Yes, You Can Live on One Income

Yes, You Can Live on One Income

Many women try to convince me that it’s simply impossible for women to be keepers at home due to the cost of living these days. Every family needs two incomes, they proclaim. There’s a video called The Homemaker’s Biggest Obligation that I encourage you all to watch about living frugally at home. Here is a  great response by Lindsay Harold to the claim that women can’t afford to be home full time.

The biggest barrier to women staying at home is finances. A lot of people look at their current expenses as a two-income family and think they could never afford to pay the bills if they suddenly lost the wife’s income. But this is a short-sighted view. The family expenses also drop when when the wife comes home, not just the income.

When a wife stays at home, she can cook from scratch rather than eating out, getting takeout, or relying on boxed meals. This saves a ton of money. When she is at home, they don’t have the expense of her commute (gas money, train, or bus fares), her work clothes, a second car (possibly with payment) and all the expenses for its upkeep (maintenance, insurance, and smog checks), childcare costs, and so on. Keeping a job requires a certain amount of expense. It takes money to make money, as they say. So the expenses involved in keeping that job have to be taken into consideration in order to make an accurate assessment.

In addition, the couple pays taxes on that second income. Those taxes are an expense that reduces their net income. In fact, a second income often puts families in a higher tax bracket, so this can have a big effect. If they had only one income, they would pay a lot less in taxes. So this is another expense that must be considered.

If the wife stays home, they not only eliminate those expenses from her job, but she can also save extra money by finding ways to be more frugal. I would suggest trying to downsize a car, a home, cable TV, or a cell phone plan, for example. There are a lot of ways we often don’t realize that we are spending money unnecessarily because everybody does it that way. We tend to spend what we have and adjust our lifestyle to our income. We don’t look for ways to save if we have the money to cover our lifestyle as it is, but if we have to cut back, there are usually ways to do it.

Reevaluating the budget is often painful at first. Nobody likes to cut their favorite luxuries, and might even tell themselves it’s not luxury but necessity. But if it is important to have the wife stay home and care for the home and children (and it is), changing our mindset about spending is vital.

For families interested in having the wife come home, the first step is to evaluate your current spending and see what expenses and taxes are associated with the wife’s job. If you consider those expenses, then you have a better picture of your net income (income after expenses of keeping the job). A lot of people are very surprised when they run the numbers and find out that they are getting little financial benefit from a second income after figuring expenses. Some even find that they would be better off financially to have the wife stay home.

On top of this, it is important to evaluate how much you can save if the wife has time at home to do a lot of things for her own family, including cooking, shopping sales, coupon clipping, making her own items (laundry soap, yogurt, clothes, food from a garden, or whatever else she can learn to do), home decor, cleaning, and anything else you currently outsource. Doing things for yourself and your own family means you are paying yourself in savings for your own labor at home rather than paying someone else to do it for you. This can really add up. A penny saved is a penny earned.

If your budget is still short after considering all of these factors, then it’s time to start thinking about making money from home. There are lots of options out there. A wife at home can make crafts and sell them on sites like Ebay or Etsy. She could work for a company out of her home (things like medical billing, for example, can often be done from home). She could start her own business. She could buy and resell wholesale items. She could do online tutoring. She could provide childcare out of her home. We need not be bound to the typical career of a nine to five job outside the home.

If you’re willing to do the work as a couple, there is almost always a way to survive, and even thrive, on one income. Millions of families do it every year, including plenty of people who never thought they could.

Terry Starnes added this to the conversation: “Another thing I would like to add if your priority is to stay home with your children, you will have to be able to make sacrifices. You may have to move to a more affordable state or neighborhood so that you are not house poor (renting may be cheaper than owning), be willing to stay home and not take the car out unless it is necessary, eat less meat, or eat meat less often, and opt for other options of protein such as dried beans, cook from scratch, and cut out cable TV. These are just a few ways to cut back and live on one income. If you truly desire to be home with your family you will be willing to do whatever it takes. You cannot have the same lifestyle you enjoyed on two incomes. Sacrifices have to be made.”

Doug Harold wrote, “One should also add to this the cost of private education since it is so irresponsible these days to put your children in ‘free’ government schools. If a mother is at home, she can save the family a great deal of money by homeschooling.”

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
Provers 13:11

*Picture Source

35 thoughts on “Yes, You Can Live on One Income

  1. So many drain money on stuff they don’t really need. Do you really need your Starbucks coffee daily, your $30 manicures every 2 weeks, your zillion video streaming accounts? Shop at high end stores instead of second hand? It’s more important to be at home and present than have a bunch of material items…

    1. While those things certainly can be a money drain, I think that those are not what are keeping women in the workforce. It is more along the lines of a mortgage, car payments, whose job offers better insurance, childcare, vacations, saving for retirement, college funds, groceries, utilities, etc.

      These heftier things can still be cut, but I think it drives women and husbands away from considering staying home when they hear these callous comments . . . many women who work are not spending money on frivolous things like manicures, coffee, or tv services.

      I worked in a private Christian school and many of the mothers worked. They did not have new clothes, manicures, or haircuts. They were trying to put food on the table and buy winter coats for their children — their husbands were often working two jobs as well just to pay rent and utilities for their large families.

      I appreciate this article Lori posted because it does not assume money is wasting away due to the wife’s frivolous expenses. It is a more practical approach.

      1. Many of the mothers had to work in order to send their children to the private Christian school where you worked, Kate. Pastor John MacArthur urges mothers to not do this since they are called to be keepers at home. Private education is very expensive, whereas homeschooling can be done very cheaply at home with their mothers.

        1. Mothers may not perfectly understand Calculus or Chemistry, but they can teach respect, love, and obedience to the kids. These should be the core of an education anyways. Tutors can be arranged for older kids when needed, but kids need parents to teach them, its commanded. Ephesians 6

          I also want to say that mothers teach kids by how they treat dad. Kids who see mom submit and serve father, do the same. Mothers are the ultimate teachers in this regard.

  2. I’d definitely say most families can easily go to one income if they did this one thing even if they kept everything else the same). If they moved to a cheap apartment or trailer. I believe for most mothers who work outside the home and say it is impossible for them to go to one income either just don’t want to. I refuse to believe it is just because they aren’t smart enough to figure out a way to make it work.

    1. M, I agree with you: I believe that most families can make it work with some diligent efforts to cut back on needless spending. I want to add something, though: I think that there are many mothers who may be book smart and who have advanced degrees, etc. but simply aren’t resourceful or are too prideful to do things like shop secondhand. When I worked, before becoming a stay at home mom, many of my coworkers were visibly put off by the fact that I shopped secondhand. Another thing I want to mention is that coming home means trusting God to provide, while also doing the necessary work to cut expenses.

  3. It used to be a given that no self respecting husband would expect his wife to work outside the home. For a married woman, especially one with children to be forced by circumstances to work, should only ever be an exception, born of necessity – not a choice.

  4. I will take this opportunity to praise my wife a little here. She has always been frugal when it comes to spending our money but lately she has taken it to the next level.

    We became grandparents last year and she has been buying (acquiring) stuff for that grand-baby since before it was born. She shops garage sales, thrift shops and has recently discovered the “Nextdoor” (neighborhood app) website (and others like it) on the internet.

    Among other things, these sites function as a virtual garage sale and many things, people just give away for free. Now it can be time consuming to look through the adds but if you are organized and consistent you can be efficient and effective.

    Considering all of the clothes, toys, games, car seats, strollers, learning things, etc. that she has gotten for our grandchild, averaged out, she has probably paid about 5-10 cents on the dollar (of what it would have cost to purchase new). Once you get one of these items and clean it up or wash the clothes, neither the child nor anyone else will ever know that it was not purchased new in most cases.

    This same effort can be (and has been) applied to adult and home furnishings as well. The old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” has never been more true.

    In general, the internet is a huge time waster for many (if not most) but it can be used for good and productive things also and these neighborhood apps can be very beneficial if utilized correctly.

    1. Hi Trey,
      What I enjoy most about Lori’s blog is I am actually learning how to put everything into practice. Very sweet of you to praise your lovely wife.

      My husband and I are still newlyweds you can say. We are both 29 and expecting our second child. I kept all of our sons clothes and even though we don’t want to find out the gender of our second child they already have MORE than enough. Family has gifted us with so many precious things that I am still pulling tags off our first son’s clothes. We have one cell phone, live in a home we bought cash after we sold our last property (it’s a 2/1 but it’s good enough for us) my husband serves in the Air Force while attending graduate school, I’m home full time (which I love) and I’m saying all this to say…I’ll be checking garage sales and Nextdoor.

  5. Most people have no idea how much money they waste, they simply don’t give it any serious thought.

    Mothers don’t hit the local resale shop for the kids clothes or buy basic food in bulk and make cheap meals.

    Families can take advantage of the economies of scale. It always cost less to feed 5 per person, than 1 per person.

    Mom could always drop dad off at work, if that’s possible, to save from a second car.

    Leftovers are a great way to save, most people throw out good food every day, it’s crazy.

    Where there is a will, there’s a way.

    I would say that 80 percent of the time, people could go without the purchase their making or make a cheaper one.

    If your entire future depended on it, you could really learn to live without things like: fast food, paid haircuts, oversized homes, luxury cars, junk food, big screen tv, paid lawn care, and so many others.

    Dad can do things like, change the oil and brakes, fix the water tank or change a faucet, paint the living room.

    Its easy to stop wasting money if you really want to, you just have to be willing to make the sacrifice.

    If you want a Godly home, the willingness to save money is worth the investment, to insure mom is there for her husband and children.

  6. So much wise advice above! I used to work at a career I enjoyed. Kids were in daycare. We moved and I “retired” and am soooo glad! It was scary to give up my income but God has abundantly provided!!!

    I know someone who was a SAHM and when the kids got a little older she went back to work because they “were broke all the time”. Guess what? They have two incomes and the kids have been latchkey for many years (thank God they ARE good kids) and they are still broke. The more u make the more u will spend! It is not worth it.

    I gave up mani/pedis , Sbux, the dry cleaner (I have made peace in fact with my iron! And my husbands shirts are much better cared for and last much longer) , I have learned to garden, knit, cook well and on and on. It is fun and challenging to learn new things! I stay busy and love being home and my kids have loved it too.

    There can always be sacrifices. Every household could cut down to bare bones if it had to. We live in the land of plenty and while hard times come and go, who of us have actually experienced a Depression-like event? There is always room for improvement and savings if husband and wife are equally motivated and united in purpose. God can also use big life changes like an event you ordinarily might not welcome or having the wife quit a job to be home etc for good and for instruction!

  7. I would encourage families that they can even make big expenses manageable with a little creativity! In my area high school (and homeschool) students can take free courses for college credit and earn up to one year of credit at the local state university or up to a full associate degree at the community college. Imagine that! Even if you literally had not been able to save one penny for your children’s education, you could get each of them a college degree! Surprisingly, most people don’t even know programs like this exist.

  8. My husband and I decided before our kids were even born that we would never put them in daycare, so although we both worked, we juggled it ourselves. He was self-employed and I worked part-time around him. It worked for us.

    Every item in our home (including most of our clothes) are second-hand. It means we can buy better quality than cheap new stuff. I have never had a new appliance in our entire 17 year marriage, but we have all the appliances we need – secondhand is very affordable.

    We have always had to rent cheap houses in farms and avoid the cities. We both drive 1995 & 1996 cars. We have no insurance at all (it’s not compulsory here in NZ) so rely on luck and the public health system.

    Our taxes work differently here so me working doesn’t affect hubby’s tax, but it does affect the tax credit we can get from the government (at a certain income threshold which we are well below).
    We eat well, including meat every night, but we cut back in other ways.

    We don’t buy takeaways often, we never eat out, don’t often buy coffee out etc. No TV. I don’t go to the hairdresser more than once a year, don’t buy expensive cosmetics. We pay school fees/uniforms/stationery off over the year to make it easier.

    It is tough. Really tough. There have been times in the past where we had no food in the cupboards at all.

    But I would never change it for the financial security of a full-time job because my children are growing so quickly and I want to be here to enjoy them.

  9. I was just having this exact conversation last week with my MIL Lori! The BEST decision my husband and I ever made was for me to stop working part time as a NICU RN and be at home with our 3 young children full-time (1, 3, & 5 years). I have so much more energy and patience to care for my children and I’m able to encourage my husband so much more in his career now that I’m not focused on my own career (outside of the home) as well. It has been absolutely amazing to see how the Lord continues to open up multiple promotional opportunities for my husband after we made the decision for me to stay home just 1 year ago.

    I thank God everyday for blessing me with a husband who actually wants me to be at home with our children. I have never been more attracted to him since he has been the sole provider for our family. In return, I am so much more full of joy (and probably more attractive to him as well) because I’m not dealing with the extra stress of even just going to the hospital for a couple shifts/week. The few things we have given up to live on one income has been so easy and our marriage of 8 years has never been so sweet! God is so good! His ways really are the absolute best for our family!! I so appreciate you, Lori and the way you speak the truth in love to young mamas like myself! It is such a gift!

  10. We’re on one income too.

    I’d add another example of savings: we know a “very busy” mom who buys his son new pants when his pants get hole on knees. She doesn’t want to waste time to repair it, so she takes money out of her account and pays for a new pair.

    And she gives his clothes to laundry service and don’t just wash them at home.

    I don’t enjoy sewing but I just sit and repair the holes when it’s needed. And I wash our clothes at home 😀

    What is more important, when you let your kids being raised by strangers, you may then have to pay for psychologist or other therapies for a “difficult” child or for your whole family. You never know what problems will it bring when you’re out of control of your kids for so many hours every day, not being there to give a good example and teach and correct!
    And of course, if you cook and try to choose healthy food, you save on doctors and medicine.

  11. I’m always shocked by the amount of people that fight against Lori’s teaching with the argument that living off one income is unrealistic. My family lived off just my dad’s income and we were always fine. I think people genuinely don’t see where they’re wasting money because some of it seems normal and a big one is wasted food. My great grandmother had a huge garden and grew all of the vegetables they ate in it and I’m sure there are feminists out there saying they don’t know how to garden and don’t have the time to learn but if you have up your career to focus on your family you’d notice tons of tiny ways to cut back your spending.

    1. You can learn how to garden, sew, cook etc on the internet – it’s great! And if you’re not working, you have time to learn new skills.

      I accept that sometimes both parents need to work, but it should be avoided, or cut back on, if possible. The older my children get, the more I am realising this.

  12. Grow and garden and learn to can!! Try to be more self sufficient. I would rather be poor than have to ever go back to work!! Just remember, there is never enough money!! Stay home women!! It is so worth it!!

  13. My husband and I knew I would stay home if we had children. We bought a smaller home with that in mind, which can be a big savings.

    Still, last year we needed a little extra help so I took a Christmas season job to pay cash for presents. We also had private school tuition. I worked long enough to get us through the holidays and immediately came home. We cut the private school tuition and now I homeschool full time. It’s been freeing for all of us and we’re enjoying our “smaller” life by the world’s standards, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  14. The smartest thing my husband and I did was not increase our standard of living once we could. I have been able to stay home, pay for homebirths, and now homeschool. We live in a townhome in So Cal, in a city most won’t live in. Yes, we could “move up”, but this place meets our needs. Some of my friends’ husbands make a lot of money, some don’t.

  15. What do you suggest for expensive therapy equipment? We need a ton! And it has to be individually designed. I worry for when we need electric wheelchairs.

  16. Most kids are extremely spoilt also- I know mine were and they had far less than most families we know. A LOT of money can be saved by not having everything. I see on TV shows or movies that in the past a child was blessed to even own just one book or toy. They learn to appreciate what they do own if they have less. Nature has many great ‘toys’. I also read about letting a child really, really, really want a bike (or anything!). They will value it so much more than if it’s just provided. Of course we will always have more in our society, but think back to basics. I believe the saying, ‘Less is more’, is so true!

  17. I watched this video last week when it aired originally, and enjoy Jennifer Scott’s work immensely. Notice how I used the word “work”-the Daily Connoisseur is a created brand by an author/influencer for published books, a YouTube channel, and a blog. Part of that brand is to encourage attributes of home keeping, and frugality is essential in operating a household on one income. I speak from experience-we’ve been doing it for over a decade. However, there is a disconnect for me that this example would be used given the subject matter of single income living (unless Mrs. Scott’s husband is unemployed and is a full-time father-that would surprise me though, they split their time between Southern California and the English countryside, according to her blog). While the remainder of your post, the comments, and even the comments on the YouTube video provided numerous ideas for frugality that could allow for single income living , perhaps a single income family source would be more authentic as a teaching tool?

    Unless I’m missing something, Mrs. Scott herself is not teaching single income living, but for your readers, her video could come across as “do as I say, not as I do.”

    I prayerfully support your ministry, Lori, and I see such value in your teaching.

    1. I make a distinction between working from home and working out of the home. I know this article was specifically on single income my understanding of scripture is that more than one income is okay (per Proverbs 31) if the woman is working from home while still being able to take care of her family and household.

  18. Ten years ago, when our first child was born, my wife and I went from two incomes to one income, with her leaving the workplace to be a stay-at-home mom. When we did this, she was actually earning a higher salary than I was. We saved up as much as we could when she was pregnant, so we would have a financial cushion for the transition, and we prayed a lot for God to bless our decision, and He has. Gradually, over the years, He has provided us with increases to my salary, such that my paycheck is now almost as much as we were both earning together a few years ago. (It’s probably worth mentioning that, for a husband and dad, knowing you are the “breadwinner” for the family is very motivational, in terms of forcing you to do your best to bring your income up and provide for your family.) God has also provided for us through the generosity of friends who have handed down the clothes their kids have outgrown, and my wife has been very thrifty and learned to be an excellent cook, increasing her already impressive skills in this area over the years. I just want to encourage couples in this. There is hard work involved, for sure, but with minimal planning on our part, this way of life–having mom at home with the kids–has worked really well. We prayed, we leapt, and the net of God’s provision appeared.

  19. Lori,
    I am a pro-choice feminist. I could not agree less with most of your views…that being said, I love love love reading your articles on money and budgeting. They are very helpful. It’s a great thing when you can learn from someone who you otherwise might disagree with. The Lord blesses us in this way. God bless you and Ken and have a great day!

  20. Hi,

    We are one income, I stay home with baby,
    however, I have never bought some of the stuff people talk about buying & having. My experience is apart from my dad, MEN are spenders & credit card chargers. This generations hasnt been taught anything, sorry no offense meant. Boys grow up being spoiled by mama, they are not taught to take care of a wife, kids, go to church, have respect for women or anyone. they are allowed to stay in their room all day long playing video games. I say this bc ive seen it first hand. The girls arent taught to be leary of boys and men. They arent taught that you can dress like a women, looks sexy & pretty, yet still be modest, I do it, & my hubby likes it. Hes also a man, & has asked me to wear less modest cloths & I said no. only at home for you, He wants me to wear such in public with him. So yes, I dont listen to hubby on everything. I actually rule the household decisions, bc hes at work or home resting. We are able to live on one income where we live bc we had cars paid for when we got married & we paid cash for first house. we have since bought a much smaller, newer fixed up house for the baby. However, we had an emergency this year, we now owe over 20K, first time every that ive had debt. So i will be working from home to pay it off as soon as I finish my studys. I had high enough credit to get a line of credit to cover the emergency. with a line of credit you can borrow more that you need then use the excess to pay the loan, until you get more money. not the best thing to do if you can budget money. fortunately my mom taught me how to do money & I handle ALL the finances in my house, so I can do it. with just my hubbys low income we cant have any car payments, debt or mortgage. So women, learn to make money from home. dont let your kids be hungry & cold like I was growing up.

    Also I think its funny Dad change the oil,, MOM can change the car oil too, 🙂 Im the one who used to help my dad, not my brother, however, if you are doing any work on your car like that, PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL. My dad was just killed last year when working on his car, It came off the ramps & crushed him, then my mom was lost. My sister & I (not my brother, men cant be men anymore ) started coordinated with churches who then took over to help her out. or she would have froze last winter. So I no longer work on cars like that. I will put the expense on a credit card from now on if necessary versus losing my husbands life or my own. It is not worth losing your dad or anyone else to save a few dollars.

    Thanks
    God Bless

  21. Hi
    I forgot to add, I never heard of this before, but at my hubby jobs, things are really bad, so some of the men (who make more than my hubby) are quiting & staying home with the kids because their wives have much better paying jobs & less stress.

    Thanks
    God Bless

  22. I am wondering if anyone has any advice or wisdom to help my husband feel more on board with me continuing to not go back to work full time. I’ve stayed at home with the kids for 11 years now and am so thankful for this time. Most of the time he seems great with it, but he thought it would only be until the kids are in elementary school. Now he resents it at times and frequently brings up ideas of work I should look into like taking over an acquaintances full time business so they can retire.

    He thinks I’m being negative if I bring up all the reasons this would change our life. He claims he would take on half of everything I do now while staying at home, but I know there are not enough hours in the day and it would put so much stress on our lives and a huge lack of sleep. I would have no patience with him or the kids and I’d never want to go on vacation or out of town for the weekend (which we frequently do) because all I would be able to think about is getting laundry & grocery shopping done for the week ahead. Sorry, for the long explanation, but I just want him to be 100% supportive and on board with me not working full time. I currently work about 5-10 hours a week which help a little with daily expenses. I think he has taken on the stress of feeling like he has to make more money to make up the difference.

    1. Hi,

      If you are currently home already with the kids, just dont do it. Look for ways to make money from home & handle all of the finances. I dont let my hubby handle any money. I stay home with my baby & handle all the money & go to school online so I can work from home when im done.

      Thanks
      God Bless

  23. I support my wife and two daughters on my modest income as a truck driver. I’m a HS dropout with a GED, but it’s never limited me. We drive paid for vehicles, I do all maintenance on the house and cars. We have no CC debt, and live cheaply. We aren’t living without, infact our income is way above the counties average. We dress, drive and act below our means. You would think we’re living off of welfare and barely getting by. This is how we live, and the Lord gave us our second daughter, two weeks ago.

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