When Two Incomes Become One
So, just to clarify at the start, this is not going to be a hard sell on giving up on a full time job to stay home with your children, nor is it a dissertation on how becoming a stay at home mom (SAHM) is easy (because it's not!) and better for children. This is just simply some opinions on the subject matter of a former two income household making it in today's world with one income.
Realizing the Need for Change
If you'd told me five years ago that my twins would be teaching me financial lessons, I would have probably dismissed both you and the notion. Looking back now, safely past the whirlwhind first year of diapers, bottles and no sleep (none whatsoever!), I can see that the learning started even before they entered this world. You see, my hubby and I used to bring in about the same amount of pay (my yearly gross was slightly higher). Once we learned we had two babies on the way, we knew major changes were on the horizon. Daycare was never really something we wanted to pursue, and the expense of having two babies in it at once didn't make financial sense for us. So, we slowly went from two incomes to one. (Slowly, I say, because I had some time-off-with-pay built up at my job and was able to use that as I went off of work.)
Revamping the Spending Habits
Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that making the transition from a full-time social worker to a full-time mom was easy and painless. It really took some work and creative budgeting on our part to pull it off. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to surmount was taking a hard look at our spending habits and trimming some fat, if you will.
My beloved VW Beetle and its tag-along payments were swapped out for a mini-van with no payments and room for twins plus a mountain of baby gear. My hubby's daily lunches at the local pizzeria were mostly replaced by the brown bagging phenomenon. Our jaunts out to restaurants for a dinner here, brunch there whenever we felt like it were drastically cut in favor of home cooked meals (turns out our kitchen table did have a surface you could eat off of -- who knew?). I could go on, but you get the gist of the idea. The bottom line: we lived within the boundaries of my hubby's paycheck.
Over the past few years, we've really learned to stretch our dollars and consider wise purchases with long-term benefits over quick, impetuous purchases with little-to-no yield. While we don't take our used cups to McDonald's to get a "free" drink (and yes, I've actually heard of some super-misers doing this as means to cut costs), we do make it a point to pay cash for most everything and not spend over a weekly limit.
My weekly routine includes shopping the sales for groceries and planning out meals to minimize weird purchases and wasted food. I also keep my eyes peeled for killer deals on clothes and shoes for my girls, often buying a size bigger off the clearance racks for the future. We supplement our entertainment with trips to the library for books, movies and music.
I should also point out that right after the girls turned one, I did land the perfect part-time office job which enabled me to go to work 2-3 nights a week after my husband returned from work. Plus, it brought in some income and let me have interactions with people who didn't need diaper changes.
So there you have it. It is possible to live in today's economy and society on one income, even if you are used to two. But it does take some planning, trimming, and compromising!