Whether by layoff or by lifestyle choice, more and more families are facing the prospect of life on one income. Just the idea can be daunting, since most of us have been schooled to believe that two incomes are nearly a necessity for life in many American communities. But with proper planning and the right outlook, you can make the transition to a one-income status, says Denise Topolnicki, author of How to Raise a Family on Less Than Two Incomes (Broadway Books, 2001). Living on less than two incomes requires some sacrifice. If you manage your money well, however, you'll never feel deprived of the things that matter most to you and your loved ones, she writes.
Here are six steps you can take to adjust your family to life on one income:
1. Cut your grocery bill. No, don't go on a starvation diet. Instead, cut out convenience foods, such as precooked dinners and packaged snacks. They're priced to provide maximum profit for your grocer. Also, clip coupons. Avoid coupons that encourage you to buy new or packaged items that you might otherwise avoid, but seek out those that save you money on your staples.
2. Consolidate to one credit card with a low interest rate. A wallet full of cards just encourages you to spend. And many cards now offer very low interest rates. But be sure to read the fine print: some low-interest deals are just introductory offers.
3.. Barter with other families. One of the easiest things to barter is babysitting time. Connect with other families trying to cut back and trade babysitting services. You cut your child-care costs and you can still get out of the house once in a while.
4. Pull the plug on cable. Anything worth watching will turn up on video three months later.
5. Don't move. While it may be tempting to pull up stakes and move to a cheaper community, the financial cost and emotional burden of moving often makes this idea more trouble than it's worth. Instead, look for ways to reduce your current housing costs such as refinancing your mortgage or reducing your home-related taxes.
6. Save up cash to make any big purchases. This achieves two goals. One, it forces you to consider, over a lengthy period of time, how badly you really want a new sofa, computer, car stereo, etc. Second, by saving cash for the purchase, you avoid racking up a credit card bill and owing interest.
While all these steps will help, perhaps the most important part of life on less than two incomes is the support of your spouse. You both need to be committed to making the new financial arrangement work. If one spouse is working to contain costs and the other is out buying new CDs, the process is doomed. Whether it's because you want to spend more time with the kids, or because you and your family are getting through a rough patch of economic times, it's key that the family work as a team to make ends meet.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.