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.

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.

Some details:

-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.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Work & Money (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a reason why you can't get a job in town until you figure out the next step in regard to your own career prospects?
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:42 AM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]

What works for me and my Largely Mythological Husband is for him to write me a check every month for my monthly budget. Which includes $150 for "fun stuff," whatever that might be (presents for my godchildren, taking myself out for lunch, clothing and jewelry--which count as 'fun stuff' for me because I have an ample wardrobe of both).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same boat; I've been looking for a job since September. Here's what I've learned:

- Check all avenues for assistance: unemployment benefits, food stamps, rent assistance, etc. It might be embarrassing to you, but the safety net exists for just such this reason. The United Way's 211 directory is a great place to start.

- I am ineligible for unemployment in my state because I worked for a nonprofit, so I have tried to come up with ways to freelance. Figure out your skills and convince people that you can solve their problems. You'll get a sense of satisfaction for a job well done even if you don't make a ton of money.

- People will tell you to look for employment as if it's your full-time job, and it's true that you need to be consistent and eager in your search. But beware the other side: You can also find yourself feeling guilty because you're not applying for jobs at 10 p.m. I think it's harmful to feel like "I'm awake; I should be searching." Give yourself the weekends off, or a specific cut-off time daily.

- I wouldn't suspend the Netflix account; streaming only is $8/month. It's totally worth it for your sanity. If you're like me, you will have days where you need some escapism. If it's raining and you can't go for a walk, and you've applied for all the jobs you want to, and you're booooorrred, it's going to suck if you can't at least

- Standard money-saving tips apply. Buy in bulk, watch your electricity usage (open the windows instead of turning on the A/C, etc). Find out what you like to do that's entertaining and cheap. I like Pinterest; it lets me window shop, basically, without spending money (let me know if you need an invite).

You're right, though. Eliminating all unnecessary expenses is demoralizing. Do what you can, but maybe one night a month you an order a pizza or something. You can spend an hour at a coffee shop with a $2 coffee if you just need to get out of the house. For me, cutting out all the fun makes life very dreary, and it makes both parties resentful.

- One of the stickier points in my situation has been the division of housework. I have felt like it should be my job, since my partner is working all day. Let me tell you, I've never been the type to put on my pearls and have a piping-hot dinner waiting at 6p.m., and being unemployed certainly didn't change that. Y'all should probably talk about the division of those responsibilities in light of your new situation.

Being unemployed doesn't suck entirely, though: You will have time to recharge and really think about where you want your career to go. I've been able to paint my nails crazy colors and my hair grew out of its awkward stage in private. I've been re-energized enough to start writing for myself again, and I sometimes get to read in the sun while everyone else is chained to their desks.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:50 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Is there a reason why you can't get a job in town until you figure out the next step in regard to your own career prospects?

Didn't want to go into too many potentially derailing details, but the idea is that I spend the summer working on publications to beef up my CV, and in the fall start an externship that would be a step toward a career change. I may try to pick up some freelance work for the sake of income and morale but that's another project altogether. Broader context is that this is an absolutely terrible place to look for work- there are 14 listings on Idealist for the entire state.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:53 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't rule out online freelance work. is a fairly decent, if low-paying, place to find gigs (or at least was a couple of years ago).

Totally agreeing that it's important not to cut out all the fun stuff. You and your bf both need to unwind and recharge. If you get the $8/month worth of enjoyment out of Netflix, cut back somewhere else maybe?

Another thing that my husband and I did was to make a list of what was important to us and how much it cost, and then go through it and rank the items in order of priority.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

How good is the thrifting in your town? If you have a good eye and the shop or shops in town aren't terribly overpicked, you may be able to start a small Etsy and/or eBay shop. Not hugely renumerative, but hopefully you could make enough for the thrifting to pay for itself. Apron Thrift Girl has a good guide to getting started, if it sounds like it might be a good fit for you.
posted by pie ninja at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

You may be able to find some extra money in the food budget if you're willing to take on some good old fashioned meal planning. I don't coupon clip at all, but I do meal plan, which has meant a ton less wasted food. Like 15%-20% of our old grocery bill. And we're eating better.

For me, at times when I was a stay-at-home mom or otherwise being supported/subsidized by a partner/spouse's income, that was how I made it make sense in my head: I have more time, so I can do cost-cutting things at home that I couldn't do when I was working. Cooking more meals, spending more time planning around grocery store sales, watching for bargains, etc. etc. etc.

As runningwithscissors noted above, this doesn't mean you have to become Suzy Homemaker and take on *all* the housework (I didn't! I don't do dishes, for example, ever!), but grocery shopping and meal planning are one kind of housework that can have a visible impact on your budget. You can take it as a challenge, if that works for you - see if you can save enough on weekly groceries to pay for the massage/manicure/whatever little luxury you don't want to give up.
posted by agentmitten at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Agentmitten, good thought- feel free to chime in with any detailed tips you might have to share.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2012

I went through this recently and although it was a planned and discussed decision it was hard. I was working on a dissertation/residency at the time and although I set aside time to work everyday and also made sure the housework was dealt with, it was really hard to stay motivated. All the tried and true things didn't work, I made schedules, I made spreadsheets and it was still really, really hard to not blow a day folding clothes and watching NCIS.

That said, you still have give yourself a treat every day, remind yourself that you aren't freeloading, that this is a means to an end. What would happen with me is that I would spend a ton of time obsessing and "being good" and then decide I'd worked hard enough and blow three or four days doing nothing. Instead I should have given myself a goof off hour every day instead of having no goof off time EVA and then all the goofing off at once.

Work on your writing for beefing up the CV, if you can find some small local academic publications (think small state college pubs) see about submitting. They won't give you the same punch as a big pub, but it's still published and it's still a good thing for a CV.

As to the money side, my husband was really, really awesome about it in that he made a point of making sure I understood it was Our money. We have a joint account for bills and groceries and then separate accounts for each of us. Sometimes there was only $5 in mine, but I was still able to get groceries and keep up with things without having to ask him for money. He put a previously determined amount in the joint account every month and that was for bills and food. Not having to ask for money to do the basics made life a whole lot better.
posted by teleri025 at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

In addition to the suggestions above, make sure you and your husband are assertive in asking for all of the possible assistance that his university can offer. He may need to go to the department chair/dean/etc and remind them of promises made during the hiring process, or ask them to push on other offices on campus. They should be able to offer at least a few things -- access to the campus career center resources; willingness to use university connections to open doors locally, at least for small things like informational interviews; the most complete access possible for you to take classes as part of your career switch; preferential consideration for on-campus positions that might come open; etc.

Good luck.
posted by Forktine at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am going to be in your position shortly, I am both thrilled and terrified. We are doing it by choice so its a little different. This is what I recommend:

1. Start aggressively saving. If you are going to have to live on him alone soon, can you save almost all of what you are currently making? This will allow you to not only get a little padding together, but also get used to your new budget.

2. Become okay with boring most of the time so you can have indulgences sometimes. We started making bean and vegetable soup. It is so freaking cheap, I eat it for lunch most days. You can different spices to make it seem a little different. Eating a 75 cent lunch rather than a 10 or even 5 dollar lunch makes a huge difference, and then when we want to have some drinks with friends, we don't have to feel weird about it.

3. Make and sell things. (if you are so inclined) The trick is to find something that is cheap and fast to make, but is also attractive and profitable. I was making kind of nice art stuff that didn't sell at that well (but oddly better at $150 than $50), so I transitioned to these silly little collages in 3x4 inch frames, 8 dollars a pop. They sell out everytime I go to a little craftshow or whatever.

4. Sell/trade your household items you don't need. If you have an extra vehicle, get rid of it. Too many clothes? Get em clean and sell them at the consignment shop or online.

5. Negotiate! or just ask! I've found that there are sometimes discounts to be had just be asking insurance providers, doctors, cable companies, etc. Find a button missing or a crappy hem? Ask if you can get a discount. It's a game, don't feel weird, just ask!

6. Don't martyr yourself. Netflix, as mentioned before is 8 dollars a month, like what, a quarter a day? You'd be hard pressed to find a quarter's worth of joy in that kind of savings. Figure out exactly where your money is currently going and make cuts that really help and don't make you feel crazy or deprived.
posted by stormygrey at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

No amount of 'Netflix' 'espresso' level cutback is going to make a major difference for you. For your own sake (and for the quiet angst your boyfriend may start to feel), a job is your best answer.

A job - any job - will make a much more real and significant difference in your quality of life. No reduction of expenses can take the place of say, $1,000 a month - and that's just income from a part-time job!

Take a job, work in a coffee shop, bookstore, library, amusement park - no job is beneath when it comes to the relief of strain and pressure on both of you, and an an uplift in a better quality-of-life.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]

This is nuts. Share and share alike, and don't worry about spending your boyfriend's money. Set up a budget. Stick to it. Since you moved to the town because of his job, it's reasonable to expect that he will support you. In the meantime, find a survival job, and save up some money so at least you have an escape plan.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Some things that help me with keeping grocery costs down:

- Buy produce that's in season. It tastes better and it's cheaper. And it's kind of fun to look forward to things like asparagus in the spring and peaches in the late summer. Also helps to lean towards stuff that's grown locally, as it's often a little cheaper since it doesn't have to go so far. Check the farmer's market, too, if there's one there.

- Buy fresh produce and make it a big part of your diet. It costs way less than meat (even the fancy organic stuff), it's really good for you, and with a little hunting around for recipes (so it's not *always* steamed broccoli), you won't notice as much that you're not eating as much meat.

- Beans! I try to do one meatless meal a week. Lentils are my favorite because they don't need soaking. But really, it's not a big deal to dump a bag of beans in some water before bed and then cook em up the next day.

- Shop from the circulars/sale flyers, for meat especially. See what's on sale that week and make your meal plan around that. Take advantage of your freezer if you can. Buy a few extra portions when stuff is on sale - but don't forget to use it during weeks when nothing is on sale!

- Prepared food is handy and convenient, but it is expensive. Try to make as much as you can from recipes. For example, I do big batches of things like spaghetti sauce and freeze it instead of buying jarred. Maybe you like baking? Cookies and muffins are easy and quick. I haven't really mastered bread, but I know lots of people who get great joy out of making it.

- Plan for leftovers, both for further meals and for lunches. It's a lot easier to avoid going out to lunch when you've got some nice leftovers handy instead. One easy way to do that is cook for four instead of two. Another is to do things like roast a whole chicken one night, and take what you don't eat, cut it up and make a chicken curry (or whatever) out of it.

- If you use coupons, be careful. The coupons are there to get you to try new products. If it's something you wouldn't be buying without a coupon, don't be tempted to buy it just because you have a coupon. One exception: consider signing up for a frequent shopper card with your real address. Some stores (Kroger, in particular, if they're near you) send out excellent coupons based on your purchase history. They're almost always for stuff you're already buying. (Other than that, I don't use coupons at all.)

- SHOP FROM A LIST. Seriously. Probably the most important piece of advice I can share. Impulse purchases are killer where budgets are concerned. My grocery store here has this great online interface where you can go through their inventory online, see what's on sale and make a list that gets sorted out by aisle. It's awesome. (Busch's, if you're in SE MI) But there are some apps and stuff out there that will help you sort your lists into areas/aisles and so on, if that's your thing. But make a list and stick to it. And don't go shopping when you're hungry.

I hope that helps a little. It's not actually very much work once you get going at it. You'll get in a groove. If you already like thrifting, maybe you'll even enjoy hunting for grocery bargains. Ok, that might be a stretch, but it's a kind of interesting challenge.
posted by agentmitten at 11:41 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

You sacrificed for his career - opportunity costs are real costs - so it seems to me you shouldn't feel bad about leaning on him financially. Besides which, sharing isn't all that bad - it may make you both better people. Just make sure you don't have to ask/pester him for money; it can feel humiliating to you even if he doesn't mind or even notice. A regularly-scheduled bank transfer or check can help with this.
As for activity/self-respect/not being miserable, It sounds like you have a long-term plan, but need something to tide you over until fall. Of course a job would help, but since they're scarce in your area I suggest that you teach yourself a new skill, the payoff from which you and your boyfriend can both enjoy.
Whether your tastes run towards carpentry (treehouse!), baking (fresh bread!), brewing (beer!), bow hunting (roast turkey!), weaving (mittens!), gardening (basil!) or financial speculation (societal collapse!), it might be cool to learn something a)fun b)new c)rewarding d)that he can't do. Raw materials/supplies often cost less than the finished product, so you'd be contributing to household expenses as well as impressing both of you with your awesomeness. Good luck.
posted by jcrcarter at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Wont you get unemployment insurance? Use that to buy your basics. As part of a team, this happens, one wheel sometimes get into trouble and the other has to pull the cart.

Yes you will feel guilty and the emotions BUT the first step is to deal with YOU. Sit down, take a deep breath, feel all the emotions, take a notepad, write those down-all feelings that you feel. Then look at them closely. One by one you will realize they are just that, feelings. Not reality.

Remember one thing-corporations are not people-they dont care about you, same for academia. You are a number that needs to be removed because you didnt add up to their $$ revenues. No judgement that is what it is. So dont take it personally as such. Yes it hurts and get your anger out.

Remember this lesson when you go to ask for another job and hesitate to ask for ALL the money you deserve and ALL the benefits you can get. It is not personal.

Now deal with your bf situation. Stop apologizing or anything. This was not something you created deliberately. Tell him how you feel and prepare a plan to show that you will not be sitting on your butt, but will be making concrete steps to change this.

Prepare a timeline. Not only for when you get a job but also for your growth in your career (it really helps to encourage oneself).

DO NOT let the job loss take over you or win over you. Remember you are much much stronger than that.
posted by pakora1 at 11:47 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

-Working one day a week. It will allow your thrifting and for you to treat for a glass of wine, take out, etc. It will be your entertainment fun, and be the 'reward' for both of you to make this situation a positive.

-Everything else comes from his income.

-Sell some of your thrifting finds on ebay and etsy.

-Keep netflix. Too much benefit for such little money.

-Get a Diva Cup. No more wasting $ on tampons.
posted by Vaike at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I understand going out for espresso, but drinking (wine, beer, whatever) out is one of the easiest ways to blow money. Bar/restaurant mark up is insane. You'll save a significant amount if you start enjoying alcohol at home instead.

If it's the experience of going out, for the same price of a glass of wine, both of you could (for example) go out for ice cream.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2012

The other benefit to working one day a week at a shitty job (coffee shop, mall retail etc.) is that it reminds you why you want to work so hard on your publications. Nothing is more motivating than "oh god if I don't succeed I will have to do THIS for the rest of my life!"

This comes with the very large caveat of: if you can find a shitty part time job. In this economy many can't.

Good luclk.
posted by AmandaA at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Came here to say just this: if you buy a Diva Cup, you'll never have to spend money on tampons again.
posted by costanza at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everyone needs alone time. You will be home all of the time, which means that he will never have any alone time unless you make a point to leave the house and give it to him.
posted by wherever, whatever at 12:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [15 favorites]

Lots of solid practical advice here about how to DO this thing, so here's my .02 for how to THINK AND TALK ABOUT this thing. You mention a lot of feelings: disappointment, frustration, feeling "trapped." You obviously have a lot of insight and recognize that these feelings you have could make a tough economic situation turn into a tough(er) emotional situation. I think it's important that you talk to your boyfriend about these feelings. Let him know how sad and disappointed you are, and give him a chance to support you through that. Also let him know that you're feeling insecure about unexpectedly and suddenly having to consider changing career directions. Any frustration you feel over THAT detail could manifest itself as resentment toward him (thinking not-unreasonable thoughts like, "We moved here for his awesome opportunity, and now my prospects seem to have dried up, and I'm stuck" could lead into a tendency towards snark if the jobless days wear on for long).

I can relate to feeling uneasy about being dependent on someone else's income. I had to rely on my boyfriend (now awesome husband) for help with a mountain of credit card debt. Part of my own struggle with that was the way I tend to engage in a lot of distorted thinking (i.e., believing that the other person feels burdened by me in some way, or that it's fundamentally wrong to be dependent on another person financially, or that I am somehow not worthy of being assisted by someone who loves me when this is not the truth). The solution to this is talking openly and often. I'd wager your boyfriend is feeling some level of guilt over your move to Relatively Small University Town. If the two of you are in it for the long haul, this will not be the last time in your life together that one partner has to take on some extra responsibility for the other.

Remind yourself that the duties that go into homemaking (developing household budgets, shopping for food, preparing meals, laundry, housekeeping, errand-running, calendar-keeping, etc.) have inherent value. You might not be able to contribute a paycheck for a while, but you WILL be contributing to your boyfriend in a hundred different ways. Do not feel guilty about allowing yourself to continue to engage in reasonable fun-related expenditures. The occasional evening out or thrifting adventure will be more than worth it in terms of helping you keep your spirits up in the days ahead. Good luck to you!
posted by little mouth at 12:40 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

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...Broader context is that this is an absolutely terrible place to look for work- there are 14 listings on Idealist for the entire state.

Man, this is the most "not really answering the question you asked" answer I have ever posted, but in that case, can you BOTH go back on the academic job market? They gave Mr. Hedgehog the impression that you would be employed in your field if you both moved to Tiny Town. They must have known he wouldn't move without a job for you, and that you wouldn't get a job if they didn't give you one, which is why they came up with the postdoc. A year in, they reneged on their promise now that they have what they want- Mr. Hedgehog in a position they needed filled, and the two of you settled in and reluctant to move. They don't care that they have hung both of you (you because come on, him because he loves you) out to dry. I think you should both go back on the market and plan an escape for Fall 2013. Then, there's a firm deadline for when you will have two incomes again. You can use all of the advice above to live tight until then, then move on.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you should both go back on the market and plan an escape for Fall 2013.

This is great advice, assuming that the asker actually wants an academic job, which they might well not at this point for many very good reasons. If so, even just a hint by Mr Hedgehog that he is considering going back on the market may be enough to produce some signs of interest by the university.

Fundamentally, there's no way you can save enough money buying divacups and shopping at thrift stores to make up for how much you would gain by having two incomes. On the other hand, there can be big advantages for Mr H's career by having you not working, or working in a more casual part-time setting. He becomes more mobile (ie no second body problem), making it much easier to take advantage of opportunities like an early career research fellowship, or to be able to threaten to leave for greener pastures. And even more importantly, a high-powered academic career becomes significantly easier with someone to help proof-read your manuscripts, do the shopping, and help arrange your travel.

He also has limited negotiating power at any given moment. Should he be using that to argue with the school for help for your career, or in asking for things like research funding that will directly help his chances of getting tenure?
posted by Forktine at 2:50 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

my humiliation about being dependent on someone and not earning my own income,

I want to tackle this one.

First, the gentle approach: nobody makes it on their own. EVERYBODY receives a leg up and help at some point in their lives.

The less gentle approach: There is no fundamental moral good to earning an income. None whatsoever. What must you think of people who don't work? Retired people, housewives, people who can't work because of their health, people hurt on the job, children, the elderly, people in third world countries, the enslaved who receive no income for their work, the independently wealthy.

And what must you think of me? If we could afford it, I would quit my job in a heartbeat. In my job, I provide a minor service. I see many people around me who are ostensibly enacting programs to help people which actually have very little impact. I could do more for people not working than I do holed up in my cubicle 8 hours per day.

I can't imagine who would care that you're not earning an income or what possible leg they could have to stand on in judging you for it.

If I got laid off today, I'd be in financial ruin. But my first response would be "woo hoo!" and I'd keep returning to it.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

To save you feeling like a burden, make saving money your job. Your partner earns the income that's great but researching all the ways you can save money can lead to you actively contributing too, as they say a penny saved is a penny earned, and if you are helping save money you won't feel so dependant on your SO. I don't know how broke you are going to be but it is amazing just how much all the nickel and dime savings can add up and how quickly they can.

Learn to budget if you already don't. Give yourselves a little pocket or fun money, even if you can only afford $10 or 20 bucks a week each, it is surprising how even such a little bit to spend on thrifting or a new book can make you not feel the money pinch quite as much.

Menu plan, use weekly supermarket catalogs to guide your menu planning to make the most of sales, adding couponing if you are up for it, it is amazing how much you can save on tampons, personal hygiene and cleaning supplies if you combine coupons and sales and it leaves more money for the healthy food that there is rarely a good sale/coupon combo for. Figure out where your major expenses are and look into ways to try and cut them down. All those jobs around the house you were going to do one day, now you'll have the days to do them.

Pick up more than your "share" of the chores on a temporary basis, so you feel less of a burden, and your boyfriend won't feel like you are acting like you are vacation. Yes writing is work, but there is very little to see for it, if he comes home and sees that you have a nice dinner waiting or he doesn't have to do his chores that day it helps lessen any grudges he might have. (If you were male I'd recommend the same thing, it just somehow feels more sexist suggesting it to a woman and it is not my intent).

Do something for yourself one day a week, even if it's a shitty job somewhere getting out and rubbing against the rest of society is how we remind ourselves we are human. Volunteer if you can't find a job. Is tutoring an option? Volunteering at the University?

Keep the lines of communication open, and remember this is how partnerships work, and what is so great about them. He looks after you now, and at some point in the future when you're earning the money and he's between jobs you look after him, you are part of a team and not in this alone.
posted by wwax at 3:39 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mom did this for years and years while we were being homeschooled - she was used to working, did it full-time with few interruptions from the day she graduated college till I was twelve years old. It was extremely, extremely difficult for her; it was only after almost three years of "trying to find a job in a state where no one will hire someone who does what I do" that she gave in and decided to try the SAHM thing. I think actually we were homeschooled a little bit so she'd have something to do.

Anyway, the key is to make sure that you feel like you're making progress, contributing, and so forth. Taking on the task of streamlining your household stuff (not necessarily making the meals, but making sure the meals are procured and planned so that significant money is saved) is one way of doing that. My mom also turned her hobby, genealogy, into a part-time professional gig (taking on clients, giving lectures, etc.) And she did a lot of stuff that effectively amounted to networking for my stepdad - making connections in the community, volunteering, making sure he showed up to local events of some significance, etc. This last one actually helped her a lot when my youngest sister was in high school and she wanted to go back to work: she had a huge network of her own, and an idea of what she was capable of (in terms of the stuff she hadn't had professional experience in.) I think the years of community involvement and genealogy consulting really helped her transition from school teacher (her job before we moved across country and no one would hire her) to lawyer.

Oh, and, one of my friends runs a blog which is like, 95% "how to survive on one income" (she has two point something children, so it's not quite "two people, one income.") She has lots and lots of tips. There are other blogs and sites out there; this just happens to be one I'm personally familiar with. The "one income, dollar stretching" internet community is actually really helpful in general. You'll run into some overly enthusiastic (and optimistic) types - kind of like the amateur gourmet community, come to think of it - but a lot of really useful info, too.
posted by SMPA at 6:24 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get out of the house, volunteer, budget money for groceries, try a new activity, yes, all good advice.

However, if your plan is ultimately to get work in your field, then make a point of keeping your own personal ambitions as priority. Write or do whatever work you can do. If dinner doesn't get made sometimes, so be it. Yes, you should contribute maybe more to household maintenance, but how much is up to you. You shouldn't feel like a burden for continuing to pursue your career to whatever extent you can. It is not your fault that you're not currently employed.
posted by daisystomper at 12:52 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're in Ann Arbor? There are TONS of jobs that you can do part-time while you're also beefing up your CV.

- part-time editing
- babysitting
- tutoring
- working at Kaplan or Princeton Review

I'm not sure why you wouldn't do this sort of thing.
posted by k8t at 7:27 AM on March 18, 2012

You could also do freelance writing or escort work. Both are zero commitment and flexible.
posted by Space_Lady at 9:06 AM on August 3, 2012

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