Friday, September 7, 2007

If you live on one income, it has to be a large one?

I have received a lot of response about posts where I expressed my desire to be a keeper-at-home in the future. A few of them were posted as comments on this blog, and others I got through email. Some of them implied that living on one income is only an option for rich people in rich countries, and that I don't know real financial hardships.

Those who have read more than a post or two on my blog probably figured out that I'm not some sort of pampered little princess who never lacked a thing. As I mentioned for example in this post, I was raised by a single mother, and we had to live on her small income alone (no help from my father whatsoever). As I described in that same post, it wasn't easy. We struggled. At some points it was not even frugality – it was real poverty. We never had a car; even public transportation seemed like a great toll on our minuscule budget! There was a long period when we never went on vacations. We never ate out, and trips to the movies were a rare treat. We had to save on food, clothes… anything you can imagine – because there was just no other choice.

Things have improved gradually, but the message I carried away with me from the toughest times was that if it was possible for us to live on Mom's income alone, it's also possible for other families where the husband earns the same amount of money. They say they can't afford it – but I know that if we made it through because we had to, it can also be done if we choose to do it. I know that if I married a man who earns a salary similar to what my Mom had back then, and we said we want to live on his income alone, we'd be told a thousand times again and again that it's simply impossible, it can’t be done. But that would sound unconvincing to me, as I already saw this budget in action.

Frugality isn't oppressive. It's liberating. It's liberating to know that you can easily do without half the things our culture claims you 'need'; that you can make ends meet and be debt-free even with an income that automatically defines you as 'poor'. It's liberating to be self-sufficient and resourceful, knowing you have freedom to choose the best for your family.

I'd like to stress again and again that I'm not passing judgment on anyone. I'm just trying to explain why I think living on one income can be an option even when it seems there's simply no way it could work out. I'm not arguing right now that it can always work out, no matter what – my point here is that many families, who think they can't afford living on one income, could probably become more frugal and creative and make ends meet if they were put in a situation that required it.

Don't be mistaken, it will probably take major sacrifices. I understand there can be a variety of circumstances and I think each family should pray about it and seek God's guidance, and each wife should submit to the authority of her husband. If my husband insists that I work outside the home, I will. But I do want the decision to be based on what our options really are, and not on what's the socially acceptable size of income needed to 'make a living'.

43 comments:

Green Eyes said...

I think I've mentioned to you before that my husband and I lived on his minimum wage income for over 6 months, and he rarely got anywhere near "full time" hours. Did we do without? Surely. Did we go hungry? Not one day.

Just today I had a friend tell me she wishes she could "stay home like you," but her man "doesn't have a good job." I was thinking, "It's literally illegal for him to make less than my husband did!"

By the way, Anna, thanks for stopping by my little infant blog so faithfully. I/it/we appreciate it. :D

Kathleen said...

Amen! Amen!

Kathleen said...

And I completely agree with your fourth paragraph. Frugality is liberating: continuous buying of things is nothing more than slavery to material goods.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been married for 18 years, my wife worked for the first year and a half of our marriage, after that she stayed home with our children. I dropped out of high school, never earned a degree, have 8 children and never have been on government assistance. We really have never went without too much.

Ewokgirl said...

I became a SAHW after one year of marriage. It's the best decision we ever made. We bought a house based on a one-salary income, and we made sure not to get in over our heads. When people say they can't survive on one income, I think the issue is often that they've overburdened themselves by buying too big a house (maybe they qualified for a larger mortgage because they both worked at the time, and they didn't bother to look ahead long-term), too expensive a car, or they've chosen to live by a standard that is impossible to maintain without a second income.

It all boils down to priorities and choices. I think you're very wise to plan ahead like this and be willing to potentially live on less in order to be at home. While I do not believe that women HAVE to be at home, I do believe that life at home is less stressful when the wife is there full time. I know it's made our lives better, at least!

Coupon Addict said...

We live on one income and my husband is finishing his business degree. I know I have said this many times. Lot's of the "well meaning" people, tell me to put my college to degree to work. Are the kidding? I use it everyday in my home and family life! It is fun to be frugal. We have a great life on our humble income. I am smarter now with money than when I earned an income. Why? Because my & husband's family vision depends upon it. I love just being with him & my daughter on weekends. We are blessed beyond words. I might drive a 10 year old car, shop at thrift stores, and go to the beauty schools for my "salon" experince!" BUT, instead of my daughter being farmed out to some one else to raise, She sits in the shopping cart singing in that sweet baby angel voice while I look for bargins and deals. FRUGALITY is FUN!
Anna your posts are always great!

Stam House said...

VEry well said, great post by the way!!!!

We are living with one (very small) income my husdand work 3 diffrent job to be able to support us.

We are happy, we have a roof over our head, acces to the internet, food (my husband is a baker so it's nice to have fresh bread), clothing, we are bless beyond what we need.

I heard one surmon about money and our need, Our pastor said that we desire will never be fufill here on earth, we allways want more and say I'll be happy when... But God said that we sould be happy with having enough food and enough clothing not clothing to show off or food to waist but enough for us to survive

Look around you all, do you have a computer, a car, a house, food in the fridge, a fridge, money in you pocket, money in the bank, a cell, a TV, a DVD player etc... if you own any of these you are richer then 85 % of the people of this world!

We are rich and we do not even know it!

Living with less help us to see more about God because having to much clutter our view on our great provider!

Anna S said...

Well said, everyone! I love reading your thoughts, keep 'em coming!

If you are reading this post right now, it means you have internet access, and that probably means you have food and a roof over your head, too, and most likely also a bank account. It means you can read and have a basic level of education. To sum it up, you have all you need and more! Praise Him for hor beautifully He has provided for you.

Lisa in ND said...

Hi Anna! I really enjoy your blog. I was raised by a single mom also (I also have a younger sister). We were fortunate enough to live with my widowed grandmother, so we always has a roof over our heads and she took care of us while mom worked. No, there wasn't much money at all, but we ALWAYS had food, clothes, and anything else we "needed." I don't remember having a miserable childhood at all because I didn't have a TV in my room or get fancy vacations or expensive clothes.

You know what? I feel sorry for these people who are so trapped (and I do mean TRAPPED) in this materialistic society. It always has to be "bigger and better." Many of the people we know who have a lot of nice things (big house, fancy SUV, etc) are NOT HAPPY. One woman I know continually complains, even though she lives in a beautiful home, has a great husband and 3 healthy kids, etc. etc. She complains because her house isn't as big as so-and-so's, and her bedroom set is 5 years old, and it sure would be nice to have a 65-inch screen TV instead of just a 50-inch one. Unfortunately, I know too many people with this mindset.

I have 3 kids and do work, but work at home doing transcription, so my 14-month-old is here with me while I work. My boys (now 17 and 9) had to be shipped off to daycare at very young ages. It's heartbreaking and very tough. Unfortunately, it's what people tell you (even my own family) what you SHOULD do. I remember crying when my oldest was a baby and I didn't want to leave him, and my mom said "well, you have to work, people can't survive on one income anymore." Well, there's a lot of proof out there that you CAN!

Well, I am babbling way too much and probbably taking up way to much room in your blog! You do a wonderful job. I wish I'd had your wisdom at 22, instead of starting to see things differently as an old lady of 44. :) God bless! Lisa in ND

Anna S said...

Hi Lisa, and thanks for sharing your experience! Unfortunately, my mother (don't get me wrong: my very dear and beloved mother) is of a similar mindset as the woman you described. Today she complained to me about how poor she is and how she never has enough for what she needs, and how she's afraid that when I do have children, they will go hungry. 'Were you ever hungry?' - I asked. No, she wasn't. We always had enough money for food, warm clothes during the winter, roof over our heads and health care. What was she afraid of, then? That I won't be able to afford all sorts of expensive vacations and activities for my children... *sigh*

Mrs. Brigham said...

A large income is not necessary, but patience, contentment, humbleness, and thankfulness most certainly are. Let's face it, if these virtues were in more plentiful supply, the stores would be making A LOT money.

I do not know much about the economy or financial situation in other countries, but in America the average savings amount is a big fat ZERO. At the same time, the average debt load is in the thousands. I am willing to bet that the purchases of luxuries and silly things is probably at an all time high. (Do not even get me started on our mortgage foreclosure crisis!) If a young person has the wisdom to stay out of financial trouble or the humility to stop now and solve their debt problem, they will wind up having far more "disposable income" on even a modest salary than people with much higher incomes but lots of debt. The same principle applies is somebody can swallow their pride and have the good sense to realize that a car and house do not need to be perfect, expensive, or the "American Dream"; they just need to nice enough to live in and work well.

I am not a huge fan of trying to live in the past, but I do think this is one area where we must learn some wisdom from the older generation. They lived through wars, depressions, and other crisis and not only survived them, but thrived because of them. Older people have much wisdom to share and habits that are worthy of emulation. They also have attitudes that could stand to be soaked up my younger people. One of my grandfather's friends came to America with his family in the 1940s and told me he just does not understand young people today and all of their complaining. He states that when he was young, people would have accepted even a low paying job at McDonald's with a smile as, no matter what the wage, this job was opportunity. This sort of thinking is not frequently seen anymore...

Mrs. Brigham said...

I came across this link several years ago and have used it whenever I need a dose of reality. I encourage everybody to check it out and see how rich you really are!
http://www.globalrichlist.com/

Michelle said...

Great post! My hubby and I too are on one income. A while back, he was self employed and I had a part time job working at home - collectively making about $800 a month. It was brutal, But God always provided. As soon as I decided to quit my job (I worked hours at a time bent over my sewing machine making medical scrubs), no more than a week later, my DH got a job which bumped him up to 30K a year. Man we felt rich!

Anyway, thank you for your comment on my blog! Unfortunately, many of the women on cafemom are not believers, so naturally, they just don't get it!

Anna, I'm so blessed and encouraged by your blog - to see a young woman mature in the faith! Blessings on you and your family!

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh when I read your post about having to be rich to stay at home. I grew up in a family of six, mom stayed home, dad worked at a factory and we NEVER mad more than what is defined as poverty level in the USA (and what defines poverty in the usa is laughable 95% if the "poor" in the usa have microwaves, cell phones, 2+ tv's etc.) I got married at 22 and we have never made more that the poverty level (and I have stayed home for the past 4 years (going to university the last 2)) Anyway we drive a almost 10 year old car the ONLY new thing we have EVER bought as a couple is this computer I am now typing on. EVERYTHING else is used and has been given to us or bought thrift. And we send our children to a private Christian school (and manage to pay for it). What's the point? I am happy with our life, you just have to prioritize and make it work if you want to stay home. My sister is "trapped" as another poster put it and I agree that she is trapped she just refuses to do without "stuff" but is driving herself crazy with work, kid's school and afterschool activities.

JoAnn said...

I agree that though it can be hard, it can be done. We have lived on one income for 12 years now. Once and a while I would do some babysitting or something inside the home, but mostly it's been my husbands income that has supported us. And believe me, it wasn't always a big income. It is usually what you look at as a need and a want. A lot of my 'needs' are wants that can be done without. But I do agree it's up to each individual couple as to what the Lord is showing them to do in their families. No one should be told they HAVE to stay home, and no one should be told they HAVE to go to work from outside of the husband and wife making a prayerful, godly decision. :)

JoAnn

USAincognito said...

There is nothing wrong with affording expensive items or having material possessions as long as you don't start to "worship" them. If a family can afford living a more comfortable lifestyle, they shouldn't have to feel guilty about it either.

Anna S said...

USA,

I agree with you; I don't think there's anything wrong with having nice things. The problem starts when we think our happiness depends on that.

Candy said...

Our family lives on my husbands income. We chose that I would be a full time homekeeper since after we had our son (almost 10 years now). Im 32 years old. I havent really had a job outside the home except before my son was born, I was 22 and owned my own tanning salon business. But been home ever sicne he was born.
It can be done.
Excellent post,
Candy :)

Laura H. said...

A way to live on one income, is to live frugally! My Mom has been doing that for years! And we have actually had enough for extras, on my Dad's small wage! If you want to read more about how she did it, go to:http://centsnsencibility.blogspot.com. She talkes about it alot there! I have learned so much from her!

Laura H

Kristy Howard said...

What a great post, Anna! This is a topic that I could get "preachy" about!! :D I am a stay-at-home-wife and mom and have not worked outside the home a single day during the 5 1/2 years of our marriage. My husband does not have a "great paying" job- he is a pastor and our church is small. Yet we own our own home, have two vehicles (no car payments!), and manage to save money every month. I have a very wise and hard working husband who is willing to go the extra mile to be sure that I am home to take care of our little girls... on my part, I am glad to live frugally in order to be a full time mom! No, we don't go hungry or wear ragged clothes... the truth is, God blesses and helps those who strive to live out His principles!!

AnneK said...

My husband has a much better salary than me, but when we bought a house, we made sure that the mortgage would be something we can afford to pay off even if HE loses his job. We try to avoid debt like the plague. Maybe it is the legacy we got from our parents. My dad always used to say when we were growing up "Cut the shirt according to the cloth" And we try and do that and more by investing my salary such that we don't even see it. That way we will not miss it if I stop working.

Having said that, I think one income is not a very viable option in Eastern countries unless the husband makes good money. Trust me, I am from there. Here I can buy stuff for pennies with coupons and sales and deals. There is no such thing there. Even food is so expensive. There were no homeschooling resources. Public schools are terrible. Private schools are unaffordable for the middle class. I could go on with a lot of these things.

But here in US it is possible. We try and be frugal in most areas of our life, but one of our guilty pleasures is vacations. We love to travel, but we try and cut costs as much as we can. And the other is I never buy clothes from thrift stores or used clothes places. Somehow I can never bring myself to do that. Blame it on our Asian culture :D But then I don't buy very many clothes, period.

Got another on the way said...

YaHOO! Thank you, Anna, for this appropriate and encouraging post. Thank you folks, for your encouraging comments. I'm so weary, even sick, of being told how "lucky" I am to be a stay at home mom by other women (I'm thinking, didn't your family just get back from a week long trip to the Orlando amusement parks?). My little family lived in a moldy, mouse infested hole with flaking, leaded paint for 18 months to pay off a hospital bill, and went without health ins. for 20 months. But we got out of debt and stayed out for the duration of our seminary experience. For the past 18 months we have lived quite comfortably, even with luxury, thanks to God's provision: a few good, honest friends; an honest boss; and honest mechanic; all those folks who give nice second hand things to us or to the thrift stores where I shop. Weve even gotten affordable, non-tax funded, health ins.! But that's not luck. God is good to all His children! I do long for the days of "family wages" for men, and for the much lower taxes our parents and grandparents paid, but God is good in all ages. Thank you again, folks, for the encouraging stories, and for letting me tell mine. Here are a couple links I find helpful and encouraging. The first is 50 finantial suggestions for frugal home economics. The second is the blog of a mother of 14 who still manages to stay at home!
http://www.lainesletters.com/letters/homeec.html
http://14gems.blogspot.com/

PandaBean said...

We now live on only DH's income with a 7 month old. I haven't bought new clothes for myself in 2 years, except for one skirt I found brand-new for $4. I'm trying to start learning how to cook and bake from scratch to cut down more on our groceries and give us healthier food to eat. It's tight, but not impossible.

My sister has a blog that DH will read occasionally. Usually whatever he tells me about her posts make me quite upset (we don't get along the best, but not the worst), but this last time she expressed her amazement at our being able to have our huge 3 bedroom appartment, a baby, and live on one income. She works full-time, her live-in (at my parents' house) boyfriend works retail nearly full-time, and she still lives at home. She's beginning to think of moving out, but she simply doesn't think she makes enough money. I know just from living with them (and the rest of my family) for a year that there is a ton of things they can cut from their grocery budget and still eat healthy (maybe healthier!) and stop buying all the games and toys and computers and /stuff/! I pray that she will find God someday and choose to follow His path.

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

So many good comments & ideas here, as people either reminisce about their own upbringing on a very modest income, or share that they are doing it now, as adults. Frugality can be lots of fun...sometimes extremely challenging, but always worth it, I think. I never want my children to see me whining & pining for things I don't have. This is a very dangerous & self-destructive road to head down. We DO try to improve our lot in life. I just don't want to do it on debt. I want my children to see the value of patience, & tackling projects as our income will allow, not on a plastic shopping spree.

I have a feeling, Anna, that you have the strength of character, & certainly the willingness, to live on one income once you & N.P. are married. You seem mentally & emotionally prepared to do the hard work required to be successful at it!!

Brenda

USAincognito said...

Anna:
Hope you don't mind my straightforward comments I oftentimes send your way! ;) Your posts are always intriguing to read and I enjoy reading others' comments.

Ashley said...

I am part of a "large family" forum - I'm the board's wanna be! ;) I think my husband might have the 'best' job of all the large families I know. However, it's all in how you see it!! Everyone at dh's work, who knows what he makes, has not idea how I stay home on his income!

A friend was telling me about how her uncle "claimed" to be burried in debt, with his new house, and new cars. She actually told me numbers! He works where my dh does, so the $$ per hour would be roughly the same. When I told my dh what she told me, he looked at me in shock. "I don't know how we would make it if we had a mortgage payment that big! I bet he is struggling."

We do just fine; we did alright when dh was stocking shelves at a grocery store when we married, so this job simply makes staying home even easier!

If we had school loans, or bought a house that stretched our budget, or two new cars, these things would drastically change our financial picture. As it is, dh does drive a new car which is soon to be paid off super early due to double and triple payments (as he drives over 37 miles one way to work we wanted a good car) and because we live in a small town, we live quite comfortably in a 3bedroom, 2bathroom. Out of six couples to marry within 2 years, we were the first to move into a house, although both spouses work in all of the other relationships!

We are also the only couple with children, our second arriving in November!

We just returned from visiting friends in Oklahoma - her dh has never made more than $8 an hour - but he saved from the time he was 15yo! After they married, they bought 20 acres and turned a tiny hunting lodge into their home while they save to build a larger house. They have two cars, and live quite comfortably while expecting their second child.

It is so important to live *within* your means! And I think being frugal can be fun, too. :) My dh got a 4yr degree in 5.5 years - without loans and with only $4,000 total in schoolarships (a grand a semester). Sadly, I don't know of very many people that go to school without loans, and I know many that are still burdened by these types of debts. :(

Living on one income doesn't mean you never take vacations or you dress in thread bare clothing. It means you shop SMART!

Rhonda Jean said...

Hello Anna. You're right. Frugality is liberating, it's one of the greatest liberations. Thank you for stopping my my blog. I will be back later to read some of your archive. : )

Jordin said...

Excellent encouragement for families living on meager incomes! It CAN be done--but only if you WANT it to be done. :) Great post, Anna!

Gothelittle Rose said...

The good commenters have got the whole story backwards. It isn't that you have to be rich in a rich country to live on one income. It's that in a rich country, you can be poorer on one income while still exceeding the quality of life in poorer countries, whether it be one income or two!

Basically, the commenters here have got it straight. :)

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

You can live on one income! Like you said it may mean sacrifices and doing with out some things, but it can be done!

Mimi said...

It's not what you MAKE but what you SPEND that creates the contentment or the dis contentment...
no matter how much you make if you over-spend you are still not happy...and both of you working will now solve the problem
so it is important to budget yourself according to what your husband makes and be content with what you have... you are doing a great job with your blog anna

Karen said...

There is an old proverb that goes something like, "First get a house, then get a wife." We didn't exactly work it that way, but I think it's a wise thing to do, and that's how people used to think for years and years. They wouldn't even talk about marriage unless they knew they were somewhat prepared for a family, and I think the only reason we don't think that way now is because most people think they will just use birth control the first years of marriage and it will work 100% (haha...riiight) until they want to have a family. My firstborn is living proof to the inefectiveness of that plan!!

But yeah, when I think of all the high school years I wasted just goofing off when I could've been working at least part-time and saving for the future, I could just kick myself.

Karen said...

I think most people would scoff at how much we live on too, but actually we always get by quite well and have never been in debt! That's because we're frugal and resourceful, and we go without a lot of things other people think of as a "must" like a car!

Lyn said...

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I grew up with a single mom of several children. Not easy at all, and yet she made it quite gracefully. She didn't sit around feeling sorry for herself or rely on others. She did what she had to do.

It's amazing what you can accomplish if you trust God and work hard - a character issue that is lacking in many (not all) youth today.

I have been a SAHW for quite a few years now, and even through life's difficulties, I always am grateful for what God has given to me. I feel blessed. I have enough! If you have food, shelter, clothing and even a few extras, one is very blessed. It is quite amusing when I drive my twice-hit car around town - I get looks all the time. I am just happy to have a running car!

About idols/materialism: The bible addresses this - it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than it is for a camel to go through a needle's eye. Even if one can afford anything they desire, I still think many let "things" become more important than God. It doesn't take bowing down to something to make it your idol. If you own many things and yet those things come before God or take away from Him, that is idolatry.

I think it's important before you marry to have such topics as working/not working thoroughly discussed as to not cause problems later on. I wish you all the best in your upcoming plans!

Haus Frau said...

We've had much and we've had little. Once upon a time my husband held a corporate position that paid *very* handsomely but he traveled 3 weeks out of the month. Many things happened inbetween that would take far too much post space to share. He now makes half what he once did, rarely travels, is home by 3:30pm (begins work very early tho) and has time with his family. We'll take this over lots of money...any day.

During this time we also downsized our living area, by leaving our 2 story 2400 sf home and entering our lovely cottage that's plenty big for us of 1400 sf. Easier to keep clean and we live and love closer, and there's still always room for guests. Large homes separate people, imo.

El was about 6 years old during a particularly difficult financial time. She prayed before bed one night: "Thank you God for everything we have. And thank you God for everything we don't have." I never forget it.

Last night my friend and I were discussing the concept of simplicity, how things have a way of becoming clearer lately and that **things** just aren't important any longer. We junk up our lives and the things multiply as if they're rabbits!

An excellent book I picked up years ago is "Downscaling" by Dave and Kathy Babbitt, originally published by Moody Press in 1993. It has made a huge difference in our lives and hearts.

Anna S said...

Wow! Thank you for your amazing input, everyone. It was so refreshing to read after hearing many 'it can't be done, you don't know what you're talking about' rants.

PS: USA, so far I haven't observed you said anything offensive, so don't worry :P

Nanny Y. said...

I totally relate to your experience of being raised, without help, by a single mom. It was not easy, sometimes to the point where my little sister and I would call dinner a "loaves and fish" trick. It was a seeming miracle that the food that seemed so little came out to be enough. We totally felt God blessing us in that way that even when we could not afford groceries we never went hungry, somehow there was always enough. It is only consumerism that says you need for hubby to be a millionaire, or at least earn 6 figures, to stay home. Another great post!

Ways of Zion said...

It can be done! We've done it for 5 years when I started volunteering at our Heritage school (CHC) and then started filling our quiver with arrows! I find doing things the good 'ole fashioned way (like cooking and baking) saves a lot of money, and finding moms that you can swap kids clothes with go a long way. We bearly need to get the kids anything and one is 4 the other 2! its great!

Diane said...

Anna....I just want to say what a sweetheart you are! I often stop by and read your blog and invariably find something inspiring or thought provoking. I am a 50yo single momma of 5, and yet I am learning things from you! hmmm, how did you manage to get soooo smart so fast?:)
love,
Diane

deb said...

The number one reason why one person can't remain home is debt. If you are in deep debt-as are many Americans-then you can't have one person remain home due to the bills. Once you are in debt it is very difficult-not impossible,though-to get out. SO,I would advise all young couples to ignore friends and family who tell them that they 'need' new furniture or they 'need' that second car. Avoid debt like the plague and save, save, save before you have children.

Anna S said...

Diane - thank you so much for stopping by! It's so humbling that older ladies find something of interest in what I have to say :o)

Anna S said...

Deb - I *so* agree with you. So many people recklessly accumulate debt when they are young, and then pay for the consequences by becoming enslaved to those loans they need to pay off.

However, I heard some inspiring, courageous stories about couples who managed to become debt-free even on one income. So, while it's certainly more difficult, it's not entirely impossible.

agodlyhomemaker said...

don't let these naysayers drag you down! it most certainly is possible to live on one income , even if it isn't large! the difference is knowing needs vs wants and placing value on the right things. sometimes we of the lesser income lifestyle need to find alternatives to get the things we want but it can be done and quite well!!