Whether we like it or not, our society has become a two-income world. Nowadays or in many cases, both parents have to work to provide the needs of their families. I said “in many cases” because some parents are career-minded and find the need to work regardless of their situations.
Gone are the days when one parent stays home while the other one works. Gone are the days when one of the parents takes care of their children while the other works. It’s just how society has transformed over the years.
Just try to look at the prices of goods and services today. You’ll see that they have increased multiple times while the salaries have lagged so much that they can’t simply keep up with any price increases in the marketplace.
For parents who want to provide a good future for their kids or families, they both choose to work to ensure the dream is still within reach. It is no wonder that a lot of parents work to meet the needs of their families.
For those who are in one-income family situation, it is easier to say that it is difficult to balance the family’s finances, that is, juggling to balance the needs, the savings, and the bills. A lot of people may say that living on one income is difficult. It is difficult but it’s certainly doable.
Many people may say that there are quantifiable and non-quantifiable costs for one person to stay home instead of being employed. This statement is true.
As many know, my family belongs to the one-income family category. I do believe that any situation presents both positive and negative effects and living on one income is no exception to the rule. In this post, I will detail both the pros and cons of living under one income.
The Pros and Cons of Living on One Income
Taking care of children
Stay-home parents get to take care of their own children. It’s the best benefit of living on one income.
I don’t have anything against daycare facilities or other people taking care of children other than theirs. I do believe that the care and affection that parents give to their children are different from those given by other care providers.
I like the idea that my wife takes care of our baby. I know that the care and love she provides to our daughter is unparalleled. I know that the values she teaches when I’m at work are the values that we like our daughter to have.
I know that my wife doesn’t miss any milestone developments or brief changes to our daughter. I know what my wife will go into detail with what has happened to our daughter once I am home.
These may be simple things to some people but these are the things that my family values the most.
When you have only one income coming into your family, the best choice is to work around with what you have.
Rather than make the situations worse by constant disagreements, complaints, and blame, it is best to work together and be resourceful. Basically, get the most out of the limited resources.
Families living on one income, sometimes, need to think outside the box to stretch their money. The internet is such a great tool to find ways on how to make the most out of such money.
The truth is, the motivation and willingness to take extra steps to stretch that money will make a positive difference in finances.
Because I’m the only one working and earning steady income, my wife and I have become resourceful in so many things. We use coupons to reduce our grocery bills. We use Paribus to get money back when the prices of the products we purchased drop. We have saved more than $500 just by using Paribus.
We re-plant vegetables so we don’t have to buy them often than we should. We cook at home so we don’t eat out. We create our tables and chairs so we don’t buy new ones.
These are just few examples of how we have become resourceful.
One good lesson with a family living on one income is that family members can and will become creative to ensure that needs and some wants are fulfilled. My family has become so resourceful that we find value in things that many consider as waste.
Update: We managed to find income-generating side hustles like taking surveys and blogging, which help us make at least $10,000 a month while putting as low as 15 hours a month on these side hustles and paying only $2.95/mo for blogging. Can't beat that.
Bringing family closer together
There is an opportunity for families to get closer together when money is tight or when only one is making the money. For those families who decide to be on a strict budget, they tend to work together to get things done at the least possible costs.
Since we are on a strict budget, we do almost all the things in the house.
For example, instead of going to Olive Garden to eat our favorite pasta dishes, my wife, our daughter, and I do all the preparation of ingredients. My daughter would bring the plastic jar containing the flour while I prepare the rest of the ingredients for the pasta. Once I finish making the pasta, my wife will then cook it.
While the example I provided is simple, it demonstrates how one can be a part of big picture. Even when my daughter’s contribution is just bringing the container to me, it is a fact that she helps and her help contributes in making the pasta.
It feels good that everyone is contributing and that everyone is valued. Even simple activities like this help us bring our family closer than ever.
Defining needs and wants
One of the benefits of living on one income is that families get the opportunity to clearly define what the needs and wants are. Families in situations like mine are able to define what their priorities are.
I’m not saying that those families with two incomes aren’t able to define theirs, what I am saying is that for those families like mine, we pay close attention even down to the single cent.
My family had to define early on what our needs and wants are. Nowadays, it is easy to get the definitions of needs and wants mix up because of the endless products and services that convincingly portray themselves as needs when they really aren’t.
As a family on strict budget, we always sit down and take a look into what really our needs are. I categorize having one income as benefit because we learn to live comfortably with what we only need. The best part of meticulously addressing just the needs is that we are able to pass that lesson to our child.
It’s probably natural for kids to want what they see on advertisements and also normal for them to whine when they don’t get what they want.
We’re fortunate that our daughter, Adriana, understands us when we tell her that we won’t buy the things she likes. We lead by example and I believe that our daughter can see that even at a young age.
Forcing to make a working budget (and it's a good thing)
When you live on one income, you are forced to create a working budget if you want to stretch your money. The truth is, having a budget is not only for those who want to save money. It is for everyone regardless of how much or little you have.
In all things you do that are finance-related in nature, you always need to start a working budget. Without a budget, you won't know where you are overspending or underspending and everything in between.
In order household, we use the Budget Binder Printables to help us effectively budget and manage our money.
These printables has continuously helped our family get our budget in control and save a ton of money even on a single income. We paid off our $40K debt and, at the same time, saved at least $70K in 2.5 years with the help of these printables (click here for the full story).
Disagreeing with a lot of things
Many times, the struggles and conflicts in the family can become more evident and constant when the family is living on one income. Since money is tight and bills are everywhere, parents may or will argue which ones need to be addressed first. Sometimes, blaming games become the new normal at home.
Disagreements like this can and will strain the relationship of the family and the marriage of the parents. Even worse, these disagreements will negatively impact the children.
We are lucky that we don't disagree on money matters. Over the course of many years, we took in upon ourselves to control and manage our finances. I developed and used Budget Binder Printables and use Personal Capital, which is the best FREE tracking app right now. It allows us to manage our finances or look at our investments, expenses, income, and other finances just by looking at the app.
With both the budget printables and Personal Capital, we easily manage our finances on and offline. In just 5 years, these two simple products have managed to get us out of our $40K debt and help us save at least $200K while living on a single income household.
Foregoing potential income and future salary increases
When people say that a family lives on one income, what they really mean to say is that one of the parents is not working. There are opportunity costs involved when one of the parents chooses to stay home.
One of the opportunity costs is forgoing the potential income. In a simplified explanation, missing out of such income is directly a result of not working.
Another opportunity cost is forgoing future salary increases. Many businesses, if not all, tend to provide salary increases to their employees from time to time. These increases can be a result of cost of living changes, employee performance, company performance, and others.
The reality is, when one parent decides to stay home, he/she misses out the opportunity to earn income through work. Also, he/she misses out the chance to receive those potential (future) salary increases as a direct result of not having a job in the first place.
Let me tell you that the work done by stay-home parents is by far the most difficult, most time-consuming, and the most-tiring job out there. As stay-home parents, they perform all the tasks that need to be done inside the house.
Whether it’s taking care of the children, doing the laundry, or cooking, the responsibilities of stay-home parents are so wide and, many times, these parents are on-call 24/7 especially when kids are sick.
Feeling unhelpful is one of the drawbacks of living on one income only. My wife, at times, tells me that she feels unhelpful because I’m the only one bringing a steady paycheck in the family.
I truly understand her sentiments especially because of the fact that she used to work full time and earn money.
The truth is, the feel of being unhelpful is something that doesn’t go away from the minds of those stay-home parents. I just can’t imagine the extent of how they feel. I know that the feeling they have can only be fully comprehended by those who are in the same boat as they are.
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Trying to make ends meet
Since only one income is coming in, families that fall into this situation always try to make ends meet. They try to balance which bills need to be paid first, which needs have to be addressed first, among others.
In addition, these families will also think if their situation will ever get better with time or if their situation will be the same for the rest of their lives.
Trying to make ends meet is one drawback of living on one income. The constant struggle of trying to make ends meet is sometimes difficult to handle. It can and will suck the energy out of not only the parents but also of the children. In addition, being in this situation can also strain the marriage and relationship of the parents.
Since income may not be sufficient to satisfy both the bills and the needs, family may or will use credit cards to address the shortage.
In the event that these families cannot pay the full amount due, then, card companies will charge them interest on top of interest and outstanding principal. There will come a point when such debt can be unbearable and stressful.
My family has been in the situation of trying to make ends meet. It truly is not for the faint of heart.
Truly, there are pros and cons of living on one income. Sometimes, the pros will outweigh the cons. Sometimes, it’s the opposite. Nevertheless, I believe that living on one income has truly strengthened my family and helped us become closer than ever before. That’s what really matters to us more than anything else.