Managing a family of 4 of on one income might sound like quite the challenge, and if you thought so, your right! So how do I manage? I’ll tell ya how! You pray, like A LOT! Then you thank your lucky stars that your parents raised you to be financially savvy, and the fact that you have paid off your student loans, and have no significant credit card debt is a miracle. Considering that you could have got got freshman year signing up for credit cards in exchange for a t-shirt, you really dodged a bullet. Then you really do a few hail Mary’s because your husband is able to support your entire household with his income alone. Yes, you will have to make a few adjustments like scaling back on lavish date nights to see something at the Kennedy Center followed up by dinner at Ruth’s Chris, but you will manage!
For me living on one income has put my spending as an individual into serious review. There were several areas in which I was spending money that were excessive. I won’t say unnecessary because, throw pillows, #duh. That being said I think about my purchases more on a want vs. need basis and impulse buy significantly less. Before my one income days, I was definitely on a see it, like it, buy it. Now I really think about what the item is for and if I’m actually going to use it, or wear it etc. The same goes for the kiddos. It’s easy to want your kids to be styling and profiling in the latest kids wear, but my son comes home from daycare every day looking like he’s been splashing around in cans of paint and can’t find his mouth to save his life. And because I watch my daughter full time, we are mainly in the house so who does she need to impress?
So, whether you’re thinking about transitioning your household to one income or have family and friends who are, take a look at these 5 tips to help keep a one income household on good financial footing.
Since my husband and I knew that we would be on one income we did a full review of our expenses. We looked at areas that we were spending money in i.e. bills/utilities, healthcare, personal care, travel, food and groceries, daycare, debt, investments etc. and tried to figure out ways to spend less in those areas or determine if those areas were even necessary. For instance, we suspended paying into our children’s 529 because we knew that we would need that money to go toward regular bills. Additionally, we examined holiday expenses like birthday and Christmas gifts, agreed not to do anything big for ourselves but set a budget for family and stuck to it.
Living Below Our Means
When we decided to upgrade our home from a condo a few years ago we looked at single-family homes and townhomes. While we could afford a single-family home we decided against that and purchased a townhome. Why you ask? Well for starters we could afford the townhouse on one income. Additionally, purchasing a townhome would mean lower bills overall for about the same amount of space that a single family would offer and we would be able to maintain the same lifestyle we had living in our condo. And by same lifestyle I mean frequent traveling, dining out, leisure activities like going to the spa and so on. Add to the fact that we also were having our first child which meant childcare expenses, having purchased a townhome afforded us the ability to keep our overall costs down even with our new little family addition.
Food is an area in which most people easily overspend. I was eating out every day at work 5 days a week breakfast and lunch. And because I was fancy I had a latte with my bagel and shmear or soufflé depending on the day. I was easily spending over $50 a week on eating out and that’s being conservative. Now, I limit our grocery bill to $100 a week and prepare 95% of our meals at home. Along with the food budget, I shop at cheaper grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl opposed to a Wegmans. A $100 a week max for food means weekly meal planning and sticking to the list and budget that we set. I also prepare all of my daughter’s food since she’s at the puree and finger food stage. Not buying pre-made baby food decreases our food bill significantly. While we have room to eat out up to two times a week we try to limit ourselves because eating out as a family for 4 is not cheap! Fortunately, we enjoy cooking at home and staying on budget forces you to try new dishes you might not have otherwise considered.
My son was already in daycare when I had my daughter so my husband and I agreed to keep our son enrolled and decided I would take care of our daughter full time. This allowed my son to maintain the schedule he was already used to and allowed us to maintain paying only one daycare bill. While some people might think that a better option would be to have both kids at home to have no daycare bill, we considered our son’s development and my overall health and sanity. Having one child at home is a lot but having 2 would certainly be another story. Managing an infant and a toddler would be exhausting along with the regular house duties and responsibilities that come with maintaining a home and being a parent and wife. Fortunately, our daycare bill isn’t equivalent to another mortgage which really makes it a worthy expense.
Sometimes you just have to go without. Sacrifice means you may not get to go to your weekly mani or standing blow out appointment. It means you pass on brunch with the girls, and drinks with the guys. This is definitely easier said than done but at the end of the day when you look at your financial picture, it might be for the best. In the meantime, check out some free activities in the area and have a bottle of wine at home.