Is Your Second Income Really Worth It?

My wife and I just had our first child, and I am reaching the end of my leave of absence from work. My greatest desire is to stay home with my baby, but I’m not sure how we will get by financially, since there never seemed to be enough money when we were both working. Do you have any suggestions?

It is possible for many families to make it on one income today even though society tells us differently. Certainly, you will need to manage your money with great care and skill. Proper budgeting and a simplifying of your material expectations will be key components of a successful plan.

You may also be surprised to hear that, in many situations, a second income may actually be costing your family money. It’s easy to think of our gross income as the amount being added to the family coffers when, in reality, we incur a great number of expenses just to hold a job.

Here’s what I mean: Let’s assume you are planning on working 20 hours per week and you anticipate an hourly rate of $15 per hour. Your gross income would equal $15,600 per year. Because two-income families find themselves extra tired and squeezed for time, they will typically spend a great deal more on convenience items, resulting in substantially higher costs. Consider this example:

Gross Income:                       $15,600


Tithe                         1,560

Taxes                       4,680

Higher food costs       2,000

Auto costs                3,000

Child care                 3,500

Clothing                    1,000

Meals out                  1,000

Total expenses                      $16,740

Net loss                    $ 1,140

Here’s what one woman had to say after our budgeting exercise showed she could stay at home:

“My husband and I have been married just over a year and were excited about starting a family right away. Neither of us had a large amount of savings and both of us had school and credit-card debts, so I was convinced that I would have to work at least part time after the baby arrived to make things work. My husband was convinced otherwise. He used your worksheets after we both read through the workbook together and proved to me that I could be a full-time homemaker. Our daughter is 2 months old now and I couldn’t be happier. It isn’t easy but it is so worth it." — Mrs. D.

After completing your own analysis, maybe you’ll find, like “Mrs. D.,” that you can fulfill your dream of staying home for your family. God love you!

Phil Lenahan is director of finance

at Catholic Answers and

the author of Catholic Answers’

Guide to Family Finances.