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Surviving on a Single Income/ My Story by Elisa Garcia

Elisa, Alina, and Jackie Dec. 2007

Before I began working from home, I was the primary breadwinner for a three-person family that included my partner and her now adult son.  As a mortgage loan processor for several national companies, I earned a fairly high salary over the course of my ten year career.  My base earnings plus bonus scale complemented my partner’s administrative assistant income very, very well for seven years, to the extent that we were able to purchase a new home, travel spontaneously, and fully fund fertility testing and the intrauterine insemination conception of our daughter.  In fact, we were *almost* a six-digit household … not bad for two working class women who never finished college.

Fast forward to year eight.  Though the grown son now lives with us only part-time, we still have the mortgage and car note and credit card and utility bills to contend with in addition to our lovely two-year-old plus a rescued dog and cat … and we’re doing it ourselves on less than $50,000.00 annually.  How?

Sacrifice.  Simply.  Sacrifice.  Gone are the three, four, sometimes five-night-a-week restaurant meals.  Mama now plans breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that incorporate versatile basics.  Wasting food is tantamount to sin in our home.  Now, my only cooking break is Friday.  And I have a coupon file that I maintain with the utmost organization and precision.  You’d think I was piecing an anthropological tablet the way I rank and file coupon clippings.

Gone is my daughter Alina’s excellent daycare.  Mama must now write and answer client e-mails at dawn or during rapidly diminishing naptimes … and take up Grandma and Grandpa’s babysitting offers as they come.

Gone is my wardrobe.  A huge, huge upside to my working from home is the loss of thirty extra pounds (or one Alina!); because I no longer contend with the stress that stems from working in a field I loathe, I’m no longer munching at my desk for eight hours a day.  Now, I’m active scrubbing bathtubs, vaccuuming stairs, dusting shelves, and moving furniture.  And though the weight loss was wonderful and desperately needed, I no longer have any pants or shorts or skirts that fit properly.  Everything sags so that I often look like I’m emulating my stepson.  I’m not.  It’s just that the only pants that stay up happen to be sweats … and I’ve worn them out, too. 

Gone are the spontaneous daytrips … though, to be fair, they did pretty much stall after Alina arrived.  But with gas prices so high, we are saving money on my hitherto horrendously long commute. 

 And, oh yes, there are plenty of other areas wherein we’ve had to scrimp and save and eliminate altogether.  The list is just too long to enter here.  And, thankfully, I have earned a little dinero here and there courtesy of local realtors who find my mortgage and writing expertise an ideal blend for their business needs.  I sold a story for publication this fall … not bad for a working class woman who never finished college and only seriously started writing this winter.

 So, to encapsulate: fast Chinese takeout vs. frequent child time-outs;  exclusive daycare vs. exclusive daughter days; trendy tailored clothing vs. tattered, torn castoffs, and spontaneous travel vs. suburban toil ….  Hmmmm …..

Worth it? Every little bit.

by Elisa Garcia

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