family and retirement savings
Bread Winner

Before You Drop The Mic On Work, Here’s How To Decide If You Can Afford Living On One Income

Maybe you’re second-guessing the career rat race now that you like your kid so much more than your boss. Maybe you always hated your boss’ guts but figured you couldn’t afford not to go back to work. Maybe you should switch tabs before he reads this. Whatever the reason, if you’re considering living on one income, you’d better take a good, hard look at your family finances first. Mint.com has a detailed 6-step process to determine if you can write “Stay At Home Dad” on your next tax return, but if your boss has moved on and you’re still here, you can get the cheat sheet version below. That way you can spend your precious time making decisions, not reading about them.


Track Your Expenses
Monitor and categorize everything as either a fixed, secondary, or emergency expense. Keep that ledger for 2 months. If that sounds painful, or you can’t get past beer and wings not being fixed expenses (“You said necessities!”), maybe just stop here and head back to the office.

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Project Long Term
It’s not just the income you’re potentially forgoing today. It’s the retirement benefits lost and the hit your future earnings will take if and when you do go back to work, if anyone even wants to hire an old man like you at that point. Put “highly efficient diaper changer” on your resume. They love that.

Determine Your Work Costs
Commuting, coffee breaks, lunches, and reading parenting sites on the internet instead of working are all job-related costs. Add ’em all up (except the internet, you enjoy that.), then just when you’re feeling okay about it, throw in the cost of childcare. Sucks, but if you work, you gotta pay for that, which makes it a work expense.

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The Part With The Math
Subtract your total work expenses from your dual income. Is the remainder about equal to your partner’s single income? If so, cool, this might work after all — although there are likely some lifestyle sacrifices in your future. If those numbers are too far off, well … if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmkay?

Consider Alternative Means
Ol’ Lumbergh might be up for having you work from home all or part of the time. What? He might! Even if you do end up going full stay-at-home, there’s still got to be something you can do for a little side cash. Maybe start one of them blogs everyone is talking about.

Test It Out
Put your plan and new budget into practice and see if you can live like that before you have to. Meanwhile, put the second income into your savings. At the end of the trial, you’ll know if being a single-income family is the right choice, and you’ll have some extra cash squirreled away. Win, win. If everything looks good, at that point you have permission to go ahead and quit your job. Or, you know, just stop going.

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