My Family Lived on One Income for 6 Months. Here's Why -- and How
- When I had twins, I had to largely stop working for six months to care for them.
- By limiting our spending from the get-go, that lack of income didn't end up hurting us financially.
It was a tough situation, but we made it work.
When I gave birth to twin daughters a little over seven years ago, I knew that I wouldn't be able to work as a freelance writer at full capacity. Between caring for them and looking after my toddler, my days were pretty much maxed out with constant feedings and diaper changes. And while I had some childcare lined up for my son (thanks, extended-hour preschool), my daughters were obviously too young to go off to a daycare center outside the house.
Of course, the one downside to being self-employed is that you don't get any paid time off whatsoever. As such, I got no parental leave when I had my daughters.
Now I did manage occasional work when my daughters were very young. But for the most part, I basically took six months off to care for them, which meant a big loss of income for my family. But a few smart decisions on our part beforehand made it so we didn't incur debt or even dip into our savings during that time.
Smart choices paid off
When my husband and I put together a budget before having kids, we made a rule -- we would only take on essential expenses that one income could cover. Prior to having kids, and to this day, we use my husband's salary to pay for everything from our mortgage to our cars to our grocery bills. Meanwhile, we use my earnings for things like dinners out, vacations, and fun things for the kids. We also try to save as much of my income as we can.
Because we kept our major expenses to a level that my husband's income could cover, we didn't run into too many snags when I took six months off to care for my kids. Granted, we did have to cut back on a number of things.
For example, my husband and I usually like to have a couple of kid-free nights a month. That means paying for a babysitter since we don't have family nearby to watch our kids for free, and it also means paying for whatever activity we're doing, whether it's dinner, bowling, or a show.
Cutting out date nights for six months was a bummer -- but it also meant not having to dip into savings to treat ourselves. And besides, let's be real -- with twin infants in the house, pulling off date nights wasn't such an easy thing anyway.
We also didn't take a big family vacation the year our twins were born. And we basically didn't make any purchases that weren't essential.
But all told, we managed just fine without my income for a half a year's time. And I'm very grateful for that.
Could you manage on one income?
Many people in dual income households can't manage all of their essential bills on one salary alone, and that's okay. But if you're in a situation where you truly need both incomes to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, then it's important to have a decent emergency fund. That way, if one person loses a job, you'll have savings to tap until that person is gainfully employed again.
It's also a good idea to give yourself as much financial leeway as possible if you're planning to have kids. Even if you're entitled to some amount of parental leave, it may not be enough to cover all of the time you're out of work. And the last thing you want is the stress of racking up debt at a time when you're also adjusting to life with a new baby.
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