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The One Income Life: The Building Blocks

Living on one income can sometimes seem like the elusive unicorn – very pretty in theory but completely unattainable in the real world. But with some work and planning, most couples can achieve this dream and watch it bear the fruit of having one spouse devote themselves to other things that have more long-term value. The first step is to take an axe to your budget and cut expenses. Once that is done, you are ready for the next steps.

Re-evaluate Priorities

As we grow and age, we watch our priorities and goals mature too. While living right downtown, or having season tickets to X, Y, or Z, or being able to splurge on a new pair of shoes every month seemed so crucial at one point, now you may value having land for that garden, buying a new how-to manual, or splurging on that new curriculum for your homeschool.

Use the challenge of trimming to a single income to be an inspiration to take a long look at your life. Sit down as a couple and decide what really matters to you, and what doesn’t. You may be surprised what you find. Now that your parents are gone, perhaps moving to a new state with a lower income and property tax and cost of living makes sense. Maybe joining a local or online book club could replace your penchant for buying so many new books. And could you skip the paper and get your news online instead?

This is not about living a miserly and miserable life. It is about finding the joy and happiness in the little things, looking for ways to embrace life that don’t cost a cent, and knowing deep down who you are and what you want. When the vision is crystal clear, you will find a way to get there.

Calculate Savings

When thinking about whether or not you can afford to cut one income, remember that working can be expensive. Figure out how much you spend on work clothes, gas, lunches, daycare, etc., etc., etc., and you may find that much of your income is eaten away by the cost of working. Also evaluate your tax situation and see if cutting one income will put you in a lower tax bracket and save you money at tax time too.

The other side of savings is actually having some.

Money in the bank, that is.

Once you have cut your expenses to accommodate a one income lifestyle, consider having the spouse who will be staying home continue to work for a couple months or so and put all that income into savings. Not only will it give you a test run of what one income will really feel like, but will help cushion those unexpected things that always come up.

Create New Income

You know that you and your spouse are dedicated to one of you staying home. Perhaps you see how much homeschooling would benefit your family, or want to have a full-time prepper at home getting things ready “just in case.” You have cut your expenses, put some money in the bank, and have a realistic picture of what your cash flow will look like. Despite all your best efforts, however, you are still coming up a little short of being able to pull the plug. It might be time to get creative with how you bring in income. Often, there is something the “non-working” partner can do to help bring in income that takes far less hours than they are working now, and gives them the flexible hours to accomplish whatever it is that makes you want to go down to one income in the first place.

  • Sales – Whether you love kitchen products or makeup there are several businesses that allow you to sell their products at home parties. Most of the work can happen on evenings and weekends, and if you like meeting new people, it can even serve as a form of social contact now that you are not going in to work every day.
  • Other Stuff – If you don’t need regular extra income but just an occasional boost to cover this or that expense, look for the one-time income generators. Have your kids do a homeschool fund raiser selling candy bars, hold a bake sale or yard sale (or both together), take some of your knitting down to a local craft show, or collect bottles to return.

Remember that all these efforts will take some time to make sure that you will be able to actually work less hours and still meet the family’s needs. Be realistic about your possible earnings, and don’t forget to calculate things like self-employment tax if applicable.

Make a Plan – and Get Started!

Though going from two incomes to one may be one of the more difficult things you have had to do as a couple, know that many people have gone before you and found it to be not only possible, but very rewarding. Be patient with each other, expect some bumps along the way, and change as needed. Make a plan, and then work the plan together. With persistence you may find you feel like you have a whole lot more as a family than you did when you were living on two incomes.


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