How My Family Escaped the Dual-Income Trap and Your's Can Too!

One of the most important turning points in my family's life was the decision to move from a two-income family to a single.  This was no easy task since not only did we have a decent amount of debt, the cost of living in Southern California was insane.

How did we make it happen?  Well, read on to find out the first steps we took...

The next few posts will be centered around the tips and tricks that helped me to keep my family from falling into the modern trap of disunity and overworking for the sake of money.

Yes, I know this may not be an important topic to you, but even if your goal isn't to have a family with one parent that is able to stay home, I think that you'll get a lot of this.

After all, this is You Can Work Less...  why have two people spending 4160 hours a year at work when they don't have to.

Make It a Goal to Be a Single-Income Family

Why do two people in a household need to work?  Seriously?  I would argue that when most families look at the real reasons why they are working it is because of the following:

  • Daycare payments
  • Cable bill
  • Smart phone bills
  • subscriptions to magazines and other online stuff
  • The ability to eat out all of the time
  • High rent or mortgage cost
  • Cost of entertainment
  • Cost of extra-curricular activities for the kids
  • Cost of kid's entertainment
  • The high price of education
  • and so on...

Of course, some of these may not apply to your situation, but most probably would.

Why do we need all of this?  How are all of these making our lives, and our family's lives, better and more fulfilling?

Cut the Crap (i.e. Get Rid of Unnecessary Expenses)

One of the first steps in achieving your goal to become a singe-income family is placing priorities in the right order.  Once you see what is really important, the rest will fall into place.

Tonight, sit down with your partner and start looking at the things that you buy throughout the month.  If you haven't been tracking anything, go to a site like www.mint.com and start plugging in your information.  From there you can quickly see your spending habits.

We all buy crap!  What crap are you buying all of the time that's a waste of money?

Here's what my family cut out that we considered to be crap:

  • Netflix
  • Cable
  • Eating out on a regular basis
  • Most entertainment (scary, yes, but you'll understand why it's not so bad in later posts)
  • High-priced education/activities (our children go to a Classical Liberal Arts Academy that is very reasonable)
  • Business subscriptions that weren't making me money
  • 2nd car

Do you have anything on the above list that you cherish and find impossible to cut?  If so, why?

The thing is, with most of this stuff, not only is it costing you an inordinate amount of money and time, it's secretly keeping you from achieving great things - let alone the possibility of a single-income family.

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While it may seem like cutting stuff like this  is a big deal - and it is at first - as you start to separate yourself and your family away from the crap, you start to see it as well... crap.

Let's Break Down the Time and/or Money Spent on Crap

Honestly, what do most of these things give us besides a diversion?  Is that what we want to teach our kids - to make sure that we have enough things so that we are never bored, uncomfortable, or challenged to find more fulfilling aspirations?

  1. Netflix - Impact: I could talk with co-workers and others about movies I recently watched.  Also learned some things with documentary-type films.  my kids and I would spend roughly 1 - 3 hours a day on this.  This is to include time spent on my iPhone or iPad while in bed for the night.
  2. Cable - Impact: I got to see a lot of commercials and be sold to on a daily-basis.  We cut this out early.  Not only is it blasphemously expensive, it's a huge time-suck.
  3. Subscriptions (magazines/business) - Impact: Information overload 1-2 hours a day and a monthly bill.  I have a weak spot for anything I think will help my business to grow.  That being said, I subscribe to a lot of crap.  Eventually I cut it down to only a few items that I truly saw a return on investment from.
  4. Eating out daily - Impact: Tasty food in less than 10 minutes, large monthly expense.  This was actually a tough one because it really can be a time-saver.  The problem is that it can really destroy your pocket-book.  Now, we shop at the beginning of the month and stretch everything.  Most meals take 30 minutes to prepare, not bad.
  5. Most entertainment - Impact: I could blow people up on Team Fortress for 1 - 6 hours daily and new games cost a decent amount.  Another hard one.  Don't get me wrong, I still play, but no new games and now I limit it to about 30 minutes.
  6. High-priced education/activities - Impact: Very busy children that rarely see home and a big bill (6+ hours a day).  This was a no- brainer.  Why in the hell would I have my children in every activity known to man in addition to the time they already spend in schooling?  Talk about an easy way to teach your children how to be workaholics, neglect their family, and develop a sense of materialism.  On top of that, all of those activities cost money.  No thanks.
  7. 2nd Car - Impact: Definitely a time-saver, but you essentially double the cost of your gas bill.  Now, cutting a second car may not work for everyone - but it did for us.  We didn't need it.  My wife could drop me off in the morning, I could bus to work, or walk (about a 2 hour walk).  Sure, it sucked at first, but my morning walks help me to respond to customer inquiries that come from the other side of the world.  In fact, I've developed some great relationships with customers that would have otherwise asked for refunds because of this.

Once these expenses are gone, you can use that extra money to pay off your debt.  Paying off your debt will give you the breathing room to move on to actually making extra money, which we'll talk about in a later post.

How Badly Do You Want The Best For Your Family?

If you believe, like me, that having one parent stay home is the best and most ideal situation for a family, then how badly do you want it?  Anything that is worth doing is going to entail difficult decisions, and these are only the first difficult decisions you'll make (there are plenty more that we made that you'll see in the next post).

What can you cut out that is sucking your time, money, and ultimately your life away?  What can you get rid of to get your family started on the right path?

7 Comments

  • Devin Rose

    March 22, 2012

    Agreed...and getting rid of our second car meant not only less gas but also less maintenance, insurance, car washes, etc. At first we missed it because sometimes we both wanted to go different places at the same time, but soon we learned to plan ahead on where we needed to be when, and we don't even notice it anymore.

    We're still trying to improve on eating out. It is really expensive to do that and adds up quickly. But my wife doesn't work and hasn't had to since we began our marriage over five years ago, so we are making it work. Great tips Dean!

    • Dean Soto

      March 22, 2012

      Ahhhh! You are the best haha. People always think I am crazy for getting rid of the 2nd car, but you bring up even more reasons why it's not that bad! Good point about the communication ahead of time too. Seriously, the majority of time the car is just sitting in the work parking lot anyway, right?

  • Charleen Larson

    March 22, 2012

    We have two cars and no children. The times my husband's car has been in the shop for extended periods I've chauffeured him to work and back. We liked spending the extra time together.

    The downside was that since I do work, only at home, and his work is 20 minutes away, it sucked a lot of time out of my schedule and put me behind. But I'm sure I would enjoy taking him to work if I didn't have a business of my own to run.

    • Dean Soto

      March 22, 2012

      Hey Charleen,

      Thanks for the comment! Yeah, totally. Spending that extra time is awesome.

      Haha, good point about it throwing things off a bit and taking you away from your work. Love the niche of your site. I am a rabid Fiverr user.

  • Marshall Davis

    March 22, 2012

    Hi Dean,

    My wife and I have no children, so we don't have to worry about the expenses that go along with them (which can be substantial, so we hear). We have had only one car for years. Our last 'real job' was for the same company, so we were able to carpool. Now that we live at home, we don't have to worry about commuting at all. As a matter of fact, we rarely use our car during the week - just to get out of the house on the weekends.

    As you point out, there are plenty of ways to cut back on expenses. Most people just think that they are unable to do without 'necessities' that are really luxuries.

    • Dean Soto

      March 23, 2012

      Hey Marshal!

      Thanks for the comment! Kids aren't that expensive ;).

      You are totally proof that it's not that bad having only one car. You both worked at the same company so I'm sure that made it a lot easier, but it's definitely not impossible to do.

      That is great that you are out of the 9 to 5 now, too. Great stuff!

      Dean

      • Marshall Davis

        March 23, 2012

        Yes, we were definitely a unique case as far as the one car goes. I don't think it would for most 'normal' couples, especially those with kids that need to be at multiple places at the same times.

        And we are truly blessed to be out of the 9-5! It isn't always easy working for yourself, but it isn't about being easy - it is about the freedom!