankruptcy wiped out between $30,000 and $40,000 of unsecured debt.

    “Bankruptcy is truly a gift, in a roundabout way,” she said in an email. “I learned to be satisfied with what I had, save what I could (even if it was $20 a month), shop at thrift stores, fix my own leaky faucets, and stagger my purchases in phases…. The cable guy once called me the customer of the year because I ran the cable under my house when he wouldn’t.”

    Living on a Shoestring

    Her children, now young adults, were largely unaware of the financial stress. At the time of her divorce, she had a job, so there was income. And they didn’t know most people buy a table and chairs at the same time. Tomi’s “installment plan” was a table one month, two chairs the next, and a third the month after that. Her son, a picky eater, loved a certain chain’s hamburgers. Because they were 39 cents on Sundays, Tomi would buy five at a time, giving him reheated burgers on weekdays. His friends were envious.

    Her son and daughter are now college students. Tomi is remarried and now also has a son who is 3. She continues to favor buying used over new, and she is chiefly responsible for family finances, a dramatic change from her first marriage when her former husband handled the money. This time, though, she and her husband work as a team, formulating financial strategies together. Together, they are funding retirement.

    The bankruptcy is no longer on her credit reports, and she and her husband now use credit cards mainly at home-improvement stores and with a plan to pay them off.

    Challenges include figuring out how much to budget for the adult children. She said clear and continuing communication is important, and so is a willingness to admit you might be wrong. (Did I tell you what I planned to do, or had I been telling myself so long that I thought I had mentioned it to you? I didn’t?)

    Her advice for any couple trying to figure out how to live on what they make? Track spending. “The person not doing the budget needs to see where money is going and how little expenses can add up.” Because living within your means is the first step toward becoming financially strong.

    More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

    Image: zimmytws

    Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

    • Susan

      Bankruptcy is different now. You have to reorganize and pay what you owe, not wipe them out. Am I correct? Just asking.

    Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

    Hello, Reader!

    Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

    Our People

    The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

    Our Reporting

    We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

    The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

    In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

    Our Business Model

    Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

    Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

    Your Stories

    Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    - The Credit.com Editorial Team