If you dream of jumping off the hamster wheel of full time work and devoting more time to your family, you just might be able to. Check out these ways to slim down your family budget from two salaries to one.
If you’ve read my bio you know I made a pretty drastic life change last year, quitting my job, moving to Florida and becoming a stay-at-home mom. That’s why I started this blog, hoping to help others who might be pinching the pennies like we are, after going from two salaries to one.
Two friends of mine did the same thing four years ago. Manda and Matt were at a crossroads, like many of us who decide to take a drastic leap like this. Both of them described life at the time as a hamster wheel, juggling two full-time jobs and raising a growing family. To add to the stress, Manda was about to give birth to their second child and Matt’s hours at work were going to change, and not for the better.
Fast forward four years, and they have made great strides in their family budgeting and say they’re “reminded constantly that [they] made the right decision.”
Between the 4 of us, here’s some ways we’ve managed to make it work.
Divide & Conquer
A drastic life change like this often means changing roles, which can be a big adjustment.
While I became a stay-at-home mom, Manda became her family’s sole breadwinner and Matt became a stay-at-home dad.
I know from experience, both sides of that dynamic. Being a full-time breadwinner while your spouse shoulders most of the childcare can wear on your heart. You’re tired, you’re never home and you miss your kids.
And being the stay-at-home parent after working for years to build up your career, you can feel frustrated, jealous and restless.
It helps to find a healthy balance. I seek out other creative outlets and occassionaly freelance. And you have to be able to lean on your partner and be honest with each other.
Cut The Cable – Or at least get a better deal
To really start making an impact on your finances, find ways to pare down monthly bills. Cable TV is a good place to start.
In the beginning Matt negotiated a lower cable bill with the company they’d been with for more than 7 years. All you have to do is ask. Some companies will reward you for loyalty or offer you a better deal to keep you as a customer if you’re considering leaving.
Then later, they did what my husband and I have done, cut out cable TV altogether. We switched to an antenna for local channels and streaming services for everything else, like Sling TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime.
You can also use the negotiating strategy with your utilities. Matt was able to work with their gas company and get a lower locked in rate. Some companies also offer set monthly bills averaged over time, while your usage fluctuates. Again, it never hurts to ask.
Another place you can find savings is your phone bill. Although it might be harder to negotiate with the major wireless companies, what you can control is how you use it. Manda and Matt decided they could live without unlimited data, which cut down their monthly bill.
Food For Thought
A major expense that you can overhaul immediately is your grocery bill. You can do this with some simple steps I outlined in my previous post, Make Money Grocery Shopping. It involves meal planning, coupon clipping and store rebate apps.
The most successful component of this for Manda and Matt has been meal planning, something they now do together every Saturday morning. Before Manda says they would “look at each other every few days and say, “Thai sounds good” and make multiple trips to the store a week, resulting in food waste and more than $200 a week in grocery spending.” Now meal planning and couponing, they save about $50 every week.
Imagine having an extra $50 in your pocket every week!
Avoid Big Purchases & Big Mistakes
Someone who makes $100,000 a year can find it as hard to save money as someone who makes $20,000 a year. It’s all relative to your mentality. “We would often splurge once a month on purchases like art for our house, antiques, concert tickets, etc. Now we have to talk about it and discuss what the expenses have been like for the month and whether or not we can do it,” Manda says.
And for Matt, a tech junkie, that meant upgrading the family’s gaming and entertainment systems less often.
Now they save that money for their boys’ extra curricular activities, birthday parties and vacations.
Get On The Bus.. Or whatever mass transportation you can
A big change Manda made was taking the bus to work. It was a genius move at a time when gas prices were high (when are they not?) and her commute was long. Riding the bus meant she saved the cash and had built-in time every day to catch up on email and read. And for busy moms, reading time is a luxury. #winning!
Let There Be Lunch
Even if you have access to relatively inexpensive lunch options where you work, if you’re regularly hitting the food court or cafeteria, you’re probably spending at least $25 a week. Instead, grab last night’s leftovers and throw them in a bag for the office. You can save the cash and also eat healthier because you control the ingredients and calories.
Cut The Coffee
I know, I know, every article on overhauling your finances probably suggests cutting out over-priced coffee. But as a coffee addict who couldn’t have survived my former career without it, that’s not necessarily realistic. Manda couldn’t give up her daily Starbucks either, but did decide to switch to standard coffee with whipped cream added (free whipped cream) instead of a latte. That’s a savings of almost $2 and another $10 in your pocket every week.
An expense you can cut out altogether is gym memberships. Check out my previous post on ways to get fit for free or for just a few dollars.
Some good ways are free or cheap running apps, YouTube workout videos and Facebook live workout sessions. Do it on your time, in your home, for free.
Four years into their one salary life, Manda says she’s most surprised at how they used to live. She says, “food waste, eating a restaurants that were just so-so, not checking into bills and finding the best deal” now feels very wasteful.
And Matt’s biggest surprise has been how much their lives have NOT changed. He says, “I feel like we live almost the same as we did with two incomes. We figured out where we were wasting money before, made changes and used the saved money to maintain the lifestyle we have always enjoyed.”
I hope my family can look back four years from now and be as happy as they are.