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Our 3-Year Transition from 2 Incomes to 1 Income

September 3rd, 2012 at 09:18 pm

Since I am new here, I thought I'd give a little more background on our situation.

Approximately 3 years ago, I quit my full-time job to be a stay-at-home mom. We had just adopted our second son and my job was not very family friendly. I was really looking forward to my new role and since we had about $15-$20k in the bank and had done a budget on paper, I thought we would be ok.

And let me just say that is has taken us 3 years to adjust to living on one income and we are almost to the point of rebuilding our $20k emergency fund.

Why has it been so hard? I guess when we were both working, we had a budget but we had a rather large amount at our disposal for entertainment and buying miscellaneous stuff. That bucket totally shrank with one income but in the beginning we spent money like we had on 2 incomes.

When we had 2 incomes, we could absorb large expenditures in one month. The kids needed clothes for going back to school? I could buy them all in one month. Not anymore.

We were also blessed with an additional child--unexpected, and we made some major changes to accommodate our bigger family. We bought a minivan and took on a car loan, and moved into a bigger house in a different suburb. Major changes!

I had this vision of all the things I would do as a stay-at-home mom. Take the kids to museums, jump house places...you know, fun things every day. However, the reality is that those places all cost a lot of money! Now I still take the kids places, but they are mostly free places--the neighborhood pool, parks, the library, etc.

For the past 3 years we had this pattern of over-spending our budget every month, and then sneaking some money out of our savings account into our checking account so that we wouldn't carry a balance on our credit cards. And we also had the maximum amount of taxes pulled our of my husband's check so that we'd get a big tax refund. So we had this mentality that even if we dipped into our savings, we'd replenish it back with our tax refund.

And we repeated that. For 3 years. Every year we'd drain our savings down to almost zero, then replenish it with a big tax refund. Repeat.

So we maybe had our "emergency fund" for a month or two out of the year.

Last year we had a goal of getting our emergency fund up to snuff and keeping it there. But then we had some major pet health expenditures (like surgery and other treatments) and we got derailed.

This year, we have done much better. Of course, things happen to dig into our savings like they always will (both cars needed new tires). But, we have been sticking to our monthly budget. We are also not taking the maximum amount of taxes out of my husband's paycheck and using part of that to live on so that we won't have to wait on that money until tax refund time.

Overall, we are doing more planning ahead so that we're not caught off-guard during the month. I spread out the kids' school clothing purchases over many months. In July I bought backpacks and jeans. August was socks and underwear. September will be light jackets and long-sleeved shirts. October will be heavy jackets.

We have been putting aside money in a Christmas fund. I'm also spending it as I find things that the kids want when they are on sale.

Mid-year we decided to take Dave Ramsey's advice and cut back on our 401k contributions until we have our emergency fund in place. So we are down to a 7% contribution until the end of the year when we have enough money in our emergency fund and enough to pay our property taxes. Then we'll go back to 15%.

Anyways...it's been a tough road transitioning from 2 incomes down to 1 income and I feel like we are finally on our way to living smartly on the money we have.

Can anyone out there relate to this? Has the transition from 2 incomes to 1 income been tough for you?

4 Responses to “Our 3-Year Transition from 2 Incomes to 1 Income”

  1. Looking Forward Says:

    Belated Welcome!

  2. LuckyRobin Says:

    Well, I can relate to being a stay at home mother living on one income, but when my husband and I got married, we had agreed to always live on his income and if I chose to work that would always be extra income and not living income. I imagine it would be very hard to cut back if you were used to living on two incomes and spending the majority of it.

    One thing that really helps us is that we set money aside every month for the bigger expenditures. We have a car repair fund, a vacation fund, an appliance fund, a property tax fund, a medical fund, a birthday fund, a computer fund, a Christmas fund, etc., so that we are always setting aside a little each month so as not to get hit by something big all in one go. It has probably been the most helpful thing we've done with living on one income.

  3. creditcardfree Says:

    I became a stay at home mom in 2001. I think. My husband already two jobs and then added a third, so that I could stay home. He now only has the one job with the Army, but we did what we had to do to make it work. Things get better in time, generally, and we learn new skills to better manage the money. It is a process.

    It's nice you are now moving in a positive direction! Welcome to Saving Advice.

  4. Jerry Says:

    It certainly leads to sacrifice and adjustment when you make that kind of transition, but I cannot argue with your reasons! It is great that your kids have some insurance that you are there to care for them -- and a job that is not inherently family-friendly is not usually likely to become that way! Congratulations on your successes.
    Jerry

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