Divorce is an emotionally draining experience, and on top of everything else you need to find somewhere to stay. There are fewer options for people with limited finances. Since you probably can’t buy a home, you should find a cheap rental in a good location. If necessary, you can crash with friends or family or even try to stay at home with your ex-spouse until you save up enough money.
EditFinding a Cheap Rental
- Search the Internet. Looking for cheap rental options is a little like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, there are cheap apartment rentals out there. Check websites such as Rent.com. A studio or a bedroom in someone’s house will probably be the cheapest to rent.
- You might need a small place at first—really small. In expensive cities, you might get a 100 square foot micro-studio for under $1,000.
- Also consider apartments in slightly shady neighborhoods. Check neighborhood crime rates at www.neighborhoodscout.com. Remember that your first home after a divorce doesn’t need to be your permanent home.
- Contact hotels. You might only need a temporary place to stay, e.g., for a month or so. In some countries, such as Canada, a lease must be for at least 12 months. Your only option for short-term housing might be to stay in a hotel or motel.
- Many national chains have extended-stay hotels. Call and ask about rates.
- Renting a hotel this way is more expensive than renting an apartment. However, it’s more convenient if you need short-term housing.
- View the apartment. Call up the landlord and ask to see the place. No matter how desperate you are, you shouldn’t rent a place without first viewing it. Some cheap apartments are unsanitary and unsafe.
- Make sure the apartment is close to work or accessible by public transportation.
- Check your cell phone reception. You can save money if you just use your cell phone and skip the landline.
- Also confirm that there is enough water pressure. Flush the toilet and turn on the taps.
- Check your credit. More and more landlords are looking at people’s credit history before deciding to rent to them. Pull your credit score and credit history. If your score is low, try to clean up your credit history quickly.
- There may be errors on your credit history that are pulling down your score. For example, your ex-spouse’s debts might show up on your credit report, or accounts might wrongly be listed as in default. Dispute any credit report errors. It usually takes a couple months for inaccurate information to come off.
- Ask if you can forego a security deposit. Landlords typically want a month’s rent as a security deposit to protect them in case you damage the apartment or skip out before the end of the lease. If you have good credit or a long rental history, you can ask the landlord if you can rent without paying a deposit.
- If necessary, check whether you can put your rent on a credit card. It’s not an ideal solution, but it will help you get a roof over your head. You can pay the credit balance down once you get re-established.
- Get a roommate, if necessary. Any apartment is cheaper if you have someone splitting the bills. You can advertise for a roommate on websites such as Craigslist, though it is better if you know the person already. Confirm that the lease allows you to have a roommate, because not all leases do.
- If you have to advertise, ask any potential roommate for references and one month’s security deposit.
- Be very clear about your expectations regarding cleanliness and having guests over.
EditStaying with Friends or Family
- Call them up and ask. Don’t show up at someone’s doorstep with a suitcase, but call ahead of time. Ask if you can stay with them for a little bit. Give them a deadline when you anticipate moving out.
- For example, you can say, “Mom, I need to come home. Is that okay? I’ve only got a few hundred saved. But if I can stay with you for two or three months, I’ll be back on my feet.”
- Save money fast. You can’t sleep on someone’s couch forever, so cut all unnecessary expenses and take on a part-time job if possible. Build up enough money to afford a security deposit on a small apartment.
- A part-time job might be ideal since it will keep you out of the house. Check Craigslist for part-time gigs such as dog walker, Uber driver, or bartender.
- Be a model guest. People are doing you a huge favor by letting you crash with them for a little while. Make things easy on your host by keeping your space clean, not making noise, and being respectful when your host has guests.
- Wash dishes or prepare meals without asking. This will relieve your host’s stress.
- Avoid draining your friend’s electricity by charging up your computer and phone on their dime. Instead, find a public café or recharge while at work.
- Keep complaints to yourself. Do you think the sheets are scratchy? Consider yourself lucky to have a place to stay.
- Follow house rules. Your friends might have rules that seem weird to you. That’s not the point. You need to follow them if you don’t want to get kicked out. Ask about anything that seems unclear.
- Some rules are unspoken. Pay attention to your host’s habits. For example, if they only watch TV with the volume down low, do the same.
- Buy your own food. You should prepare your own meals so that your host doesn’t feel like they have to wait on you. Ask your friend where the nearest grocery store is and load up on food. Make sure there’s enough room in the refrigerator.
- Volunteer to cover expenses. You can build goodwill by volunteering to buy food or paying other bills. For example, pick up a large pizza on your way home from work and invite your host to share.
- Leave when asked. Someone might need you to leave before you want to. Gather your things and thank them. Then call up other family or friends to find a place to stay.
- Remember to clean up after yourself. Remove any trash and wash the sheets or vacuum the sofa you slept on. Don’t leave anything behind.
EditLiving With Your Ex
- Talk to your ex. No law says you must leave your home after a divorce. If you have no money, you might be best off sitting tight until you’ve managed to save up enough for an apartment. Of course, you’ll need your ex spouse’s permission—especially if they were given the house in the divorce decree.
- If your ex doesn’t want you in the house, volunteer to stay in the garage or in a guest house.
- Staying in the house isn’t an option if there’s been any history of domestic violence, or if there is a restraining order against you.
- Contribute to the bills. You should split shared costs, such as property taxes, insurance, electricity and—if you can afford it—the mortgage. Sit down with your spouse and talk about what you will contribute.
- If you don’t have any money, volunteer to do things around the house. You can cook all meals, make repairs, and clean.
- Come up with a schedule. Try to limit contact as much as possible. Staying in the house will be uncomfortable for everybody, but a detailed routine can make things easier. If your ex thrives on conflict, then limiting contact will be beneficial.
- For example, you might get up an hour earlier than your ex and come back home an hour earlier. Schedule when you’ll use the bathroom and the kitchen.
- Be considerate. You might have been a slob while married, but now you need to clean up after yourself. Become the ideal roommate. Follow these rules:
- Wash your own dishes.
- Eat only the food you buy. If you want something your ex bought, ask first.
- Volunteer to clean shared spaces, such as bathrooms, and mow or rake the lawn.
- Avoid bringing dates home. Your ex might hit the roof, and who can blame them? It’s terribly rude to start dating in front of your ex-spouse. If you want to date, then meet outside the home and don’t bring them back.
- There’s also no reason to advertise that you’re dating. Keep that news to yourself.
- Reduce conflict. If you have children, they will be harmed by constant fighting. As long as you are staying in the house, you need to commit to living peacefully. You can defuse tension by practicing the following:
- Listen to your ex-spouse and avoid getting defensive. If your ex complains about your habits, avoid the temptation of starting a tit-for-tat argument. After all, your ex might have a legitimate grievance.
- Don’t revisit the divorce. You’re living at home for financial reasons, not because you want to pick apart why you divorced in the first place.
- Leave as soon as possible. Staying in the house should be a temporary solution. Some people get comfortable being part of a couple even when they are no longer married. For your own personal growth, you should move out as soon as you can afford it.
EditConsidering Other Options
- Rent a motor home. If you need a temporary place to stay, rent an RV or buy a used one. Ask friends or family if you can park on their property. If you don’t know anyone, you can park at a local campground for a fee. Recreational vehicles typically have sleeping, dining, and bathroom areas.
- You can find rentals online or by looking in your telephone book. Shop around for the most competitive price.
- Apply for housing assistance. In the U.S., low-income people can apply for a Section 8 voucher. You find a landlord willing to accept the voucher and rent directly from them. The voucher then subsidizes your rent. Contact your nearest Public Housing Authority to apply.
- There are income limits for eligibility. Typically, your income shouldn’t exceed 50% of the median income of a family your size in the county or city where you want to live. For example, the median income for a single person might be $25,000. Your income will need to be $12,500 or less.
- Even if you qualify, there’s usually a long waiting list. You might need temporary shelter.
- Get a room at the Y. Your local YMCA or YWCA might have rooms for rent. Generally, they will charge by the day, week, or month, and you can book online. A night at the YMCA in the Upper West Side costs around $100 a night. This is pricey, but a decent choice if you need a place to crash for a couple days.
- If you have children but are not receiving child support, contact your local child support agency immediately. They can track down missing parents, establish paternity, and get a child support order in place.