There’s an obvious challenge to living on one income. Namely, living on one income. But have you thought about the non-financial challenges?
We became a one income couple last year when I got made redundant. We had been preparing for this potential eventuality and that preparation made living on one income possible. Though we worked hard for it, it doesn’t change the fact that we were lucky to have reached a position where one of our incomes would cover our essential bills.
Having designed our life and finances to be able to manage on one income, I foolishly thought we’d be in for an easy ride. Unbeknownst to me, I had a lot of hurdles ahead that my budget spreadsheet could not account for. Here are the things I found difficult as the new non-earner.
Oh wow. The immense feeling of guilt.
Without a job, I couldn’t help but feel guilty about spending money that my husband had earned. He did his best to relieve me of my guilt and I knew that if our roles were reversed, I wouldn’t want him to feel guilty. I’d be proud to be able to support us. But when you feel like the need to be independent, to not be a burden, is at your core, it is a very difficult mindset to change.
What I did find that I could do was guard our budget even more fiercely, making sure our source of income was being spent in the best way and wasn’t being wasted.
You would think being unemployed would lead you to a lack of things to do. It turns out that work was preventing me from doing a lot of stuff I really wanted to. Being unemployed also added pressure to get a lot of stuff done. All of a sudden I was more busy without a job than I had been with one.
Volunteering, job hunting, looking after the house, restoring an antique bench, launching a blog and looking after my husband as he recovered through two operations. It was difficult to not feel rushed off my feet, even more than when I was working!
Cooking every day
“I’ll have plenty of time to prepare amazing dishes every day”.
Me, before becoming unemployed.
Cooking every day become a thorn in my side, unwelcome punctuation each day that cut short the time I wanted to spend on other things. When our choices cease to be choices, they require rather more endurance. I enjoyed cooking less without a job than I did with a job, if you can believe that?
Saying goodbye to efficiency
It is so easy to waste time when you have it to waste. A 30 minute job would get done in 20 minutes when I was working, because I just didn’t have the time to waste. Not having a job means you can be more leisurely, and that often means you take longer to do things.
As time passed, I became less organised, in spite of my busyness. I wondered how the heck I’d worked full time and how on earth I would again.
Losing who you are
We spend a lot of time at work with the same set of colleagues. I honestly didn’t believe so much of my self worth was routed in my job.
It’s been a valuable experience just for this reason. I’ve developed a blog, I’m living more in the moment (but don’t worry, I’m saving for my future self!) and I’m investing time in my hobbies. From time to time, I think about who I am and how much of myself is linked to my job.
One day I will retire, and when that day comes, I want to have a strong sense of self.
When you get to the point of being able to manage on one income, you have plenty of spare cash to throw at savings, investments, or whatever else you fancy. When that money is gone, the feeling of flexibility goes along with the peace of mind it brought. Panic is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but I certainly felt uneasy about the challenge we would face to replenish emergency savings if they had to be spent.
You need to be more than financially prepared
Being financially prepared allows you to survive on one income. But you need to be emotionally and mentally prepared to live and thrive on one income.
I think there is value in everyone experiencing this, even if it is only for a short time. It made me realise how much money I previously wasted. It made me realise that money is more important to me than I’d previously admitted. It made me realise how much my job defined me.
Do you live on one income? What challenges do you face and how do you deal with them?