One Income Success Story

by Lucynda Koesters

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My Story: Everyday Savings

Living on One Income

A Decision to Stay Home

I was living the typical American Dream Life and I was utterly miserable. Two kids, two careers, a newly built home, 2 import vehicles sitting in the driveway - what was wrong? No time to live, that's what. A life that was careening madly out of control.

Our life was an endless treadmill. Day after day, up at 5:30 a.m., gulp down coffee, corral the kids and out the door. Shove down breakfast bars in the car, drop one kid at school, then race to the other's daycare, then on to the workday with its endless succession of meetings, client visits, report writing, stress and pressure. End of work day, race to daycare to avoid late charges, then to after school program for child #2, cruise through the fast food lane or grocery deli for dinner, eat in car and go straight to kid's sports practice. Finally back home for the night, get kids' baths, do homework and collapse into bed. Set alarm for next day and do all over.

Does this sound familiar? We lived this way for 7 years. We were constantly rushed, the kids were out of control and good ol' Mom was just about at the end of her rope, when she finally screamed, "Enough!" I quit my job (as a Marketing Specialist for a major market newspaper) and promptly panicked.

How would we manage on one income? We needed two incomes to maintain our lifestyle. The hubby and I sat down and did a financial worksheet where we wrote down every fixed expense we could think of. We had never tracked expenses before or given much thought to any of our purchases. We had enough money coming in each month that we didn't have to. We wanted it, we bought it. End of story. Couldn't do that now. Oh no. We discovered that we could pay our bills, keep our cars and home on one income and have a small amount left for variable expenses like groceries, gas and clothing. No longer could we spend without thinking. We also knew that saving money would become extremely difficult, if not impossible. But, the deed was done, I was at home now and had to make it work.

Here's what I did:

I started tracking expenses on our computer. It helped us identify problem areas right away, such as too much spending on work-related incidentals like the vending machine, lunches out and fast food dinners. I planned my grocery shopping in advance, found bargain stores, began to cook from scratch, cook ahead and packed hubby's lunches, drinks and snacks. I discovered yard sales and second hand stores. We conserved electricity, gas and water by thinking about how much energy we were using and turning off lights and hanging clothes to dry. We kept our vehicles past 100,000 miles and performed repairs ourselves. All of which was time consuming, but time is what we now had, and we used it to save money. It worked. We were able to cut our monthly grocery, utilities, and clothing bills substantially.

Eventually, I began writing and sold a few articles. I also began baby-sitting several days a week at home. The small amount of extra cash went straight into our savings account. We are now comfortable in our frugal lifestyle; it didn't come easy or naturally - we had to work at it. Has it been worth it?

Let's see. Far less material goods but a much less stressful lifestyle. Far less rush. Kids who are VERY happy and learning morals, values and appropriate behavior from parents who care, not nonchalant caregivers. A mom who is much more patient and loving. Time for volunteer work in the community and at our children's schools. By far, a higher quality of life. Yes, I'd say it's worth it.

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Here's my advice. If you are on the fence about this issue, don't delay any longer. Do whatever it takes to be at home for your family. Don't grow old and look back on your life with regrets that you were never there. Look back and smile.

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