I get all riled up about claims that raising children costs millions. Could you spend a million dollars on a child? Sure. You can also spend over $100,000 on a Versailles-inspired Neiman Marcus chicken coop. But that would be unreasonable. Yes, kids aren’t cheap, but having a large family doesn’t have to be a financial impossibility.
Granted, each family’s situation is different and living off one income with a growing family isn’t a possibility for many no matter how hard they try to make it work. Yet, it’s often possible to maintain a family on one income. It does require great creativity and you simply won’t look like the average American family. We’re not financial wizards by any means, but we do practice some simple, common sense ways to keep our expenses down. I thought I’d start a series of posts about how we make it work and our efforts to live simply and frugally so that I can be primarily a stay-at-home mama with our growing family of three little ones.
I’m not of the opinion that it’s the right choice (or even possible) for every mama to stay home, but I do believe that life centered around the home is valuable (for women AND men.) Our ideal life would be living on a family farm so that our entire family could be centered in the home and that both my husband and I could be involved in the daily education of our children. Until that day, my husband works full-time and I’m working one afternoon a week as a ballet teacher and doing some freelance writing to supplement our income while keeping the home fires burning, homeschooling our preschooler, chasing our toddler, and soaking up our youngest’s babyhood.
But how do you survive on one income? Well, truthfully, we’ve never known any different. Our entire married life only one of us has worked full-time (at first we took turns doing college/grad school and then when our eldest was 18 months, I started primarily staying home). But we’ve learned a few tricks as our family has grown.
One of the ways we cut down on monthly expenses is to only have one car. In addition to honoring God’s earth by not wasting resources, there is the financial benefit of only one insurance payment, paying for maintenance on only one car, less money spent on gas due to carpooling, and the obvious: no second car payment. Having only one car isn’t an option for every family because of location and work schedules; however, here’s how we make it work for us:
Location, location, location:
When viewing homes to buy, we only considered houses in the center of town. We are walking distance (or almost walking distance) from: our pharmacy, our pediatrician’s office, a hospital, my midwife’s office, our favorite breakfast place, our parish, city parks, dentist office, Walgreen’s, etc. We are easy biking distance from my husband’s work, so he bikes or runs every morning and leaves me the car to cart the littles around. Another obvious benefit to short commutes to work and other frequent destinations is that you spend far less on gas than if you settled in the suburbs and had to drive 15-30 minutes to get anywhere.
My husband wins some points for awesomeness for successfully biking to the grocery store with our toddler and preschooler in tow with a biking trailer/stroller. Not your average grocery store trip, but to make the one-car life work, you have to be creative. As I said my husband bikes to work almost every day. Occasionally, he needs to run an errand or go somewhere during the work day that requires the car and we just plan accordingly knowing that we will be homebound. Some friends who are also rocking the one-car lifestyle, but have farther to travel to get to work or school, take public transportation or carpool to work with co-workers. Research what options are available to you. I was pretty inspired by this woman’s commitment to transport her six children only by bicycle.
Relish the Inconvenience:
Being a one-car family isn’t always convenient. It’s sometimes tricky to figure out how everyone will get where they need to go and occasionally we find ourselves in a bind because of poor planning. However, there is something really special about slowing down and working together to get where we need to go and it’s one of the many ways we can be a team. We spend far more time in the car together than we would if we had a second car to use which is definitely an added bonus.
Are you a one-car family? How do you make it work?
(Check out Part II: Can You Fit Three Car Seats in a Camry?)