Thursday, May 5, 2011

Get Off The Dual-Earner Treadmill

Does it seem like hardly anyone lives on one income?  That’s because it is literally true!  I personally do not know of anyone who is happy with the dual-earner treadmill.  My advice is do not get on in the first place!  I knew when I was growing up with a mom who was a single parent in the 70’s and 80’s that I did not want to be that independent!  The trade-off for a career and independence seemed to be divorce, stress, practical poverty, and a lousy home life.

With that in mind, the first strategy for a different future and family life was to look for a partner who shared the same family values and was up to the challenge of being the “bread-winner.”  There needs to be serious agreement about this lifestyle before marriage.  Both husband and wife need to know that this is our money.  Deciding together how money should be spent and a reasonable allowance for each early on, will make things smoother in the long-run.  With our family, hubby earns the money, and I pay the bills.  That requires integrity on my part not to waste a penny of the hard-earned income.

The breadwinner is better-off with a career that will cover life and health insurance whether by the employer or an income that will support this otherwise.  Also, too many times we pay for “things” and have nothing to show for them, such as cell phones we hardly use, satellite dishes we rarely watch, junk food and utilities way in excess of the necessities of life.  It may not be feasible to buy cars or houses without a loan these days, but we don’t have to obligate the rest of our lives to paying them off, either!  I once saw on a church sign, “Who are we without our stuff?”  You can’t take it with you, so why not cut back on the nonessentials?

For many years, when my three children were little, we had only one car—and most of our stay-at-home mom friends were in the same boat.  It was fun to take turns “borrowing” the car and car-pooling to play dates, church activities, etc.  We lived in the more affordable down town area and I walked with a double stroller everywhere.  My husband would take an hour-long bus ride both ways to let me have the car for errands once-in-a-while.  There were times where his job offered car-pool opportunities.  Let’s face it, cars are a lot of trouble!  You have to maintain them, pay for insurance and gas.  We decided one car was about all we could handle until we moved to the country.

I recently heard Dave Ramsey say something so simple but also so enlightening.  He said that if we just didn’t incur any more debt—credit cards, loans, etc.—inevitably we would be out of debt!  There are so many times when you feel you must go into more debt for a worthwhile reason—maybe one of you is more apt to do this than the other and they create a lot of temptation.  Without being bullheaded, we need to support each other as a married couple and not bring temptations of deeper debt into the one-income household. 

Last year we filed our taxes so that we would pay more into income tax than we owed, and we ended up receiving nearly three month’s income back.  I had been desperately trying to save up to six month’s worth of wages for an emergency fund, and without even thinking about it, we had saved half that!  I know some would say that was foolish, but we are not so good with savings accounts, so this was a painless way for us to save.

I work really hard to make it on whatever my husband makes.  Our income began at less than $30,000 twenty-three years ago.  There was a time when I would take $50 a week to the grocery store and the groceries would last the week!  I had to learn to cook from scratch and not be too proud to accept WIC (you can earn a fairly good income and still qualify for this worthwhile educational program).  My kids never wore new clothes, but friends were great about exchanging clothes and I learned to get out stains and mend clothing.  Even my own clothes were hand-me-downs most of the time.  My husband was the only one we actually shopped for, but it was worth it to me because I could be with our children and do so many fun and memorable things with them.

You definitely don’t want to hang out with people who will make it hard for you to live on one income.  We had relatives and friends we couldn’t afford to spend time with because their idea of fun was so expensive.  I was tormented by my parents and my husband’s for “wasting my degree” (that we paid for, by the way).  Eventually all of these same people changed their minds as they began to see a distinct difference between our home life and that of their own or others who chose to stay in the Rat Race.

The hardest thing about being a one-income family, is not getting sucked into thinking that both of you have to work.  A lot of prayer and scripture study, as well as studying the words of latter-day prophets and apostles have helped to keep our resolve.  (The Family: A Proclamation to The World is the standard by which we judge our family’s choices).  It takes personal revelation, commitment, and a never give up attitude!  Sometimes we think we have a choice between A and B, and usually there is always a third option.  We have to stretch our way of thinking (“outside the box”) and come up with more original ideas to solve our problems than keeping up with the Joneses.  Sometimes going back to more traditional ways of doing things is what it takes.  How did families make it back in the day?  Find out!

Our family hasn’t felt deprived because we still go on vacations—we just learned to camp at the beach for next to nothing rather than stay at a posh hotel.  And guess what?  It’s fun!  You’re never bored.  We take “one-tank-trips” to all the nearby attractions and know more about our state than the average person.  We have better meals than anything you can get at a restaurant.  My children’s birthday cakes are homemade and taste a lot better than store bought.  The library is full of books on giving birthday parties and such at home and on a budget, and my kids have albums-full of all these sweet memories.

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