My Story: It Takes Two to Live on One Income

contributed by Christine Campbell

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I always knew I wanted kids. I knew I also wanted to stay home to raise them and I prepared for it, even though life eventually had other ideas. After finishing Medical Assisting School, I married my high school sweetheart and we began our life as a military family. As a new bride, and having recently relocated to another state, I was unable to find a job. Striking up a conversation one day with an older, more experienced, military wife while waiting in line at the pharmacy I was given a piece of advice that would change my life. She told me that if I wanted to stay home to raise a family, I should make sure all of our bills could be paid with my husband's salary. This was not a hard task at the time since I was still not working. You learn how to live on one salary really quickly when there is no other choice. After working a few odd jobs, I finally landed a job as a MA in a pediatric office. Since I handled the banking, I was able to keep our spending in control. My husband had a biweekly allowance that was mutually agreed upon and left in the savings account for him to use as he needed. The rest of the money went in our checking account from which all our bills were paid. We used my salary to pay down my student loan and buy household furniture.

I worked up until my due date with my first daughter. We had decided early on in my pregnancy that I would stay home with her. We figured out that my whole salary would go straight to daycare costs, not to mention that we did not want strangers raising our baby girl. One of my coworkers, who happened to be pregnant at the same time as me, was not so fortunate. After her daughter was born, she found out that due to their debt, she could not afford to stay home but she also could not afford daycare. Soon after, we relocated to our second duty station. Five months after moving, and sixteen months after my first daughter was born, we were blessed with our second daughter. And then sixteen months later, our third daughter arrived. Now daycare and the idea of me working were completely out of the question.

When our youngest was 15 months old, we moved across the country, 3,000 miles away from anyone we knew. On the base, I quickly made friends with neighbors and other military moms and we developed a support network. Most of us were away from home, our husbands made the same amount of money and the only difference was how we chose to spend it.

My group of friends shared ways to be frugal, almost making a competition of it. Our backgrounds were very different, but this is one of the reasons we were able to learn so much from each other. We traded recipes, started a bulk cooking day, bragged about the deals we found and just plain had fun with each other. We found all sorts of things to do with the kids that were free. We would pack a lunch and hit the beach, the library, the park or the community pool. Our base had a movie theater that showed current movies for free. They even let you bring in your own snacks if you wanted to. We explored every free resource that was available to us.

Our next duty station was near our hometown and we were able to buy a small home of our own. And then, a year later, my husband was medically retired from the military and unable to work. I was lucky enough to find a full-time job with a salary we could live on, and my husband and I traded places. He was now a stay-at-home dad and I was a working mother. It hasn't been an easy transition, but it has been worth it. My children have had a parent home with them every day since they were born and that is something I am very proud of. We have watched them grow and develop into beautiful young ladies and that is worth more than all the riches in the world.

Wife, mother to three beautiful girls and one smelly dog, living on one income in CT while working full time and back in school to hopefully become a nurse.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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