How to Live on Only One Income
Is it possible to quit your job and live on only one income?
I saw this question asked in a business group I’m in and it got me thinking about my journey. For those of you single mamas already rocking it on one income, you’re amazing, you’re a Rockstar and I have nothing but love for what you do for your kids. For those married mamas in a two income family who work outside of the home and want something different, this post was written for you.
It can be confusing to determine if you can make the jump to live on only one income. It’s going to require you to look deeply at the things your family values, your budget, and even change your habits. But before I walk you through a few things to help you get started on your journey, let me share a bit of my story.
Almost four years ago I worked for a large non-profit in internal communications. I enjoyed my job for the most part, but several mini organizational changes left me in the position of needing to do a lot of work I wasn’t prepared for. To say it was stressful is an understatement.
I floundered and struggled to keep up the pace. For an achiever like me, this was a big blow to my confidence. I’d always been able to just “figure it out”. But really at the heart of my struggles was something completely different. For the first time in my life, I genuinely desired to be home with my kids full-time. I had only 2 kids back then. My youngest was 10 months old when I quit. And until that day, my days were filled with stress from wake-up to what little sleep I got.
My oldest was in preschool/daycare and he was so hard to get up and ready to go in the morning. Every step was a fight. Then when we finally got him there, we were gone from him for 9-10 hours. Then we had a commute. And then when we got back to daycare to pick him up, we were rushing to get dinner done so we could have a few minutes of fun before bath time and bedtime. Then I was up every few hours nursing a baby. I think you can get the picture.
I looked at my life and realized that’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want every step to be a struggle with my kids. I didn’t want my relationship with them to only happen on the weekends because weekdays were just rushed to get up, eat, drive to daycare/school, work, pick up, then home for dinner, bath and bed. Then I brought all my stress from work home and my stress from home to work and frankly I was ineffective in both places in that season.
In the 2-3 months leading up to me quitting, I cried almost everyday at work, on my way home and when I laid my head on my pillow at night. I couldn’t see a way out of it.
But we had a huge problem. My income was the bigger one. Not just by a little, but by a lot. My hubby could’ve easily quit his job and with a few lifestyle modifications, we would’ve been doing great. But I was the one who wanted to quit. We had to figure out how to live on a smaller income and still survive.
In all honesty, no matter how many times I crunched the numbers we couldn’t make it work on just that one income.
I asked God for wisdom and to show me ways to make up the shortfall we would have. He asked me if I was ready for what life would look like in this new season. And I was.
I found a part-time job working for a drop-in childcare facility where I took the kids with me. It was win-win. The kids got to play with other kids, but I was still there with them and didn’t miss out on anything.
Eventually, I found a part-time job writing for social media that paid more than the childcare facility and I was able to transition to stay at home with the kids. I worked primarily in the early morning hours and during nap time. Sometimes I worked when my hubby got home if needed as well.
For us, it hasn’t been possible for me to go without working at all. But with a lot of changes, I have been able to take on part-time jobs, work from home and be with my children.
If you are considering a huge change like this, here are some important things to know or do before you make the jump.
- Know your values. Sit down for a few hours with your spouse and talk about what you value most in life and what you want life to look like. For us we value time with God, time together, time with family and friends, and time to help others. Everything else flows out of that. While we love movie nights, for now, we rent on Vudu or Redbox more than we go to the theater. My hubby makes his coffee at home instead of running to Starbucks a couple of times a week. We don’t go on vacations, but we take time off and we spend time together.
- What do you want life to look like? What are you hoping to gain by quitting your job to stay home with your kids? What do you imagine life will be like? These are good questions to help you get to the core of WHY you’re going to do it.
- You will need to make some changes. If you want to live on only one income, and your life is filled with daily Starbucks runs, weekly movie nights at the movie theater, expensive date nights, and eating out a few times a week, you need to re-evaluate what you want life to look like. The changes will flow out of your values, so make sure you figure those out first. It may mean you need to downsize your home, rent a smaller apartment, downsize to only one car payment, etc. if possible. There are too many variables to mention here, but just know, you must make changes.
- Budget budget budget. Put it on paper. Start with what you spend on your essentials like housing, car, clothes, and food. Draw a line. Put everything else you spend money on under that line. Can you afford everything above the line with only one income? Yes? Awesome! No. Then if possible, get rid of car payments, downsize your home or apartment, etc. Or consider a part-time job where either you can bring the kids with you, work from home, or it’s at a time your husband is home and can watch them on his own. (Dave Ramsey is a great resource for budgeting, and if you haven’t been very good about it, it may be worth your time and money to go through his Financial Peace University.)
- Prepare for it. Before you quit, cut out the non-essentials. Start living as if you have already quit in terms of how you live your life. Stop your daily Starbucks run and lunches out. Make your coffee at home and bring leftovers to eat. Set aside the extra money if you can. Life happens and it’s nice to have a buffer. Streamline your expenses. Say goodbye to the non-essentials for a little bit to see how it feels.
- Start a small business. Maybe you can write. Maybe you can take in another child for home daycare/nanny. Maybe you can dog walk. There are sooo many ways to make money online, here are some suggestions to help you decide.
- Pray and wait. Ask God for wisdom, seek out wise counsel, start thinking and planning as if you’ve already made the jump. Waiting is the hardest part. It’s important to wait until you and your spouse are on the same page and you have a plan. If you don’t, it can cause a lot of strife and arguments. Don’t wait forever because the timing will never be perfect, but don’t be foolish either.
I’m not going to tell you this journey has been easy. It has been very difficult in many ways. Living life simply is very different than what we were used to and how our friends lived their lives. We had to say no to a lot of things that we were used to saying yes to. We brought handmade gifts for birthdays, we hosted birthday parties at the park with cake and popcorn for a snack. Although we didn’t realize it, we were very much trying to “keep up with the Joneses” in certain ways we lived. It’s a hard reality check.
This is not to discourage you it’s meant to help you see that switching to live on only one income requires a different approach to life.
Despite the challenges, it has also been an incredible joy. I was there for the first steps of my two youngest kids. I didn’t need to worry if I had enough sick time when the kids got sick. They get sick far less often because they are well-rested. Life is less rushed. I have more peace. And I get to focus on the things that matter the most.