plonkee money

February 21, 2008

living on one income – the single life

Filed under: philosophical — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:28 pm

I find it amusing when you see calculators designed to justify one parent in a family staying at home. Not because that’s not a worthy goal if it suits you, but because they are about how you can live on one income. And I live on one income. But that’s because I’m single.

Now, I’m assuming that some of the challenges of supporting multiple people on one income are significantly greater than supporting a single person on one income. It seems reasonable that there will be higher food bills, somewhat higher utility bills, and possibly (although not necessarily) higher housing costs.

On the other hand, there are perceived advantages to having a stay at home adult in the household, that don’t apply to single people. From three hierarchies

…a single-income family can respond to a loss of the breadwinner’s income (for whatever reason: death, injury, laid-off, fired, etc.) by sending the other parent into the paid labor force. Dual-income families don’t have that option…

Single income single person families don’t have this option either. Nor do they have someone to pick up the slack in the housework department, or to run errands in working hours.

Although there might be smaller bills, it’s harder to be more creatively frugal when you don’t have all that much time – not really even as much as a dual income household, where there are at least two busy people to do the work instead of one. There is also often an unwritten assumption that because you are single, you have plenty of time to help people out. Hmmm, not so much.

Some of the difficulties are shared. The Two Income Trap argues that middle class two income families have driven up housing prices and made single income living much more difficult as you have to pay for a lot of house on your budget. That’s as true for single person families as it is for multiple person families.

To a greater extent than in a larger family, single income, single adult living isn’t really a choice. I can’t just decide to be in a dual income household. It’s a pity that it is so expensive – most people live a single life at some point, and more than half of everyone finishes up their days being a single person household.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy my single life, it has many advantages, but it is more expensive than being in a dual income household.

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