5 Steps to Transitioning to Lower Income

by Jessica Sommerfield · 3 comments

Transitioning from two incomes down to one can be a scary but often necessary or advantageous step for families. There are many situations which can create the need to operate on one income, such as a change in child or family care, injuries or illnesses, or a loss of employment.  Perhaps you don’t need to reduce your income, but have the desire to be a homemaker and more available to the needs of your family.Whatever your reason for considering this change, whether forced or voluntary, it’s important to look at the math and all contributing factors so as to avoid financial disaster. However, it’s just as important not to stubbornly cling to the security blanket of ample finances just because you are afraid of change.

Follow these five steps as you consider and put into action a significant reduction in your family income, and you will be making an informed decision on what’s best for your family’s budget needs and your personal happiness.

  • Evaluate your current budget (or lack of budget) to get a good understanding of your fixed expenses and spending habits.

It’s easy to get relaxed with your finances when you know you don’t have to pinch pennies, and therefore harder to transition to a lower income level because you aren’t aware of your spending. Using a software or online budgeting program can help you categorize your expenses and see where your money is going now. This will help you start to see some areas you need to tighten up or eliminate, and provide a reality check of exactly where you are financially. Free budgeting tools are available on sites such as kiplinger.com, daveramsey.com, betterbudgeting.com, and mymoney.gov among others.

  • Start from the ground up, and literally re-build your budget based on the reduction in your income.

The best way to get a clear picture of what you have to work with is to start over, using your reduced income and fixed expenses, and build up from there. You will probably discover a lot of expenses you no longer need because of one adult being at home, such as: childcare, car fuel, repair and insurance expenses, wardrobe and grooming expenses, and convenience food. Eliminate the things you don’t need or want in the new budget, and then assess how many wants and luxuries you may need to cut as well.

  • Start building up your savings — at least six months of expenses as your ‘emergency fund.’

You may have your budget planned down to the penny, but unexpected expenses will mean dipping into your savings unless you provide for an emergency fund. Make these funds hard to access so you can’t use them on impulse — only in a true emergency. Budget regular contributions to your emergency fund; if you don’t need it, this money can be used somewhere else.

Leaving a job or otherwise reducing your income is less scary when you know you have this to fall back on if things don’t go as planned.

  • Leave your options open.

It’s always a good idea not to burn your bridges, but to leave the door open to returning to work if it becomes necessary, even if it’s only part time. If you can’t leave your home but need more income, consider your options for working from home. If you are a professional, maintain your certifications and stay aware of changing requirements in your field so it won’t be as difficult to transition back to work if necessary or desirable.

Reduced spending abilities can be scary no matter how prepared you are, but if you are aware of your spending and have a reasonable budget which accounts for the unexpected, it doesn’t have to be daunting.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

InEx Finance October 12, 2012 at 7:44 am

These tips are very useful, especially in the current financial crisis and high unemployment rate. You never know when the misfortune may hit you, so you’d better be prepared. Losing your primary job may turn into a total disaster unless you take advance measures to alleviate the effects.

Frank January 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I believe you can also test run your lower budget – simply by choosing the automatically save say half of your salary to another bank account, then live on what’s left – humans are extremely adaptable – I believe one quickly adapts to what they have and stops noticing what’s not there.

The reverse of Parkinson’s Law – work(or spending) adjusts to the available space – if you set yourself a lower income,

Save (or pay yourself) first – then spend what’s left.

90% of my money I spent of booze, fast cars and women – the rest I wasted – just kidding 😉

Jessica S. January 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Haha.
Very good point Frank. 🙂

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