First Things First: Transitioning from Two Incomes to One

Moving boxes and suitcases in trunk of car, outdoorsWhen I got divorced, my soon-to-be ex decided that he wanted to remain in our home. Since I knew that it was not financially viable for me to keep it myself, I agreed, and quickly started looking for a new home. I was looking to buy because I wanted my daughter to have the stability of a home we could call our own.

Whoa, Nellie.

Owning is tempting, but Kelsa Dickey, financial coach with Fiscal Fitness Phoenix, says that this isn’t always the best idea. Many newly divorced parents buy a home because they think it will provide more stability for the children. “Stability comes from the peace of mind a parent has, not necessarily where they live,” she says. “It may be best to get into a rental because it’s important [to have] some flexibility.”

Flexibility is a good thing when going through a tremendous transition such as divorce, which takes a major emotional toll. “The fewer decisions you can make in that first year, the better,” says Dickey. “Like the death of a family member, you’re not supposed to make [major] decisions because you’re just not in your right mind.”

Dickey recommends taking a step back from the emotions of the split, and getting your finances organized before making any larger financial commitments. First budget for all your necessities—housing, food and clothing. Then, take a close look at anything that’s not vital. “Think, ‘How much do I have left and what’s the best way for me to spend it on my children?’” she says. For example, just because your child has always taken dance lessons doesn’t mean it’s a necessity. If it no longer fits into your budget, it may be something that you have to pass on for now, as difficult as that may be.

Overcompensating is a natural reaction for parents who feel like their kids are being shortchanged, but rest assured, your kid will survive. Leslie Tayne, financial attorney at Tayne Law Group, P.C., says that talking to your child about what you can and cannot afford is the responsible approach. “Too often, people feel guilty about the divorce and the loss of the other parent in the home, and they end up buying their kids anything from new TV’s to gaming units as compensation. Be okay with saying no to the kids.”

That said, you can certainly make the best of your situation by making smart decisions as you transition into a new home. And, even better, your children will learn more about the value of a dollar as they watch your budget consciousness blossom.

  • Buy furniture from resale shops and yard sales. Facebook has online yard sale groups in neighborhoods all over the country, allowing you to see photos of items for sale nearby.
  • If you have friends remodeling, ask for any items that they would have otherwise donated to Goodwill such as towels or dishes.
  • Many utility companies will forgo deposits with good credit references or allow you to pay the deposit over several months for no additional fee. Be sure to ask for this service.
  • If your spouse carried your medical or dental insurance, visit a local medical or dental school for reduced-cost care until you obtain your own plan.
  • Make saving money an adventure with your children. My 12-year-old has learned how to bargain shop for the snacks and treats she wants. She looks through the grocery ads to find the best deals.

Providing for your children with one income when you’re used to two is a challenge, and chances are your lifestyle will change regardless of how much you wish it wouldn’t. But avoiding any major purchases, focusing on necessities first, and finding creative ways to save money will allow you to make the most of what you have. Your children will feel loved, stable and comfortable, which is the goal of any parent—married or solo.

About author

Abby Herman

Abby Herman

Abby M. Herman is a small business consultant and content marketer based in the Phoenix area. She is a single mom of an almost-teen daughter and has a passion for family, fitness and finances. She has learned that a positive attitude and the occasional rose-colored classes are necessities on the road of single parenthood.

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