Can a Family Live on One Income?

Mom with two kids and a dog in the forest. Can we live on one income?

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If you’ve ever wondered whether your family can live on one income or not, the 5 questions below should help answer your question.

Living on One Income for a SAHM Wannabe

First I would like to say that I am very grateful to have found your book America’s Cheapest Family because ever since I picked that book up my husband and I have started changing the way we live.

We aren’t out of debt yet, but we have paid off some and are working towards paying off the rest.

I really want to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. My husband is very supportive of my dream of staying home with our kids one day. I also know that we can live off just his income because I do not have a job.

I am trying to finish up cosmetology school so that I have something I can do on the side and something to fall back on. However, when I am done with school we would like to start a family, so I won’t be working.

Labor Division in the Home

What was Annette’s job? Did she do all the cooking and cleaning? We are having a hard time figuring out what I should do and what he should do with me when it comes to taking care of the house.

I know he works so I don’t want to put too much of the house on him, but I also don’t think it would be fair to put it all on me either. How did you two figure out a good compromise? I have read two of your books and I have listened to and read everything I could find. Any tips would help.

MoneySmart Family Answer for Q1

When our kids were little and we had only 2 or 3, Annette did all of it. Then as our family grew to 5 kids and she was homeschooling, we hired a cleaning gal to come once a month and we vacuumed and did toilets in between. When we started our own business 10 years ago, we started family house cleaning and have done it ever since.

Annette cooks dinner every night. Steve is in charge of making waffles, French toast and/or pancakes twice a month. The extra batches go in the freezer.

Steve also does Sunday breakfast: eggs, potatoes, and cheese, yum. The whole family helps with kitchen cleanup.

Labor Division in the Home

Dad Econ and kids help do yard work.

Steve is responsible for maintaining the cars and the outside of our property. He also repairs anything that breaks. Often he’ll enlist the kids to help him with outside chores or projects.

We work on our budget together.

If you have more time at home, I think you should do as much as possible. There is so much to running a home, I don’t think most people realize it.

Also as a PostScript, please make sure that your Cosmetology schooling is paid for before you quit your job to have kids!

You might find this article about “Leaving A Job to Become a Stay At Home Mom” from Focus on the Family to be helpful. 


Convincing Your Wife to Live on One Income

My dilemma is this: How can I convince my wife that our family can live on one income? She thinks the idea of living on one income is unreasonable. We tried it before and failed miserably. But I believe it was because we were uneducated and unprepared.


MoneySmart Family Answer for Q2

We feel for your situation. But given your financial past, it’s unlikely you’ll soon convince your wife to live on one income. It will take time to establish new, sound financial habits in your home before she’ll feel secure in your decisions.

Develop and maintain a working budget for at least six months, build some savings (at least three months of living expenses) and become totally debt-free before you consider reducing to one salary.

It may take a year to prove your commitment.

 Check your library (or browse our online book reviews) for books by Larry Burkett, Dave Ramsey and us.



Hook up with someone to help you walk through these changes and help you both deal with your emotional and financial issues.

Check out Crown Financial Ministries Website. They have a mentoring program, and their small-group study course teaches sound financial principles and a very practical budgeting system.

You’re right, it will take education and determination, but we know you can do it. By investing your time you will ensure your family a firm financial future.

Here’s what another Reader said about transitioning to one income.
I would suggest a 6-month plan. Take her entire check (the one that you will be losing) and do nothing but pay down debt or put it in savings. You could also add to your retirement investment portfolio, depending on what your needs are.

The benefits are twofold. You will be showing your spouse that the two of you CAN live on only your income. And the two of you will be putting yourselves in a stronger financial position in preparation for when she does stop working.

The thing to keep in mind is that YOU need to continue to make the regular payments on all of your bills. Her check simply goes to pay off things in chunks at a time. Or perhaps it could go directly into savings that are not touched for the entirety of the 6 months. It could also go directly into IRA’s for yourself and your wife.

If an emergency situation arises you will be covered. If the two of you have to dip into her paycheck for any reason at all, then the two of you cannot afford to live on one income alone. Treat your wife’s check as though it is already gone, and see how you fare. 

You might also enjoy this Washington Post article about a reporter who transitioned to become a stay at home mom. 

 

RELATED ARTICLES:
How Frugal Living Helps You Retire Early
Best Retirement Gifts: Frugal, Fun & Decadent

 


Living on One Income When Illness Hits the Family

I just moved to Arizona from Chicago. I’m loving it here, but we came here with some heartache.  One of our children had a severe illness that caused some brain damage. I never thought something like this would hit us.

I know that in time we will recover, however, we need help recovering from our move.

Reading your book gave me helpful ideas about what we can do. However, we’re living on one income right now. How is it manageable? How do we recover from having a savings account to having nothing? Do you have advice?

MoneySmart Family Answer for Q3

Compared to Chicago, Arizona has a much more affordable cost of living. So your strategy to live on one income should not be that hard to accomplish.

But you’ll really need to focus on controlling your expenses and questioning everything. You might want to consider these 7 ways to stretch your income.

  1. Money Management: You need a budget system like we describe in America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. Managing your expenses is the only way you’ll be sure to make it on one income. Because you’re home, your time can really be used to stretch your income!
  2. Focus:  By managing your expenses, you’ll be able to focus on building up your savings again. This should be your goal.
  3. Groceries: Plan a weekly menu around the loss-leaders at the grocery store, maybe even buy our grocery book, it will pay for itself. You’ll save a boodle.
  4. Food Banks: If things are super tight, consider visiting a food bank. This isn’t a permanent solution, but just to help minimize your food expenses until you get back on your feet.
  5. Medical Expenses: If you have outstanding medical bills, deal with them aggressively. Try to negotiate with them for lower fees, but communicate regularly, you don’t want them to send you to collections. Check out our Money Saving Tips page for Health & Medical Care.
  6. Auto Insurance: If you haven’t already done it, quote your auto insurance, and do it every couple of years also.

Welcome to Arizona – hoping that your family prospers here! 


Living on One Income after Bankruptcy

My wife makes $45,000 per year and I recently accepted a promotion that pays $60,000 per year. We have four children at home, ages 4-19. My new position will leave me little time and even less energy for my family and our worship.

For years my wife and I have been terrible money managers. We lost a home and filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which was converted to a Chapter 7. I have always believed that with a little sacrifice and a lot of creativity, we can live on one full-time income or perhaps two part-time incomes.

My dilemma is this: How can I convince my wife that this is possible? She thinks the idea of living on one income is unreasonable. We tried it before and failed miserably, I believe because we were uneducated and unprepared.

Money Smart Family Answer for Q4

We feel for your situation. But given your financial past, it’s unlikely you’ll soon convince your wife to live on one income. It will take time to establish new, sound financial habits in your home before she’ll feel secure in your decisions.

Develop and maintain a working budget for at least six months, build some savings (at least three months of living expenses) and become totally debt-free before you consider reducing to one salary. It may take a year to prove your commitment. Check the library for books by Larry Burkett, Dave Ramsey and us. We’ve got these books available in our Amazon Bookstore also.

Hook up with someone to help you walk through these changes and help you both deal with your emotional and financial issues. Check out Crown Financial Ministries‘ Web site. They have personal budget coaches and their small-group study course teaches sound financial principles and a very practical budgeting system.

You’re right, it will take education and determination, but we know you can do it. By investing your time you will ensure your family a firm financial future. 

 

Related Article: Stores That Will Price Match Amazon Today!

 


Living on One Income, Drowning in Debt & No Fun

My husband and I have five kids and he is the only one working. We can’t seem to get out of debt and have money left to go out and do anything fun. What would be your advice?

Some Tips for drowning in Debt & No Fun

First off, any family that has five kids and a stay-at-home mom does have both parents working — and working very hard. We know — we’ve been there. It’s tough, but the rewards never end.

We won’t lie to you. Eliminating debt requires self-evaluation and discipline. But the more you practice new habits, the more success you’ll have and the more addicting debt-reduction will become.

First, you need to establish a realistic budget for your lifestyle and update it regularly (read about this in our first book).

Second, you’ve got to get the whole family on board. Even young kids can be involved with new money-saving habits if their parents lead by example.

Third, sell off anything you don’t really need and use the proceeds to pay off debt.

Having fun as a family requires a whole new mindset. Family fun does not need to include eating out at a restaurant or spending lots of money on your recreation. Borrow movies from the library, play a board game, go to a park and throw a Frisbee, take a hike, go a Museum on a free day or go to a free concert at your nearby community college or University.

Even a high school near your home will have free events. Do a search online for your area, something is sure to come up. If you want a little romance, plan a candlelight dinner at home without the kids. Send them overnight to Grandma & Grandpa’s, a close relative or a good friend. Use your creativity, not credit.

By the way, we don’t mean to pick on you, but you sent this question from a very expensive phone. If money is tight, do you need this newest high-tech gizmo or would another cell phone be adequate to serve your needs?

Question every expense and watch your debt evaporate.

Wrap Up

As you can see there is no “one size fits all” way to transition to living on one income. The most important thing is to get on the same page with your spouse regarding a budget and managing your spending.

There will be lots of other stressors as you become a one income family. But if you can eliminate money stress by agreeing in advance about how to manage it, you’ll be in a good position to enjoy life living on less.

Can we live on one income? 3 families want to know how.

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