The Problem: Surviving on One Income
Thirty-seven percent of American families live off of one individual's income. Rather than finding childcare, many couples opt to have one partner stay home with their baby. Though you do save on commuting, dry cleaning, lunches out, and childcare, you might still feel the financial sting of going from two incomes to one. "Test-drive this idea while you're pregnant by living on one income and banking the other," Rubin says. "This allows you to see if it's realistic for one of you to quit your job, and it gives you savings to use for the expenses that come with your baby."
Track spending. "In order to survive on less money, you have to see where you're spending," Chatzky says. For one month, track where your money goes in a notebook or with an online tracking site like Wesabe.com or QuickenOnline.com. You'll be surprised by all the nonessentials you're buying -- think lattes, gum, and toys that your little one doesn't need. Then you can figure out where to cut back. "We cooked dinner at home instead of going out, and I made enough food for us to take lunch to work the next day," says Beverly Cheng, a mother of one from Los Angeles. "We saved about $100 a month, which is $1,200 a year!"
Discover what's free. Weston suggests a "buy nothing month" where you purchase only necessities that you define up front, such as diapers and groceries. When she challenged readers of her MSN.com column to do this, they saved $300 to $400 a month and found creative ways to spend less.
Make work work for you. "I wanted to be with my daughter but also needed an income, so we've been creative with my work at times," says Corrina Castillo, a mother of two from San Diego. "For several months, I worked at a home daycare where I could bring my infant daughter, and then I spent a year watching my niece full time and a few other children part time. This way, I could be my daughter's primary caregiver while making money."
Go green. "We switched to a cash economy in our house," says Alice Hohl, a mother of two from Columbus, Ohio. "We withdraw cash on the first of the month and divide it among envelopes for things like groceries, doctor bills, dog stuff, etc. And we each get $80 to spend as we wish. This immediately made us aware of our spending, and the 'accidental' $100 Target bills ended. If we do use credit cards, as soon as we get home from the store, we move the cash out of the envelope so we can see how much we have left for the month."