First Person: We Can’t Live on One Income Yet

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I'd love to quit working, but my husband and I have discovered we can't afford to live on one income. Even though my husband makes a decent income, we have too many expenses. We recently completed a "practice run" for when I quit my job, but found it's simply not doable. Not only do we have a lot of expenses, but we also have a lot of "wants" that can't easily be cut from our budget without squawking from our nest.

While conducting our experiment, we came across a few unexpected costs that would occur if I quit my job. Although we would save some money on transportation and wardrobe costs, the savings there were minimal. We decided to conduct our living-on-one-income experiment during our vacation week.

Making up the benefits

To figure out if we could live on one income, we subtracted my income from my full-time job from the household income. We also shifted $200 a month out of my husband's paycheck to pay for my retirement savings in my Roth IRA. We also calculated the costs of health insurance if I wasn't working at a full-time job with benefits.

Cooking more at home

If I was not working as much, I would have more time to cook at home. However, during our experiment, I actually ended up spending more money on food. I had more time to devote to cooking, but wanted to make more elaborate meals which cost more. I also was bored, which meant more time to shop. Even though I had time to clip coupons, I still ended up spending more because I shopped more often. I also started a vegetable garden which cost a lot of money in terms of soil, fertilizer, seeds and supplies.

Spending more on entertainment

During my week off, I found I didn't have as much to do. I began to see that my work is a form of entertainment for me. Without my job, I wanted to buy plane tickets to travel to other places. I wanted to go to the movies more often. Since I was making an effort to live on one income, I tried to find free things to do such as going to the library. However, any money I would have saved by not commuting got spent on other outings.

Paying down debt

With one income, we would not be able to pay off our mortgage early as we had hoped to do. At the same time, if we both keep working for the next 15 years, we'd have our mortgage paid off. Without a mortgage at age 55, we could more easily live on one income.

Ultimately, my husband and I found out that it's too hard to give up our discretionary spending at this stage in our lives. We also have two sons who are attending college, which puts a dent in the budget. If we hold out another 15 years as a dual-income family, we will have more financial flexibility. It's just about being patient and smart if we want to fly on his solo income.

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