Why we choose to live on one income – creating a simple, handcrafted lifeToday I want to dive into a topic that most people are uncomfortable talking about – money. The way our family handles money makes a huge difference in our lives. Knowing where our money comes from and where it goes is one of the cornerstones of creating a life that we love.
Let’s start with a bit of background – we have two kids, a house in one of the fastest growing cities in the United States (Dallas, TX), and we live on one income. My husband works while I stay home with the kids. Although he makes a reasonable amount of money, it’s not like he’s an executive at a huge company making six figures. He’s a worship minister making an average income for our area. I tell you these things because when I hear about someone living on one income, then I hear that the breadwinner is making six figures or more, in my head I’m thinking “Well, of course they can live on one income!”
That is not us. We are not some family with extraordinary circumstances. We are a normal family living a slightly abnormal life because of how we choose to spend our money.
When people ask what I do and I tell them I stay at home with my kids, often they look like they’ve seen a ghost. Other moms will tell me “Oh, I could never do that!” or “We could never make that work.”
Some of these moms are talking about maintaining their sanity, which I understand – staying at home is not for everyone. But sometimes they are talking about money. As we talk more, they’ll talk about the debt that is keeping them from staying home or they’ll say they have no idea where their money goes each month.
Money is a topic that no one likes to talk about. It’s a little hard to even be vulnerable enough to write this post. But I really think that the way we spend our money has a lot to do with living a handcrafted life. It is totally possible to live on one income. I am able to stay home with my kids and we are able to spend time doing what we love largely because of how we choose to spend our money.
When my daughter was born three years ago, we knew that I would be staying home to raise kids. There was never really any question. Because we live in a large city, any income that I could make would essentially equal the cost of childcare. I could get a corporate job and spend WAY more than 40 hours per week to climb the corporate ladder, but that didn’t sound appealing to us at all.
So when we found out we were pregnant, we sat down and looked at our budget. We made new working budgets and consistently worked on paring down over the next nine months. (The sickness and fatigue of pregnancy stinks, but that nine months of preparation is a blessing!). We ultimate chose to live a more modest lifestyle so that we can avoid living and working just to fill our lives with more stuff.
Living on One Income – What We Sacrifice
There are certainly some sacrifices that come with choosing to live on one income.
- Clothes – We very rarely buy new clothes. I maintain a pretty small capsule wardrobe filled with pieces that can be worn multiple ways and I buy great condition used clothes for my kids through consignment shops and sales.
- Trips – We typically take one bigger vacation during the year, but it’s always something we save up for. We have never put a trip on a credit card. That means we don’t seem to take the extravagant international adventures we see our friends taking. We live far away from our families, so most of our vacations are to go see family and there’s honestly no place we’d rather be.
- Hobbies – We don’t have frivolous hobbies. When I wanted to buy more craft supplies, I opened an Etsy shop and sold the things I was making. When my husband wants to buy more tools, he sells tools that he doesn’t need or builds something to sell to save the money before purchasing the new tool.
- Activities – We tend to choose activities for our kids and our family that give us the most bang for our buck. We purchased a zoo membership and have used that almost every time we have a “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do?” kind of weekend. My preschooler gets one activity during the summer (so she can’t do dance, gymnastics, and swimming lessons – we choose one). We have also asked relatives for activities instead of toys for holidays. For example, our daughter has gotten swimming lessons for Christmas instead of toys she’ll forget about in a month.
- Toys – Speaking of toys, we are very intentional about the toys we bring into our house. Our kids don’t have the newest and fanciest toys. We have a simple ‘toy style’ that consists of a lot of pretend play and building toys that won’t be outdated in a couple of years. Unless we have a gift card, we don’t purchase new toys – our kid’s toys often come from consignment sales or garage sales. But I’ve gotten some incredible deals at those sales for really high quality toys – I just work a little harder to find them.
Living on One Income – What We Gain
- We know where our money goes. There’s no mystery – we aren’t left wondering what happened to our money at the end of the month. If we are shorter on money, it’s because we ate out more than we planned. Or maybe we spent extra on birthday presents. It’s very easy to identify holes in our budget and plug them when not as much money goes out each month.
- We live within our means. We don’t have extra money to spend on a credit card payment, so we have never had a credit card. And we only spend money that we have, which is actually very freeing.
- Time with our family. We have both made family time a priority mainly because we love it. Because neither of us has to work 60+ hours a week just to ‘keep up’ with our lifestyle, we have the freedom to spend lunches, evenings, and weekends together as a family.
- Communication. The result of spending a lot of time together as a family? We talk a lot more. Of course we still have disagreements, but it’s a lot easier to get back on the same page because we aren’t so busy with work that we only see each other in passing.
- Contentment. If we decided that we just NEEDED to have new clothes every month or the latest Apple accessory at every release, we would have to get more jobs and spend more time working to support those habits. We would work more to buy more things, but we would never even have time to spend enjoying those things.
- Creativity. Our daughter knows she doesn’t get a new toy every time something breaks. She has learned how to fix broken things and care for the toys she has. It also causes us to be more creative as a couple. When we needed new curtains, we made Bleached Drop Cloth Curtains, when we wanted a shiplap wall, we built one ourselves using plywood. A lot of our creativity comes from creative problem solving and trying to save money.
We do make real sacrifices, but what we gain by living on one modest income far outweigh the sacrifices. For us, there was really no contest. Although we might feel a tinge of jealousy when other post their glamorous trips on Facebook, that feeling is fleeting. The trade off is staying home to raise my kids and a home environment we love.
Do you have any questions about how to live on one income? I’ll talk more specifically about how we’re able to live on one income in the future. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter below to know when that comes out. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to tell you anything you want to know about our situation.
Subscribe to the Newsletter for Free Updates
Subscribe to get DIY projects, recipes, and tips to live simply and create beautiful things delivered right to your inbox.