Being able to live off one income is something that a lot of people would probably like if the opportunity presented itself. However, there are several things to take into consideration to make sure you and your spouse are truly ready and able to do so if given the opportunity. In this post, we will discuss some of the things to consider if you want to live off one income. We will also share how we made it possible for us to live off one income.
Start thinking about it before time.
One of my favorite quotes is “Hindsight is 20/20”. This is one of the reasons I love asking older people what they wish they could’ve done differently. The answers to a problem are usually so clear after you can’t do anything about them. What does this have to do with living off one income? Determining early on that one day you’ll want to live off one income will drive the other major financial decisions you need to make.
Does one spouse’s income allow it?
If you’re interested in living off one income so that one spouse can stay home with the baby/kids then… First thing, who’s staying home? It’s often assumed that the wife will want to stay home, but that doesn’t mean that’s always the case. If she wants to continue to work while the husband stays at home then that’s absolutely fine. However, if you and your spouse are looking to live off one income so that you can do other things with the other spouse’s income, such as pay off debt, invest, update your home, then the following still applies to you…
For this to work, you have to be able to live off one spouse’s income plain and simple.
All your current expenses would need to be covered by that income. Anything that’s extra that you would like to do need to be covered by that income as well. And don’t forget about insurance coverage for the both of you and your kids. It might not be feasible to fully do that off one income. So another suggestion would be maybe that spouse could go part-time instead.
Before I had our first child I never wanted to be a stay at home mom (SAHM). It seemed like too much work from my limited knowledge of it. Once we decided to grow our family, I still never thought much about being a SAHM. Honestly, I never thought that we would be able to afford it. About a month before my due date Omar got a new position at work, which came with a raise. And of course, after I had our son, my longing to stay at home kicked in!
I asked Omar several times if we could afford for me to go back to work part-time. I still didn’t want to be a SAHM, but I did want to work less, spend more time with our baby, and not send him to daycare, yet alone pay for it. Although Omar wanted the same things his answer was always, “No,” simply because we couldn’t afford it.
Doing a budget can help you to see if you can truly afford it.
If you’re not already doing a budget, then you should consider doing one even if it’s for this reason alone. Tracking your necessary expenses as well as your leisure expenses can help you to see if you can truly afford to live off one income. It can also help you to see areas where you can possibly cut back or even eliminate so that you can get to this goal.
Once I realized I wanted to work less so that I could stay home with our son, I was determined to get my way if at all possible. So I decided to take a look at our budget to see if the answer was truly no that we couldn’t afford it. Reviewing our budget and planning had already allowed me to be able to take the full 12 weeks for maternity leave with the help of saving up my PTO. I did have short-term disability, but it didn’t help as much as we thought it would. I suggested to Omar that while I was out on maternity leave we could live off what I would make if I were to go part-time. Once he realized we had nothing to lose by doing so, he agreed to give it a shot.
After doing that for about 8 weeks, Omar came to me and said, “It’ll work. You can go part-time.” I seriously didn’t believe him at all. I asked him several times then and the days to follow if he was sure. He always responded, “Yes,” but I still couldn’t believe it. I felt like he needed to prove it to me although it was what I wanted! We took another look at our budget together. After running the numbers for best case scenario and worst case scenario if I were to not get all my hours. . . It was a go! I was able to go part-time!
Omar: It was so hard telling Kim no, but I honestly couldn’t wrap my mind around living mostly off my income. When she was on leave after the birth of our son and we basically lived off half of her income I knew it was possible to make this work. We didn’t even have to touch our emergency fund to make it through! Some sacrifices were made to our lifestyle with Kim going part-time, but we were both willing to cut those things out.
Contentment is not a bad thing.
This is a big one. Kim and I have learned to be content with our lifestyle and live below our means. This is the only way it was possible for her to go part-time. That doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy our lives now. It just means that we are making necessary sacrifices to get what we want.
So, in regards to contentment, you need to understand that there is a tradeoff if you want to live off one income. Unless one spouse has an unusually large income you might be giving up nicer stuff. That’s right. You may not have the nicest home. You may have to drive a 5 or 6-year-old car. But what you get in return is accomplishing your goal of more time with your kid(s), paying off debt faster, investing more, etc!
I would trade a lesser home and lesser car for more time with my family in a heartbeat. Most people would, but they don’t think about it this way. Money is finite. You have to decide what’s more important to you.
Kim: I worked part-time for 7 months before Omar got another pay increase. This allowed me to get to the point we’re at today, which is I work even less than part-time now. I’m practically a SAHM. This was possible by not only doing a budget but by living below our means as well. To tell the truth, I could be a full-time SAHM, but I like what I do and I like making money, especially since it helps us to reach our goals so much faster. I truly feel like I have the best of both worlds thanks to taking a 2nd and 3rd and 4th… (you get the point) look at our budget.
Take your housing into consideration.
Buying a home is a wonderful thing. It gives you the ability to lock in your housing costs and eventually eliminate it (minus the taxes and insurance).
If you haven’t already bought a house, consider getting one that you and your spouse can afford based on one income. This will preferably be the income of the person who will continue working. Keep your mortgage term in mind as well. The 30-year mortgage is the standard these days. However, if you calculate the total cost of the house after 30 years it doesn’t justify the lower payment in my opinion. A 15-year mortgage is going to be your best bet.
Going the 15-year route is difficult for people to wrap their minds around with two incomes. It’s even harder for people to fathom with one income, but it’s possible. And it’s worth it. It’s amazing how fast your principal goes down. However, it does come with a higher payment, which will limit the size of the home you can buy. But if you’re thinking long-term, you will be glad you went this route.
If you and your spouse already have a home, then you will have to figure out if it’s one that you can afford on one income or if you will possibly downgrade.
When we were looking for a house, one of me and Kim’s goals was to be able to afford the cost of it on one of our incomes. Our thought was that the likelihood of both of us losing our job would be low. However, if one of us did lose our job the hit wouldn’t be so hard. While we couldn’t initially afford our home based on one of our incomes nor did we go with a 15-year mortgage, things have changed. Given the increase in my income, now we can afford it based on my income alone, and we have also refinanced to a 15-year mortgage.
And don’t forget to take your transportation into consideration as well.
Before Kim and I got married we both had 2-door cars. When our son was born in 2014 and we had to take him home from the hospital it was a tight fit, but that car was paid for. Kim still jokes today that if one of us would have had a paid-for 4-door car we wouldn’t have bought an SUV.
If you know you want to be a SAHM think about the vehicles you have now. Will you need (or want) a 4-door car or an SUV? What’s your plan going to be to make that happen? On the flip side, if you have a car payment, try to pay it off before going to only one income. Or if your car payment is expensive, maybe you should consider trading your car in for something less expensive.
Living frugally helps.
Since you will be living off one income, the both of you will have to find ways to be more efficient when it comes to budgeting and spending money. Some ways that you can do this are:
- use coupons
- eat out less
- meal prep
- cut the cable (or get less expensive cable)
- lower your cell phone bill
- cut out unnecessary and/or unused subscriptions
You will have to be cognizant of not blowing through your money. It’s the only way that you will be able to live off one income and enjoy it.
Make Sure To Consider Your Future.
Even if you have the ability to live off one income now, make sure that you’re still considering and preparing for your future as well. I’m specifically talking about retirement as well as if you want to pay for your child’s college education. There’s no way I would’ve wanted to work anything less than full-time if it was going to put my family in a bind when it came to our future. Before we realized that I could go part-time, I considered only working on the weekends (and I HATE working on the weekends). That way Omar would’ve been able to stay with our son and we could still avoid daycare. It’s not what I wanted, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make because I didn’t want to jeopardize our future.
Avoiding debt is a must.
Last but definitely not least is to make the lifestyle choice to never go into debt again. For anything. It might not be easy, but it’s what will help you maintain your goal of living off one income. I don’t plan to go into debt again for anything, not even a house. And Kim has a hard time with this one. But it’s how I feel. Why? Because debt is a leech that sucks away your choices.
Don’t let it take away the ability to spend time with your little one(s) if that’s the reason that you want to be able to live off one income. Time is the most precious thing that we have. Don’t trade the time you could spend watching your kids grow up for a car or a house or credit card purchases that you won’t even remember in a week. There will come a day when our kids won’t need us anymore. Don’t miss that time over material things!
If you want to live off one income while your spouse stays home then you might have some tough decisions to make. Ultimately, you may have to decide between your current lifestyle and living off one income.
If you’re wanting to live off one income while your spouse still works, it’s definitely a great way to accomplish goals, as well as build wealth quickly.