(Below is our story of how we became a one-income family. It's my hope that those that are questioning whether or not they're able to do it will be able to read our story and see that it is definitely possible.)
I'm sure that I am not the only SAHM that's ever heard the phrase, "Some people just aren't as lucky as YOU are. We don't all get to stay at home like you do." I have bolded the words "get to" because those are the words that irk me the most. You see, I was not handed my life as a SAHM on a silver platter. A lot of hard work and sacrifice has gone into attaining the lifestyle we now have.
Shawn and I married in 2003. He worked a full-time job. I worked a full-time job. We had no children. We had a mortgage, two vehicle payments, and credit card payments. We went to the movies at least once a week. We went out to eat at least once a day. We went away on week-long vacations. I got a pedicure once a month, fake nails put on twice a month, and highlights done about every three months. I even OWNED a tanning bed. (Yeah, I looked good back then!)
In 2004, after one year of marriage, Shawn and I moved for his job. We moved to a town that was an hour and a half away from our previous home. Even though I didn't have a job lined up yet, we purchased a home and moved in. I put in a few job applications. Two weeks after moving, I found out I was pregnant with Sam. Now, it seemed a little wrong for me to apply for jobs only to tell my possible employer that I would be taking maternity leave in nine months. So, Shawn and I made the decision that I would not be going back to work. However, we had just taken out a new mortgage expecting two incomes to be coming in. We still had two vehicle payments and credit card bills. They had to be paid somehow...SO, we had to make some changes.
Some changes were immediate and others were more gradual. We immediately had to stop all eating out and going out to the movies. We immediately cancelled everything except dial tone on our home phone..no caller ID, no call waiting, not even long distance. We purchased calling cards from Sam's Club for long-distance coverage or else I just used my cell phone. We could no longer afford for me to get all "beautified" on a regular basis. No more pedicures, no more fake nails..I was still able to keep my highlights, but I ended up going to the local cosmetology school to get those done. I had to give up the Clinique make-up and instead bought the cheaper stuff at Wal-Mart. I learned to coupon and got really, really good at it. I went for a while without health insurance. When it comes down to health insurance versus food/utilities...food and utilities win out. Shawn had always had a membership to the shooting range before our financial situation changed. He had to give that up. He was a hard-core Dr. Pepper drinker. While I still purchased soda on occasion back then, Shawn had to learn to like the generic versions of his favorite soda. When his boots got a hole in the bottom, we didn't go out and purchase a new pair for him. We found a local man that repaired boots and we got them repaired. Our clothing started coming from yard sales or Goodwill or we received them as gifts. Shawn and I stopped buying each other Christmas, birthday, and anniversary presents as well. In addition to all that, Shawn took on a part-time job teaching night classes for another college.
Some may wonder how these tiny little changes could've possibly made a difference. Well, I can tell you that they did. Not only did we manage to survive on one income by saving a penny here and a penny there, but these changes caused us to completely reevaluate the way we handled money. Suddenly I had a bright spotlight shining on our budget and I had to pay attention to it at all times. Living this lifestyle forced me to view our budget in minute detail. I had to plan out gifts and oil changes and even stamps. Everything was figured into the budget. By making these small changes not only were we able to survive on one income, we were able to survive while we paid off both vehicles and all of our credit card debt (which got up to over $11,000 at one time.) It did take several years for us to wipe out all of that debt, but we were finally able to do it. We are in a better financial situation now than we ever hoped to be while we both had jobs. Now, our only debt is our property and we are trying to get it paid off as quickly as possible.
We became a one-income family very suddenly and it has turned out to be a great blessing for our family. We find value in small things now and (I feel) have our priorities in a better place. Having to stick to a very strict budget causes you to really consider what is and is not important in your life. When you have to search to find enough money to cover food and utilities, suddenly television, movies, and the latest electronic gadgets don't seem quite so important.
What really amazes me is that Shawn and I now tend to choose the less expensive option even when we could afford a more expensive one. For instance, we could probably afford for me to start getting fake nails again. However, at this point I would feel silly wearing fake nails. Please, if you are reading this and wearing fake nails..please don't be offended. It's just that now I would rather give up a fake nails budget and put that money aside for an extra mortgage payment or to add more insulation to the house. Our financial situation has now improved but the lessons and priorities that we were forced to submit to have now become our preference.
So, I guess all of this is why I get a little irked when someone comments that I "get to" stay home. No...I don't "get to" stay home...I'm able to stay home because we've worked hard at it.