Making Tough Decisions about Your Living Arrangements

Divorce changes lives. I read an article in the Washington Post the other day about a woman “Squeaking by on $300,000”. The Post meant the article to be ironic, and most of us would have a difficult time sympathizing with a woman whose income is $300,000 a year, but her story is just a divorce story on a bigger scale.

Housing. Housing is one of the biggest adjustments that most couples have to make post-divorce. First of all, even if you keep the house, only one spouse can live in it. The other spouse automatically has to find someplace else to live. Woe be it to you if you’re the unlucky spouse. Or is it such a bad thing?

Even if you are the lucky party that gets to keep the house, you might not be as lucky as you think. Most couples buy houses based on a two-income family. After a divorce, you’ve got one income, and you’ll find that income doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. With a single income, your house may be a struggle or even impossible to maintain.

Take a realistic look at your living situation. How much is your mortgage? How much are your utilities? Even if you think you can squeak by in your home, you need to make sure you build room into your budget for things like unexpected repairs and expenses. And you need to make sure you’re still contributing to retirement savings, savings for college for the kids – savings is one of the first things to go in a single-income family trying to maintain an expensive way of life.

It’s a hard decision to make, but if you’re living too close to the financial edge in your house, you should be prepared to downgrade. There’s nothing wrong with finding a smaller place to live, or temporarily renting an apartment while you get settled into newly divorced life. Smaller spaces require less in the way of utilities, and don’t seem quite so lonely to the newly-divorced.

Don’t “squeak” by on your newly-divorced income. Find a living situation in which you can live a comfortable existence – even thrive. Change is difficult, but it can also be liberating. Don’t hang onto something you can’t afford – be ready to move on when the opportunity arises.