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What to Expect When You’re Divorcing: The Real Costs of Living Single Again
When Sean Sutherland‘s divorce was finalized, he realized he had to toss his original plans for the future out the window.
Uncertainty about starting a new life started creeping into his head.
He was faced with questions about life after divorce he wasn’t sure how to answer: Will one income sustain me? Do I want to stay in an area that’s associated with memories of the relationship and people close to it?
While Sutherland, a Baltimore resident, considers himself lucky for having generous and supportive friends during his time of need, he still felt a financial burn from the startup costs of his new life.
Even though his divorce was finalized in January 2016, he still feels that burn to this day.
Life After Divorce Is Costly for Everyone
Sutherland isn’t alone in that he still feels the financial impact of his divorce.
It’s well-known that getting a divorce is an expensive process. Between litigation fees, charges for document copies, attorney bills and more, the expenses can leave you financially drained.
But the money woes don’t stop there — it’s actually where they begin. Once the papers are signed and the judge approves your divorce, your world opens up to a whole new variety of expenses.
The true cost of life after divorce includes everything from establishing separate residences and obtaining new insurance policies to getting back in the dating field.
Here are some examples of just how much it costs to start your life over again.
You’ll Have to Find New Living Arrangements
You and your ex-spouse probably shared an apartment or home, meaning you’ll be faced with finding new living arrangements.
If you’re renting, chances are you’ll have to come up with some large upfront costs, such as a security deposit, and first and last month’s rent.
Depending on your divorce agreement, you might not get all of your previous home’s furnishings, which means you’ll have to pay to replace those, too.
Lizabeth Cole, director of public relations and communications at The Penny Hoarder, had to start nearly from scratch after her divorce was finalized.
While she took small pieces of furniture from her former home, she had to replace all of her bigger furniture, along with linens, kitchenware, towels and more.
On top of that, she had to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent for her new apartment. In total, she estimates she spent about $3,000 on securing and furnishing her new residence.
Depending on location and the size of the home, these costs vary widely.
Rebuilding Your Savings Might Take Time
For Sutherland, the 50-50 split of his savings was the biggest financial strain. He said he funded their nest egg, with the intention of the two of them living off it in the future. But he and his ex-wife agreed to split it in the divorce, which left him in a new reality.
“It certainly derailed the plans I had and the vision for what my future would be,” Sutherland said. “Cutting a net worth in half is a big hit for anyone to take, let alone someone who was still pretty young and in the early stages of my career.”
Sutherland lost around $15,000 when he split the savings with his ex; it’s taken him nearly two years to get within reach of where he was before the divorce.
You’ll Have to Pay the Bills on Your Own
It’s common for people to combine finances with their significant other.
Once you get a divorce, though, you no longer have someone to split bills with. If you’ve been doing this for dozens of years, you may find it difficult at first to adjust your spending habits.
There are plenty of ways to get back on track after a breakup, though. Doing things such as re-evaluating your budget, thinking twice before making emotional purchases and preparing for financial success can help you get acclimated to only having your own money to spend.
You Need Your Own Insurance Policies
No longer being married means you may not have the advantage of bundled services, such as auto and health insurance.
Examples of policies and services you will have to hold on your own include:
- Auto insurance: If you and your spouse were on the same auto insurance policy, you may have received a multicar discount. Now you will have to seek out your own plan, and it might cost more to cover your car. According to The Zebra, a single person saves about 5.6% when they get married, which equates to about $74 extra. Getting divorced increases premiums to nearly the same rate a single person pays.
- Health insurance: If your ex had you on their health insurance plan, you will now have to find your own coverage.
- Disability insurance: After getting divorced, you may owe your ex-spouse alimony or child support. You may want to purchase disability insurance so you can make the court-mandated payments should you unexpectedly experience an illness or accident that prevents you from earning money.
You’re Now a Single Tax Filer
Filing joint taxes when you’re married usually means you get certain benefits, like tax breaks and increased standard deductions. That means that as a single filer, you could see your income taxes increase.
Don’t Forget About the Cell Phone Plans
If you and your ex-spouse or significant other split a cell phone bill, you’re going to have to think about what to do next.
Many cell phone plans involve contracts that are costly to terminate. However, if your divorce isn’t exactly amicable, you might want to consider canceling the plan.
Erin Routzahn, senior account manager at The Penny Hoarder, shared a cell phone plan with her ex-boyfriend of two years. After they separated, they opted to terminate the plan.
The total cost to cancel it was $300, which they split.
Your Mental Health — an Overlooked Cost of Divorce
Caring for your mental health may not be an expense you considered part, but Elise Pettus, founder of divorce community group UNtied, thinks you should factor it in.
She compares divorce process to the grieving process, saying you might be “grieving the dream of having a family.”
“I do think therapy is a good idea,” Pettus said. “One of the things I see happen again and again is how helpful it is to have a community of others who are going through the same thing.”
If you’re turned off by traditional therapy due to the stigma or cost, there are outside resources available to help you. Examples include communities like UNtied or divorce recovery support groups. Some of these programs charge membership fees, and some don’t. Be sure to do your research.
Good News: You’ll Probably Need to Think About the Costs of Dating Again
After recovering emotionally from your divorce, you may consider dating again. While this is an exciting time in your personal recovery, keep in mind that it can be expensive.
Many adults spend $150 to $250 on a single date, including dinner, drinks and transportation.
Due to the rapid expansion of dating technology, we’re going on more first dates. That being said, some leave the traditional standards of who should be paying for the first date in the dust. Some people split the bill, others go simply for the free food.
The good news is, you don’t always have to go out to dinner for a date. Consider doing cheap or free activities such as bike riding or happy-hour hopping to save on costs.
A New Life: Expensive at First, But Worth It
The costs of starting a new life after divorce are significant, but with a new beginning comes hope.
Joy Prosperity Coaching founder and business coach Joy Passey signed her divorce papers in March 2014, after 13 years of marriage. Although she had to find her own health insurance plan, she also spent money on self-care and time with her friends.
“My friends said I became more fun when I got divorced,” Passey wrote in an email. “Ha! I also started improvisational classes and started performing again. I became a better version of my former self after my divorce!”
If you find yourself struggling financially while you readjust to life on your own, know that you aren’t alone.
Sutherland rebuilt his savings by working as much as possible in the months following the divorce. He even took on a second job, where he worked most weekends. For him, rebuilding his savings came as a “mental victory,” and keeping busy with multiple jobs helped him move on.
Sutherland offers a few words of advice to those who may feel like they aren’t able to get back on track financially:
“The best advice I can give is that you will get through this: Once the immediate shock is over, do your best to replace the funds you've lost — increase your savings, decrease your spending, but do so on your own terms. Only you can know what the right pace is for cutting back or cutting loose with your spending during these tough times.”
Here’s to new beginnings.
Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.