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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Making it on One Income


From: Survive the Worst

In the not too distant past many would argue that it is impossible for a family to survive on one income. However, recent developments on the political and economic landscape is forcing those same people to reconsider their previously held convictions.
People that I personally know would get angry when first confronted with the fact that our household was a one income family. "I don't know how you do it, there's no way I could survive if we both didn't work," was, by far, the most often repeated answer but my favorite was the one which eluded to marital responsibility. This one always made me laugh as they would shake their heads, counseling me, on the way things are supposed to be. "Marriage is supposed to be a 50/50 deal. You are supposed to share the burden with your wife," and on and on they'd go. (Side note- most of the people who lecture me on my wife's duties are now divorced.)
Regardless of how my situation made those around me feel, the reality, that something wasn't quite right, forced us, a family, to make a dramatic change in our lives. For the first eleven years of my son's life we were a typical, two income household, straddled in debt, with our child well on his way to becoming a latch key kid.
Up until this point, everything was going as planned. We were living the American Dream; house payments, car payments, credit cards; even our son was excelling in school as he received the honor roll on nearly every single report card. Things were going great. Until I started looking at things at little deeper.
Our son had just graduated from Elementary school and I forgot what made me check but I realized that my son could barely figure out simple mathematical problems. Here was a repeated honor roll student who had never given us a moments trouble in school and he could barely add and subtract. Instantly I wanted to know how he could wrangle his way through school and NO ONE noticed his math deficiencies. I felt like I was a failure as a parent.
Then I began to research and stumbled across more than one sad tale of students who managed to receive a diploma and were nothing more than functional illiterates. We realized that something dramatic needed to happen. After a period of intense soul searching, we decided that my wife should quit her job and home school our oldest. That was 1997 and we haven't looked back sense.
I would be lying if I said it was the easiest decision we have ever made. The truth is that it has been a life of sacrifice. The standard of living we once had is now a distant memory but I feel we are much better off. We now have two of the finest gentlemen one could ever hope to meet, and they both know how to add and subtract.
As for the sacrifices, they were at first hard to swallow. The first to go with the uncontrolled use of our credit cards. Gone were the days of instant gratification. Then we slowly eliminated the purchasing of all that stuff that the TV pitchmen attempt to con you into buying. Slowly but surely we departed from the lifestyle of hyper consumerism into a slower, less materialistic life. Finally we began to attack our debts and slowly have whittled them down to the point that we now control our lives. Do you want true freedom? Then get rid of all of your debts. Below is a few suggestions I have for thriving in a one income home.
1. Turn off your TV. I  slowly began watching less TV. This was not a concentrated plan. It happened on its own. I really have no idea why I stopped but I have noticed that my desire to consume (buy) all of the latest gadgets has dropped off of a cliff. My wife recently asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I honestly couldn't name one thing I wanted. Eliminate the commercials, eliminate the false desire to acquire.
2. Create a budget and stick to it. The entire spectrum of economics can be explain in this simple phrase. Spend less than you make. Control your spending and justify everything you buy.
3. Thou shall not covet. Forget about trying to keep up with your neighbors. Buy only what you need and determine if the cost for your wants are really justified. Either way, always buy for cash. If you can't afford to buy for cash right now, you don't need it.
4. Use Coupons. Work the sales papers and use coupons to maximize your savings at the grocery store. Plan your meals and buy strategically.
5. Grow your own food. For whatever reason fresh vegetables are more expensive than processed ones. If your not gardening now, you need to start. Learn as much as you can about growing your own veggies.
6. Learn to hunt and fish. Never pass up an opportunity to acquire fresh meat and fish. In the long run, wild game is far better for you than food raised in a factory.
This short list is an excellent foundation to build your self sufficient lifestyle. I'm sure many of you have tips that will far overshadow the ones I present. Feel free to share your suggestions by leaving a comment.
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