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How single-income families make it work on Long Island

Jeffrey Pacheco and Paul MacMillan play UNO with

Jeffrey Pacheco and Paul MacMillan play UNO with their daughter, Samantha, 11, at their Selden home. Photo Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

When a family lives on one income, sometimes it’s by choice and sometimes it’s by necessity. Here’s how five families make the single-income household work on Long Island, named in 2018 by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Economic Policy Institute as the second-most expensive largest metro area to live in the country for a family of four.

MEET THE FAMILY Jeffrey Pacheco, 52, of Selden, a stay-at-home father, his husband, Paul MacMillan, 43, who works at a group home for adults with disabilities, and their daughter, Samantha, 11.

THEIR BIGGEST CHANGES It initially wasn’t their choice for one parent to stay home, but Pacheco had to leave work on disability. “Before … we went out to dinner, we went on vacations and cruises,” he says. “We cut out some of the bigger luxuries.”

HOW THEY BUDGET Pacheco shops at different stores to cut down on the grocery bills. “We don’t go to the fancy supermarkets,” he says. “I try to get what’s on sale.” They also cut down their cable bill in favor of a Fire Stick, and they put in solar panels. “Our electric bill is almost half of what it was,” Pacheco says.

SACRIFICES THEY’VE MADE They’ve refinanced their house twice and there have been periods they racked up credit card debt. “It’s nerve-racking,” MacMillan says. “There’s been times in the past few years that my job was a little shaky.” But the sacrifices are worth it, Pacheco says.  Now, he has had time to join the PTA, and the couple has expanded their circle of friends by meeting other parents at their daughter’s school.

MEET THE FAMILY Laura Stagnitta, 46, of Farmingdale, a divorced single mother who works for several ambulance companies in emergency medical services. Four of her six children still live with her, as does her 3-year-old grandson. The kids at home are Vincent, 15, Bella, 18, Anthony, 19, and Taylor, 22.

HOW SHE MANAGES Stagnitta works 12-hour shifts, and when she is working overnight her older children care for the younger ones. She works 70- to 80 hours a week, she says. The older children also work, and several will be attending Nassau Community College, where they are expecting some financial aid. Stagnitta's ex-husband, who is on disability, contributes $400 a month in child support.

SACRIFICES SHE'S MADE Stagnitta says her kids made the sacrifice of not being on sports teams because she couldn’t afford the equipment or get them back and forth to practices while she was at work. In addition, she rents a house and has slept on the living room couch so her children could have the bedrooms. She says she dreams of buying a place so her children will know that they won’t have to move again. She says she plans to relocate to South Carolina or Florida, where it’s cheaper, after Vincent graduates from high school. “I would love to stay in New York. Financially, it doesn’t look that way.”

MEET THE FAMILY Angela Calabrese, 31, of Bayport, a stay-at-home mother, her husband, Rob, 33, a construction contractor, and their 14-month-old daughter, Alessia. The Calabreses are expecting a second child — a boy — in November.

HOW THEY PREPARED TO LIVE ON ONE INCOME They saved while Angela was in the workforce in telecom sales from age 21 to 29, when she gave birth to Alessia.

HOW THEY BUDGET They took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course locally. “We manage our money off Biblical principles,” Calabrese says. “It’s a whole program.” The course teaches, for instance, not to finance anything except your house so you won’t be “a slave to the lender” as noted in Proverbs 22:7, she says.

SACRIFICES THEY’VE MADE Angela cooks a lot. “We definitely don’t take big vacations. We take small, little trips,” she says. Also, she adds, “We moved all the way out east and bought a house with my brother, a two-family house.” The Calabreses had previously lived in Nassau County, and with their move they cut their mortgage obligation by two-thirds, Angela says. “We never had a new car,” she says. “We always had old, used cars.”

MEET THE FAMILY Sara Vannetter, 35, of Medford, a stay-at-home mother, her husband, James, 34, and 8-year-old Jameson and 3-year-old Isabella. James drives a sanitation truck, and he works on the state Department of Transportation help trucks on the highways from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

THEIR BIGGEST CHANGES James took on a second full-time job after Sara was laid off from her job as a restaurant manager and they decided she should stay home with the kids.

SACRIFICES THEY'VE MADE “I’m sacrificing me having time with my husband. Now I see him a whole lot less,” Vannetter says. It’s also harder for them to take a vacation because James must coordinate time off from both positions.

MEET THE FAMILY Silvia Varuolo, 43, of Bellport, who stayed home full time for 12 years, her husband, Raymond, an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, and their children, Kyle, 14, Danny, 11, and Brianna, 8.

THEIR BIGGEST CHANGES Silvia stopped getting her hair and nails done frequently. “I’m not a high-maintenance person,” she says. She began cooking every night. Raymond gave up some of the sporting events he used to attend, she says.

SACRIFICES THEY MADE “We rent because of being with one income all these years,” Silvia says. But she says she doesn’t mind because they live in a nice complex with four heated pools. Silvia also sacrificed her career. She moved to the United States from Brazil to be an au pair, and after marrying her husband she worked for the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in Manhattan until Kyle was born. When Brianna entered kindergarten, Silvia was ready to work again. But she still didn’t want to work full time. So she instead works 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. as a teacher’s assistant locally. “I want to be a mom that has a job, not a career person who had children," she says. "That was a priority.”

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