Posted By Anna T on July 16, 2010
A couple of days ago, I received a comment saying it’s impossible to live on one income alone in our day and age. This touched a nerve (in a positive way!), because most people would probably say it’s impossible to manage on our monthly budget, yet we have been doing it for a while now.
Just for the record, this post only focuses on the practical side of a wife at home; the spiritual is a story onto itself, along with the husband’s obligation to provide for his family. My husband always says there is no true financial blessing when husbands rely on their wives to provide.
I’m probably not the most frugal-savvy person there is, though. I know many people who have been living on one small income for quite a few years and have raised/are raising large families this way. I’m not an expert on budgeting, coupon-clipping, and discount-hunting, but if there’s one thing I can tell, it’s this: living on one income (and one far from large!) is definitely possible.
The greater part of it is in the mindset. Letting go of what I call “the entitlement syndrome” will almost immediately lead most people to think of whole lists of things they have previously regarded as necessities or legitimate needs, yet, in fact, it’s entirely possible to do without them. There are so many ways to cut down costs in the usage of electricity, water and gas, grocery shopping, entertainment, and many other things; time and space currently don’t permit me to dig into them. I’ll just share one main principle – enjoy what’s free; think twice before spending.
Another important thing I would like to mention is the importance of being debt-free from the beginning. My husband and I were blessed to start out that way. Of course, it’s more difficult (though not impossible) to manage on a small income if you also have debt to pay.
The notion that women can’t afford to stay home because that second income is so badly needed is a false one. It’s a myth perpetuated by those who are interested in pushing women out to the work force – where they more likely will benefit someone else than their immediate family. The fact is, there are many people living on one income. Take for example single mothers (whose rampantly increasing number is a direct outcome of feminism). While fathers are legally obligated to pay child support, the fact is that many single mothers get none and support their children themselves. No one tells them they “can’t” do it. But in a family where the wife is healthy and hard-working (and therefore able to do beneficial work for her family in her home), they are told they “can’t afford” for the wife to stay at home.
The notion is that the wife’s working outside the home will automatically double the family income. This idea is in most cases a false one. To start with, women generally earn much less than men. Not because of so-called “gender discrimination,” but because women naturally choose the less lucrative fields and invest less vigorously in their careers. In most families, the husband is the one who produces the lion’s share of the income anyway. I know many families where the wife’s paycheck is viewed as pocket money and is spent on luxuries and “extras” – most of them meant for her personal use alone.
Of course, in many more families the wife’s income is only directed towards what is considered necessary. I had one woman tell me the surplus of her salary, gas costs deduced, is only enough to pay for daycare for her two-year-old. For this family, daycare for a two-year-old was believed to be an unquestionable necessity; not for a moment did they stop to consider the possibility of just keeping their boy at home. Why is that? Because we were led to believe that “properly trained” people are better at caring for toddlers than us, their own parents. In Israel, especially, it’s very unacceptable for children over a year old to still be at home. It always boggles my mind to think how many families with two children under three (in religious families, this is nearly a status quo for many years) could afford for the wife to be home if only they considered keeping their children at home as well. I’m not even talking about full-fledged homeschooling, just the delay of shepherding the children off to institutions from very young age.
Naturally, daycare and gas costs are a no-brainer when we try to calculate what is actually left of a wife’s salary at the end of the month. By the way, I’m by now thoroughly familiar with the feminist argument that said costs should not be deducted from the wife’s salary, but rather, from the combined family income. Such theoretical calculations are utterly useless if what we want to know is how much the family will gain or lose by sending the wife out to work.
There are, of course, many things a wife at home can do directly or indirectly in order to cut costs. An example of a direct way to save is having more time to plan menus and shopping trips and to cook from scratch and in bulk. An indirect way of saving is providing a joyful, pleasant place to be in by investing many hours into home keeping – thus making the home more attractive for the family. A family who loves being home is less likely to dash out at the first opportunity. Being out and about usually means spending more money, on gas, eating out, and different temptations that always present themselves on such outings.
I’m not saying a family will never lose out financially if the wife doesn’t go out to work. For sure, for many having a wife at home means giving up on certain material benefits (even if those aren’t nearly as large as the world would have us believe). Yet it is possible to make it on one income once you decide that a wife and mother at home is a more important asset than the paycheck she can potentially bring in.