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Finances & Money

Can we be a single-income household?

Stacie is having some trouble at work. Well, technically, it’s trouble with the commute to work, the management at work, and some of her coworkers. She puts in too long hours for too little reward, especially compared to her fellow dietitians. The commute is wearing on her more and more daily (she drives from MD to VA) and I’m just waiting for her to snap.

A few months ago, I told her she could just quit, work on her blog (Building Nutrition), and take time to work on her own outpatient consulting business. She didn’t take me seriously and I didn’t push it at the time.

But this past weekend, Stacie and I met up with some old friends from PA, and they asked how things were at the hospital. She related how management isn’t supporting them and she doesn’t feel that she’s providing quality patient care because of the politics. In addition, the managers are contractors, while all the dietitians are hospital employees. Thus, management has dual-allegiances. Lastly, her boss’s boss left last week, and she was Stacie’s only real management support. It’s just a mess and doesn’t look to be getting better as a new contracting agency might come in who’s known to be even worse than the current one.

While we were talking with our friends, Stacie turned to me and seriously asked if we could live off my salary alone. I did some quick math in my head and responded Yes. And that doesn’t even count the income from this website.

When I got home, I did some more math and determined that all our budgeted expenses, except for debt overpayments, can be handled by my monthly income with room to spare. That’s how we’re able to pay so much down on our debts; because Stacie’s whole income is “extra”.

Granted, I can’t see Stacie just up and quitting because she has a strong sense of duty, and also doesn’t want to leave her patients just hanging. The doctors and nurses love and trust her, but that doesn’t help her problems with management and her coworkers’ support. But honestly, she’s drained at night and she’s finding it harder to be motivated to go to work each day. Her mental health is declining and her physical health can only follow eventually. She’s under too much stress, and if it gets worse, I’ll start seriously urging her to just leave.

I’d want a contingency plan in place though. For now, we can handle her not getting an income, but either her side businesses need to be more stable first or she should have at least a few leads on other jobs. She’s not a quitter, but she needs a serious break. Heck, she even has over a month of vacation time saved up! (I’m not far behind myself though). I think we both need a vacation.

I’ll keep you posted on any major changes, but for now, keep Stacie in your prayers please (or in your thoughts if you don’t pray). I don’t expect anything to happen anytime soon, but it depends on what happens with the management contract over the next month.

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Clever Dude


  • I’ll keep ya in my prayers!

    I know how draining a bad work environment can be. It’s so frustrating! I hope it works out for you guys soon–no matter what you decide.

  • Crazy Americans. Get her to take some time off. Unless you’re on some kind of French system and you get six weeks vacation time a year, no one should have more than a month untaken.

    Taking time off (preferably at least a fortnight) will give her time to regroup, recharge and better consider her options.

    Otherwise, best of luck. I’m sure it’ll work out eventually, it’s just getting there that’s the hard part.

  • My wife was in a toxic environment at her job and left it at 5 months pregnant (she planned to work until delivery). That was eight years ago, and she has been a full time mom, home economist, etc. ever since! It was hard dropping to one income, but we made it work. Her health and sanity were more important than her salary, in the long run.

  • I agree with Plonkee. Let your wife take a good break, rest and review her options.

    You have already agreed to be the safety net. This should allow her to be open and even consider working from home as an experiment to see how it goes.

    (And being drained mentally and being miserable at work daily will have a huge toll on her health. The sooner you both act would seem to be the better.)

  • Fathersez, I actually had to strongly urge her to take her last day off, which occurred about 2 weeks ago. It’s not me holding her back…it’s her. She has a sense of duty to her patients, employer and coworkers that goes above and beyond her job description. But it’s one of those “it’ll only pile up if I’m not there” attitudes.

  • I’m with Plonkee, holidays are there to be taken, send her to a spa retreat for a few days. Seriously though, I will be thinking of her, my mum is going through a very similar thing, to the point where she has spoken to nursing union reps about her job. My dad and I are urging her to quit but like Stacie she has a strong sense of duty to her patients. Good luck!

  • The best decision my wife and I ever made was to have her stay home to look after the kids. Sure it takes some sacrifices but if you put your mind do it and do some planning it is more than possible.

  • Thanks for all of the support!! The politics at my job aren’t as bad as CD makes it out to be (management isn’t THAT bad, and I have made some awesome friends at the workplace!!). I DO think that I provide quality patient care because I would rather put in the extra hours to take care of my patients than just leave on time and let my patients go (so don’t think that I wouldn’t take care of you/your child if admitted to the hospital!). My patients are like my extended family, and you know how you can’t just forget about them when you’re not nearby….

    But with that said, yes, I do need to take some time off! However, being a chronic workaholic, I think I’d have a hard time relaxing on the home front and doing something fun without feeling guilty of the other stuff I have to do! So much to do, so little time! 🙂 Help!!

  • My wife and I are also faced with the “single-income” challenge – she is working on a one year contract which will not be renewed come this August. She really detests her current position and wants to stay home with our young son before he goes off to school in a few years.

    Our big goal this year is to buy a new house. If she stayed on in the same kind of work, we could likely afford our McMansion dream house.

    However, we have scaled back our dreams, and consequently can still afford a new house, and she will be able to stay home come this fall. Luckily, there is the option of picking up casual work when and where she wants, so if we want something extra, she will have the option of working a few days here and there. Much less stress = much happier family = not being driven by the almighty dollar.

  • I’ll keep her in my prayers indeed. I hope she can find a good place where she can put her skills to work and be happy and feel like she’s doing good at the same time.

  • Maybe a search for a new job is in order? A friend of mine is a dietician as well and she recently moved from a care center with too much politics as well. Since she doesn’t “have” to work, she should be picky and look for a job closer to home as well. Good luck!

  • You said something about her starting a bussiness. That would be good. That way you can still have income from the bussiness. I never actually believed one needs to get a job for an income.

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