We've been a single-income family for five years, ever since my husband was ready to graduate from grad school and we knew we'd move. Turned out it took him two more years to finish! So, we've known bad times and good times. We also had some heavy expenses ($14k for successful infertility work), and good times (now, with DH having a great job, and our wonderful daughter).
I think the most important thing for learning to live on one income is for the stay-at-home partner to "think like a 1950's housewife". You won't make it if you hire a housecleaning service, eat dinner out three times a week, take two lavish resort vacations a year, etc. One person works full-time to bring home money; the other should put in lots of time running the household as cheaply and efficiently as possible. The stay-at-home partner may have given up working for money, but s/he did not give up working to maintain the household! I may not work as many hours as my husband, but I do put in a lot of time doing housework that makes his income go much farther.
I wonder how many families are switching from two incomes to one but maintaining the spending lifestyle they had with two incomes. This won't work. And, you can live well on one reasonable income.
I'll admit, we're nowhere near starving. My husband is a PhD engineer, earning a good, but not lavish, salary. And my 2 1/2 year old attends an expensive pre-school (they're all expensive, where we live) three mornings a week. But I know how many of my friends are living on nearly the same income, and we seem to have far fewer financial worries than they do. I think it's because I try to run this house like my mom did in the 1960s -- only with the aid of modern tools. I probably put in 2-3 hours a day on "housework", including money management. The rest of the time I'm doing "projects", or playing with our daughter (still high need). Playing often includes shopping -- we make it into an adventure!
This is one in a series of articles that examine how single-income families operate. Even if you're a two-income family with no thoughts of quitting your job, it's often possible to learn from people who live differently than you do. If you live on one income we'd like to hear from you. Please send an email to: email@example.com. We'll try to include the most informative stories on a regular basis.
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