I started writing this as a single post, but quickly realized it was dragging out. There is so much to say on the topic of surviving, and even thriving, on a single income. I decided to break it into a series, though I’m not sure how many parts yet. So here we go….
I knew a woman who would make occasional comments regarding our wealth, usually when we had something that she didn’t. “If Bob (named changed, naturally) made that much, we could go for a weekend trip to the river.” HA! this makes me laugh hysterically! We’re not wealthy. I don’t think she meant to be rude, but she seemed to think we had loads of money, and she made of habit of saying things like, “If my husband made as much as yours, we could have a nice house.” One of my favorite shirts that I sleep in I bought at The Gap when I was in 8th grade. Let’s just say that was well over 20 years ago. I still have clothes from college, though few of them fit well. By American standards, we aren’t wealthy. Living on a single income isn’t easy, and it’s a conscious choice that we made and prepared for. There are trade-offs, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes. Here are a few ideas that have helped our journey.
There are many who say that you can’t raise a family on one income these days. Tell that to a single parent! However, the choice for a two-parent family to become single income is not an easy one. It takes work, planning, and discipline. Even if you choose to be dual income, it is wise to put yourself in a situation in which you could make it on one income. Kids get sick. Babies arrive. Companies downsize. Spouses pass away. Parents need care. Better to be prepared than caught off guard, especially when it comes to providing for your family.
In the end, it is important to be at peace with your decision. If you decide to be single income, don’t whine about it. You chose it! Embrace it! Living on less isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding if you CHOOSE to accept the rewards. The rewards are not tangible, which is difficult in a materialistic society. People know your wealth based on the things you own. Time with your children, on the other hand, cannot be measured with dollars or new cars.
Before I get into how we do it, I want to debunk a few myths on single-income savings. Some experts say you can save tons of money by Mom (or Dad) staying home. And some of their examples are totally bogus.
- Get rid of a vehicle. Um, ya. That’ll be peachy. You go from working in an office, having social contact to being trapped in a house All.Day.Long. with small children. The savings on the car payment won’t even begin to cover the cost of your therapist.
- Gas Savings. These experts say you won’t be commuting, so you won’t be buying as much gas. Ask any mom how much gas they spend driving their kids around. If you stay home with your kids, you’ll be heading to the park, the pool, play dates, and anywhere else that helps everyone stay sane. The increased gas cost will reduce the need for the therapist.
- My favorite, however, is the clothing savings. I guess these experts think stay at home moms will dig through the neighbor’s garbage for fabric scraps to sew their own clothes. I don’t even know how to work a sewing machine, so I either go naked or buy them. No you don’t need career apparel, but you still need clothes to wear to the grocery store, church, the occasional date with hubby, etc. Unless you live in a nudist commune. Then by all means, enjoy the savings. But don’t invite me over for a visit. If you’re anything like me, your butt gets bigger every year and you have to replace those clothes. That, or the kids decorate your favorite shirt with Sharpies.
- Dining out will cease since Mom (or Dad) is staying home to prepare nutritious home cooked meals. Ok, my first year at home was the exact opposite. I manage to scrape the spit-up off my third outfit of the day, spray on some perfume, and have the diaper bag packed by 5:18. That’s exactly when hubby walked through the door. Before he could sit down, I turned him around, headed out the door, and said, “Where would you like to go to dinner?” Of course, only places that served margaritas were permitted. We spent a fortune eating out in the beginning.
In the next post I’ll talk about setting a purpose. Probably more than that. I’m still writing this all out and trying to divide it so it’s actually useful!