When Matt and I got married we decided that when we had children I would stay home at least part-time (who should stay home was an easy decision because I had the skills and desire to and Matt didn’t).
When I found out I was pregnant last spring (surprise!) we had just moved to a new location for Matt’s job and I was working on a freelance basis (read: unpredictable income).
At that time we were scraping by so that I could continue to work in a field that I really enjoyed and wanted to pursue (media education and journalism) even though it was not steady work. The plan was to tread water as long as we could while I strained to get more work.
I planned to work through my pregnancy and go back after a few months.
Towards the end of my pregnancy we stopped being able to tread anymore and I picked up a data entry job to make ends meet. It was stressful to think about how we would be able to afford to live on one income while I was “on maternity leave”.
It was even more stressful to think about not only having to go back to work as a freelancer (and leave my baby) but that I would also probably have to look for another steady job.
Going back to work after a baby is hard enough without throwing in a job search as well.
For a little while I tried to do it all- be a full-time mother and wife while job searching and writing articles for extra money. It was insane. I was cutting corners big time with my meal planning and grocery shopping. I ended up spending more on junky food because I just didn’t have the time.
I finally broke and sat down with Matt to tell him that I couldn’t do it anymore. I explained to him how trying to make money for us was not only a huge stress on me personally but on our finances as well.
I explained to him that I wanted to focus on being a mother and that I would be willing to make many changes in order to do that. He was totally on board, as he wanted me to stay home as well. It’s not easy but we make it work.
Here are some lessons we’ve learned to make living on one income manageable.
Not having any money is the best way to learn what your priorities are! When we couldn’t afford new clothes I learned that the clothes I had were just fine. When we couldn’t afford groceries I learned that there was a reason I had a stocked pantry. It’s amazing what little we actually need.
When I was looking at our life as a temporary situation, where we were just getting by until things were better, I was not happy. It was a constant struggle to want things and know that we couldn’t have them. It wasn’t until I accepted that this is where we are right now, and we are OK, that I started to see how much I really have.
I realized that we could have a rich, meaningful life even while we were struggling financially. By being grateful for what I have I am less likely to look around and envy what others have. And in fact, I have learned that I prefer to have less stuff.
Build a community
Meet other like-minded people. Surround yourself with people who have similar interests in frugality and help each other. I am bartering my media skills for lactation support. I also have a wonderful group of women who I can trade babysitting with (I just haven’t been able to part with my precious OG yet).
Look at the expenses of working
We looked at how much it would cost for daycare, travel to and from work (including tolls), clothing, and the occasional lunch or coffee out. We also looked realistically at things such as diapering, baby food and dinners for ourselves. We knew that if I were working it would be much more difficult to cook from scratch, make baby food and wash cloth diapers every couple of days. It started to look like working would cost us more.
Living on a single income is possible and I hope that anyone who desires to stay home with his or her children can find a way to make it work. I will also be posting a list of practical ways we save money, so check back for that!
(I realize that I’m coming from a place of privilege and that for some people one income is not a possibility. This is a reminder to be thankful for the problems I have because they are much easier problems than some people deal with.)