Dual-Income Household? Live On One Income

We are currently enjoying life as DINKs. If you’re not familiar with the acronym, DINK stands for ‘Dual Income, No Kids‘. DINKs have a unique opportunity in the pursuit of financial independence, side hustles, and all sorts of other things. However, even if you’re not strictly a DINK, you can still benefit a lot from having a dual-income household living off one income.

Supercharge Savings

One of the biggest benefits to being a two-income household only living off one is that you can bank an entire income. Kristin and I are currently doing this. We live off the higher of our two incomes currently, but we’re still able to bank a ton of the money that’s coming in each month. As we save more money toward our goals, in retirement accounts, etc. we push up the date of our retirement.

Banking an entire income is a great maneuver to really supercharge your savings and hit goals more quickly. We do this by having one income go straight into a separate account automatically. We see the money, but it’s totally hands-off and never hits our checking account.

Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

Since we don’t “use” one income, we force ourselves to be mindful of the money we do have coming in. This means budgeting effectively and avoiding lifestyle inflation. Sure, we could afford more things – a fancy car, perhaps – but we definitely don’t need it, and doing so would hinder our other goals.

Avoiding lifestyle inflation is an important aspect of early retirement – which we’re pursuing. We can still enjoy some treats and don’t deprive ourselves to the point of being miserable. Avoiding lifestyle inflation, to us, is not about deprivation. It’s about making conscious decisions on how and when we spend the money we’ve earned, and understanding the impacts it has on our various goals.

Mitigate Risk

Do you know what sucks? One person losing their job. Do you know what sucks even more? One person losing their job when you rely on the income of two people. It’s simple – if you live off one income, you can flex if one person loses their job. Even if a more substantial income is lost, having at least some money coming in that isn’t 100% needed makes the whole process sting a little less.

This may mean a few uncomfortable weeks or months. Perhaps you need to change up your automated savings for a little while, too. That’s really not that big of a deal; life will always deal setbacks to your plans at some point. By living within your means and only needing a single income to survive, though, you can hopefully tread water instead of going backward in the event of a loss of income.

Jump-Start Side Hustles

Get your side hustle on! A great opportunity afforded by living off a single income is the ability to have one person focus on a side hustle if that’s what you choose. Deciding what your goals are as a couple is important.

If one person wants to focus on building a business or starting their own web site, it’d be immensely helpful to be able to focus 100% on that. If you need to have two incomes to support your lifestyle, guess what? Not going to happen. Living off one income, though, gives you the opportunity to focus on other goals that may not otherwise be possible.

Perhaps you’re not the side hustle type. If you’d rather help someone else’s side-hustle, taking up work at a start-up is a lot less risky when you don’tย needย the income to survive.

Flexibility

Ultimately, what this all boils down to is flexibility. If you’re able to live off a single income as a couple, or have two incomes as a single person but still just live off one, the opportunities afforded to you are immense.

You’ll have more flexibility to pursue what you really want to. For some that may mean continuing to work traditional jobs and just saving and investing, but for many it may mean going down the side hustle route, or something else completely.

Building that flexibility in your life is what FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is all about….but multi-income households don’t need to always wait to hit some magic net worth number to get there.

Question:

If you’re a two(+)-income household, do you try to live off a single income? Any other tips for folks who have this luxury?

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8 Comments

  1. Yes! Mr. Picky Pincher and I live on just his income and it’s been life-changing. We honestly would not be able to succeed as well financially if we weren’t a dual-income household. Sure, you do have double the debt loads and expenses, but if you can prudently eliminate these things, you can live on a single income. It’s magical.

    1. We were thankful to come into our relationship with only a little bit of credit card debt, and our marriage totally debt free. It’s done wonders for us being able to live on just one income!

  2. Good article Dave. That was always our philosophy too, try to live off of one income and save where we could. Recently, we went from DINKs to both being unemployed for a short period. That provided a really good benchmark for a burn-rate on savings and how retirement spending might look for us in the future. When my wife found a good full time job, we were much less anxious about the future, and we used credit wisely to position ourselves nicely to pay it off 100% after pay started rolling in. As far as advice, I’d say, continue to look for ways to save further, cooking in a bit more, or trimming redundant monthly subscriptions, like HBOGo and Netflix.

    1. Wow, both being unemployed at the same time sounds stressful! ๐Ÿ™

      And yeah, we can trim out about $100 in our entertainment budget for things like ditching cable TV in favor of something like SlingTV, or just over-the-air stuff and Netflix/Hulu. That’ll be something we do, but we’ve got a stupid contract with Comcast right now until May, so no dice on that until then most likely.

      Same goes for cell phones. I’m trying to figure out what we want to do with Kristin’s phone situation, but I’ll probably move over to Google Fi. She hates Android, so it’s unlikely that’d be a solution for both of us. We’ve got options and time, just need to research what would be good in our area.

  3. We are a dual income (with a kiddo!) family and while we don’t directly deposit one paycheck directly into savings/investing, we do save/invest an amount equal to (or greater than!) one of the incomes. This gives us a good buffer and comfort level should we go through some hardship/job loss or one of us decides to pursue something else. A healthy emergency fund is also a must for us!

    1. Nice! Even if it’s not automatic, it’s still good! I read that Physician on FIRE article about Pay Yourself Last and it really clicked with this sort of thing!

      I’m always toying with how much of an EF we need to have. I think I’ve settled on 3 months in a Money Market account plus 9 months in a taxable investment account (which will fluctuate, and is more than we need but that’s the point). The thought of having too much cash on hand isn’t one I like ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yeah, there will always be things that crop up that could impact your plans and systems – the key is to revisit them to make sure you still stay on target. Sounds like you’re doing just that! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by!

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