Money Matters: Married and Living the Single (Income) Life

Who will control the finances?  Will we have enough money?  Will I still have a sense of purpose? These are just a few questions a couple might ponder when they take a leap of faith and decide to live on one income.  This week in our Money Matters series, we speak with Thomas and Nina Scott a couple who took that leap of faith and are learning how to navigate being a one income family.

Who doesn’t love getting set up on a blind date?  I would be one of those people that would have to pass and respond with a polite “No thank you” to being set up on a blind date.  But luckily Nina and Thomas don’t share my same perspective.  Ten years ago, Nina’s cousin reached out to her to ask if she knew someone named Thomas Scott because they were both originally from the same city (Columbia, SC).  Nina’s response was ‘no’ and then her cousin proceeded to ask if she was seeing anyone.  Uh-oh, we all know where this is going ,right?  Her cousin then suggested that Nina and Thomas would make a great couple.  And in true blind date fashion, her cousin assured her that he was a really ‘nice guy’.  Uh-oh again.  And then here comes the kicker – her cousin, the match maker, actually is blind and had never seen Thomas herself.  However, Nina decided to make that phone call anyway and sparks soon began to fly.  Talk about a leap of faith!  In the end taking that chance and making that phone call turned out to be well worth the risk.   Fast forward 10 years and Thomas continues to be everything Nina wanted in a husband – he is her exact definition of a man.  He downright loves his family and will stop at nothing to protect and provide for them.  Thomas loves his wife’s outgoing, life of the party energy that balances perfectly with his more reserved personality.

As you can see, taking a chance on situations where you don’t truly know the outcome is nothing new for Thomas and Nina.  Many times when families shift from two incomes to one there can be a lot of uncertainty, risk, and fear that can cause marital stress.  Read on to see how Thomas and Nina made the transition from the dual income no kids lifestyle to a family structure that allows Nina to stay at home with their young kids while living on one income.


How and when did you make the decision for Nina to be a stay at home mom?

It would briefly come up when we began having conversations about expanding our family.  However, being a stay at home mother was not a reality in our upbringing or extended circle of friends, so it did not become a hot topic until our son was born.  After visiting a few daycares and realizing what would be gained and sacrificed, we found it would be best for our family for Nina to stay home.  It took a few serious conversations and agreements to compromise before we both were sold on it.  


Wow! I can only imagine what a leap of faith it took to make the decision to become a one income family.   What financial steps did you take to prepare to live on one salary?

Before having children, we began to use my paycheck as savings and play money.  There were some financial goals we wanted to accomplish before having children and this was the best method for us.  It made the decision for Nina to stay home a little easier because we hadn’t depended on her check for some time.  After finalizing our decision, we began to see some financial blessings that would secure any doubts we had.


Ok so at that point your minds were made up to live on one income. So now it just got real – because there is a pretty big difference between having two incomes and using one as play money versus truly only having one income.  What are some of the things that you’ve had to sacrifice, if anything, in order to live on one income?

The biggest sacrifice has been not being able to save as much as we would like for our long term stability. Another sacrifice has been not being able to save as much for our children’s financial start on life.  As we eliminate debt, we plan to tackle both of those areas.


Yes, we can relate to that. We definitely agree that eliminating debt and saving for the future is important. What are some of your strategies or methods that have helped your family adjust to a single income setup while also keeping a focus on those long term goals?

Communication is the key.  We discuss all major purchases and movement of money. We came into the marriage with joint accounts, so we did not have the issue of your money versus my money.  We both operated under the idea that it all was OUR Money. We have a joint account for all bills and everyday family needs. We also have multiple joint savings accounts for small and large emergencies.  We have individual accounts for play money.  This has proven to be the most functional and successful method for us.


You mentioned that communication is key as it relates to marriage and finance. Tell us a little more about how communication has specifically played a role in your family’s transition from two incomes to one?

It has played a major role in our transition. Obviously, there have been quite a few conversations regarding financial role assignments and expectations for spending money. There have also been some discussion addressing the emotional aspect of finances.  There were adjustments needing to be made for me, because I felt like I had to “ask” for money since I was not contributing financially. Thomas has made it very clear that we would not be in such a positive financial position if the children were in daycare.


To keep you on track, how often do you talk about finances together?

We have a standing meeting in December to discuss the past year’s goals, accomplishments, and areas that didn’t work out as planned. We use that as a guideline to set the next year’s goals. We also come together as goals are accomplished and when a large financial decision has to be made. We try to meet monthly to review the budget and discuss any needs outside of the normal. As the person who does most shopping for the family, I try to discuss any purchase that I feel will have an impact on the budget.


It sounds like you definitely had to get comfortable with your financial roles as you transitioned to a single income family. On the other hand, how did you establish your roles for other household responsibilities?

Before we got married, we discussed our ideas relating to family roles.  We agreed that Thomas was responsible for everything on the outside and I the inside. We do check ins with each other as needed to discuss what is working and areas for improvement.


Speaking of you being responsible of everything inside of the home, Nina, how do you as a stay at home mom contribute to your home in non-financial ways?

As a mother, I would be remiss not to say that there is no better care for our children.  It simply warms my heart to be able to witness their growth and development first hand.  I definitely have a new respect for stay at home mothers, as this job is not a walk in the park. As most jobs have a start and end to their day, mine is 25/8.  And it is just not about the kids. Although I took care of the typical domestic duties before having children, it feels as if now those tasks are heightened.


Thomas, how do you (as a working spouse) show that you appreciate Nina’s contribution to the home?

I try to verbalize my appreciation often. I try not to get upset if I walk in from work and see toys in the middle of the floor. I just pick them up. I was home for two weeks at the end of 2017 and saw firsthand what my wife does every day. It made me appreciate what she does even more.


Here’s a curveball for you all. Hypothetically speaking, how do you think having one income would work for your family if Thomas stayed home from a financial perspective?  How do you think it would impact your marriage relationship in other areas?

We think it could work, just not in our household. Thomas is not built to be a stay at home father.  From a financial perspective, it wouldn’t be much of a difference.  At the end of the day, the bills would be paid and the family would be taken care of.  Now we strongly believe there would be a great impact on the emotional state of the marriage.   A lot of our conversations would probably focus on egos and pride.


So we’ve touched on many aspects of being a being a one income family. Nina, can you tell us what’s the best thing that’s come out of being a stay at home mom? Are there any disadvantages to being a stay at home mom?

Again, seeing all the kids’ firsts.  Absolutely there are disadvantages. I enjoyed dressing up for work, but now I wear yoga pants and t-shirts. There is also a sense of professionalism that I feel I have lost.  I took for granted the meaning and importance of adult interactions.


Thinking back over the entire course of your marriage from your newlywed days, to living the DINK (dual income no kids) life, to a single income family what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about your spouse and their money habits?

Nina: If my husband can prevent paying full price for everything, he is happy.  He takes negotiating to a new level.  He has walked away from many purchases because the deal was not in line with his plans. He is “The Negotiator.”

Thomas: My wife is very impulsive.  If she sees the money in the account, she will find something to buy.


Regardless of who is working outside of the home or who is staying home at the end of the day it is essential that families have shared financial goals that they work towards together. In closing, can you tell us what your number one financial goal is and how you plan to achieve it? 

Our number one goal is to have a debt free lifestyle outside of our mortgage. Some would call it a “screw you” mindset, where you are not dependent on a job, check or budget to decide in the middle of the day you want to take an exotic vacation or have an exquisite meal.  We are currently working very hard to reach this goal. We are eliminating debt one piece at a time. We also have a financial advisor who we meet with quarterly to evaluate our overall financial picture.


The way that Thomas and Nina have worked together to find a good balance that works for their family’s priorities is truly inspirational.  It makes us realize that focusing on making as much money as possible isn’t always the right answer.

If you’ve learned anything or want to share a few of your own financial tips, comment below—we’d love to hear from  you.  Join us next week as we continue our Money Matter series.

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3 thoughts on “Money Matters: Married and Living the Single (Income) Life

  1. My goodness, wow 😮 Unspoken Vows…
    I’m speechless at this dynamic duo! They make sacrificing sound easy, but I know it’s not. Those children are so blessed to have good leaders like these two parents as a mother and father, and I pray they will continue to have prosperity in every area of their lives for sure ch brave steps. Blessings to them all!
    Beverly Powell

  2. Love this, it gives great insight to aspiring couples! Thomas Scott is actually a middle school and high school classmate of mine, thanks for being so transparent!

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