Two people. One income. Indefinitely. How to make it work?
March 16, 2012 10:32 AM Subscribe
I am about to be unemployed for an indefinite period, and my cohabitant boyfriend and I are about to start living on his income alone. Please give us some guidance so we an avoid practical and emotional pitfalls.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Work & Money (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The summary of a very complicated situation is this: we moved to Relatively Small University Town when he received an excellent offer of an assistant professorship from said university.
I'm an academic as well (though have a significant amount of non-academic work experience) and the university is generally supportive of efforts to help both partners find a place for themselves at the university. I was given a one-year post-doc with the promise/implication that something would work out for the long term. It's not working out and my post-doc funding ends at the end of April.
So we're facing the prospect of living on his salary alone for amorphous and indefinite period of time. This is not what either of us wanted and neither of us are happy about it. I have plenty of emotions about it all: the sadness and disappointment at my current career prospects, my humiliation about being independent on someone and not earning my own income, frustration at being trapped in this area, my insecurity and confusion about how to proceed in a job environment with limited prospects and when and whether the situation does or will warrant a major redirection (finding a new career, living elsewhere).
I'm telling you all both to give a sense of emotional context and to explain how part of the challenge is to keep these feelings in check. I don't want my bad feelings about my situation to distort things or make the day-to-day aspect of living under this set of constraints even more difficult.
We need your help in going about this in a way that will be practical and not aggravate the hard emotions that are just under the surface.
-He makes a decent salary for the area. Taking full responsibility for expenses such as rent and utilities obviously cuts into his paycheck and makes things like saving harder, but those costs are not so outrageous as to make living on one income implausible. The one major cost that will increase significantly for us is health insurance: since I will no longer have my own plan, we'll be paying an extra $200 a month or so.
-We're trying to think of ways to cut back without making life completely oppressive. We don't have cable. We are thinking of suspending our Netflix account. We occasionally order take-out when we're too tired to cook or are in the mood for something special, and are trying to cut back on that. We have no vacations planned for the summer. We want to make a better effort to take lunch with us when we leave the house.
That said, there are inessential expenses that are important to both of us to maintaining our sanity in a city that often feels confining, like having an espresso or going out for a glass of wine, and we'd like to be able to leave a tiny bit of fat on the bone.
-Aside from making our finances work on a smaller budget, the other key issue is how to arrange things so that I have access to some money every month and how to decide how much money that should be. We need to decide how to do this so that I'm being thrifty and cutting back appropriately while not making life completely joyless and arid.
There are things I need, of course (prescription copays, tampons), but then there's all the stuff that falls into the category of discretionary spending. I don't have extravagant habits, but like many women I spend more on my appearance than my boyfriend (he shaves his head and rotates among his five t-shirts and two pairs of jeans). Some of the things I do for pleasure (bicycling, reading) don't cost money, but- for example- I get a considerable amount of pleasure and healthy distraction from thrifting, which doesn't drain huge amounts of money from my bank account but still isn't an absolutely essential expense. The obvious answer is to eliminate all unnecessary expenses completely, but I am deeply demoralized by our situation and would like to continue to have some small pleasures.
Please give us some advice about how to talk about this and make some decisions about how to do this in a way that will not make a hard situation harder. Happy to answer any other specific questions you have in the thread.