Updated on 12.17.08

The Limits of Frugality: What’s Next When You Can’t Cut Any More?

Trent Hamm

Jen writes in:

Since our son was born, we’ve been trying to function as a one income family, but it just isn’t working. We’ve cut out every expense we can think of and are jumping through every hoop we can find to save money, but we’re simply not making ends meet. What’s next? Surely it can’t be impossible to do this.

You’re not alone in feeling this way, Jen. Many people make a plan for functioning with a low income, then as prices increase at a rate faster than the increase in salaries in your household, it becomes progressively harder and harder to keep up. You keep throwing every frugal technique you can find at the problem, but at some point, there’s a line that frugality just can’t carry you over and you’re stuck.

So what do you do when you reach that point? Here are seven tactics that I would try.

Get a part time job that doesn’t require you to take the kids to daycare. That usually means an evening or night job as a gas station attendant or a grocery re-stocker. Those jobs are fairly high turnover (because many of the people doing it are high school students and college students who are just seeking a quick buck in their pocket), so there are usually slots available if you look around. Most employers will be happy to give you a part time schedule that works for you. Consider a 7 PM to 11 PM shift or a 2 AM to 6 AM shift.

Look into self-employment opportunities. Perhaps you could open a very small-scale home daycare, where you take in just a few children during the day. A small number of kids would provide companionship for your own children without taking away too much from the focused time and attention you give to them, plus it would bring in some additional income.

Consider eliminating what you consider a “basic” service. Many people can’t imagine living without a cell phone or without high speed internet access – they consider these services to be essential. However, such services can easily be eliminated in most people’s lives. Look through every monthly bill you have and consider carefully whether you need that service – or whether it’s just something you’ve become so complacent about that you think of it as a need.

Find a family in a similar situation as yours and work cooperatively with them. For example, you could share a warehouse club membership and take advantage of the low prices there by buying bulk items together and splitting them among the families. You could also get into a routine of potlucking dinners together so that you can make your meal dollars stretch a little further. You might also want to consider reciprocal free babysitting with that family to further cut costs. There are lots of ways that you can share (and reduce) costs with another family – just sit down and talk about it.

Ask for help. Talk to your close friends and family about your situation and see if they have any ideas. Everyone’s situation is unique and you may find that the people closest to you have novel ideas about how you can improve your situation. Don’t be ashamed, either – quite often, working couples are actually envious of families where one parent can stay at home and are amazed that you’ve actually taken the courageous step to pull it off.

Plan for future milestones. You may want to consider returning to work full time when a certain milestone is reached – say, your youngest child begins school. If you can clearly envision that milestone, then you can plan accordingly. Seek out personal loans that will help you to get through until that date. Look for temporary arrangements that might be uncomfortable at the time, but can make waiting for such milestones much easier.

Finally, don’t give up hope. You made a series of choices in your life that led you to this point because they were the right choices for you and your family at the time. Consider all of the positive results that have come about because you took the road less traveled, and use that positive assessment to your advantage. Your choices have put you in a better place – you can get through this.

Good luck!

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  1. plonkee says:

    If you really can’t make ends meet as a one income family, then you might have to become a two income family.

    It probably isn’t what you want, but if you can’t afford the bare essentials and you can’t cut back any further, then you’ll have to earn more money – and that might have to include putting your kid in daycare.

    If that’s truly unpalatable, have you tried moving to a cheaper property (if you’re renting), giving up a car, getting rid of the phone, cutting food back even further (try living on the amount that food stamps provide as a guideline, there’s even a menu),..

    If you have debt, and that’s what’s causing the problem there are free not for profit resources that can help you. You might need to file for bankruptcy, or make agreements with your creditors, but something can generally be done.

  2. leslie says:

    You could even do a part-part-time job such as tutoring or perhaps taking advantage of a skill. Can you sew? You could do alterations. Anything to bring in a couple extra bucks.

  3. janet says:

    I can tell you what we did when we were young and just starting out. It worked for us, maybe it will for you also. We were determined that I stay home with our son. To do so meant a lot to both of us. First of all we had no credit cards. We paid for everything w/cash. We had no cable or extras. I cooked all 3 meals for us everyday. We took walks for entertainment and fitness. We walked everywhere. We took in a roommate. This worked out well for us, it was a relative and I provided meals and laundry service to go along w/the rent we were charging. That worked well for about a year, which was great. Then I decided to start babysitting for others. That worked really well because now my son had someone to play with and you can make really good money doing daycare. We had lots of fun. I continued babysitting as we had more children. Our kids grew up with these other kids. Our oldest son and that original kid I babysat were college roommates! There are so many things to do if you really want to stay home and raise your kids yourself. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  4. Curt says:

    Whatever you do, don’t put your kids back in daycare. You will probably regret it more then any other change that you make, and your kids will never be the same.

    You can making the right choice, the choice that more people need to begin making. The choice to parent your children and give them the most valuable thing they could have – you time.

    Trend has some excellent ideas. Give them some time to find a way to work this out.

  5. Curt says:

    Whatever you do, don’t put your kids back in daycare. You will probably regret it more then any other change that you make, and your kids will never be the same.

    You are making the right choice, the choice that more people need to begin making. The choice to parent your children and give them the most valuable thing they could have – your time.

    Trend has some excellent ideas. Give them some time to find a way to work this out.

  6. Jacqueline says:

    This is as great article. I compare the financial situation described here as paralleling the person who wants to lose weight but already eats healthily and can’t just cut out refined sugar or flour because they already don’t eat them. My husband lost one of his jobs, and our income is cut in half. We were in heavy debt pay-off mode, not savings mode, when he lost his job, so we are really feeling this. I think the bottom line for us is to to stretch every frugal technique as far as we can. We are wearing layers indoors with the thermostat set on 54. Our primary protein is beans, and I’m baking a lot. This isn’t best case scenario, but we’re surviving in the meantime. My husband also has gone back over his email inbox and done what he can to drum up old freelance contacts. We’re not getting rich, but so far, we’re not going further into debt. Great point too about letting friends and family know where you are. Maybe there’s a fine line between begging and informing, but there are people in our lives who want to help, but they have to know how to do so.

  7. tiphaine says:

    Ask for help!
    I work in a family center, there is a lot of people who come for services, they have some income, but not enough, and we are here to help:
    -food pantry
    – clothing
    – presents on birthdays and for Christmas
    – free after-school program

    All of that just with registering as family in the center. It’s religious so it works like a community. We have specific help for specific families (we focus on inmates families) but everyone is welcome.
    Look around for that kind of center.
    Check also for what they expect from you in return (for example we expect to see the family every week, attend fundraising events, help with some community services, attend parenting workshop..)
    Not much required, a real help for the people who come..

  8. Rocky says:


    Great advice as per normal.


  9. Procrastamom says:

    No need to strike fear into someone about daycare Curt. Many children have attended daycare, mine included, and have yet to show negative effects from it. (My three young serial killers haven’t been caught yet!)

    I second/third/forth the idea of taking a part-time job in the evenings and weekends. There are lots of benefits to it, including the fact that the usual stay home parent gets some time away from the kids and interaction with adults and the regularly working parent gets more time with the kids.

  10. I would add:
    *know where your money, to the penny, is going
    *contact utilities to see if you can get any assistance with your heating or other bills
    *for holiday gifts, ask family members for things you need (boots, linens, giftcard to the pharmacy) rather than toys, games, etc.
    *check out Freecycle.org and craigslist.org- people give away things they no longer need. I’ve given away everything from food to clothing to craft supplies and received clothing for my daughter, a bike for my husband, and other craft supplies
    *check your local library for resources. They often have free classes and workshops. You can also get free internet access there.
    *you could get assistance with food and clothing and toiletries from a food pantry or clothing closet. Many are run through non-profits and churches.
    *you may indeed need to have a second income for a time. Consider a newspaper route that you can do before your partner goes to work / your child can come along. Or snow removal during the winter, other things. My parents pick up aluminum cans for the bottle deposit (in MI it is 10 cents per can- they often find $5-10 worth a week just going on daily walks). It’s small but it helps.

  11. cv says:

    I’d think about ways to become a 1.25 or 1.5 income family – can the stay at home parent babysit or provide child care for a neighbor for a few hour a week? Do freelance work? Take in sewing, as someone mentioned above? Provide computer repair services? Do telephone customer service from home? There should be something the person can do for a few hours a week that might help close the gap.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Sometimes there just any where else to cut. If that is the case, then you have to figure out a way to bring in more income. What can you sell? Can you deliver papers? Can you work from home? Look for every opportunity to earn money to make ends meet. For me, when we were in this situation, I got a job working in the nursery of our church. It was typically weekday mornings, or evenings. I ended up making a couple of hundred a month and it was just enough to make my staying home manageable. Look for something like that if you can. Good luck!

  13. Krista says:

    Definitely remember that working doesn’t always mean 40 hrs per week plus a commute. In addition to supermarkets, you should also check out children’s retailers. A part time job at a kids’ clothing store will get you some extra income AND cut down your clothing costs (since you usually get a discount).

    The other thing to look into are LETS schemes in your neighbourhood. These are organized bartering groups, where you can often use some of your less mainstream skills in exchange for goods or money (I’ve even seen people rent out their tools and heavy machinery).

    And definitely utilize Freecycle as much as possible. When I moved I used it as my primary source for furnishing my house. I wouldn’t even consider buying something until I had spent a week trying to find it for free. You’d be amazed how often you can find things you need for no money.

    And… @Curt: considering this woman is already aprehensive about putting her kids in daycare, that comment was just plain insensitive.

  14. katy says:

    Wonderful post! May I also recommend the dollar stretcher,


    tips on everything and also a community of stretchers.

  15. wewally says:

    Don’t be ashamed of food stamps, they are there for a reason. The same with WIC, its got less requirements. Add a renter, good college kids can be quiet and studious.

  16. Another option to consider is taking in a boarder or a roommate. If you have a “junk” room, clear it out and find someone who will pay you a monthly rent for it. Same goes if you have an extra bay in your garage. Rent it out to someone who needs storage space.

    If your family still has more than one vehicle, figure out how to survive on just one. You’ll get some cash from the sale, and save on the insurance costs.

  17. oneofnine says:

    If you only have one young son, it is fairly easy to work as a babysitter/nanny out of the home. Advertise or answer ads on craigslist for childcare. Many families don’t mind at all if you bring your child with you, especially if they have kids the same age. I did that when I was pregnant with my first son, and I stayed with the family for almost 4 years until my second came along and it was too hard to nanny with both my own kids and two others. Still, by that time I was already part of the family and they still call me for the odd babysitting job in the evening or on weekends. Earning $10-$15 an hour for watching a couple of kids is almost too easy!

    I have another friend (stay at home mom) who organizes kids parties on the side. She makes about $100 for putting together holiday or birthday parties and organizes everything so the parents don’t have to do it. You might think that with the state of the economy no one would pay for a kids party planner, but its not true. She organizes very simple but fun activities (parents pay for all the supplies) and has a party booked almost every weekend! (Brings in an extra $400-$500 every month)

  18. Kim says:

    (Dave Ramsey would say that Jen and her family have an income crisis).

    It’s just difficult now for a middle-class family to live on one income. Those days are probably over – unless you are willing to give up more than most people: one car, vacations, savings, shopping retail, eating out, computer access, cable, replacement versus repairs, the list is endless and full of hard choices.

  19. Sorry but this sounds like nothing more than somebody who wants to live a particular lifestyle, yet refuses to work in order to support it. Instead of thinking in terms of cutting costs, figure out how much the lifestyle you want to lead costs, and then generate the income required to support it. Also without knowing numbers on what your monthly expenses/income are it is impossible for anybody to give you realistic advice which might possibly be useful. With such a vague problem statement, trying to come up with any concrete advice is just a shot in the dark. What expenses specifically have you tried to cut and and how much are you spending on them currently?

  20. Mike says:

    My wife and I have 2 kids, 4 and 2 years and we have been on both sides of this. We started with her staying at home, then moved to part time and full time work, now with the third child on the way we are actually moving to one income again. However we are much wiser in the process. For the past 8 months span we have been putting away a back up savings to cover our costs and prevent us from financing purchases.
    Here is my thoughts, find some work to come up with as a transition plan. You want to be there with your kids because you enjoy them, think its best and I suspect your spouse probably appreciates it. So come up with a transition plan. It might be working at Wal-mart odd hours for some time. I would suggest non traditional child car, maybe a family friend that could come in once in a while, someone you know and can trust with your child. These psedo aunts are worth their weight in gold. Don’t give up hope, work with your spouse on this one, its never easy because we do have to sacrifice in some areas to make it meet. But there will no doubt be a time in your life when you can work as much as you want, but I suspect now isn’t that time for you.

  21. momof4 says:

    Direct sales ISN’T for everyone, but it CAN BE a good source of income for a sahp, if you thoroughly investigate the opportunities and look for one with a low start up cost, and no inventory, and you are diligent about keeping your business costs down. This is the route I have gone and am very happy with it, and am able to be home with my kids during the day.

  22. Places to cut: Housing (downsize, move in with parents), car (sell), TV (go to broadcast, ditch entirely), internet, phone service (except a prepaid cell), subscriptions, vacations, restaurant visits, gifts, donations, clothes (patch and wear it out), hobbies, meat and milk products, heating (above 55F), cooling (below 95F), water (no running), electricity (lights off),…

  23. Michelle says:

    I have a different approach to cutting back. Instead of looking at what you can cut, start from the opposite perspective. How much do you spend on food, medical, housing, and necessary utilities? Consider that to be your absolute baseline spending. Is this amount less than what your husband is making? If yes, then from there add back in the areas of spending that are most important TO YOU. If no, then you either need to accept your accumulation of debt during this time in your life or you need to make more money. I wish you the best of luck!

  24. bay says:

    This is a sticky situation, but I have to say that I disagree with Kim that the era of the stay-at-home middle class mom is over. It does take one decent wage earner, but if you plan wisely and make frugal decisions it is still possible to go out to eat once in a while, take a vacation, etc.

    Since Jen really is passionate about staying with her son, I would suggest looking into working at a daycare (or church preschool, etc.) where she could still be in the same facility as her child and work a few hours. Also, like Trent suggested, getting a part-time job, and this could even be direct sales. My sister sold jewelry through evening and weekend parties while staying at home with her son and now that she works full time, she still keeps that business up because she has people ‘under’ her that continue to earn her money!

    It is possible, and I wouldn’t give up hope.

  25. KT says:

    I think it would be interesting to have Jen and her husband track their expenses down to the penny for a month and send the information into Trent. Sometimes it’s hard to see solutions that might be obvious to an outsider. I’d certainly try that before looking for a way to make money. Caring for a young child is full time work, and it can be easier to live more frugally than to get a job that takes time away from your child.

  26. Jacqui says:

    I had a stay-at-home mom. When money was tight she worked as a night clerk in a small hotel and later as a church secretary. We almost never ate a restaurant, no cable, bought practical used cars, wore hand-me-down childrens clothes when possible, bought new clothes only once or twice a year, got only a few small presents, and had to save up from our small allowance or earn enough to buy indulgences. All of which I’m greatfull for.
    There’s nearly always something else you can cut. Switch to cloth diapers and try to potty train as early as possible. Get a food processor and make your own baby food. Buy in bulk. Eat less meat. Drop your TV service.
    Put off purchases, you’ll likely discover you can live without them. But perhaps most importantly, get involved in your community. Through a church or school group or some activity with other SAHMs. You’ll not only find people to share stuff with, you’ll get helpful advice and much needed emotional support.

  27. steve says:

    This post got me thinking:

    I can remember eating out with my parents when I was a kid maybe six times in my entire life.

    It just didn’t happen.

    they would go out on dates sometimes to a restaurant, but the family almost NEVER ate in a restaurant. Meals were cooked at home, lunches were packed from home.

    Somehow as a society we got away from that over the last 20 years, at least middle class people did. To the detriment of our personal finances, I would say.

    BTW, If you want to get a different perspective on “needs” versus wants, I suggest checking out Early Retirement Extreme’s website (he posted a comment a little bit above mine) as well as Trent’s It may give you some support in reducing your “lifestyle” quite a bit more than maybe you are used to, in order to happily fulfill your important goals, which in your case would probably be being able to remain a one-income household (as opposed to his goal, which is extreme early retirement. But the tactics can be similar even though the goal is different).

  28. steve says:

    BTW, I also agree about the heating comment for those in cold climates. 55F is a perfectly livable temperature once you get used to it and once you dress for it. At night you can easily go lower, unless prevented by a lease agreement or insurance clause.

    Did you ever see the movie “A Lion In Winter,” about King Richard? There is one scene where he (played by Richard Burton, I believe) and the queen (played by Katherine Hepburn) wake up in their bedchamber in the winter morning, get out of bed, and King Richard goes to the side of the room to the washbasin. He then BREAKS THE ICE that’s covering the water in the washbasin so he can splash some water on his face.

    So a 20 degree room was good enough for a king back then, but somehow nowadays most people can’t stand below 65 degrees year round. Hmmm…

    compared to standing outside the the 15 F cold, 55 is very balmy!.

  29. Lisa says:

    Hi! Jen~~~Can you write back in & give us specific things from your budget? It would help to know what areas you are having trouble with. I have been a stay at home Mom for most of our child’s life, except for few times. He turned 18 this year.My husband makes $11.27 per hour & this is the highest income we have had.We haven’t been on assistance from govt., since he was like 3 when we got food stamps $104 month & wic & that was only for about a year & we ended up having to pay 2 months back cause our income went up bylike $50 over the level.We are doing ok. We rent an upper half of house , which is cold now-no insulation , but cheaper than other rentals at $375 a month for about 650 square feet. You can e-mail me at stargazer43008@yahoo.com or write back here. I’ll try to give you tips on any areas you want. I have lots of bookmarked websites that havegood info on frugal living. blessings, lisa

  30. eden says:

    You could also consider taking a part time job during the day – but trading childcare with another stay at home parent with an opposite schedule. Ex. You could work Mon and Wed mornings, and the other person could work Tue and Thu afternoons.

  31. DivaJean says:

    “Whatever you do, don’t put your kids back in daycare. You will probably regret it more then any other change that you make, and your kids will never be the same.”

    I would avoid daycare only in that it costs so much, not in that its going to lead to the ruin of the children. (Insert hand wringing damsel-ly picture here) I would agree more in looking for off hour work where one parent could be home.

    “This is a sticky situation, but I have to say that I disagree with Kim that the era of the stay-at-home middle class mom is over.”

    No its not. There are tons of frugality sites about how stay at homes economize, scrimp, & save to make it possible in this time. It may require a black belt in frugality, but it CAN be done. My take home is a tickle over $35K— and my hubby is a SAHM for our 4 kids. Granted, we do get a stipend from Uncle Sam since we adopted foster children– but that is the “college fund” money and is our third rail, never to touch unless extenuating circumstance AND only if needed for kid related needs since it is their money.

  32. SteveJ says:

    I had two thoughts:

    One along the lines of the part-time job, is it possible for the working spouse maybe work at home one day a week, or flex the hours a bit to work weekends or the like? That might give the couple more options as far as finding additional work hours in another job.

    The other is to look for seasonal work as a quick fix way to maybe get some money saved up for leaner times. Obviously retail is dying down, but tax season is upon us. Can Jen or her husband put in some long hours for a couple months to get ahead a little bit? (hopefully finding someone to watch the kids on the cheap with the knowledge that it’s a temporary situation). My wife isn’t quite a SAHM, but she juggles part-time jobs to give us a cushion when we need one.

    Either way you have to cut costs or trade some time for money. It’s hard to get by on 3-4 hours a sleep, but you can do it for a few months if you’re getting desperate.

    I think the family center idea is a great one as well. I have a hard time taking charity, but there’s a lot of people that really want to help and it improves their lives to make a difference in yours.

  33. Battra92 says:

    Until I was in the 4th grade my mom was a stay at home mom. I remember eating Spaghetti Os for lunch most every day (well that and Campbell’s soup)

  34. Battra92 says:

    Until I was in the 4th grade my mom was a stay at home mom. I remember eating Spaghetti Os for lunch most every day (well that and Campbell’s soup)

    I should mention that we went to “daycare” for a few hours a couple days a week just because we had no kids in the neighborhood (and none of my mom’s friends had kids) so it was a good way for us to play with others and get us out of the house. If you can’t do this, maybe there’s a grandmother who could watch them a couple hours once or twice a week while you take a small side job.

  35. Johanna says:

    Are charity and government assistance really appropriate resources to sustain the long-term lifestyle of someone whose income is voluntarily reduced? I seem to recall from previous discussions here that the consensus was that those resources exist primarily as temporary measures for people who are down on their luck, to help them get back on their feet.

    But it sounds like Jen and her partner are a one-income family by choice (funny how so many people are assuming that Jen is the one staying home, when she doesn’t specify that) and intend to be so for the long term. Their situation is not all that different than if I were to quit my job (for no reason other than that I don’t feel like doing it anymore) and support myself on what I can get from charity.

    In these tough times, charities are being stretched thinner and thinner with all the people who are losing their jobs and have no other choice. I’m sorry if this sounds hard-hearted for Christmas Eve, but when I donate money to help the less fortunate, I don’t really want it going to people who could earn enough money to support themselves but choose not to.

  36. CD says:

    Johanna, I agree with you. On the other hand, some of the more *difficult* options (scale down your home) are virtually untenable at this particular economic time. I have friends desperate for work applying for lowend jobs and there are TONS of applicants for retail, etc. It may not be that easy to find work *regardless* of how willing you are to work.

    Staying away from daycare is a poor excuse for not working, as well. My daycare provider is
    “grandma” for my kids and though both my kids are in school/preschool now – they still visit “grandma” monthly (gasp! for FREE) for a day of fun. When DH was unemployed she’d watch them for us because she missed them and DH had to study for tests and go on interviews. My daycare provider and I “clicked” when we met and she is now one of my closest friends here.

    Had I not developed that relationship I would not have any support system at all since I have no family nearby other than my elderly Mom who can’t watch the kids and often needs help herself.

    For the situtation of Trend’s friend – I agree with Trent. Nose to the grindstone, cut out *everything* and actively work on finding some kind of part time work. In this economy, I’d rent my home out and live with relatives or in a small studio rather than try to sell…. but that’s just me.

    In this area you can rent studio apartments for less than $500/month. That, and a $10 emergency phone would round out the bare minimum monthly requirements for getting by assuming bus service is available for transportation, and food stamps are available to cover food.

    Of course that would be severe, but may be better than bankruptcy, losing a home, or moving in with relatives.

  37. Michelle H. says:

    I was a stay at home mom on a very limited income for many years – I’d love to help if I can. You can email me directly at michellehowell.1@juno.com.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  38. Lisa says:

    Are there any possible options to increase the salary of the income earner? Additional hours, certifications that can demand a higher salary, company career path programs?

  39. jreed says:

    Commercial office cleaning – weeekends and nights – it is good money and fairly easy cleaning because there are no kids, cooking or pets…just vacuuming, dusting, powder rooms (no tubs or showers) and emptying the trash. Plus it is good exercise.

  40. Battra92 says:

    @Johanna, you seem to be really sensitive about the whole women staying at home thing. I don’t know the exact numbers but I’d wager a guess that the odds are very good that it’s her.

    I would agree though that she’s not a charity case. I live in a perpetually stagnant area (we never see the high highs but we never feel the truly low lows) and a lot of places here seem to be looking for temporary work.

    I’d also look at Craigslist for tutoring, odd jobs and other such work to bring in a few extra dollars here and there.

  41. Jennifer says:

    I have to disagree on the comment about middle income families not being able to make it on one income anymore. My husband is a teacher and while things have been tight over the years, I have stayed home for the past 9 years. I have done sporadic things like in home daycare, working in the churches nursery and now having a blog that generates income, but the money I have always earned has gone towards the extras that we were not able to afford on my husbands salary. With the 1 income though, we have always been able to own a home and 2 cars and live a decent life with everything we need. I think it is totally doable, even today, if the parents want it bad enough to cut out the extras.

  42. Mark says:

    When there are no expenses left to cut or costs to trim, then you must generte extra income. You can find ways to get paid for almost anything today.

  43. CD says:

    Jennifer, it’s true that if you plan well practically any goal is attainable. The issues for most folks is that unfortunately (or sometimes not), circumstances change.

    They did for my Mom, whose husband died unexpectedly at 42, my friend whose husband was layed off in 2001 (tech bubble) and net income was 50% for about 5 years till he rebuilt his career. For another friend who ended with a husband with cancer in late 30s. Or for other friends who started out happily in a two income situation but ended up being caregivers to a disabled child, or caring for elderly parents.

    If you plan well, and your plan continues working for your circumstances… of course it all works out. However, there are a lot of curveballs in life. Remaining flexible regarding you situation is the best course, and not judging others for doing what is best in their circumstances. Because you really don’t know what’s going on in their lives.

    Coments like “if they want it bad enough to cut out the extras” certainly make light of how life-altering events can change even the best plans.

  44. Len Penzo says:

    I will be politically incorrect here, but if you are having trouble making it on one income, then you most likely aren’t trying hard enough. There may be extenuating circumstances, but your note just doesn’t give enough information.

    In the end it’s all about living within your means and making the right choices. You CAN be happy and live a comfortable life on one income if you are willing to make the right choices.

    For more on this, please check out my humble blog and this post, in particular: http://lenpenzo.com/blog/id213-the-dirty-lowdown-distinguishing-wants-from-needs.html

    For now, your first step must be to dig ndown deep to understand what you really need from what you think you need.


  45. stacy says:

    Several people have suggested you take care of a couple other kids to make money. My friend tried that and her doctor bills went Way up due to the sick kids coming in the house and making her kid sick. Just something to think about.

  46. Laura says:

    @Steve (#21) Because the mortality rate was so awesomely low during the Crusades, right? Lowering the temperature to 55F during the day isn’t all that great for an infant who has very little immune defense.

  47. Sunbee says:

    It’s not impossible. It just feels that way some days. I stay home with now four children, and mostly have since the begining. Daycare would cost more than I’d make at this point. It helps that the only debt we have are student loans and medical copays. You might also find it helpful to stop thinking of yourself as middle class. Because really, in terms of wages, you’re embracing voluntary poverty. (Quite possibly in terms of governemental standards, you are.)
    Try this: make a list of the stuff you have to have to survive and why you have to have it and then see what the least expensive way to provide that is.
    As far as earning extra income goes, there’s always child care. If you like to sell stuff, you can try a direct sales item. If you can teach something, see if you can find a student. Are you connected in any way with any homeschool families? We hire people to teach our kids specialty classes all the time.

  48. Angela says:

    This is and old post but since it was relinked I’ll say it anyway. If keeping the kids out of daycare and with the parents is the biggest goal then maybe mom should start looking for a job that pays better than dad’s and dad can stay home. I know plenty of families where the mother is the high income earner. Or course in my family both parents worked and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I had plenty of kids to play with and socialize with at daycare. My mother had a life and career of her own and was always so happy to pick me up and spend time with me. I wasn’t a job to her. I just really can’t see going on welfare to support a life style choice when I could work.

    One note on the daycare though. Check the laws in your area first. An illegal daycare operation could cost you way more than it brings in. Some places babysitting more than one child can count as running an illegal daycare.

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