What to Do When You Go From Two Incomes to One

As I previously mentioned, hubby had been without a job for about half a year. It was a nerve wracking time for both of us. We wondered when hubby would work again and I was fearful of losing my job.

Fortunately, we made it through those tough months. I hope this is something you never have to go through. Should it happen though, here are some lessons we learned that I’d like to share with you.When your household goes from two incomes to one, you're bound to be nervous. How will you make ends meet? Find out how to thrive even in times of hardship.

Don’t Panic

I know what you’re thinking, it’s easier said than done. But truly, you should remain calm and not make rash decisions.

For example, you might be tempted to cash out your IRA or 401k but you would incur huge tax penalties. That’s something we thought about doing but I’m glad we stood firm and resisted. We had a rainy day fund saved up so we relied on that to make up for any deficiencies in our budget.

After the cash reserves are depleted, the next thing we would do is sell the investments in our taxable accounts. Some of you may have savings bonds or certificates of deposit that can be liquidated. My advice is to touch your retirement accounts only as a last resort. Paying tax penalties and having to rebuild your retirement accounts is not worth it.

Trim Expenses

Times are going to be hard when you suddenly go from two incomes to one. We were already pretty frugal but when hubby was laid off, we worked a little harder to cut our expenses. We got rid of our Friday date nights and had homemade meals everyday.   Hubby gave up his fancy beers.

We switched our cell phone carrier to Cricket. Hubby was previously with AT&T and I had been with T-Mobile. With Cricket, the reception is just as good and we now pay $35 per person.

I started cutting my own hair to save the $45 trips to the salon. Not a big shopper to begin with, I completely banned trips to the mall or any kind of online shopping. We also ate more vegetarian meals in order to reduce buying expensive meat. The individual savings may not seem impressive but when added together, they gave our family much needed breathing room.

Find Part-Time Jobs

When you lose your job, your top priority is to find full-time employment. The search can take some time though so while you’re looking, consider picking up a part-time job.

Hubby worked for Uber Eats (instead of driving people around, you deliver food), he tutored people on using Photoshop and found gigs on Craigslist helping people sell things on eBay. He didn’t act like he was too good to work part-time jobs and accepted all opportunities that came his way.

A part-time job is not ideal when you’re looking for full-time income but it can help keep up morale. To have a reason for getting out of bed and leaving the house everyday does wonders for your spirits. The extra income you get to bring home doesn’t hurt either.


You might think it’s counterintuitive to volunteer while unemployed because it doesn’t pay anything. But, you’ll gain something money can’t buy – experience and networking.

In this day and age, finding a job is not just about what you know. It’s also about who you know. Volunteering is a great way to help others and it’s also a way for you to expand your network. The people you interact with through volunteering may keep you in mind when they hear of a job opening. Being able to provide a referrer’s name in a cover letter helps you stand out as an applicant.

Also, volunteering can fill in the gaps in your resume. When there are gaps in your resume, employers will want to know what you did between jobs. A volunteering position may be unpaid but you can still put that on your resume and showcase the skills and experiences you acquired.

Support Each Other

When one of you loses a job, the last thing you should do is point fingers. Times will be tough and you’ll be frustrated, but now is the time you really need to support each other. Remember your marriage vows? This is the part where you promised to be each other through better or worse. Don’t play the blame game. We live in uncertain times and no job is guaranteed. Employers can lay you off through no fault of your own.

You shouldn’t pretend like everything is normal. It’s okay to talk about the difficulties that you’re facing. There were numerous days when I was so incredibly frustrated. I would ask hubby whether he made any progress looking for jobs and whether there was anything I could do to help. There were times when I needed to remind myself to not come off as angry or resentful. I knew hubby felt terrible about losing his job and there was no need for me to make him feel even worse.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Losing your job is nothing to be ashamed of. It seems to be a more frequent occurrence in this changing economy. I had no qualms asking friends for job leads. I didn’t mind explaining that hubby was laid off and was looking for full-time employment. It’s helpful that our friends knew about our situation. They knew we were cutting expenses so they didn’t pester us to go out to eat.

I also went in on bulk shopping together with a friend. Buying in bulk usually saves money but we’re a family of 2 and don’t need a lot of food. Splitting groceries with another family allowed us to benefit from the cost savings without wasting food.

When your household goes from two incomes to one, you're bound to be nervous. How will you make ends meet? Find out how to thrive even in times of hardship.

Learn from the Experience

What did we learn from this stressful period?

One: We’re glad that we have a rainy day fund. Whether you call it a rainy day fund or emergency fund, the idea is the same. You save up a pot of money so that when the unexpected happens, the fund can carry you through. We keep $10,000 in the rainy day fund which covers about 6 months of expenses. It was sad when we finally had to withdraw money from the fund but that’s what it’s for. We’re now working on rebuilding the fund because experience has shown it’s necessary.

Two: When you work for someone else, you’re at their mercy. You can be fired or laid off with little notice and your whole life is turned upside down. Hubby and I are motivated to find entrepreneurial pursuits so that we can be in charge of our own destinies.

Three: Having lived on one income for half a year, we’re going to try to continue to do so. Since we’re used to it, we thought it would be a good way to replenish and boost our savings.

Being laid off is a scary thing, but it’s not insurmountable. Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of being laid off or being fired? What tactics did you adopt to cope with the life change?


2 Replies to “What to Do When You Go From Two Incomes to One”

  1. This really is stellar advice for a family experiencing job loss! Sad to say my casual friend didn’t do this at all. And they were not a dual income family. It was only his husband with a job so there wasn’t even a second paycheck! But because his husband was a engineer (not really, he was a mechanic) they refused all the other part time opportunities that could have brought in money (like Uber Eats for example).

    At the time they also had 2 kids to feed and no savings. Some people have too big of a pride.

    1. I hope your friend eventually found a job. It’s good to take pride in your work, but I would have trouble turning down a paying gig knowing that I don’t have other income streams. It’s also good for your morale and self-esteem to get out of the house and bring in some income, no matter the amount.

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