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Transitioning from two incomes to one

Losing one of the incomes in your household can be a stress on your marriage, as well as your bank account. Whether it was a carefully made decision or the unexpected loss of a job, the psychological and financial adjustments can be overwhelming. Here are five things to expect and what you can do to ease the transition.

Couple planning finances

Trying to decide if you or your mate can stop working full-time to stay home with the kids or pursue a passion that does not pay the bills? Are you crunching the numbers to figure out how you can make things work after an unexpected job loss or a pink slip you didn’t see coming? Here are a few things that you can expect when transitioning from two incomes to one and how you can make your days of scrimping and saving a little bit more bearable.

Think in terms of “ours”

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This is one of the toughest mental changes you need to make when losing an income. It is hard to let go of the satisfaction of contributing financially to the family. The only way you and your partner can make this new situation work is if you make a decision together, from the beginning, that you are a team and all of the money coming into your household is for you as partners. Sensing the need to ask for money from your own spouse can leave the one who is out of work feeling inferior in your relationship rather than an equal.

Budget, budget, budget

You may be used to eating out several nights a week, having a cleaning lady and paying a babysitter, pet-sitter or dog-walker. As your income decreases, your expectations for spending needs to do the same. “Put a budget down on paper that works with one income,” says Marianne Zurowski, director of Finance at HP Enterprise Services. Create a budget that revolves around your new income and stick to it. Financial programs such as Quicken provide easy, step-by-step guides to tracking your spending habits and creating a budget with your new financial constraints in mind.

Take a practice run

If you have the luxury of knowing ahead of time about a job loss or have not made the decision to take the leap from leaving your job yet, “Spend a couple of months living off of your revised budget to make sure you can do it before you make the commitment and make it official. This also allows you to see if you missed something in your budget,” advises Zurowski.

Discuss your new roles

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Sit down with your partner and talk through how your household will function once one of you is no longer working. Will you be home all day or alotting a certain amount of time towards persuing a new dream? In the past did you share the responsibility of meals, picking up drycleaning and taking out the trash? Having a discussion about your new roles in the house and how you can make it work will greatly decrease the risk of either of you feeling overworked or under-appeciated.


Above all else, shifting from two incomes to one will not go smoothly unless the two of you talk openly, honestly and often, about how life is changing. If you both feel like you can discuss any new concerns or feelings that arise as you make this huge transition in your lives, the road to one income will be much less bumpy.

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Money-saving strategies: Best budgeting tools
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