Thursday, April 10, 2014

Living on One Income, Part Two

Part Two, for those whom I didn't completely alienate with Part One.

If you are still with me, I assume you are serious in your desire to figure out how to live on one income.

Let's review the important points:
  1. You and your spouse need to be in total agreement on this, because it takes sacrifice and willingness to buck the trend.  You will probably encounter questions and maybe even hostility from others about your decision to have one spouse be at home. You need to approach this as a team, or it won't work.
  2. You must have a budget; you have to know how much money comes in, how much goes out, and where it goes to.
  3. You need to think outside the box, and not be a trend follower.  Just because all the other moms at Little Billy's school have highlighted hair in the style of the month and fingernails made of petroleum products doesn't mean you have to.  Just because all the other guys in the office have wives that work full time doesn't mean your wife needs to do that just so you can fly to Vegas once or twice a year like they do (or take cruises, or whatever the 'must do' vacation activity is in your social circle).
Okay, now to more how-to from personal experience!

When deciding if it is feasible for your family to go from two incomes to one, you also need to figure in the savings that can only happen when one parent stays home full time.  The biggest savings is usually in the form of childcare; or rather, the lack of a need to pay a babysitter or daycare to mind your child during the workday.  If you are staying at home to be with the kids,then be with the kids! Don't hire a babysitter so you can go off shopping, or to lunch with a friend, or to get your hair done!!  That kind of defeats the whole "I want to quit work so I can be home with my darling babies" thing, and it doesn't save you money on daycare (or other areas of the budget such as food, personal care, clothing, etc)!

Anyway. . .

Once upon a time, DH and I only had three children.  And we'd had a financial setback (full disclosure: DH got laid off and his unemployment barely covered our rent, let alone keep a family of five afloat) which required that I go to work part-time.  Or, more truthfully, it required I go to work and I could not find full time employment in a reasonable amount of time (overdue notices were piling up from our creditors) so I took a part time job instead.  Once we got over our financial hump (ie paid off overdue bills, and even paid off some small debts even though they had low monthly payments), we looked at how much money I really earned after paying for daycare on three kids each week--one of whom was in school six hours each day.

I'd been bringing home, after taxes and daycare, a whopping $50 per week.  Wow.  For all that time spent away from my kids (roughly 30 hours: 25 of work, and 1 hour of commuting to work each day), I got to contribute $50 to the household budget.  My babysitting bill was about four times that much each week.  So, when it got close to summer time, when the eldest of the three kids would no longer be in school and thus requiring three kids to be in day care the entire time I worked instead of two during the day plus one just for after school, DH and I decided we'd be further ahead if I quit my job and stayed home.

On the surface, it looked like we'd be cutting ourselves off from $250 a week in income by my no longer working. $1000 a month is nothing to disregard casually. On closer look, based on the babysitting bill, we would have only 'lost' that $50 I made after paying the babysitter. $200 a month is something you probably can adapt for by adjusting your budget (and how many money-savings activities you are willing to spend your time in).  In reality, by my working all summer there would be some weeks I'd pay the babysitter more than what I actually made at my job (I had a fluctuating schedule which sometimes was 4 weekdays plus Saturday, and sometimes 5 weekdays with Saturday off--those 5 weekdays would have meant 5 days of babysitting times 3 kids equals I'm digging myself into a financial hole with the babysitter bill), and the other weeks--the ones where we only needed a babysitter 4 days because my 5th workday was Saturday and DH would be home to mind the kids-- I'd only be pocketing about $10.  For a month's worth of working outside the home.  Ridiculous.  Not worth the sacrifice my family had to make (remember now, our bills were caught up.  If we were still in a delinquent situation on rent, student loans, etc, that $10 would not have been as easily given up.  Especially considering it was only 3 months--the summer break from school--that I'd be making so little, and once school started again I would still have a job and my take-home pay after babysitting expenses would rebound.)

By having me quit my job when summer came and staying home, not only did we cut out the cost of child care from the budget, but we also reduced the cost of fuel for the car I had to drive to and from work (stopping at the babysitter's house both on the way to work, and again on the way home).  And I no longer needed a work wardrobe.  More money savings.  Also no more mandatory office gatherings where occasionally I had to participate in a  group dinner out (where each employee paid for their own meal), or a gift exchange I would rather have not been a part of.  Which, again, saved my family money.

So, now I'm at home, and some of our spending has been cut.  Break out the bonbons and the soaps, right?  I get to be a lady of leisure.

Uh, no.  That's not the way it works, and if you are a woman contemplating staying home because you think then you can just take it easy all day while your husband slaves away to make the cash to pay the bills, it's time for your comeuppance.  Your marriage will not last with an attitude like that.

If you are not working to make the money, you need to be working to stretch the money.  We've all ready addressed the hair and nails thing in Part One, as well as the cutting of the entertainment portion of your budget down to pretty much nothing.  Now it's time to talk about the work you are going to do at home, for your family.  

You need to clean.  I'm sorry, but if you are home 40 hours a week instead of working 40 hours a week, you don't get a housekeeper.  You are the housekeeper.  Get out the broom, the vacuum, and the toilet scrub brush.  Wield them like a pro.  You just traded an 8-hour day of working for a company for about an hour a day of household cleaning for your family.  So what are you complaining about?  A measly hour of housework is nothing for your freedom from the rat race.  Because the seven hours after that are yours to use.  And you can do your one hour a day whenever it best suits you each day. Not to mention how much more supportive your spouse will be in this having you at home concept if you show a clean house every evening when he walks in the door after work.

Actually, guys who might be in the minority of stay at home spouses, this goes for you too.  Just because you are the man at home while your wife works for the bread money doesn't mean you don't have to clean.  Or do any of the following bold faced items either.  You do.  Otherwise there is going to be a lot of tension in your marriage.

You need to cook.  Uh-huh.  Get to know that thing in your kitchen with the circles on top and the box in the bottom that heat up.  It can help you create all kinds of magical concoctions, while enabling you to snip some more money off your budget.  So what if cooking takes another hour from your day?  You still have only 'worked' two compared to when you used to work eight and still needed to eat afterward.

You should pack a lunch for your spouse.  I'm sure some women are wanting to mapquest where I live and come over and lynch me right about now.  Let me explain.  Brown bagging lunch is another way to cut money out of your budget.  Money that makes it possible for you to stay home.  And your spouse really will appreciate it if you send them off to work with their lunch all ready packed instead of having to pack it themself.  Ladies, let me tell you a little secret: packing your hubby's lunch gives you some control over what he eats (and what he spends).  Want him to eat healthier?  Pack his lunch.  Wish he spent less money on lunches out (maybe that little less will help make it possible for you to quit your job)?  Pack his lunch.  I don't know too many men that will complain that their wife packed them a lunch.  Really.  They are kind of like kids, opening that lunch at the designated lunch time, wondering what kind of yummy surprise is in store for them today.  Just don't go too overboard on the health food stuff; granola and yogurt and a turkey sandwich and sliced veggies is too overwhelming for a guy.  Stick a couple cookies in there too, or at least a container with a bunch of ranch dressing for him to dredge those veggies through.  Maybe even a baggie of chips once in a while.

Now if you are an at-home hubby, your wife will absolutely love it if you pack her a super healthy lunch.  She will think it is so awesome that you are helping her in her endeavors to lose (or at least not gain) weight.  I have not met a single woman in my life who wasn't at least somewhat concerned about her physique and had never tried watching what she ate.  If your wife opened up a lunch box with appropriately portioned fresh healthy foods in it that you packed, well that is big brownie points in your favor.  And if you throw in a small brownie (or piece of dark chocolate--that's the "healthy" chocolate) once in a while, she'll be even happier.

You need to be home, not driving all over creation creating a bigger fuel expense.  Your goal was to stay home, remember?  Don't swap being gone all day at work for being gone all day shopping and socializing and otherwise spending time and money on something other than the essentials for your family.  I'm not saying you can't get out of the house once in a while. But if you are gone most of every weekday, that's too much.  That kind of defeats the purpose of being able to not work so you can stay home.  Also included in this is play dates for your kids.  They don't need to be taken to a play date--or lesson, or sport, or even playground--on a daily basis.

You need to be actively involved with your kids. I repeat, this doesn't mean driving them all over the place.  No, it means you are spending a good portion of your day interacting with them.  Wasn't that another part of why you didn't want to have to work?  So your kids didn't have to spend so much time in daycare instead of with at least one of their parents?  Don't swap the babysitter for an endless list of lessons and sports ($$$ spent) or group activities, and hours of plunking them in front of the tv or computer.  Do things with them.  Teach them to do the housework.  It will get done faster, they will enjoy doing things with you, and you'll be training them how to take care of their own homes when the day comes that they are grown up and ready to leave the family nest.  Have them help you with the cooking.  Take some time to go on walks or draw pictures with them.  Do crafts with them; it will help not only them, but give you some creative outlet too.

Your hobbies should have some usefulness.  I recognize the need for you to have some personal enjoyment and not just be cooking, cleaning, and dealing with kids all the time.  You do need hobbies.  What helps in your endeavor to afford to stay home is having useful hobbies.  Things like baking help shrink the budget.  So does sewing, if you are willing to sew at least some of your kids' clothes (or your own) and are careful not to spend more on fabric for an item than that same item would cost ready made at the store.  Knitting and crocheting are also useful hobbies.  So is gardening.  Or maybe you have a hobby that others would pay you to do; for instance, there is a local small business that does scrapbooks for those who like the idea of scrapbooking but never seem to have the time or interest to actually put the pages together themselves.

Guys, this one, again, applies to you too.  If you could align your hobbies to be somewhat of the handyman type, rather than the accumulating sports stats (while your house crumbles around you) variety, that saves you a whole lot of money in your budget.  Have you priced home repairs lately?  Most of them you can easily learn (heck, a lot of them I can do, and I'm a woman!)

If you want to stay home, if you truly want this one income family thing to work for your family, you are going to have to put a lot of effort into making it happen.  Your spouse's part of the deal is to go to work, deal with all the work-day garbage at the office, and bring home the money (direct deposit is the greatest thing!).  Your part of the deal is to do everything else.  The kids, the food, the shopping (and frugally, please!), the cleaning, the organizing.  A spouse who comes home from an eight or ten or twelve hour workday to a messy house, no food on the table, kids who weren't hardly at all with Mom, and a wife (or husband, guys) complaining about how there isn't enough money to pay the bills, is not going to be a happy camper, nor a willing partner in living the one income life.  I say this from experience.  And from knowing several women who petitioned to stay home, proceeded to do whatever they wanted and contribute very little to the family once they did stay home, and then were befuddled when their marriages went south.

I'll say it again: You need to approach this as a team, or it won't work.

Don't we all hate it when we are assigned group work, and then one or more members of the group don't pull their share?  If you are staying home, your share is all the work at home.  You don't want to have to work full time for someone else, and then come home and work a bunch more while the rest of the family lolls around, do you?  Neither does your spouse.

Don't you also hate it when you are having to do work as a group, and a bunch of work gets dumped on you against your will by the other members of the group?  This is why you and your spouse need to be a team, and to have some serious discussions about living on one income and what that will mean for your family; what budgetary items will be sacrificed, and what duties each spouse will then have, before you voluntarily go from one income to two.

To Be Continued. . . 

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