There are a variety of reasons why a couple might consider living off of one income.
It may be one parent wants to stay home with a new baby. Or perhaps you have an aging loved one who needs more care. Or maybe even one spouse is going through some health problems or job loss.
Whatever your reason, it may mean widdling down your earnings to one income for a time, or perhaps permanently.
If you’re deciding whether or not can pursue FI on one income, or you've already reduced to one income, and you’re looking for ways to make it work, read on.
Weigh The Costs And Benefits
If you are facing a situation where you currently do have the choice between one income or two, it’s worth running the numbers. Before jumping in, see how living off of one income would impact your budget and FI date.
Living off of one income may seem impossible at first, but you may have significant savings along with the loss of income. Tally up how much you will save as a household on care costs by having one member do the care-taking. Caring for an aging parent can be even more expensive than daycare, even with good insurance. Do the math to see what would be more cost effective. You might be surprised.
While at first, seeing your timeline get longer can feel disheartening, it’s helpful to remember that there’s more to FI than dollars alone. It may be a bit deflating to see your timeline grow longer but there is something to be said about the power of even being able to make this choice.
Additionally, there are plenty of intangibles involved–like knowing you're there for an ailing loved one, or homeschooling your children, which money can’t buy.
Spend Less And Earn More
If you’re scaling back to one income, frugality is a useful tool. Being wise about every penny spent is the most effective way to put your money to work. Especially when that income is spread thin. Focusing on marginal gains instead of extreme frugality is a great way to make the adjustments needed without going into shock.
Each month, instead of giving up toilet paper or refusing to run the A/C, simply focus on getting 1% better with how you earn, save, and invest the money you do have coming in. How can you be a little smarter each month and get everyone involved? Marginal gains add up!
Even if one person has to leave full or part-time work, that doesn’t mean that they are relegated to earning $0 forever. Could a side hustle be implemented? A room rented? If you’re caring for a family member, could you also provide care to others for payment?
Several stay at home parents also have dabbled in running a daycare at home or dog sitting to supplement their years at home with small children.
Remember Your Why
If you’re feeling stressed or nervous that living on one income will ruin your FI date, it’s important to reconnect with why you want to pursue financial independence in the first place.
- Why do you want to reach FI?
- Is it so that you can live life on your terms?
- Be there for your family?
- Have the freedom to do what you want?
If being with a family member or taking time off is a core value, then your money is now aligned with that value. FI itself is not a magical finish line where life is perfect, happy, and clear. Your life now shouldn’t be too different from life after FI. Stay in touch with why you choose to live this lifestyle and see that you’re walking the walk now.
For some of us, it's absolutely fine to blend our pre and post FI lives. It enables us to be the people we want to be and live the values we treasure most. Luckily, FI doesn't have to be a number or a finish line; it can be a way of life and a journey of your own making.
Remember It’s Not Forever
If you’re living on one income, it's likely just for a fixed amount of time and could change. Eventually, little ones grow up and go off to school, sick relatives can get better, job markets change, and situations evolve.
While living off of one income can be stressful and challenging when you’re trying to hit your FI number, it doesn’t have to be forever. There will be time to play catch up later or get creative with your income streams, but you can’t get this time back. So do your best to be confident in your decision. You don’t need to feel the FI FOMO, you’re on your own unique path!
It’s a highly personal decision, and no matter what you choose, the FI community is here for you!
We hope this article helps, but if you’re still weighing your options, come to the ChooseFI Facebook group and get some feedback or ideas.