I’m writing from the perspective of the chumped and/or dumped, but these steps work equally well for other people. If you are single, you are in luck, because you can make unilateral decisions about your life and finances. So don’t get bogged down by the general moaning that being single is so much more expensive with nobody to share the expenses with.
A place to live is by far the biggest expense in most people’s life, whether a house or an apartment, and whether they rent or have a mortgage.
Now that you are on your own, you don’t need as much space, right? There is no need for a full basement for his gadget collection and ping pong table, or her three cabinets full of fine china and a walk-in wardrobe. One bathroom will be plenty. If you live alone, consider a studio apartment, a tiny house or an RV if the climate allows. Think about renting a room in a shared flat. If you have kids, you need to consider their needs as well as your own, but generally children grow up just fine sharing a room, no need to have a separate room for each person!
I moved from about 1170 square foot three bedroom apartment to about 610 square foot one bedroom apartment with my pre-teen daughter, so our new apartment is almost half the size of the old one. She got the small bedroom and the living room is fairly large and easily fits my bed (sized for two as she still comes to my bed), my office spot and and a lounging area, with room to spare! The kitchen is a good size with a table that fits four and is extendable to fit six. The bathroom can fit either a tub or a washing machine. We are used to having a tub and doing our laundry at the apartment complex’ common laundry room, so we have a bathtub.
We could fit into a smaller place, in fact we saw a place that was 485 sqft and we would have taken that, but it went to someone else.
If I were by myself, I could live in 200 sqft no problem. In fact, I own a 199 sqft tiny apartment close by, and I can see myself living there after my daughter is an adult and doesn’t live with me anymore! Or maybe she wants to live in it.. The cost would be mere 80 dollars per month. For now, I keep it rented. But I digress!
The point is this: Think about how much space you really need and use. Think about the location. For me, I live in an expensive location because I don’t want to move while my daughter is in school. And I do love the area where I live. But I chose to rent our place, so I don’t have to tie up all my assets to the walls within which I live. Buying an apartment like this would have meant having to sell the studio and using all my money AND taking a mortgage. I pay rent, which is high but still reasonable considering the rents in this area, and I can always buy a place later when I know for sure where I want to live long term, and when I come across a place I really want that is in my budget.
If you live in a central location, you save on other areas. You may not need a car, which is a pretty big expense.
So, you would get a much smaller place, but but.. what about all your STUFF???
Get rid of it.
Seriously, get rid of it.
Do you really want to pay rent or buy house for stuff you never use? I know I don’t have stuff that is worth it.
When I moved out, the questions I asked myself were:
Do I regularly use it?
Do I like it so much that I want to display it?
Have I worn it in the past month (or last season it was appropriate)?
Do I really want to read it again?
If you are the one moving away from a shared home and your spouse is staying, and like us you don’t have duplicates of everything, you may even have to buy new stuff. But that is for another post. For now, just think about your current possessions. I’ve always been a minimalist at heart and I actually blogged about simple living and minimalism years ago 🙂 So I took this move as an opportunity to pare down intentionally and I actually counted everything I moved to my new place. Because I find this sort of thing entertaining. And to keep myself accountable of not acquiring more stuff.
We moved to our new one-bedroom apartment with 25 moving boxes between us. My daughter just picked her most important things, three boxes. (I packed more clothes for her.) She left the rest with her dad. Her new room is really pretty and cozy and un-cluttered.
This second step is really important, and you can start paring down while you look for a new, smaller, cheaper place to live. It is better to start early so that you don’t get overwhelmed with decision fatigue and just pack everything. Or leave everything and have to buy everything new. Unless it is a serious situation where you or your children are in danger and you just need to get out fast. If you have any uneasy feelings, keep a bag packed with essentials so that you can just pick it up and walk away. Remember that stuff is just stuff, you can always replace it. If you are prepared, you won’t panic. Have a plan just in case.
Once you are settled in your new, small, cool, affordable place, go through all your subscriptions and re-occurring payments. Do you use it enough to justify the cost? I cancelled the only paper that I had a subscription for as I hardly ever read it. I cancelled Netflix as we didn’t watch it. I got a 9,90 USD /month internet and my phone is 24,90/month. I do need a car at the moment, but it’s not new and it’s paid for so I pay insurance, gas (and whatever maintenance it needs, hopefully not much!)
These costs may seem small, but add everything up and see how much it all totals in one year. The real cost is even higher, as that is money away from investments, that could actually be working for you generating income.
So really think about every subscription you have. Often we are just too lazy to cancel, even if it’s just one e-mail or call.
Start paying off any debt that you have. Start with the ones with the highest interest. Loans with less that 3% interest are not urgent, as you can make more than 3% in investing the money rather than paying off the debt. These low-interest debts are generally your mortgage and /or loan for property investments, which is considered a good debt as it is generating money as someone else is paying down the debt via rent. Pay off credit cards and other consumer debt, starting with the highest interest ones.
And do not borrow any more money. Do not use credit for buying stuff, but wait and save until you have the cash to pay for it. If you use a credit card for convenience, pay it off each month. Do not carry a balance.
Find ways to enjoy life in ways that do not cost money. Start using the library. Read and write. Learn to cook and bake. Learn another skill that may even become something to generate income. Beyond making the initial purchases for your new life (the essentials vary a little for each person, but make a list and stick to it) stop shopping for random stuff. If it’s not on your list of needs, you may write it down in a list of wants. After two months if you still really want the thing, – think again. Okay, if after months you really really want it, go ahead and get it. But 9 times out of ten you wonät even remember why you wanted the thing you wanted so bad.
Spend where it’s wise to spend and skimp where it’s smart to skimp. I’d much prefer to save up for a high quality item I will use forever than buy the cheapest option only to have it break or feel like it isn’t very functional and want to upgrade.. So I don’t settle for the cheaper option when I really want the high quality one. Just wait until you can buy it with cash. Or better yet, try to find it second-hand. For example, I found a 1800 USD solid wood shelf system for 150 dollars second hand. If I needed to sell it, I would actually make money on it! This sort of thing has happened before, but more on that later.
Spend on quality, not quantity. Skimp where it’s easy to skimp. Buy in-season groceries. Buy clothes from a sale (or learn to make your own, which isn’t necessarily all that cheap because you have to buy the fabrics, but it’s fun and you can also modify second-hand clothes and mend tears and so on).
Don’t get sucked into the idea though, that you are saving money just because you are buying it on sale! If it’s not on your list of needs, you are not saving anything, believe you me.
Own things that are multi-functional and serve more than one purpose. Stainless steel bowls can be used for baking and as serving bowls. Just have one way to make coffee, be it instant of french press. Do not have multiple gadgets that perform the same function.
Invest all the money you save from adhering to the first five steps. You don’t want to spend all your time working for money and worrying about money, you want your money to work for you. The way to do that is to learn about investing, and then just do it. There are many investment strategies and I’m by no means claiming to be an expert. I do not and can not give investment advice. What I do is concentrate on owning assets that generate cash flow.
A rental property pays me each month as a rent. Stock pay dividends. Now, a lot of companies only pay dividends once a year, but some pay quarterly or even monthly, and by owning different stock that pay at different times, you can spread out the incoming cash throughout the year.
If you get most of the dividends at a certain time of year, open multiple free bank accounts and set up an automatic monthly transfer into a spending account and don’t touch the rest.
If you are still working full time and have enough money from your salary, re-invest all dividends and everything you can from your salary.
There is a simple method of calculating how much money you need to have saved to retire. And by retiring I mead that you are free to quit your job OR continue working if you love your job. I mean the point of financial freedom.
You can calculate different options.
When I made the very, very hard decision to leave my lying cheater husband, I did feel a little uncertain about my financial future. But with a calculator in hand, I could reassure myself, and I found that I actually am financially free now. My soon-to-be-ex-husband makes more money than I do and daughter lives with me (but we live very close so she can see him all she wants!) so he does pay alimony for now but that is to pay for daughter’s expensive hobby and to ensure we can stay living in this expensive neighborhood so she doesn’t have to change schools and she can easily meet her dad.
This is admittedly a difficult time to get into investing as the stock market has climbed to dizzying heights. So it may be prudent to just save for now, and invest later when the “everything bubble” we are in, finally pops. You can study and start keeping and eye on the stock market and real estate market. When the time comes you have money saved, you know what you are doing and can buy when everyone else is selling in a panic. The aim in stock market AND real estate market is to buy low and sell high, and gain dividends in-between.
There usually are always some good purchases to be made, but I would definitely not go all in right now!
If you have money to invest in real estate, you should look for good deals in good neighborhoods that will retain most of their value (or bounce back quicker) even in case the real estate prices fall in general. Moreover, you should buy from an area that is desirable for people looking to rent, so even if the value goes down, you will still keep getting the same cash flow so it will not affect you. These things usually go together though.