I often get asked why we live so frugally on two incomes. That answer is simple: It's our idea of being responsible.
Let me explain.
Jobs can come and go, illnesses happen, people get divorced, injured or die. My mother's dad died when she was 14 years old, leaving her mother with 4 children at home and a farm to run by herself. My mother impressed upon me at an early age that each parent should have the education, skills and ability to make sure the family was taken care of financially and physically as well as emotionally and spiritually without assistance from another person in case such an event occurred. That did not necessarily mean that both parents always worked outside the home, but that they are able to.
It also means living at a financial level that won't have to change much if something does happen. Losing half or better of your income if something happens with one spouse is no fun. Similarly, employment can be volatile and 'life-time' jobs are no longer the norm. The economy goes up and down. It simply makes sense to live on one income and use any second income for 'extras.'
There are people who will certainly argue that it is necessary to have two incomes to afford the basics - food, housing, and clothes in a reasonable quantity and quality for your family. In some places that may be true. And it certainly does depend on what your wages are. If you both have low incomes and live in a high cost of living area that may be true.
However, most though certainly not all of us, spend most of that second income on the expenses that come with two people working - daycare, after and before school care, business wardrobes, uniforms, or other work clothes, car maintenance, licences, and the like, parking as well as convenience foods, parties for children at outside locations, cleaning people, dry cleaning, and all the things that seem to make our lives easier, but not necessarily better.
By living frugally on two incomes we have been able to pay graduate tuition with cash, preschool tuition with cash, take modest (car-trip/camping/visiting family) vacations with cash, and not have to worry about being able to afford our basic living expenses if one of us isn't working.
When we bought out house we bought at the bottom of our price range - both our real estate agent and the banker who set up our mortgage were really impressed that we wanted approval on only my husband's income at the time. My job was fluctuating and we weren't sure if I was going to have an income, so we wanted to make sure we could afford our house if that income was lost. We also informed our real estate agent that we only wanted to see homes priced up to a certain value and would switch agents if he didn't follow that. He did follow it - knowing he would get a sale if he did. We are so glad we did all of that!
We have also been able to pay medical bills - between the savings and our flex spend account - with cash. We have been able to pay for the majority of the remodeling and household upgrades we done with cash. Refinancing our mortgage 3 years ago to a lower fixed rate was a breeze. If we don't have the cash we most often wait. Not always, but we're working on that!
The best part about living frugally on a two-incomes? We don't have much to change if I'm not working. I've spent 3 of the 8 semesters I've been in school not working. That meant no tuition waver, and no 'added' income. Since we had placed my income into savings while I was working, we have a nice emergency fund, tuition dollars saved, and the ability to rest easy until the next assignment came along. I've always brought in some money - tutoring, selling on Craig's List, and other small amounts - but nothing 'big' during those months. And it was nice to just be able to focus on school rather than wondering and worrying.
Is is hard to see others with bigger houses, trips to Disney World, and fancy computers and phones? Yes. Is it hard to have people judge me by the neighborhood I live in (Oh, I thought you lived on this side of the highway.)? Yes. Is it hard to have family members consider us 'poor' because of the house and neighborhood we live in? Yes. I've even had one close family member be very upset that we hadn't bought a larger home when our children were born - until I showed that person our retirement account and savings account statements and explained what we are doing. That person is still not happy with it - and we're still 'poor' in their eyes - but they've at least stopped complaining!
Additionally, we are hoping to be debt-free by the time John graduates from Seminary. We are hoping to be able to go wherever God calls us without having to worry about finances. How freeing that will be! I'll post about our financial goals on Monday, but that's the grander plan.
Is it worth it? In my mind absolutely!
Do you have a second income? If so, what do you do with it?
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