Guidelines for estimating food and clothing expenses when developing a budget during the divorce process

Developing a budget is a critical component of the divorce process. The most common means of budgeting for food and clothing items is to look at the historical expenditures made by you and your spouse during your marriage. For example, you might determine the total expenditures for food and beverages over the past year and divide the cost by the number of people who incurred the cost. Consider the following example:

Assume that a couple spent $6,000 on food and beverage during the year preceding separation. If the wife is budgeting food costs for her and her two children then the formula would be the total cost divided by the total people times the number of persons being budgeted for: $6,000 ÷ 4 x 3 = $4,500. This is a quick, but not always entirely accurate means of budgeting for food and beverages. One factor that can complicate this estimate process is an individual who consumes on the average more than the rest of the family (e.g. quantity, expensive food, liquor). The budget process can also be affected by individuals who are unable to cook for themselves and must eat in restaurants.

Estimating for clothing and personal care expenses can be difficult because the expenditures reflect components of necessity, as well as standard of living (i.e., needs vs. wants). For example, a wife who customarily spends $1,000 per month on clothing for herself may not find that feasible when the economics of the situation become clear. The general theory of budgeting in these circumstances would be to ensure that necessity was met first. Standard of living issues could be then addressed as an overall adjustment to income through alimony or a disproportionate share of the marital estate.

With items like food and clothing, it is very easy for a person who is completing a budget to get hopelessly lost in the minutiae. Keep in mind that the goal is to provide a budget that is fair and reasonable by the use of averages and generalizations. Budgeting for every expenditure that has happened in the past or might happen in the future and estimating the associated expense is a hopeless endeavor.