How You Can Make Living On One Income Work
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Wonder if you can really survive on one income when it seems to be a two-income world?
But my husband and I were game to give living on one income a try because, while we had so much to lose, we had even more to gain.
What was even scarier is that we decided to drop down to one income after the birth of my first daughter.
So, it wasn’t just us anymore – we had a family.
Below, I’m going to share with you exactly what we did to live on one income successfully.
It’s not as hard as you might think it is.
First I’ll start by sharing why we decided to go for it as a one-income family…
✿ Leaving my job meant I could be there full time for our daughter.
✿ There would be no more stressful commutes in our family (my hubby works around the corner) so that meant happier parents overall.
✿ No daycare costs (big win).
✿ The chance for me to pursue my business goals so that we could ultimately live life on our terms (still in progress but going well!).
If any of those reasons resonate with you, read on.
You’ll see the key to living on one income successfully is committing to some things that save money big time.
Things that you haven’t thought about doing but should if you’re serious about living on one income…successfully.
(And, no, as you will see, living on one income doesn’t mean you have to miss out or sacrifice to the point where you can’t do anything).
(UPDATE: I’m now a successful mompreneur with a growing business so we no longer live on one income BUT these tips are what we used to it successfully and actually helped us achieve other life goals).
Click here for 40 Side Hustles for Stay at Home Moms.
Tips For Living On One Income
1) Create a Realistic Budget
Creating a realistic budget seems pretty straightforward, right?
But have you actually done it?
Knowing where you spend your money each month is vital to living on one income successfully.
Sit down with your partner and look at everything that has to get paid each month – your car mortgage, car payments, and other fixed living expenses.
Where it gets a little tricker is when you have to be honest and look where you spend your money OTHER than your living expenses.
Things like picking up a Starbucks coffee every morning or grabbing lunch out every day.
Say you’re a Starbucks kind of person, did you know you’re likely spending around $140/month or $1680/year?
It adds up.
And that’s just looking at one spending habit.
That’s just one example of expenses most people don’t account for in their budget.
If you’re going to live from one income, you need to account for all of your spending habits and see where you can cut down or eliminate.
The goal is to free up that money for more necessary things.
Once you have your honest and realistic budget in hand, the next 9 tips for living on one income come into play.
RELATED READ: 64 of the Best Frugal Tips for Families
2) Consolidate Your Debt Into One Location
How much debt do you currently carry?
It’s a good idea to get a handle on it before you take the plunge to one income.
We had high-interest credit card debt and a couple of other small debts that we decided to consolidate into one place.
Why do that?
Getting rid of high-interest debt and numerous monthly payments to different places is vital to living on one income because it’s easier to manage.
Ideally, if possible, move your debt to your mortgage – it’ll be the lowest interest rate you find.
3) Live In A House You Can More Than Afford
Now that you have a clear idea about your expenses and you’ve got a handle on your debts, it’s time to be realistic about your living arrangments.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in wanting a big house and property but that’ll have to come later if you want to live on one income for a while.
You need to live in a house that you can more than afford.
If unexpected expenses come up – you need to be able to handle it and still afford your house.
I get it – it’s hard to sacrifice when you see those lovely homes but you’ve got to ask yourself what do you want more?
What are your goals?
Why do you want to live on one income in the first place?
Just because the bank will give you a large mortgage doesn’t mean you should spend that much – ever.
Success Tip: Choose a house that you can more than afford even if the bank will give you much more money to spend. That way you can weather any unexpected financial situations without causing your family any undue stress.
4) Trim Your Grocery Bill
Your monthly grocery bill is one of the biggest expenses so you’ve got to get a handle on it.
You can grocery shop on a budget and make sure to cook meals that give you multiple meals.
(Think casseroles, soups – that kind of thing).
We invested in an inexpensive deep freezer so that when we see a good sale we can stock up and cook at home which is key to saving money.
We also became choosier about what kind of ingredients landed in the cart.
For example, buy frozen veggies instead of fresh or use dried herbs instead of fresh.
At the end of the day, meal planning is your best friend when living on one income.
Success Tip: I use TheDinnerDaily.com to meal plan – the service plans everything and lets you know where items you need are on sale (money-saving and time-saving – I think I’m in love, haha!) – those money-saving tips more than offset the cost of the service so check it out if you feel you’re too busy to meal plan.
RELATED READ: 15 Frugal Tips to Save Money at the Grocery Store
5) Cut Down On The Cable Bill
Technology is your friend when you’re cutting expenses to make living on one income work.
Have you ever taken a good look at how much you’re spending on cable service?
Consider streaming online or grabbing Netflix (it’s dirt cheap for what you’re getting!).
We chose to switch to an Internet-based TV service because it gave us everything we needed for a fraction of the cost.
What other services are you spending a lot of money on?
6) Your Other Needless Expenses
What are your other needless expenses every month?
You know the ones I’m talking about.
The ones you don’t really need or know you shouldn’t be spending money on.
Needless spending needs to go in order to live on one income successfully.
For me, it was my passionate love affair with grande, skinny, vanilla lattes from Starbucks.
I was spending almost $2000 per year (or $167 per month – gasp) when I could simply make coffee at home and save the money.
So, we purchased a Kuerig coffee maker that can brew lots of different kinds of coffee (so I don’t get bored, haha!) so we don’t feel like we’re missing out either.
What are some of your needless expenses?
What can you do to reduce or eliminate them?
Success Tip: Often the money you’re spending on small things seems insignificant. Take account of where that money is going and track it for a month. You’ll be surprised. How can you be more frugal and still enjoy the little things?
7) Date Nights Don’t Have to Be Expensive
Remember I said that living on one income didn’t make us feel like we were missing out?
We knew we had to figure out how to have fun without breaking the bank.
So, we started planning cheap date nights and realized they were actually more fun than an extravagant dinner out.
We didn’t feel like we were sacrificing.
Sometimes, all it takes is changing your definition of what a date night is.
When you think of a date night do you envision a restaurant with a bottle of wine?
If we use that date idea as an example, depending on the restaurant and what’s ordered, you could easily spend $150-200 for one night out.
And, that doesn’t even include babysitting if you have kids.
I’ll be honest, if that’s what you want to spend when you go out, you’ll have trouble living comfortably on one income.
Instead, get creative.
Our favorite date night is at home in our backyard with a fire.
(You can pick up an affordable firepit here).
We talk, we laugh, we eat, and we save money.
We usually start the fire after the kids are in bed so we also don’t need a babysitter.
This is just one example of how to save money but still live and have fun.
Want some cheap date night inspirations? Read: 52 Fun Cheap Date Night Ideas for Couples on a Budget
8) Vacation Wisely
Just because you want to live on one income doesn’t mean you won’t be able to take a vacation.
The key is planning affordable vacations instead of extravagant.
Here are some affordable vacation ideas:
✿ Day trips
✿ Road trips and an affordable Airbnb.
✿ Renting something with other people
You know all that money you’re going to save by eliminating and reducing unnecessary spending?
Put some aside so you can vacation wisely.
Success Tip: You can still have family fun while living on one income! What sort of things does your family like to do locally? Picnics? Hikes? Remember memories don’t need to have a big price tag attached to them 😉
RELATED READ: The Best Frugal Tips for Families
9) Explore Buy/Sell Websites
This just might be the best tip about how to live on one income comfortably.
Do you need to buy everything new?
I’m not sure if you’ve seen recently but if you look on Facebook marketplace or other buy and sell website, people are selling things that are basically brand new for cheap.
It’s almost crazy, to be honest.
I knew using the buy and sell websites was a huge way to make living on one income work when I bought a 6.5 ft pre-lit Christmas tree for 20 bucks.
That should have cost around $200.
Now I’m always looking at the sites first if we need something – it works like a charm and we save so much money.
(Think about it – how many times have you heard how fast kids grow out of toys it’s almost not worth buying them in the first place – it happens and people sell them for CHEAP – go take a look).
Success Tip: Search buy and sell websites before buying new. You’ll be surprised at what you find! On the flip side, what could you sell to make a little extra cash?
10) Eliminate A Vehicle If Possible
This money-saving tip is last because not everyone is going to be able to make it work.
We literally save hundreds (about $7200/year!) every month because we sold one of our cars and use only one for our family.
It’s not something we plan to do forever, but it has been completely worth it.
(UPDATE: we’ve been a single car family for almost 4 years now even though we don’t need to be anymore – we just love using the money we save on other things 🙂 )
It takes a little bit of planning logistically but only paying for one car has been a huge reason we’ve managed living on one income.
Don’t worry if your family can’t live without two cars, just make sure you drive cars that you can more than afford instead.
Living on one income might seem challenging or not possible at first but, as you can see, understanding your expenses and making some lifestyle changes can set you up for success.
It’s also good to understand why you want to live from one income before you get started.
Is it to stay home with your kids?
To pursue a business venture?
Knowing your why will motivate you enough to follow these money-saving tips so that living on one income won’t feel hard.
Make sure you’re honest about where you’re spending money and eliminate any unnecessary spending while you’re living on one income.
Create and stick to a realistic budget so that you don’t feel stressed out when an unforeseen expense arises.
What did you think about our money-saving tips?
Are you going to give one income living a try?
Do you have any other tips for living on one income?
Let me know in the comments!