Shifting from Two Incomes to One: Embracing The Virtues of the Single-Income Family

If you are considering shifting from two incomes to one, you probably already prepared yourself for the financial changes. But thriving on a single income requires more than just clipping coupons and eating more meals at home. To succeed we must alter our philosophical mindset and embrace the six virtues of the single-income family:

Virtue 1: Sacrifice –Shifting to one income requires sacrifice. It is this same sacrifice that causes stay-at-home parents to recoil when they are told that they are ‘fortunate’, ‘blessed’, or ‘lucky’ to be home. While they may be blessed indeed, most families make major sacrifices in order to enjoy that blessing.

Virtue 2: Humility – I was in line at Goodwill once when the phone belonging to the lady in front of me began to ring. She picked it up and said, “Oh Hi! Well, I’ll be there in about 15 minutes. I’m at the mall.” I thought about yelling, “Don’t believe her! She’s in line with us losers at Goodwill!” I find no shame in shopping at Goodwill. In fact, had I taken the call, it probably would have sounded like this: “Girlfriend, guess where I am? I’m at Goodwill, and you would not believe the deals today!”

Virtue 3: Simplicity – A life of simplicity is in many ways a spiritual quest, one that requires that we separate ourselves from a world obsessed with having the newest, biggest, and best. The goal of simplicity is to find peace in a walk that is often far different from the others walking around you. While your working friends and neighbors may be buying bigger homes, dressing their children in brand-named clothes, and enjoying fabulous vacations, you on the other hand may be downsizing your home, dressing your children in hand-me-downs, and selling family heirlooms to pay the phone bill. To find peace in this means that we are not envious, angry, or bitter about the absence of things that we’ve chosen to live without.

Virtue 4: Humor – I have to admit that it took us a while before we saw the humor in a used beat up minivan we purchased a few years back. Within a short period of time, everything that could possibly break on that death trap did. From the air conditioner to the transmission, from the power windows to the suspension, one-by-one, front to back, things just fell apart.

Our ongoing problems with the van went from distressing to absurd when the passenger door spontaneously rusted itself from the hinge followed by total failure of all the dashboard instruments. We improvised to get by. The passenger door was held shut by duct tape and a rope tied to the inside handle. Vehicle speed was estimated by the sound of the wind blowing past our window. Finally, the transmission failed, putting an end to the yearlong battle. We certainly haven’t always appreciated the humor at the time, but our low-income adventures eventually provide chuckles down the road.

Virtue 5: Gratitude – When we are always in a state of want, we fail to appreciate what it is we already have. Instead of comparing yourself to those who have more, try to compare yourself to those who have less, and be grateful for the blessings that you do have.

Virtue 6: Reject Materialism – One of the more difficult challenges to our resolve comes from envy. As we watch our neighbors and friends enjoying the finer things in life, it is easy to assume that they must be happier than us. But the research on the subject conflicts with this premise. Dr. Ed Diener has studied subjective well-being (SWB) and wealth. He concludes:

“It appears that a higher income might help if we are very poor. Gaining more income if we are middle-class or upper-class and are living in a wealthy nation is unlikely to substantially bolster our SWB on a long-term basis.” (Will Money Increase Subjective Well-Being?, Diener and Biswas-Diener, 2001)

Now what if your basic needs are being met, yet you find yourself experiencing a great deal of monetary discontent? Materialism may be your problem as Dr. Tim Kasser’s research explains:

“When people believe materialistic values are important, they report less happiness and more distress, have poorer interpersonal relationships, contribute less to the community, and engage in more ecologically damaging behaviors.” (www.knox.edu/tkasser.xml, 2005)

Shifting from two incomes to one not only requires we make dramatic financial changes, but that we adopt a philosophical mindset that embraces sacrifice, humility, simplicity, humor, and a rejection of the worlds emphasis on material things.

Copyright (c) 2007 Christine Conners