An Uncommon But Brilliant Money Move for Young Couples

When a couple gets married, one of the biggest financial temptations they face is what I call Delusions of DINKhood (Double Income No Kids). Since they typically both have jobs, it’s easy to get swept up in thinking of all they’ll be able to afford with two incomes. The home! The cars! The nights on the town!

It sounds like such freedom. And it can lead to such a jail.

If you want to have kids, the absolute best money move you can make is to build a lifestyle based primarily on one income. If and when kids come along, that’ll give you the freedom to choose to have one of you step out of the paid workforce.

Building a lifestyle that requires both incomes limits your choices – a lot.

Even if you don’t plan to have kids, or if you plan to have kids and you both want to continue working, basing your lifestyle primarily on one income still makes sense. That way, if one of you loses your job, you’ll be in a much better position to handle the loss of that income.

Since housing is usually people’s biggest expense, a one-income lifestyle is mostly about choosing a home that can be afforded on one income.

A Personal Example

When Jude and I got married, we rented for the first 10 months. That gave us the freedom to enjoy our new life as husband and wife without all the responsibilities of home ownership. When you rent, if something in your apartment breaks, you just call your landlord.

When we bought our first home, we chose a condo and lived there for five years. When you own a condo, if some things break, you call the condo owner’s association.

Now that we own a house, when anything breaks, it’s all on us.

I highly recommend that step-by-step progression into home ownership.

The Freedom of an Uncommitted Second Income

Renting for those first 10 months and then buying a condo we could afford on my salary alone gave us huge financial freedom. We based our giving on our joint income and then, since neither one of us brought any debt into the marriage, we used Jude’s income to save like crazy.

That enabled us to build up a year and a half’s worth of living expenses, which was hugely helpful in enabling me to eventually quit my corporate job to write and speak full-time. Before we had our first child, living primarily on one income also gave us the margin to take several nice trips.

If you’re entering marriage with debt, living primarily on one income will give you the means to get out of debt ASAP.

Keys to Making It Work

To be sure, living on one income requires making some uncommon choices. The condo we bought, for example, was in what Realtors optimistically termed “an up and coming neighborhood” in Chicago. The spray painted symbols that often appeared overnight on the mailbox on the corner, we quickly discovered, was not the handiwork of the neighborhood’s Welcome Wagon. It was the work of a local street gang staking its territory.

We are also committed to not financing vehicles, so we keep our cars for a long time.

Whenever I recommend building a lifestyle primarily on one income, I can see the looks of dejection on the faces of some couples. But for those who take the advice to heart, I can also envision the happiness to come from the uncommon level of financial freedom they will soon experience.

What are your thoughts about the idea of building your lifestyle primarily on one income?

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2 Responses to An Uncommon But Brilliant Money Move for Young Couples

  1. Jon July 14, 2016 at 8:58 AM #

    Best advice I ever received and followed as new college graduates and newly married couple. We ended up not having kids for 9 years but that pattern became our normal and allowed us to have a patient approach in finances. Even today with teenage children and two incomes, we still follow this approach and it is great freedom with less worry over finances.

    • Matt Bell July 14, 2016 at 1:04 PM #

      Thanks for confirming the advice with your own experience, Jon. That’s exactly how I feel — 17 years after my wife’s and my wedding day and with 3 kids age 12 and younger. We went down to one income after our first child was born and are still a one-income household. I’m sure the fact that we built our lifestyle on one income from day one was one of the most important keys.

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