How We Thrive As A Single Income Family

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Single Income FamilyWe have been a single income family since our first daughter was born in 2011. Being at home with our children was something that my wife always wanted. After months of talking about what we wanted our family to look like and what our priorities were, we decided to give it a try.

The last 7 years have been incredibly rewarding and we’re glad we’ve made this decision. Often people ask us how we’re able to get by with only one of us working full-time.

Keep reading and I’m going to show you the tactics that we have used to thrive on one income.

Why a single income family?

This is a tough thing to explain. Deciding to try and make it as a one-income family is a deeply personal decision. Depending on where you live and what type of work your sole breadwinner does, it can be a very expensive and difficult lifestyle to maintain. We live in a very expensive city in Western Canada and it has been a challenge with constantly rising costs and not-so-constantly rising pay.

Most young couples that I know are at least intrigued by the possibility of living a single-income lifestyle. Many of them feel that it just can’t be done with the cost of living, payments, education etc. and so they just accept the way that things are. This post is written as an encouragement to anybody who is considering becoming a one-income family. In my opinion it’s not only completely possible, it’s totally worth it.

Planning ahead

Planning ahead is going to put you in the best position possible when you give up your second income. I recommend living off of one income and putting the other into savings or a short-term investment for at least six months prior to making the switch.

By doing this, not only will you be accustomed to living off of less money when it comes time to switch, but you’ll have a pile of extra cash on standby in case something goes wrong.

Additionally, make sure to spend some time discussing what your priorities are. You’re probably going to have to change your lifestyle some and it’s important to make sure that you’re on the same page as your spouse. You don’t want to tell him or her the day after you make the switch that their clothing budget it ¼ of what it used to be.

To have the best chance of success, you’ll want to draw up your budget and live by it months in advance.

We live in a townhouse

Would I rather be in a large house on an acreage? Absolutely. Maybe someday we’ll be able to turn that dream into reality but alas, now we need to keep our housing costs in check.

I’m sure that we could stretch ourselves and buy a huge house with a rental suite but frankly…our mortgage is super affordable right now. There’s something to be said for small and simple.

I’m sure we’ll upgrade someday, but for now, our 3-bedroom townhouse works just fine 🙂

Related Post: The Complete Guide To A Zero Based Budget

We have no car payments

When my wife and I first got married, I had an expensive monthly payment for a new pickup truck.

At about 7pm on a Tuesday, I succumbed to the high pressure salesman at our local Ford dealer and bought a 2008 Ranger. Brand. Friggen New.

We have since offloaded the truck and the payment that came with it and though I won’t say I’ll never have a car payment again (those statements have a way of coming back and biting me in the ass), I will say that owning our vehicles outright is a top financial priority for us.

We don’t have brand new cars anymore, both of ours are more than ten years old and we paid for them with cash. The great thing is, anybody can do this. According to CNBC, an average car payment is now over $500/mo. Most of us have two cars, that’s $1000/mo that we aren’t paying for the privilege of also paying for gas, maintenance, tires and insurance.

If you’re stuck with a car payment and don’t know how to get out of it, you have options. I’ve done it, twice actually. Check out this article to learn how to get out of a car loan.

We don’t take expensive vacationsOne income family

Until last month, we hadn’t been on a holiday in the 4 years since our son was born. In April, we managed to get away for four days thanks to some awesome grandparents and a super cheap Groupon.

Prior to that, we had twice been to Hawaii. The first time we stayed at a YWAM base (where my wife went to school) for a week…super cheap. The second time our flights and accommodations were paid for by family so we decided we may as well stay for an extra week. We invited friends and split the cost of a van rental and accommodations and of course, shopped at Costco. It was incredibly cheap for Hawaii.

We’ve realized that we don’t get away and explore enough so we’re looking into ways that we can get away more on a tight budget in 2019.

We shop for a deal on everything

I compare costs on deodorant. Just today I bought a ten-pack of Old Spice from Costco for $10.99, typically what two of them costs. Yah, I maximize the value of my deodorant purchases and I now have enough to outlast the year.

That’s what it takes to make it as a single income family.

When you’re living on one income, you simply can’t afford not to get a deal. I now check flyers from different grocery store, run out to Costco twice a month, and regularly review all of our bills to see if there’s somewhere that we can cut from.

Trade babysitting

Because we want to keep our marriage and our sanity intact, we just need to get out alone sometimes. Dinner, a walk, dessert, movie…whatever. At least once per month we need a few hours for us.

Babysitting is really expensive now. When I was a kid, I babysat the children of a family friend. I’d often spend 4+ hours there and was lucky to make it out with $20. The going rate around here now for multiple kids is $15/hr. Ugh.

We do hire babysitters when we’re in a pinch, but we try to utilize grandparents as much as we possibly can. My wife also has a deal with a young lady where she watches our children in exchange for riding lessons (my wife is a horsemanship instructor). It works swimmingly.

Another options is to trade babysitting with friends. You can each take a night out per month and get a chance to be alone.

Related Post: How To Ask For A Raise At Work (And Actually Get It)

My kids don’t have awesome new stuff

Well, not much of it anyways. I am surprised how often new toy trends come along and with three kids, we can’t afford to keep up with them.

We typically buy our kids one larger gift and one smaller gift for Christmas and one gift for their birthdays each year. In my opinion, kids are happier and less distracted when they don’t have too many toys. Also, helping them understand what we can afford teaches them to see value in things and make difficult choices when they want two things

We don’t carry high-interest debt

We have a credit card that we use for travel points, it’s around 9% and we don’t carry a balance on it. In fact, after we paid off all of our debt in 2014 I called the company and had them reduce our limit so we wouldn’t be in a position where are tempted to spend money that we don’t have.

We use the card for large and online purchases as we get travel rewards, but don’t carry a balance.

Find ways to make extra money

Reducing your expenses is a great start. Another way to fill the gap when you become a single-income family is to earn some extra cash. There are countless ways to do this, I’ve listed some of my favorites below:

Buying and reselling items on Craigslist

I have done this successfully with appliances (thanks to Ryan at Tradeskills), phones, electronics and furniture.

Back in 2014, I made over 10k selling appliances. If you want to learn how to start an appliance reselling business, check out Tradeskills.io.

Selling extra stuff on Amazon or eBay

Same deal, but instead of selling stuff locally, you do it online. This is well suited to smaller items but I recently learned that Rob and Melissa from Flea Market Flippers ship larger stuff through Ebay as well. I’m a Canadian Eh, so I like selling on Ebay.com to take advantage of the relatively high US dollar at the moment.

Use your skills to pick up some freelancing gigs

Some examples of things you could do are writing, editing, building websites, SEO/digital marketing or graphic design. You can start by advertising your skills on Craigslist, or check out some other places to pick up gigs.

If you’re looking into ways to earn some extra money at home I would HIGHLY recommend that you check out the Side Hustle Nation blog or podcast. Nick Loper interviews successful side hustlers (entrepreneurs) in various industries and teaches about different ways to earn money.

When you can find a way to earn $500 extra per month, and you’re able to cut out some of what you’re spending, all of the sudden the income loss isn’t quite as much of a shock as it could have been.

Conclusion

I want to encourage anybody who is considering moving down to a single income not to dismiss the idea because of cost. In my experience, most people have a lot of places that they can cut expenses and a lot of talents that they can use to make a few extra bucks on the side.

Is yours a single income family? How do you make it work?

I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

Care to share?

10 thoughts on “How We Thrive As A Single Income Family”

  1. We did fine on one income after we started having kids. We raised three and sent them to college and still retired early with no debt a paid for house and way more than we need in investments. We also gave 10% to 12% of our gross income to church and charities every year. All it took was being valuable to my company and having a spouse who was a huge encouraging supporter and super mom at home. We both preferred me working outside the home and her doing the heavy lifting with the kids and the household but that is not for everyone. It worked for us for the last almost 40 married years and it sounds like you are well on your way too! Great post.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Steve. It’s not easy. Living in a high-cost area makes it considerably more difficult but it’s worth it. With the cost of childcare for our three children, it just doesn’t make sense for my wife to work full time. It would probably be net neutral in terms of income.

  2. All good points raised in the post. But is it really net neutral to have one spouse working; paying for child care, while he/she is making contributions into the Social Security system and participating in an employer sponsored retirement plan up to a match (if offered)?
    It seems to me that the opportunity to accumulate 40 quarters into the Social Security system to qualify for disability, retirement and survivor’s benefits for one’s kids, AND to set aside retirement income subsidized by one’s employer is not net neutral. Of course, a parent who wants to should be the primary parent and homemaker, but financial planners might suggest taking these other benefits into consideration. One can choose to accumulate some of the Social Security quarters after kids are in school and open a Spousal IRA while one parent is at home too.

    • Hi Dana,

      You may have missed this in the post, but I am Canadian so IRA’s and social security don’t apply, though we do have something similar to social security. I don’t know what social security quarters means. Net neutral was speaking specifically about how much money it would bring into our home, which is our primary concern. Also, as you mentioned, not all employers offer a retirement match or extended benefit plans. As I’m sure you’re aware, Canada has universal basic health care though some employers offer a more robust set of benefits (I have this for our whole family through my work).

      We personally don’t consider paying into the tax system a pro for her working full time as, in our opinion, we’re doing society a much greater service by spending time with our children and raising them properly to be well-rounded, self-sufficient adults.

  3. We have lived on a single income for about 12 years and we are still doing well. I totally agree with you that it is important to save that second income so you can acclimate yourself to what the budget will be like when you finally do quit. This was probably the best advice we were given before we got married. So, after college when I started working full time my whole paycheck went into the bank for about 3 years. It was hard at the time to not see any of the money but I knew I would be grateful for it when the kids came along and we have been. We now have 5 kids and I have loved having this time with my kids. My husband doesn’t make a super high income so that isn’t why we’ve been able to make it work. It’s been a daily choice to stick with the plan we have made. Starting about 5 years ago it was really tough because that was around the time all of our friends started upgrading their lifestyles and it was hard not to be jealous. But I wouldn’t change what we have done for anything! Great post!

    • Thank you Stacy 🙂

      I also find it really tough when friends/family upgrade their lifestyles and we choose to stick the course instead. I really appreciate you coming by and reading!

  4. Great article! We live in one of the most expensive cities in the country (LA), and we are also doing just fine on 1 income. We are a family of 4, rent a condo (which is pricey but have no choice due to cost of living here), shop at Aldi’s to save on groceries. We have 1 car payment (we shopped around for a low apr and got a good deal on the car) which we are about to pay off. Got rid of cable and switched to sling. Have a very low payment for 1 cell phone. We don’t really shop for clothes- we get clothes if needed when I get a bonus. It helps that my job provides me with a bonus and other perks like a free cell phone. I am able to save in my 401k and have life insurance in case of an emergency. It also helps that I’ve been a saver for over 20 years so I am used to living below my means. We use points for travel. Have no debt except the 1 car. We also tried living off of 1 income before kids and we found that easy so it was easy to make the change. People don’t realize how much money they waste. I also Bring lunch to work. The list goes on…. all it takes is to stop keeping up with the Joneses. And because I started saving in my 20’s, I Am on track to meet my retirement goals. I also think waiting to have kids helped me save money early on so we were ready financially to give up 1 income. You can do it if you want it!!

  5. I really enjoy this post because it’s a great topic and it reminds me of how my husband and I live (no car debt, no new stuff, etc.). Our jobs have always had a tinge of instability to them, so we always strived to live on one income in case that became our reality. Now we have a little one (almost 9 months). Of course, now we are even more hyper-analytical about our finances because we always want to support him well. Even though we don’t need to try to live on one income (and both hope to keep working), this post provided some good ideas and another way to look at options in the future. Thanks!

    • Thank you for the kind comment SH – it’s always great to hear from others that have done the single-income thing. It’s not the easy route but it’s well-worth it 🙂

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