Welcome back to part two of Surviving on a Single Income.
Just stumbling in here? Read Part 1.
Before you take the plunge, it is crucial to define a purpose. Why exactly are you doing this? It’s hard and exhausting work being at home with little ones. It’s easy to lose your sense of identity when your life is suddenly defined by your husband’s job or your children’s milestones. The tangible markers of success are gone. As the cars age, and aren’t replaced, your neighbors and friends begin to realize you don’t have as much money as them. And in American culture, that can be tough.
Let’s talk American culture a bit. Why, you ask? No matter how you look at it, choosing to be a two-parent, single-income family is counter-culture. Going against the tide of modern culture can be empowering, but it can be draining. Here’s the rub. Americans have big houses, newer cars, matching stainless steel appliances, and fashionable clothes. They also have college degrees, careers with titles, and company swag. There is an emotional sacrifice when you leave behind the intellectual conversions and feelings of importance that come with a job. Equally, there are poignant costs to giving up the material items like cars and multiple team sports for your kids. Some days you’ll feel great about bucking the culture. Other days it will seem like its sucking your soul away.
A purpose anchors you when you start to second guess your choices. I have my eye on a $2200 refrigerator. It’s pretty. It has everything you could possibly want in a fridge. LED lights. Drawers galore. A working icemaker!!!! Trust me, every time I pull out the duct tape to “repair” my 18-year-old ugly beast, I think, “If I had a job, I could get a new one.” And then the pity party starts. And sometimes I even get a little mad or pouty. At times like these (and trust me they come), I have to go back to my anchor, my purpose. Why am I really doing this?
Everyone’s purpose for living on less will vary. If you’re like our family, there will be multiple reasons, and they will morph over time.
Some purposes to consider:
- Staying Home with Your Children – American culture is fairly accepting of mothers being home with their babies. Dads, good luck. I know fathers do it, but let’s be honest. Dads will face much more scrutiny if they stay home. Be prepared for it. If it’s what your family needs, do it. Just know that dads may face more opposition than moms. What about older children? American culture seems to expect both parents to work once children are school-aged. In our family, we disagree. Children face a whole new set of milestones once school starts, many of which will factor in to the adult they become. You can read more about influencing your child here.
- Special Needs or Ill Child – Perhaps your child has a chronic illness that requires frequent doctor and therapist visits. Juggling work with this type of demand can leave you feeling like a failure both at work and at home. You may have a child that requires extra attention or recurrent parent meetings at school. In these cases, it is often simpler for one parent to not work. However, don’t discount the financial strain. Both our children had medical needs that were financially draining and time consuming.
- Living on Less – You may decide to reduce your income simply to force yourself to live frugally. Reduce your footprint on the world. Enjoy the simple life. Perhaps you have hobbies you want to pursue. Also, don’t forget that both can work while only living on one income. This is an excellent way to eliminate existing debt or save for a home or retirement.
- Launch a Business – You may be ready to fire your boss and launch your own business. When starting a new business, you can expect to not make any money, and maybe lose some, the first 3-5 years. Living on a single income will be critical in the early years of your endeavor.
- Aging Parents – I never thought this would be the case for us since we have young children. However, cancer struck both our mothers. My mother had no one to care for her except us. For two years (and counting), we have been her caregivers. Currently she’s in a nursing home, but there is still a time and financial commitment, though not as much as when she lived with us. As your parents age, they will need help with yard work, cleaning, appointments. They may eventually need your full time care. We firmly believe the family is the first line of help. Our culture has mistakenly moved away from adult children caring for parents.
- Homeschooling – With more and more schools focusing on standardized tests while failing at educating our children, families are turning inward for education. Most parents, with enough commitment and resources (curriculum, support groups, co-ops, etc.) can educate their children.
- Hobbies/Giving Back – Maybe you are ready to pursue something for yourself. Hobbies often are exchanged for the rat race of the career world. Or perhaps you’re ready to volunteer at your local school, homeless shelter, or library. Giving up an income to give back is a noble sacrifice.
- Retirement - One day we’ll all be there. With inflation, it’s not a bad idea to learn to live on less so that our retirement fund lasts us all the way through. Who really wants to come out of retirement because they ran out of money? And if you’re at retirement age, you know that the retirement check is less than the paycheck you’re accustomed to.
Some of these purposes will apply to you, or you may have a completely different reasoning for living on one income. No matter. The important thing is that you know WHY you are doing this. Write it down and keep it in a safe place. Decide what you will tell family and friends who think you are nuts or simply want to know more. And what will you tell the nosey stranger in the grocery store?
A final note on coveting. Exodus 20:17 is the 10th commandment. It reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” I’ve never paid much attention to this one. I always thought of coveting someone’s house as wanting a Hollywood home. And I don’t have neighbors with 10,000 sq ft homes. So, nothing to covet, right? WRONG! Let’s be realistic. I may not want my neighbor’s wife (because I don’t want a wife), but I do find myself sometimes wishing I had the income she brings in and all the things that come with it. And I’d love to have someone mow my yard or clean my house. Hmmmm, maybe this commandment is more applicable than I’d like to admit. Coveting gets us into all kinds of trouble. We spend more than we have. We get angry, jealous, moody. We feel like we’ve failed or our spouse has failed us. It leads to whole host of negative feelings that only bring harm on us. Fight the urge to want what others have. Remember, they too have sacrificed to gain those things. They may very well have sacrificed things you aren’t willing to forfeit.
Next time, I’ll dive into the nitty gritty of it. You’ll get to see what we actually do to survive on one income! Until next time…