Staying at home: How to downsize from dual to single income

Published: Monday, March 5 2012 6:00 p.m. MST

Elsa and Michael Duncan of West Valley City, Utah, didn't have to adjust their lifestyle when Elsa left her job at a mortgage services company a year ago. From the beginning they lived only on Michael's income from the Granite School District's planning and boundaries department. "We didn't want to get used to a lifestyle we couldn't maintain," Elsa said. "We were strict on our budget."

A portion of Elsa's income went into savings — creating an emergency fund that could buffer future problems. A larger portion went to pay down the mortgage on their home. "We get more satisfaction out of saving than out of spending," she said. "It makes us happy having money in the bank."

The cost of working

VanderToolen recommends couples consider having some sort of in-home job or entrepreneurship. It doesn't need to be big, but it could help ease the blow of the income loss as well as the feelings of the person who is no longer working. "It can be very rewarding," he said. "It helps the person feel like they are contributing, even if it is only a little bit."

Chris and Mindy Fidler always planned to live on one income. The Midvale, Utah, couple both worked in college — and when Mindy graduated in 2003, she had the largest income while Chris finished his degree. That switched after he graduated, and as kids came along, Mindy worked less and less. Now, with three small children, Mindy stays at home full time.

Chris began his own portable x-ray business, Mobile MBS Inc., to help people with swallowing disorders. Mindy helps at home with the billing and materials.

McCoy, however, warns people about part-time jobs. She said most of the people she spoke with hadn't evaluated what it was costing them to work. There are child care and transportation costs. But there is also increased food expenses resulting from eating out and not being able to spend time shopping sales or preparing food from scratch. "A lot of people in part-time jobs were only netting about a dollar an hour, or it was actually costing them to work — they weren't bringing home anything," she said. "They hadn't ever added up what they were spending."


Deciding to cut an income drastically is not something McCoy said should be taken lightly. "If you are going to do a drastic budget cut, you are going to give up something that you love," McCoy said. "Are you ready to? Is your reason for doing it more important than your love for the thing you are giving up?"

The most important thing to start with is your attitude, McCoy said. "People don't have to be afraid that life is all over," she said. "It can be a lot of fun."

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