Divorced couples are living under the same roof because it’s too expensive to really split up right now. There are either more people around the house (because they’re out of work) or fewer people around the house (because they’re working second and third jobs to pay bills and get health coverage). More people are doing their own chores and giving maid services and landscapers the boot. And other big and little ways the recession is affecting home life.
How has life at home changed in the recession?
1. The male ego is crushed. Men have reportedly accounted for 80 percent of job losses in the last two years. The disproportionate impact has brought about the coining of the word “mancession.”
2. Women are feeling more pressure—either to bring in more money as the family’s primary breadwinners and/or to trim bills and save money any way possible around the house. The new family budget may not be enough to cover the occasional weekly pizza delivery, so meals must be cooked and be cleaned up after. Though men are doing more around the house that in prior generations, much of this responsibility still falls on women.
3. There’s more garbage. Or at least the garbage is sitting around the house for longer periods of time, with trash pickups being reduced to once a week in budget-crunched cities tightening their belts like Dallas and Baltimore.
4. People with work are at work more. This is especially the case with a number of people who are working more than one job, or sticking with a low-paying job because otherwise they wouldn’t have health insurance.
5. Kids aren’t going to their first choice for college. Instead, they’re carefully weighing costs and going with the best value, not necessarily the best education. Many college students are also transferring to schools closer to their families and commuting from home, making home a little more crowded.
6. People who split up are finding it too expensive to really split up. The number one reason couples get divorced? Money. As it turns out, money (or lack thereof) is also increasingly a reason that couples figure out a way to stay together, at least until the real estate slump disappears and they can sell their house.
7. We’re borrowing less and saving more. The national savings rate was nearly 7 percent in May, the highest rate since 1993. That’s not good for boosting the economy, but it is good for families doing the saving, who are getting creative with budgets and using coupons at every opportunity. Want some tips on using coupons to your best advantage? Read a Q&A with the coupon-crazed Consumer Queen.
8. Kids are home rather than at summer camp. To save on expenses, summer camp is out for many families. Instead, many moms are organizing mass play dates, with arts and crafts and other activities, to create their own mom-and-pop summer camp atmosphere.
9. Gone with the maid, dry cleaner, and the landscaper. Chores are no longer being outsourced. Looking to cut expenses—and make use of newly freed-up time—many people are realizing that they are perfectly capable of mowing their own lawns, spreading mulch, scrubbing their own bathtubs, and ironing their own clothes.
10. There are fewer households being formed period. Young people especially are being cautious about branching out on their own, and so the rate of new households being formed has declined substantially, according to census data. The result is that more people are sticking it out together, and unfortunately, fewer people are paying rent, buying homes, or otherwise doing the spending that will supposedly bring the recession to an end.