Two Income Family - Is It Worth It?


Hi everyone.

Most families I know decide to send both parents out to work full time to make ends meet.  I applaud this brave decision because it seems to be the responsible answer to getting ahead and making ends meet - right?  Maybe. Maybe not.

This case scenario is based on many two income families that I know of. 

There is wild excitement and celebration that we both are now in full time employment - a bubbly gets popped in honour of this accomplishment. We go out and buy a few office-appropriate clothes (we can buy more once the pay packets begin to come in) and we enroll the three kids in childcare - yep, this is expensive, but hey, we'll be OK.

After four weeks of catching the bus and it running late then consequently getting in trouble from the boss, we both agree to buy a good reliable second hand car to drive to work - $11,000.00 is a sensible sum to spend....after all, the repayments are well under $100 per week so there is plenty of money left.  

Both of us are becoming too tired to make lunches every night, so $10 per day is way less than everyone else at the office spends on food and coffee each day, so we are at least being restrained. The car registration and maintenance are only a yearly or half yearly cost, so there will be money for that no doubt.  

We are very proud to be contributing to the household, using our mind and making a better life for the kids. We'll be able to get ahead financially real soon. We can feel it all coming together any day now.

One year down the track we realise that something is very, very wrong.  We both are pretty exhausted, no wealthier and weekends are dedicated to housework - what has gone wrong?

Here is what has gone wrong - it's here in the very simple math:

Item Weekly
Net Second Income 
Business Clothes
Child Care x 3 kids
Public Transport/Petrol
Presents/Social Fund
Car 2 Rego
Car 2 Maintenance
Car 2 Repayment
Total Extra Net Income

We are only two dollars better off per week. Oh, and this does not cover that fact that we are so tired that we end out buying dinner two nights a week, nor does it include that we have forgotten to factor in car insurance, nor does it factor in that we are now not eligible for full child family benefits because we earn too much as a combined income. Oh, and it does not cover the extra mobile phone and phone plan we went into so childcare could contact us both at work.

We madly recalculate the math and replace the batteries in the calculator ... but still get the same result. We then figure it on a spreadsheet and end up sitting up in bed staring at the calculations on the laptop well into the wee hours of the morning - the realisation is just simply heartbreaking.

We reach over and shake our partner awake and chat about this sad, sad situation. We have a bit of a cry. We then both agree to get rid of the car and go back to public transport - that will save us $121.00 a week. Excellent! Then the realisation dawns on us that we are still only earning a net $3.20 per hour or $6292.00 a year. Our heart breaks again. Tears flow again for the real slavery we have found ourselves in. Then we just get mad. Real mad.

Folks, there are easier ways to create $121.00 per year net income (or $2.00 per week!) in the family budget - going out and getting a second full time job could be the most heartbreakingly misguided decision we ever make.

Maybe there is another way?

Take care folks - stay nice.


  1. I went through this myself Phil, when the kids were little. I was pressured into going back to work when my youngest was 18 months old. It went exactly as you said, a second car and mobile was needed, work-appropriate clothes, I swapped to disposable wipes and a bit of convenience food etc..Luckily we didn't go down the buying lunches and takeaway route or we would have been going backwards, not just breaking even.

    I then read a book called The Smart Woman's Guide to Staying At Home. I did my sums and called my then spouse to say I would not continue going to work for under $2.00 an hour and leave my baby to do so. If I had been better informed I would have delayed having kids for a year or so and lived off one income. The saved money would then have been enough to get us through some slightly tight times until the kids were at least at school. Even when I became a single parent I did not go back to full-time work and tried to work when the kids were at school for the most part. Again, things were tight but I have absolutely no regrets (eg should have saved sooner for retirement) and so many happy memories. And again, had I been better informed, I think I could have found a way to put more into retirement savings. The good thing is I am catching up now.


    1. It's a tough one to live through - that's for sure. Thanks for sharing your 1st hand experience of this.

  2. I totally agree with you....also there is a lot of pressure in our society that just because your a Mum and your kids are now in school you are somehow sitting on the couch watching TV or Netflix all day. Don't forget to outsource the cleaning costs too if you want to have the weekend to relax and spend time with the family. Then there's the "put in for this person who is leaving" this week, next week etc. someone's wedding, engagement etc. This is part of a quote I saw the other day...

    lf you choose a working woman, you have to accept that she cannot manage the house full

    If you choose a housewife who can take care of and manage the household completely, you
    need to accept that she does not make money.

    However the value of a Mum at home looking after her kids whether they are in school or not is valuable.

    1. We certainly can attest that one of us at home for the children when they were small certainly has paid dividends at this end of life.

  3. Very true. I think the only thing might be if a woman/man, despite enjoying being a mum/dad and a stay at home homemaker, may not feel fulfilled and need an outlet. I worked part time when my son went to school, then ran a small craft business. The latter didn't give me a wage but I enjoyed it for the few years I did it.

    1. Totally agree. This post was only looking at the financial side of things, but you are right, there are so many other considerations besides money.

  4. Different country, different reality, at least in some parts. Most important thing here is that staying at home with no income means minimum pension. You will not get your share of your husband's/wife's pension if he/she dies, and there is no family/spousal pensions. Living is very expensive here, like rents are maybe most expensive in the whole Europe, electricity and water is cheap but those don't make up the gap. If you own your home, you will not get any housing benefits etc.
    So if you look only those years you are at home with kids with one income, it is possible, sometimes even easy. But it will cost you dearly later, if you haven't been able to pay for private pension (payments about 200-500€/month) which you will get after you are 68, or if you don't have savings. And on the other hand child care is really cheap and easily available (and reliable and have pretty high standards) and school days are structured in a way that supports parents' full time working (all school children get free lunch every day). Depending where you live public transport might be free for you if you use it with small children ( that means you can take your children to day care without extra travelling costs) etc. And if you live "off grid" you will need some form of transportation for the parent at home with kids anyway because you just can't be without any. I'm honest: with one or two small children it is possible to use something like bicycle with trailer, if distances are less than 10km. But after that... using taxi used to be cheap and reliable solution, but no more. School taxi runs smoothly, but they don't take other people anymore. So if you live far from your friends and families you will be quite isolated without any transportation.
    But in many cases one of the parent stays at home with children at least some time, because money isn't the only thing in this equation.

    1. That is fascinating Ulvmor. I am deeply interested in how other countries run their pension funds and family support systems> are you able to tell me what country you live in please?

  5. I unexpectedly became pregnant with my second child when my daughter was 1 1/2 and I was working 3 days a week and she was in daycare. After figuring out we would have to put two kids in daycare at the cost of $1,000 a month (which is nothing now) I would need to go back to full time and bring in $100.00 when all was said and done. My husband said it was ridiculous and I haven't worked since. This was 24 years ago, daycare is through the roof now.

    1. Colleagues tell that the amount I have allocated for child care in this post is well short of the reality(!). I hope that I will be able to offer quality care to any of my grandchildren if any of their parents want to return to work for other reasons beside income.


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