She Makes More. Should He Stay Home?

I am a teacher in the public school system and my wife works for a major insurance company. We have two children, ages 2 and 4, and my wife would like to stay home full time. Our dilemma is that her income is substantially greater than mine. How should we go about deciding which of us should stay home and how can we prepare for such a major financial change?

Many couples are asking themselves this same question today, and many of them are opting to live on one income. They want their children to have a parent home full time during the young ones’ formative years.

Because of the difference in income between you and your wife, I would encourage you to complete two budgets. These are “what-if” scenarios and are similar to an analysis a business would do before launching a major project. In your first budget, consider only your wife’s annual income and see what changes would need to be made so that your spending stays within your available resources. You’ll find that some expenses decline just because of the decision to live on one income. Such categories as tithing, taxes, child care and automobile will automatically decline. Other categories like clothing and meals out will be good candidates for additional reductions.

Once you have completed this, I would encourage you to create a second budget, using your income as the base. After adjusting your tithe and taxes, you’ll know how much in additional spending reductions will be necessary. If you find yourself running short, don’t get discouraged. You’d be surprised how creative families are when it comes to allowing the wife to stay home. Keep looking at how the money is spent and seek ways to make further reductions that don’t impact the needs of the family. For example, expenses can be reduced substantially if you are willing to live in a smaller home, buy used clothes, eat simple foods purchased in bulk and drive cars until they wear out.

You mentioned that you are a teacher in the public school system. Are there things you can do to increase your income that don’t act as a detriment to your family life? Maybe you can teach summer school or find a part-time job when school is out of session. Also, while you may love teaching and that may be your true vocation, don’t rule out the possibility of a job change that may result in greater income.

At any rate, I would encourage you to develop a realistic budget before you make a decision. The last thing you want to do is make a change and realize too late that you’re not making ends meet. The result would be escalating levels of credit-card debt and unnecessary pressure on your marriage. Once you’ve developed the budgets for both scenarios, sit down with your wife and have a heart-to-heart talk about the pros and cons of each scenario. Pray to the Holy Family and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament asking for guidance in this important decision.

God loves you!

Phil Lenahan is the author of

The Catholic Answers Guide

to Family Finances.

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