What Divorced or Separated Means for Your 2020 Tax Return

What Getting Divorced or Separated Means for Your 2020 Tax Return


Tax Questions and Answers for the Newly Divorced or Separated

Tax time can bring more headaches in some years than in others. If you’ve recently separated from your spouse or were divorced, you’re facing a whole lot of issues you haven’t had to deal with before, and you probably have several questions, too. Here are a few tax rules to keep in mind.

Are You Married or Single?

This question isn’t as black-and-white as it seems on the surface, and it’s important because it can affect your filing status.

Under IRS rules, you’re technically still married if your divorce is not yet final as of Dec. 31, even if you or your spouse filed for divorce during the year. Likewise, if the court issued your divorce decree on Dec. 31, you’re considered unmarried for the whole year and you must file your taxes as either a single person or head of household if you qualify.

It doesn’t matter if you and your spouse have been living separately—you’re still married according to the tax code unless a court order states that you’re divorced or legally separated. You’re no longer married and you must file a single return if you’re separated by court order on Dec. 31, not just living apart on your own terms.

You are also unmarried for the whole year under IRS rules if you have obtained a decree of a annulment, which requires filing amended returns for affected tax years within the applicable statute of limitations.  

Should You File a Joint Married Return If You’re Still Married?

You have the option of filing a joint married return with your spouse if you’re still married, even if you no longer live together. This can be beneficial because—among other things—it makes you eligible for a higher standard deduction when you combine your incomes on the same return. But this isn’t really black-and-white, either.

Your standard deduction is $12,400 in 2020 if you file a separate married return, up from $12,200 in 2019. Keep in mind that the 2019 deduction applies to the tax return you’ll file for that year.

This is the same as the standard deduction for single filers.

The standard deduction for those who are married and filing jointly is $24,800 in 2020. The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for the 2019 tax year is $24,400.  

So this works out as something of a wash if you and your spouse earn comparable incomes. If you divide that $24,400 standard deduction by the two of you, that’s $12,200 for each of you, the same as you could claim filing a separate return. But if you earn a lot more than your spouse—or maybe he doesn’t work at all—that $24,400 can subtract significantly from your taxable income.

But there’s a downside to filing together, too, particularly if your marriage is on the brink. You become jointly and severally liable for all taxes due when you file a joint return, even on income that your spouse personally earned.   This means that if you earned $20,000 and your spouse earned $80,000, the IRS can collect the taxes due on that $80,000 from you if she doesn’t pay them. If she’s less than honest about her income or if she fraudulently claims a credit or deduction, you may be on the hook for these misdeeds, too.  

You can deny liability subject to certain rules, but this might be a problem you don’t need when you’re trying to put your marriage behind you, and there’s no guarantee that the IRS will agree that you’re not liable.  

Can You File as Head of Household?

Here’s where it gets a little more complicated. You’re not necessarily limited to filing a joint married or separate married return if the IRS says you’re still married. Nor must you absolutely file a single return if you’re technically divorced. You might qualify for another filing status: head of household. And it can be very advantageous.

Filing as head of household allows you to claim a larger standard deduction—$18,650 in 2020, up from $18,350 in 2019—and you can earn more income before climbing into a higher tax bracket.   It can also affect your eligibility for certain tax credits. But there are some strict rules.

You might qualify as head of household even if your divorce isn’t final by Dec. 31 if the IRS says you’re “considered unmarried.” According to IRS rules, this means:

  • You and your spouse stopped living together before the last 6 months of the tax year.
  • You paid paid more than 50% of the cost of maintaining your home for the year.

You must also meet a few other requirements:

  • You must have a dependent. This would typically be your child, but other relatives can qualify, too. Your dependent must have lived with you for more than half the year, but some relatives, such as your parents, don’t have to live with you if you pay for more than half their living expenses.
  • You must have the right to claim your dependent on your tax return even if you don’t actually do so. Maybe you would have been entitled to claim your child except you gave your spouse the right to claim her as part of your divorce terms. A parent who is entitled to claim a child can transfer her right to the other parent by signing and submitting Form 8332 to the IRS.
  • You must file a separate tax return from your spouse to claim head of household filing status. If you file a joint married return, neither you nor your spouse qualify as head of household.    

Who Gets to Claim the Kids?

Now, about those dependents. The IRS says that only one parent can claim a child on their tax return in any given year.

If you have two children, it’s perfectly OK for you to claim one while your spouse claims the other—in fact, this is somewhat common after separation or divorce. But if you have only one child or you have an odd number of children, you and your spouse can’t simultaneously claim any of them in the same tax year.   You’ll open yourself up for an audit if you try.

The IRS has special tiebreaker rules if you and your spouse can’t agree on who claims the children. The right to claim a child as a dependent goes to the parent with whom the child lived most during the year, typically the custodial parent. Your child must have lived with you for more than half the year to qualify as your dependent.  

Given that there are an odd number of days in most years, a child almost always lives with one parent at least one more day than the other. But if the child somehow spent an equal amount of time with each of you, the IRS moves on to the second tiebreaker rule: The dependent deduction goes to the parent with the highest adjusted gross income (AGI).  

In addition to the tiebreaker rules, you must provide more than half your child’s support and she must be under age 19, or age 24 if she’s still a full-time student.  

Is It Even Worth Claiming a Dependent Anymore?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated personal exemptions from the tax code when the law went into effect in January 2018.   You could deduct $4,050 for yourself, your spouse, and each of your claimed dependents back in 2017,   but not anymore. at least not until the TCJA potentially expires at the end of 2025.  

So does it really matter anymore which of you claims your kids? Yes, it does.

A whole slew of tax breaks depend on being able to claim one or more dependents.

Remember, you can’t qualify as head of household without a dependent.   The Earned Income Credit is worth more if you have at least one dependent, and the more, the better.   Then there are costs associated with your dependents that can help increase certain tax deductions, such as the medical expense deduction and educational deductions.   And this isn’t even to mention the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.  

So, yes, you’ll want to claim your kids if you can.

Can You Deduct That Child Support You’ve Been Paying?

Unfortunately, you can’t deduct child support you pay.   The IRS takes the position that if you and your ex had remained married and if your family had remained intact, you could not have claimed a tax deduction for money you spent feeding, clothing, and sheltering your children. These are personal expenses, and they’re still considered personal expenses after you divorce.

The child support you pay is for the benefit of your kids, so your ex doesn’t have to claim it as income, either. Nor do your children. Child support is a tax-neutral exchange of money.  

What About Alimony?

Alimony is a different story—or at least it was before the TCJA took over.

If you’re paying alimony subsequent to the terms of your divorce or separation decree, the IRS used to see this as income that your ex could spend as she sees fit. It was taxable income to you when you earned it, but as it turns out, you didn’t have the use of that money. Therefore, you got to take an above-the-line deduction on the first page of your tax return for the amount you paid. You would not have to pay taxes on this portion of your income, but your spouse would have to claim it as income on her return and pay taxes on it.  

The “above-the-line” distinction was important. It meant that you didn’t have to itemize to claim the deduction, and itemizing isn’t always to every taxpayer’s advantage. Basically, all your itemized deductions would have to have added up to more than the standard deduction for your filing status or you’d end up paying taxes on more income than you would have to.

The situation changed in 2019 under the terms of the TCJA. Alimony is no longer tax deductible, nor does the spouse receiving it have to claim it as income if it’s provided for in a decree that’s dated after Dec. 31, 2018.  

If the new law is more to your liking, the IRS says you can go back and revise a previous decree by agreement to adopt the new rule—the receiving spouse wouldn’t have to claim the money as income, but the paying spouse won’t be able to deduct the payments, either.  

Can You Deduct the Costs of Your Divorce?

Your divorce attorney has hopefully accounted for all the tax ramifications of the property exchange provided for in your divorce settlement or decree, but agreeing on custody terms and hammering out the alimony order probably cost you a ton in legal fees. Can you deduct those?

Unfortunately, not anymore.   You could never deduct fees associated with getting a divorce, nor could you deduct most court costs. But you could deduct fees you paid that were associated with generating income, such as if you had to pay a lawyer to get an alimony order. But this was a miscellaneous itemized deduction, and the TCJA eliminates these from the tax code as well.  

See also:  Question: How long can dead lice stay in hair? (2020)

It’s possible that Congress will renew the TCJA at the end of 2025,   but many of these tax breaks could come back if that doesn’t happen. In the meantime, however, plan your divorce or separation around no miscellaneous deductions, no personal exemptions, or no tax break for paying alimony.


How Much Should a Website Cost You? A Definitive Pricing Guide For You

This is a Part 2 of a 2-part series on understanding the cost to building a website:

Part 1 – We share important lessons from our own trials & experiences, so you won’t repeat some of our mistakes (losing time and money).

Part 2[You Are Here] – What to watch out for when costing out your website project – especially if you are new to building websites. Written by an experienced web designer for beginners and includes detailed cost breakdown.

Can you guess which website costs more?

(Click on each image to see the actual website)

True, the visual appeal or attractiveness of the design can sometimes give it away, but it’s not always the case.

What if I tell you Website A is a custom made design that looks like it could potentially cost between $5,000 to $10,000, while Website B is a free template from Wix.com, and Website C is a free template from Squarespace.

(Note: By the way, I don’t know how much Website A costs. But it is not uncommon for a custom built website to fall in that cost range.)

Here’s the thing – It’s really hard to judge how much a website costs just by looking at the design.

Consider this — It is indisputable that the Lamborghini Spyder is one hot car. Even so, what most Lambo enthusiasts love about this car is not how it looks, but how it sounds – it is the roar of the v10 engine that takes the Spyder from 0 to 60mph in just 3.4 seconds.

Just like the $250,000 Lambo, what makes up the cost of a website is not only how the website looks on the surface, but rather, what lies “under the hood” that makes a website work.

So, don’t judge a website by its cover — its design is only one slice of a much bigger pie.

After helping hundreds of businesses to create their websites, I’ve done and have seen a lot.

Having experimented with different website building software and tools, I’ve developed strong opinions about…

  • What’s worth your money and what’s not worth it.
  • What to focus on and what to toss out the window.
  • What matters and what doesn’t.

Whenever you are trying something new, having someone in your corner who has experience in the subject can really help.

This is why the value of designers or developers goes beyond just the surface design of the website.

Their experiences, technical skills, and broad product knowledge can help you…

  • Avoid hidden technical and financial pitfalls; and
  • Choose the right solution for your budget level, technical level, and how much time you are prepared to commit.

If you are looking for a pricing chart for everything that has to do with building a website, there are plenty of resources scattered all over the internet (I do have a couple of pricing frameworks below, which we’ll get to later).

But, for those of you that want to dive straight in, I have outlined a brief overview of how much you can expect to pay for a website below.

What I want to give you in this discussion, are advice and recommendations that I would give to paying clients – a sort of free consultation on the true cost of your website .

We conduct our own research to decide which website builder is best for different purposes. Take our quiz to get a recommendation that’s personalized to your needs.

The best part is that you don’t need any technical or design skill to use DIY website builders. All the hard stuff is taken care of so it’s easy to get online.

How Much Do Websites Cost?

The cost to design a website with a drag-and-drop builder will be between $5-15/month. This price fluctuates depending on your needs. For example, adding ecommerce functions to your site will cost between $15-30/month. The full range of website builder price plans is $0-500/month.

To expand beyond a basic website, you’ll have to budget for additional domain and hosting costs. Domains usually cost $10-20/year, after first year discounted prices. Hosting plans range from $2.75-300/month, though most sites will be on the lower end of that spectrum.

On the other hand, the cost to build a website using a custom web designer is around $6,750, and the priciest designers can cost $20,000 or more.

Factors Hiring a Web Designer Using a Website Builder (e.g. Wix)
Setup $160 $0
Design & Building $5,000 $0
Content Creation $500 $0
Training to Use it $600 $0
Maintenance $500 $60
Total $6,760 $60

Here is a quick snapshot of some of the best website builders that can help you build your website without having to learn how to code or breaking your bank account. We’ve tested over 50 of them, and these are our top two:

*Squarespace is the only builder that doesn’t have a free plan, so to get the features you will have to pay a modest monthly fee. It does, however, offer a 14 day free trial so you can try before you buy.

If you are unsure what each of the features mean, I have explained them for you:

  • Free of Adverts – whether the builder’s ads are display on your site or not
  • Personal Domain – whether you get your own personal website address or not
  • Unlimited Bandwidth – the amount of traffic and data your site can handle

Choose a website builder and make money online today

What type of site do you want to build?

You are asking all the wrong questions!

How much a website should cost is a very generic question – it lacks specifics.

It’s the same as if I were to ask you how much should a car cost?

Uh… well, can you be more specific?

What type of car do you want? – Does it need to be gas efficient? – What do you use it for? – What is your budget?

You can quickly see “how much does a car cost?” is actually quite a pretty complex question after all.

Just like budgeting for a car, the cost of a website is different to different people because everyone values the concept of “cost” in different ways.

For example, if you are a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids under 10 years old. You might value time over money. You would rather pay a little more to get things done right and on time.

To others without kids, they may think you’re overpaying for certain services. But to you, it’s well worth the cost.

Simply put, the cost of building your website boils down to 4 resources:

  1. Time
  2. Technical knowledge (or your interest to learn to code)
  3. Design skills (or your willingness to learn design)
  4. Money

Most people lack 1 or a few of these 4 resources.

Spend a couple of seconds to think about which ones you have (or don’t have).

You don’t need to have all 4 to start a website because you can easily compensate one for another one.

For example, if you don’t have any coding skills but have time, you can always learn to code from various free or paid online coding tutorials.

What resources do you lack?

I get asked about how much does a website costs A LOT – I guess it comes with the job description as a website designer in my previous business.

One thing I’ve noticed time and time again is how much people focus purely on the dollar sign – which is missing the bigger picture.

Out of the 4 resources – money is actually the most flexible one.

  • You either have time or you don’t
  • You either know / have an interest in coding or you don’t
  • You either know / have an interest in design or you don’t

This is not always the case when it comes to money.

Everybody has a certain level of money. It’s about how you decide where to best spend it.

Why would a person choose to pay $4.50 for a fancy Starbucks latte when an alternative is to spend $0.10 to make a simple coffee at home?

Could it have something to do with the lifestyle? Or maybe something as torturous as waking up earlier to make coffee? Is it the convenience of buying it outside so you don’t have to deal with it at home?

Let’s be honest, generally speaking, we all have some money. We all know someone that doesn’t have a lot of savings but ended up buying a brand new flat screen TV when they really shouldn’t.

The right question is — “is this worth my money.”

The truth of the matter is if you feel something has value to you, you will gladly pay up for it, right? – This is what consumerism is all about.

So, let’s put money (as a resource) aside for now, as if you find real value in building a website (if it’s really worth it to you), you’ll try to make things work.

For now, let’s focus on estimating the cost of your website if you have limited:

  • Time
  • Technical knowledge (or the interest in learning it)
  • Design skills (or the interest in learning it)

Let’s keep pushing ahead…

Cost of website if you have limited Resources.

When it comes to building, managing, and operating your website, there are 5 main phases you need to deal with:

  1. Website setup (this is before you even get to design or content creation)
  2. Learn how to use a website builder
  3. Designing the layout
  4. Content creation
  5. Troubleshooting and ongoing maintenance

For each of the phases, you have to determine if you have the time, technical or design skills to accomplish them successfully.

If you are missing any one of them, you may need to hire a professional to help you get the job done, or rely on modern technology to solve your problems:

Option #1:

Pay a professional to do it for you; or

Option #2:

Find a website building software to take over all the technical and design challenges for you, so you don’t need to spend as much time on them.

If you have heard of website building software like WordPress or Wix.com, you might think, “Well, both are technology – so how are they different?”

I’ll illustrate the difference here with this example below:

There are a few ways to have high-quality homemade soup:

  1. Method A – make the soup from scratch by yourself. You go to the store, buy the ingredients, chop them all up and make the soup. Nothing is pre-packaged and you have to do everything by yourself – from the beginning to the end.
  2. Method B – You can use services like BlueApron to speed up the process. They send you the prepared ingredients so you don’t need to leave your house or prepare anything. Just follow the recipe and put the ingredients in the pot. So the process is simplified by the ingredient preparation & delivery service – but there is still some assembly required .
  3. Method C – There is an even easier way. Cooked food delivery service like CookFood.net handles all the cooking for you. They deliver the finished product directly to your door. So the entire process is fully automated. Everything is done-for-you . Just choose what you want from their online menu and arrange a delivery time. If you can fill in a form, you can get homemade soup with no cooking skills required – pretty awesome, right?

Just like the different ways to have homemade soup,
different website building technologies give you different levels of website building services:

Method A – Custom Build Your Website From the Ground Up

You can hire a website designer or developer to create your website from scratch without the use of any website building software.

Since the introduction of WordPress, most websites are NOT built from scratch anymore. Only enterprise companies with very specific needs will choose to build a website this way, but this is also happening less and less.

Method B – Use a Website Building Software like WordPress (Assembly Required)

WordPress is like the cooking ingredient delivery service. They give you everything you need to create a website, but assembly is required.

True you can do this yourself if you have the time to learn or already have the expertise to do it yourself. It can definitely be done since a lot of people have done it before.

If you don’t have time or expertise, you can always hire a professional to put a WordPress website together for you so you can save time and headaches.

Method C – Drag & Drop Website Builders (Automated – No Skills Required)

Finally, we have the fully automated website building service like Wix and Squarespace.

Just like the cooked food delivery services that allow you to have homemade soup even if you don’t any cooking skills, these drag & drop, fully managed website builders handle all technical and design issues for you, so you don’t have to.

They’re easy to use and require minimal to no technical knowledge at all.

Note that these fully managed, drag & drop website builders don’t give you a team of designers and developer to build the website for you. You still need to build the website yourself by using their simple drag & drop tools. But they make it really easy for you and you don’t even need to be technical at all.

The key benefit is that drag & drop web builders automate the technical aspects of managing and operating a website – so you don’t have to.

However, there are some limitations here. It’s not like you can have any soup you can imagine because your choices are limited to what’s available on their menu. Even so, the soup selections are still very extensive and 90% of the time you will find the soup you want.

In the same way, drag & drop website builders have limits to their features and designs as well. Each web builder has their list of tools and pre-made website designs.

While you are limited to what they have, the selection is pretty extensive and 90% of the time you will find what you need.

It is a small sacrifice to make so you can build a website yourself without having to do much technical work (or hire someone to help you).

To put everything into perspective, the cost of websites changes depending on which type of website building software you use (Method A, B or C). Each type of builder calls for different levels of skill or help from professionals.

Now that I’ve explained the two main ways to create a website, let’s put some actual dollar signs in front of them!

Option #1: Cost of building a website if you hire professionals to help you:

When I refer to hiring a professional to create the website for you, most of the time I will be referring to using WordPress.

The reason is because WordPress the most popular website builder for developer and designers, and is currently powering about 26% of all websites.

WordPress’s main advantage is its extreme flexibility. You can create almost any type of website with any type of features you need, as long as you have the coding and design expertise to do so.

If not, you can always hire a pro to do that for you (of course cost will come into play here).

Now, WordPress, in my opinion, is not something I will suggest if you have no technology skills or if you’ve never owned a website before.

Why? Because WordPress has a much higher learning curve and setup costs than any fully managed, drag & drop website builder like Wix and Squarespace.

I only recommend using WordPress (or other self-hosted website builders) if:

  • This is not your first website – you have experiences managing websites.
  • If you have very specific design or software needs that only WordPress can provide.
  • If you have both time and money to spend on learning, building and managing a WordPress website.

Otherwise, I do not recommend using WordPress if you have limited time, money or patience to learn how to code and to learn the technical ins and outs of using WordPress effectively.

#1 Cost of setting up a WordPress website:

Setting up a website involves finding a hosting provider, learning how to use FTP, linking your website build software with your hosting provider, and finally connecting your domain name to your website.

All these will sound foreign to you if you’ve never owned a website before, so let me explain what they actually mean:

Website Hosting (Cost $5 – $350/month):

A host is where your website content “lives” online.

Imagine a host is like your coat closet and your website is your coat. Whenever you want to get to your coat, you need to go to your closet and retrieve it.

This works the same way as your website. When someone enters your website address into a web browser, the browser will go to your host (your closet) and get your website (your coat) to display it to the visitor.

Generally speaking, there are several types of hosting that handle different volume of visitors to your website:

  • Shared hosting;
  • VPS hosting; and
  • Dedicated hosting.

For most people, you will never need dedicated hosting as it is more suitable for very large or enterprise level websites.

The only thing you need to know is that the more visitors come to your website, the higher your cost of hosting will be :

  • Shared hosting costs $5 – $30
  • VPS hosting costs $50 – $250
  • Dedicated hosting starts in the thousands

If you are looking for good WordPress hosting, Bluehost is a good candidate to get started with. If you are looking for more advanced, highly-tuned, dedicated WordPress hosting provider, WP Engine is excellent and has top notch customer service.

If you want further information about choosing a web host, have a look at our article on the Best Web Hosting Services on the market today to help you make a decision.

Using FTP (Cost $0 – $50):

FTP is way for you to manage your website files (which are stored in the host).

These website files include your website design, images, features, content – pretty much everything you see in front of you, and also the internal workings of a website (“under the hood” so to speak).

Most website hosting provider will give you technical instructions on how to use FTP to connect to you host so you can manage all those files.

If you a newbie, it may take 1-3 hours to get this up and running.

You can always search for video tutorials on YouTube or pay for tutorials at Lynda.com (around $50).

If you need some handholding / direct support, you can hire a developer or designer to show you the ropes ($30-$80/hr for a designer or $80-$180/hr for a developer).

Of course, you might not even know what to do with the files even once you get the process set up.

Installing WordPress in a Host and Connecting your Domain Name (Cost $0 – $50):

Most hosting providers already have WordPress installed. If you want to skip the installation of WordPress, make sure the hosting provider you choose has WordPress already.

Your hosting provider will have instructions to show you how to connect your domain name to your website.

If you don’t know too much about domain names, we have a beginners guide to domain names you can refer to. You can purchase a domain name for your website from a domain name registrar such as Domain.com.

If you’ve never connected a domain name to a website before, it may take you a few minutes to an hour to figure things out.

Again, you can always hire a designer or developer to do this for you on an hourly basis ($30-$80/hr for a designer and $80-$180/hr for a developer).

The website setup cost can be as low as $5 (cheap hosting service) if you’re willing to do it all by yourself.

If you need help from a designer or developer to save you hours of figuring things out (if you’re not experienced), expect to spend around $30 – $50 (as it doesn’t take an experienced professional that long to get it done for you).

These are the basic setup costs even before you get to build your website.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#2 Cost of learning to use WordPress (Cost $0 – $50):

As mentioned before, it takes a few hours to learn the basics of WordPress.

If you want to be highly effective at it, it will take a few weeks to a month to get enough practice.

There are plenty of free tutorials online (but the quality can range from good to bad).

Or, you can use higher quality, paid tutorials from Lynda.com for about $50/month to help you speed up the process.

Within a month, you should be able to learn the basics of how to operate WordPress (note: this does not including how to use codes to customize your website).

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#3 Cost of designing a WordPress website (Cost $50 – $$$$):

Here is where the price of a website has no upper limit.

You can really spend as much as you have or as little as you like when it comes to website design.

Pre-made templates designs (cost $35 – $200):

These are ready-made designs that you can buy off the shelf. There are plenty of options for you to choose from.

The only limitation with a pre-made template is that design customization is pretty limited unless you know how to modify codes.

If not, what you see on the template’s demo site is pretty much what you get.

Basic paid templates cost around $35 to $50 and premium paid templates range from $80 to $200.

CUSTOM BUILT WEBSITE USING PRE-MADE templates (cost $300 – $1,000):

This option is an “in-between” a DIY website and a fully custom built website design.

You can hire a designer to help customize a pre-made template into something unique just for you.

This is a good option if you are not ready for an entirely custom website, and pre-made templates are not exactly what you want.

You can pay by the hour or by the project for design customizations.

Expect to pay between $300 and $1,000 for template customization.

The cost varies depending on how much work you want to be done – such as adding a header image, moving the logo location, creating a fixed navigation bar, changing the overall layout design, etc.

CUSTOM WEBSITE DESIGN (cost $5,000 – $10,000+):

If you really want something truly unique, you can go for a custom website design where you can create any design you can imagine.

A custom WordPress design can go for as low as $5,000 if you hire a developer from an emerging country / region such as India or Eastern Europe.

Any capable developers from a developed region (such as North America, Western Europe, etc.) will start at $10,000 and can go all the way up to well over $30,000.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#4 Cost of creating content for your WordPress website (Cost $500 – $5,000):

After you’re done with created an overall design for your website, you will need to populate it with content.

The design work (in the section directly above), basically gives your website an overall framework.

The framework may include where the menu bar is located and how it works, where the logo is to be situated, how the slideshow works at the top of your home page, how your sidebar looks like and functions, how your information is to be presented throughout your website, etc.

So the design work basically creates an outline or the skeleton of your webpages.

After the framework is created, you now have to populate it with your own content.

For instance, you will need to upload a background design for your pages, upload header images, create custom graphics for your content area, insert text to describe items, insert your logo to brand your business, etc.

These are all part of the content creation process – so your visitors can understand your business, see what products you have, read your blog posts, so on and so forth.

If you splurge on a custom designed website, your designer may include the creation and population of content for you.

But, what if I don’t have tens of thousands to spend on a custom website, but don’t have time to create the content for my website?

One option is to buy a pre-made template at $35 – $200. Then hire a designer to create your website content for you.

This is a good option to save money and time, but still have a designer help you create content, graphics, and branding of your website.

Keep in mind that the design of your website will still be limited by the design of the website template you choose (as it is not a truly custom design).

Designers can charge content creation by the hour or by project:

  • $50 – $80 per hour
  • $250 – $500 minimum charge per project. This may include a minimum of 3 pages, and additional pages will be a slightly cheaper.
  • Logo or branding design will be about $100 – $1500 depending on the extent of the branding design you need.

You may also want to budget for ongoing maintenance costs. That’s usually about $100 – $500 per year if you don’t make any major alterations to you website design.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

Pro Tip:

If you don’t have the financial luxury of hiring someone to help you edit images and create logos, we have a couple of guides that will walk you through how you can do this yourself, even if you are not technical or born with a good sense of design:

  • How to Edit Your Images Like A Pro (Without Being a Pro) – Here are a few easy-to-use image editors that can help you make amazing edits to your pictures.
  • Creating Your Own Professional Logo – check out a few tools (free / paid) to help you create your own logo – without hiring a designer.

#5 Cost of troubleshooting & maintaining your WordPress website (Cost $500 – $1,000):

The technical skills to operate a website goes beyond the initial website setup (discussed above).

Let’s be realistic, any technology will break down at some point. It’s not a question of “if”, but “when”.

Also, it’s a matter of “who will fix it for you.”

All website builders have software updates, browser compatibility updates, platform updates, security patches and much more.

All those technical updates require the owner of the website to implement and manage.

When you are using a self-hosted website builder like WordPress, you have to handle all the technical issues yourself.

If an update occurs and a plugin that you are using becomes incompatible with other plugins that you are using, or conflicts with the website builder, then you’ll need to either get the creator of the plugin to fix things, or you will need to call on a trusty developer to save you.

  • A good developer costs between $80 and $180 per hour. The good ones are always on the higher end of the range. From our own experiences, it is completely worth the money if you can find a developer that you can count on. Depending on the complexity of your website (the number of plugins you are using, the amount of custom coding you have), your annual maintenance cost will vary.
  • It is very hard to pinpoint the expected cost since every website has different needs. What we can advise on is how much we spent on technical support with a fairly simple website that has very little custom coding and plugins. We spend about $500 to $800 a year.Keep in mind that I’m a fairly skilled website designer and I’m quite proficient with HTML/CSS /jQuery and with working knowledge of PHP codes . This is one of the main reasons why our technical support cost is not as high since we can do most of the things ourselves.

Cost of Building a Website Using a Professional

The most expensive part of building a website with professional help is custom template design, which can exceed $10,000. But don’t worry: you don’t have to use a custom template, and can pay as little as $35 for a pre-made template. The middle ground would be hiring a designer to edit a pre-made template, which costs around $600 on average. The cost to develop a website with a professional is expensive, but will vary depending on your needs.

Website Setup Costs Hosting Cost: $5 – $250/month

Hiring Pro to Setup: $50 – $200 (1-time fee)

Time: 1 to 6 hours

Website Builder Software Learning Costs Paid Tutorials: $50/month

Time to Learn Basics: Few hours

Time to Learn WordPress: Weeks

Website Design Costs Basic Templates: $35 – $50

Premium Templates: $80 – $200

Template Alterations: $300 – $1,000

Custom Design: $5,000 – $10,000+

Website Building Costs Free if you do it yourself (but will cost you time)

Hourly Costs of a Designer: $50 – $80/hour

Average Cost of Content Population: $500 – $5,000*

The range is wide as it depends on how much content you have and how many pages.

Website Maintenance Costs Developer Cost: $100 – $180 per hour

Estimated Annual Cost: $500 – $1,000

Option #2: Cost of building website if using fully managed, drag & drop website builder
that takes care of all of your website technical & design challenges

Fully-hosted website builders are the next best thing to hiring a developer to create a website for you.

They are drag & drop website builders that make website building as easy as it can possibly be. No setup or coding is required at all.

You can easily drive down the cost of building a website as you require less time, you don’t need technical or design expertise, and the cost of using the software is quite low.

I would recommend using Wix or Squarespace (aka fully-serviced drag & drop website builders) if:

  • This is your first website.
  • You don’t need any custom design or specific software / tools on your website.
  • You have limitedtime to spend on your website so you don’t want to learn how to code.
  • You have limitedmoney to invest in your website so you prefer not to hire skilled designers or developers to help you.
  • You want more control over your website – so you don’t have to keep paying a designer or developer to make changes. You prefer to manage your website yourself.

Wix and Squarespace are some of the most popular and reliable drag & drop website builders in the market today.

Of course, there are more web builders out there – I’ve tried most of them already. But these 3 are the best ones I’ve used. That’s why I’ve referenced them throughout this post.

#1 Cost of setting up a website using a drag & drop builder (Cost $0):

There is no time or monetary costs involved in setting up a website with either Wix, Squarespace, or any other fully managed, drag & drop website builder.

You don’t have to worry about hosting, setting up FTP, installing the website builder software or linking your domain name.

All of that setup work is fully automated by the website builder.

This will save you hours (and a lot of frustration if you are a beginner) in setting up your website (keep in mind you are still not building your website yet).

You just need to sign up for an account with your email address and you can start building your website right away.

Wix has a free plans, so all your hosting requirements and the use of the website builder is completely free. There is no time limit to using its free plan either. The features on this plan are more limited, but it means you can test the builder out before you commit to any paid plans.

Squarespace gives you a 14-day free trial period.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#2 Cost of setting up a website using a drag & drop builder (Cost $0):

Wix and Squarespace are very easy to use. It’s very intuitive, so it only takes minutes to get a good idea on how to use the drag and drop builder.

If you can use a mouse to drag things around your computer screen, you can use a drag & drop website builder.

So you don’t need to pay for any lessons, nor do you have to spend the time to search for tutorials online.

Of course, if you want to master the ins and outs of how to use the web builder, it will take some time to build up that level of experience.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#3 Cost of designing a website built with a drag & drop builder (Cost $0):

All fully hosted website builders give you a broad range of design templates for free.

Now, this may be a pro or a con depending how picky you are with your website design. Most of these free templates are as good as paid WordPress templates.

Here is a summary of each website builder’s template design selections:

  1. Wix.com: Largest website template library with over 510 professionally designed templates, and the option to add your own custom code.
  2. Squarespace: Some of the best website design that can rival some custom designed websites.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#4 Cost of building content in your drag & drop website (Cost $500 – $2,000):

Drag & drop website builders are designed for DIYers. So hiring a designer to build the website for you is less common.

But of course, if you want to, you can still hire a designer.

If you don’t want to create the content yourself, you can spend a few hundred to low thousand dollars for the designer to create all the graphics, branding and page content for you.

Since the overall cost of using a fully managed website builder is so low, you have extra budget to pay for this little bit of luxury if you want to.

Hiring a designer for a drag & drop website builder is slightly cheaper than for WordPress.

This is not because these designers are less qualified. It is because drag & drop website builders remove the technical barriers previous required to be a website designer.

All of a sudden, any brilliant graphic designer (who don’t know how to code) can become website designers because of the drag & drop builders.

They no longer need to know how to code and can still create beautiful websites.

This gives you a much bigger pool of talented designers to choose from, at a slightly lower cost.

(There is a cost summary table below.)

#5 Cost of troubleshooting and maintaining your drag & drop website (Cost $0):

Fully-hosted website builders handle all the technical issues for you. They have full-time, dedicated support teams that manage all that for you in the background, so you won’t even see any issues at all.

With self-hosted websites like WordPress, it is not just an issue of the cost of paying for someone to fix your website. The biggest headache could be where to find a trustworthy developer to resolve the issues for you in a timely manner.

This is one of the main reasons why I often recommend fully managed website builders for people with no technical knowledge, or for those who are new to building websites.

It removes a lot of confusion, complication, and frustration so you can focus on building your website and let the drag & drop website builder’s tech team handle all the tech issues.

Cost of Building a Website Using a Drag & Drop Website Builder

Technically, you can get set up with a drag-and-drop website builder entirely for free. But that means dealing with annoying ads and messy domain names, so we’ll get real. The cost of building a website that looks professional is between $5-30/month. That price will increase depending on how much of the (minimal) design work and content creation you’re willing to do yourself.

Website Setup Costs Automated Setup: $0
Website Builder Software Learning Costs Time: few minutes – 1 hour
Website Design Costs Free Templates: $0
Website Building Costs Free if you do it yourself (but will cost you time)

Hourly Costs of a Designer: $30 – $60/hour

Average Cost of Content Population: $500 – $2,000

Website Maintenance Costs Wix: $13.00 | $17.00 | $22.00 | $23.00 | $27.00| $39.00 | $49.00

Squarespace: $12.00 | $18.00 | $26.00 | $40.00

*Monthly fee, based on annual plans*

All plans come with dedicated, 24/7 support.

Conclusion – Action Step

The cost of building a website adds up pretty quickly if you are missing a few key resources:

  1. Time
  2. Technical knowledge (or your interest to learn to code)
  3. Design skills (or your willingness to learn design)
  4. Money

But the cost of a website isn’t always related to money. It can be the cost of your time away from your family or business; it can even be the cost of maintaining your sanity when it comes to technology.

So how you budget for your website should take into consideration:

  • How much time you are prepared to commit to the project;
  • How much money you are prepared to invest into hiring professionals; and
  • The missed opportunity costs of being able to use your time on higher valued business or personal things.

To summarize what you should take away from this discussion, here are my suggestions:

Use WordPress (self-hosted website builders) if:

  • This is not your first website – you have experiences managing websites.
  • If you have very specific design or software needs that only WordPress can provide.
  • If you have both time and money to spend on learning, building and managing a WordPress website.

Use Wix or Squarespace (aka fully-hosted website builder) if:

  • This is your first website.
  • You don’t need any custom design or specific software / tools on your website.
  • You have limitedtime to spend on your website so you don’t want to learn how to code.
  • You have limitedmoney to invest in your website so you prefer not to hire skilled designers or developers to help you.
  • You want more control over your website – so you don’t have to keep paying a designer or developer to make changes. You prefer to manage your website yourself.

Finding out how much your website will cost you doesn’t have to be very complicated – you just need to be asking the right questions.

Once you have a better understanding of what resources you have (time, money, skills, interests in learning new skills), then you will have a much better idea of which path you should head towards (WordPress or a drag & drop website builder).

If you need some guidance in finding the right website builder for you, here are some more resources for you:

Comparison Chart: we break down the differences between each drag & drop website builder for you.

Free Quiz: To find out which drag & drop website builder works best for your needs.

How to Choose a Website Builder: 9 questions to ask yourself to find out which website builder is suitable for you

WordPress Comparison Discussions: In-depth details of how each drag & drop website builder compare to WordPress

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