Often when I tell people that I am a stay at home mom they usually think that my husband makes really good money! I hear stuff like, “I wish I could stay home with my kids. We just couldn’t afford it!” This always makes me so sad.
I know everybody’s situation is uniquely different. But, I wanted to share how we manage to live on one income, yes, even an income that is actually considered below federal “poverty level”!
Be encouraged. Here are some tips that will help you get by on one income – no matter how small that income might be!
Are you planning on cutting down to one vehicle now that only one of you is working? Even if you plan on keeping two cars, here are some tips to help you save money on vehicles and vehicle-related expenses.
Never have a car payment.
We sold our two vehicles (one we were still making payments on) and downsized to one paid-for vehicle in order to shed a $200 per month bill. Having one less car also reduced our auto insurance.
Yes, having only one vehicle was an inconvenience, but we were able to take that saved money and apply it toward other debt to work our way toward financial freedom more quickly. And it wasn’t long before we were quite used to coordinating our plans around who got the car.
There is a lot of “frill” in most insurance. Speak to your agent about what you can do to reduce your bill. Now that we have worked our way to owning two vehicles again (both paid for) we carry full coverage on our “family” vehicle, and just the bare minimum on hubby’s truck. If something were to happen to his truck, we’d still have the van as a backup.
You might want to consider refinancing your car or truck (or other loans for which this might make sense). By refinancing, you can reduce our monthly expenses by paying off the remaining balance over a longer period of time or you might be able to save money over the life of the loan with a lower interest rate. Consider whether this is something that makes sense for you!
Here are some tips to help you save money on healthcare costs while living on one income.
What sorts of things can you do to help you save on the costs of healthcare in the future? If you don’t need to go to the doctor very often, your premiums are going to be lower, you’re going to save time, and of course, this likely means you’re healthier overall, too!
Eat a healthy diet, take your vitamins, and get plenty of sleep and exercise. These simple steps can end up saving you a boatload of money in the future.
We switched my insurance to an HSA (Health Savings Account) with a High Deductible Insurance plan. I hardly ever go to the doctor, it’s been several years since I have been sick enough to need one. So, it saves us money. It’s a good option for generally healthy people with no medical conditions.
If I do go to the doc I pay out of pocket (like $100), but it’s usually at a discounted rate. The Savings Account is for you to put the money that you are saving from switching to the higher deductible plan into a safe place for when you do need to go to the doc or whatever. Then you’ll have the money to cover your out of pocket expenses when you need it.
If something terrible were to happen, and I ended up in the hospital, the insurance would pay 100% of the bills after my deductible was met. It’s good to have whatever your deductible amount is in savings, just in case you ever need to use it.
We didn’t switch my husband to this plan because the insurance through his work was actually cheaper. Adding me to his employer’s insurance plan was more expensive than me buying it individually.
While we’re talking about health insurance, remember that it pays to revisit your health insurance coverage frequently. As a result of the pandemic, many state and federal programs have changed the income thresholds necessary to qualify for services like Medicaid.
You may also be able to tap into community resources. If your income was lost due to a disability or injury, you can look into state disability insurance or community resources. If you’re a member of an alumni group, church, union, or nonprofit, there are often resources that can help you get your feet back on the ground (like subsidized child care or healthcare resources).
- Set a grocery budget. A realistic one. And stick to it.
- Only use cash when shopping.
- Don’t shop hungry!!!
- Tell the kids “NO” and mean it when they beg for something not on your list. When my kids ask, “Can we get this?”, I counter with, “Did you bring your money?” If they didn’t, then that’s the end of the discussion.
- Make a weekly menu, then shop for the necessary ingredients.
- Shop with a list… and stick to it!
- Check out your store’s sales online and try to plan your menu around it. If chicken is on sale for .99 cents/pound, you should have a lot of chicken on your list!
Don’t go buying a Sunday paper just for the coupons, there are other ways to get your hands on them.
Ask people who you know gets the Sunday paper if you can have the coupons, ask your local recycling facility if they mind if you gather the discarded coupons out of the papers, put an ad on Craigslist asking for any unwanted coupons (I’ve had luck with this), and our local library has a coupon center where coupons are free for the taking. Gather as many as you can get your hands on!
Coupons are great, but remember to coupon wisely. Don’t clip coupons to buy things you don’t use or need. Instead, only go the “extreme couponing” route if you know you will use the coupons. When you clip wisely, you can save a ton of money.
Coupons not your thing? You can save a lot of money by using a rewards credit card, too. Again, make sure you are only using your credit card on things you actually have money for – some people like to use rewards credit cards just for gas or groceries, for example.
This can give you a small amount of “free” money every time you spend – again, just remember to pay that bill on time, or the interest charges will definitely NOT be worth it.
Plan frugal menus, and make as much as you can from scratch. Ditch the convenience foods! Unless you can get a box of cereal for a dollar or less, don’t waste your money. It doesn’t take that long to fry an egg for breakfast!
Treat your thermostat like a crockpot… Set It And Forget It! We set our heat to come on at 68*, and our A/C to turn on at 79*.
If your power bills are outrageous, consider having an energy audit done. If you are lower income there are Weatherization Assistance programs out there which will provide you with a free energy audit and will also fix any problem areas in your home.
(We were tempted to have this done, as we totally qualify, but when we thought about taking government handouts we were too convicted to accept. We each have our own convictions, just know the program is out there if you NEED it.)
Telephone / Internet
We do have both, though we could easily go without if we needed to. We do not pay for the long distance plan on our telephones, so whenever I call family out of our area my conversation usually begins with, “Hey! Can you call me back?” I know they have free long distance, and they are happy to save me a dime a minute!
We chose the lesser of the high speed internet plans, which is still good enough for us. I’d rather have no internet than dial up!
Our cell phones are prepaid. Mine is only used for emergencies. I don’t even know my own number, nor do I give it out. It’s just nice to have peace of mind that if I break down on the side of the road I will be able to call for help.
Nobody needs cable or satellite. We’ve actually enjoyed not having it!
If you aren’t ready to totally cut the cord from your television habit, know that there are easy ways to still watch television without having to commit to a costly monthly bill. You can subscribe to streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, paying just $8 per month for service rather than $150.
Plus, you can pause these at any time – something that works well for my family is “pausing” television during busy times of the year, like the spring planting season, since we don’t have much time to watch anyway. We end up being more productive AND save money on our monthly costs!
I wrote a whole post on money saving tips for eating out. You can still do it, even on a tight budget!
“Previously owned” is a nice way to think of second hand stuff. We hardly ever buy brand new clothes. And if we do, it’s only because I got a killer deal. (Like a couple of days ago, I got myself a shirt and Jada a shirt for a total of under $4 at Kohls. That’s better than Goodwill!)
Remember, just because you can’t spend a lot of money doesn’t mean you have to look poor! There are great deals out there, just try to buy a season ahead so that you don’t find yourself needing something last minute.
When our kids ask for something we tell them we’ll put it on their Birthday list. It is a very special thing if we surprise them with a little toy for no particular reason.
Every now and then, if we find a good deal on something, we will get it for them. But we very seldom buy anything when they ask for it, and we never buy anything over a few dollars unless it’s as a gift. And believe me, they are lacking nothing!
The very best tip I can give you if you are trying to survive on one income? MAKE A BUDGET.
Without a budget, you’ll have no idea how much you are spending and where your money is going. By making a budget, you can understand exactly how much you can afford. It’s a good idea for anyone but especially a family with limited income.
Write down your budget with specific categories – and stick to it. You can use free online budgeting tools if you find that you are having a difficult time staying organized – good options include Mint.com and Mvelopes.
Living within your means is incredibly important, especially if you plan on surviving on one income. Don’t rack up bills on a credit card or go on a shopping spree. Debt isn’t worth it.
Remember, if you lose that one source of income, how will you pay for those bills? Be sure to differentiate between wants and needs before you reach for a credit card or take out a loan.
Prepare in Advance
If you want to be a stay at home parent and it’s something you’ve always dreamed about, I applaud you. It’s incredibly rewarding to be at home with your kids – and it’s even better when you’re able to plan ahead for this.
If you can, wait to transition to life on one income until you have an emergency fund set aside. Make sure you have at least six month’s worth of expenses saved. That way, you won’t be left in the lurch if an emergency happens (like the car breaking down).
In addition to having an emergency fund, there are a few other things you should do, too. First, make sure you’ve paid down as much debt as possible. That’s especially true on high-interest debt like car loans, student loans, or credit card bills. I’m not really talking about mortgage debt here.
If you can push back the timeline to switching to one income in the interest of paying down some debt, do it – you might have to wait a bit longer to quit your job, but it will be worth it when you consider the added stress of extra debt on one income.
You can also consider our income tax withholding. You might be able to adjust it to increase your allowances, given your smaller household income. Consult with a tax professional to find the best option for you.
Make Some Extra Income
This might not be an option for everyone, but for some people, it can be a lifesaver. Once you’ve cut all the expenses you possibly can from your budget, you might still be left with a few gaps.
A great way to fill in those gaps is to see where you can earn some extra income. Can you do a few hours of work per week, perhaps doing some freelance writing, babysitting, or selling farm products?
Consider starting a small at-home business but do be aware of the risks of work-from-home schemes and pyramid schemes.
If you’re right on the cusp of quitting your job, consider whether you want to disconnect entirely from the working world – or just temporarily. Some people may want to live on one income only until their kids are in school – and then they might want to go back.
If you aren’t sure, you may want to keep one foot in the door by doing some consulting work or freelancing. This will bring in extra cash while also letting you stay connected.
Downsizing serves two purposes – one, it will help you declutter your home so it’s clear and easy for you to see what you have and where it is (no more running to the store to buy something only to realize you already actually have it).
We love stuff, as Americans, but most of it, we don’t really need. The other purpose of downsizing is that you can sell some items on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even in a yard sale. By doing that, you can make some extra money to supplement a single income.
Once you get rid of all the clutter, take a look around your home. Do you need as much space as you currently have? If you find that your home is way too big, a great way to save money on one income is to downsize your house. Not only will you save on the upkeep, taxes, and utility bills, but your mortgage payment will likely be much less, too.
Be As Self-Sufficient As Possible
In our modern age, we pay a lot of extra, unnecessary money for convenience. Grow your own vegetables in a home garden. Make your own baby food. Do your own car maintenance. Sew your own clothes.
While it does take time to build the skills needed for self-sufficiency, it’s a great way to save money and thrive on one income.
Do your best to find the lowest price for everything. Are you buying? Buy used. Buy refurbished. Join a trading program on Facebook or another website, like Nextdoor.
Sign up for email newsletters to be notified of upcoming deals and wait to shop until you can get the biggest discount.
How Will You Manage Finances?
Some families decide that the person who has more time should handle money matters, while others like to have both partners involved. That’s up to you, but when you switch from one income to two, it’s a good idea to figure out the nitty-gritty details.
You might maintain a joint checking account or you could have linked accounts for easy transfers. Whatever you choose, it’s important that both partners have access to funds.
Be Willing to Sacrifice
So, those are just a few ways that we save money around here. I think that everybody is able to do most of the things I’ve mentioned above.
That said, many of the things I’ve mentioned above do require a bit of sacrifice. You might not be able to go out with your friends or travel around the world as much as you’d like.
But with a bit of saving and pinching pennies, you can get by on one income so you can do what matters most – be home with your family.
I am so blessed to be able to stay home with my kids. Every sacrifice that we make is a thousand times worth it!!
Do you have a money saving tip to share? I’d love to know how you are scrimping and saving in your home, or how you survive on one income!
updated 08/19/2021 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.
21 thoughts on “23 Tips To Survive On One Income”
Well I truly enjoyed reading it….!!!!
I love reading your blog and your ideas for saving money. My family hopes to be moving toward your style of living as soon as possible. I just wanted to give your a couple of ideas…like using Skype for calls from home and you can watch certain tv shows on Hulu and other sites like that for free. Also, the libraries around here have lots of movies to rent for free. And for some of the healthcare cost, I know you said you don’t go often, but around here you can see CNP’s for less money than doctors, when appropriate.
Also, wanted to tell you about couponing101.com. There, they match up current ads and coupons for the best deals for a few stores. Often, you can get some item’s for free after coupons. You can also buy specific coupon’s from some places online for like .05 each. So, say you bought 10 of those coupons for items that you get free after coupons, you could get 10 tubes of toothpaste or deodorant or such for .50 total investment. That’s a good way to build up a long term emergency supply of item’s like that. Of course, getting coupons from neighbors is cheaper… but some people, like me, don’t know many people who get the paper. lol.
For saving power, have you put an insulating wrap on your hot water heater? It’ll save you a little. And they’re not that expensive.
And for clothes, some places that receive donated clothes will sell their rejected clothes for a dollar or two a bag. This would be great for craft projects like quilts and rag rugs, etc. Also, would be good play or work clothes so you can keep your nice finds in better shape for longer. And also if all your bottoms (pants, skirts, etc) are khaki, black or blue jeans, you can wear them with just about any shirt you find… and need less clothes overall.
Also, if you know anyone with a Sam’s membership, they could bring you along for free and you could take a look to see if any of the items you regularly buy are cheaper per item. And a reusable oil sprayer could save you money quickly if you use oil or Pam much.
Another place to save money might be the photo’s of your children. With a tripod, back drop (bed sheet), and lamps, you can take pretty good photo’s of your children. They may not be as good as a professional’s, but they’re good enough and can save you LOTS of money. As an added bonus, you get extra photos that really show your child’s personality that you wouldn’t want to pay for if a professional took it.
Wow, sorry I wrote so much and that you probably already know most of this. I just thought I would mention it if you didn’t already know.
Thank you. And I have to say I am not thrilled about some of the health care bill. I believe they are shoveling the good stuff out first… yeah I could go on too. What you said did make sense, thanks again. =)
I am currently trying to figure out our health insurance “stuff”. I knew you had an article about HSA so I thought I would ask you a question or two. I never understand insurance talk. My first question is do you still pay a monthy insurance fee? I am sure you do just want to dot my i’s and cross my t’s. Then you put money in an account for your deductible? This is where I get confused. Are you required to put in a monthy payment or is it what you want to put in it? And you say you pay out of pocket for regular doctor visits, does the insurance plan not cover, or is it because you would have to use your deductible. I do know with this new healthcare plan preventitive care is completely covered starting Jan 1st. But does it only apply to “regular plans”. Dont feel obligated to answer all questions, I am simply confused. And do you use this for your children? Currently we are approved for the childrens program throught the state. we pay a low fee. Fortunately our doctors are non-judgemental but a few times other places haved looked at us funny. We do pay a copay for them but our cards look the same as the completely free program. I would like to eventually put them on a healthcare plan of our choice. =)
Glad to answer any questions I can! With an HSA, you will have to find an insurance company which offers a high deductible plan. Ours was through Golden Rule. You will pay a monthly fee; your cost depends on which plan you decide to go with. Once you have the insurance in place, you can open up an HSA (Health Savings Account) with your local bank. You put in as much as you want, it’s totally up to you. I used to have a set amount automatically drafted from our checking account into the HSA, so that it was constantly growing. I budgeted it like another bill. They will give you a debit card to this account, which you would use to pay for doctor’s visits, medicine, medical supplies, etc. You don’t even have to open up an HSA with the high deductible insurance plan, you could just pay for medical expenses as you go, but it’s wise to have a savings set aside for just this purpose. Plus, it’s easier to keep up with expenses for tax purposes when you have a money trail. With the plan we had, there wasn’t a copay. We paid 100% for everything up until the deductible amount. And usually, the doctor’s office will give you a discount when you aren’t using insurance. So, say your deductible is $5000; you will pay for all of your medical visits and medicine up to $5000, out of pocket for the year. Normally, you wouldn’t even come close to having to pay that amount. Doc visits are usually under $100. But if an emergency comes up, and your bills amount to more than your deductible ($5000) for the year, then the insurance will pay 100% after that. Does that make sense? The amount and percentages depend on which plan you chose. Chose a deductible that wouldn’t be outrageous for you to meet. If you can’t come up with $10,000 pretty quickly, don’t chose that high of a deductible. As for the new “health care” bill… don’t even get me started on that one! Who knows what all is hidden in that mess. I don’t know what it covers and what it doesn’t… I’m thinking I heard that under this new “law” you won’t even be allowed to have a high deductible w/HSA, so who knows? If your children are generally healthy, then you could use this for them. Hope that helps!
Great post!!! We are somewhat in the same boat.. after being married 17 years we finally had babies!!! and I had always wanted to be SAHM, Husband got hurt at work and now is disabled..(thru a glitch in plans)..so he is home now. It is hard still staying home and my husband is now home. He would struggle to be home and take care of kids on own due to his neck injury. If I ever do work (as nurse) it will be one day a week to make some more money. Now I am needed at home for sure (some people just dont get it). But we are definitely living on the tight budget too. Gardening, raising chickens now, clipping coupons, garage sale clothes, prepaid phones, all ways we save money.
These are great tips! I already do the grocery tips and they have really cut our grocery bill way down. I do however have one question. How do you go about selling your vechicles? We currently have two car payments and that would really help us out alot. Thanks for the great tips!!
It didn’t *sigh*
Kendra and family, we just found your blog via another sight. Anyway I’m not going to retype what was lost but will invite you and all of your friends to our homesteading blog: http://kellesneverdonefarm.blogspot.com/
If you truly want to be a SAHM, or one income family then with sacrifice and hard, hard work you can make it happen. Our story is long and full of hardships, would I change a thing, NEVER!
As a testament to those who are wavering, let me share that I’ve been a SAHM for 22 yrs, who homeschooled our two children and on just my Dh’s moderate income( less than 33K) we paid off our morgage( a 15 yr morgage, paid in FULL in less than 7 yrs!) We live beneath our means and grow and raise 95% of what we consume. So folks it is doable, you just have to get out of the mindset of keeping up with the Jones’s and follow your hearts.
The Never Done Farm
Okay, not sure whether my first post owrked, so let’s see and if not I’ll post again.
I hang my clothes on the line. It does take extra time. I read an article that says it can save about $85 a month. That seems high but it keeps me motivated to “keep on hangin”.
Soups are a cheap and healthy meal. I make a huge batch and then can some for quick lunches.
And then I just have a “do without” attitude. I shop once a month (grocery). It is kind of a game with me to completly empty out my pantry before I go. I made it once another extra two weeks.
We also raise most of our food ourselves. This doesn’t save a ton on the short term but pays off in the long run. If you don’t have to go to the store then you won’t spend money on things you don’t need.
Thank you for sharing! Being in my 4th month of pregnancy, we are considering whether I should return to work or become a SAHM when the baby arrives in the spring…it’s blog posts like this from women who make it work that are the little “nudges” from God that I am looking for to help make the decision. Thanks for showing how you do it and for being a “nudge” I need 🙂
I hope that you are able to make it work. I am praying that you will find peace in your decision. I always make a Pro’s and Cons list, that helps me a lot! Consider the costs of you working vs. if you were at home. Childcare is another huge expense. Keep praying, He’ll show you what you need to do 🙂
just a few
we no longer buy juice or soda. only water and iced tea (teabags bought on sale with a coupon) in our house.
breakfast for lunch. oatmeal, brown rice topped with butter and brown sugar, egg burritos,pancakes etc- all are less expensive than your typical lunch.
we buy several turkeys at holiday time and i use them as i would chicken.
i make all my household cleaners. and toothpastes.
look for seasonal decorating and baking items on clearance and put away for next year 🙂
fans instead of air conditioning as long as you can.
we lived on $16,000 a yr for a family of 9 for awhile so i have racked up several tidbits lol
This is a great guide from a mother who knows how to save. I will definitely take this in consideration in my day to day live. Would love to know how much you save each month now that u have place a new plan in order. I especially love the part about saving on the Groceries and Power Bill. I always recommend energy audits to be done to ensure the proper insulation in the home. Energy audits are great investment and will save you a lot of money on you power bill. Saving on groceries can be easy with investing in paper on Sunday to receive coupons top match up with running sales for the week. There also coupons online.
Thanks for this post ! We are seeking God as to making this move!
It’s really not that difficult to save money when you pay attention to unnecessary costs and pare down the rest based on your income.
And TracFone is, indeed, the least expensive way to own a cell phone.
Many people give up their expensive landlines and use a TracFone instead! Sweet!
Please allow me to make it even sweeter: if anyone orders a TracFone online from TracFone.com, use Promo Code 88130 a get a free accessory kit for your phone.
Free! Gratis! No charge!
kENDRA, ONE THING I WOULD LIKE TO ADD THAT I THINK MAYBE ALOT OF SUCESSFULLY BUDGETING FAMILIES MAYBE DONT THINK ABOUT IS THIS: YOU HAVE A SPOUSE THAT IS IN AGREEMENT WITH YOUR PLANS. THAT IS A MAJOR FACTOR IN MAKING IT WORK, BECAUSE IF YOU WERENT ” ON THE SAME PAGE” IT WOULDENT WORK AS WELL AS IT DOES. ( BELIVE ME I KNOW)
Great tips Kendra! I do all of the above accept the cell phone (I hate talking on the phone) but I’d like to have one for emergencies as well. I really can’t think of anything you haven’t said already except be diligent and keep trying until you get in the habit of it. Because it takes a while to get into that train of thought.
I remember now, one thing I do is hand wash our clothes. I don’t have a washer or dryer so that saves us about 35 dollars a month I still wash blankets, sheets, and towels in the machine though. But its only two of us so it’s not that bad.
I’ve considered doing this, but with three kids and cloth diapers it would be crazy! I do two loads a day as it is, I can’t imagine how much time it would take me if I was hand washing!! BUT, I know that if my washer ever goes out I CAN hand wash in my tub, using a new toilet plunger to agitate. $35/mo is a pretty good savings though!! Good job 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Kendra! I always enjoy other people’s tips on living frugally. I’m always keeping my eyes open for new ideas on how to make our money go as far as possible.