Confessions of a One Income Family

by Marianne Giullian


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My Story: Everyday Savings

Living on One Income

A Decision to Stay Home

It is becoming more and more challenging to raise a family on one income in a two-income world. We have chosen to focus on reducing our expenses instead of trying to increase our income. It is important to be committed to living on one income or the challenges may seem overwhelming. We have tried doing the following things to help us accomplish this goal.

  1. Find a suitable home that is affordable on your income, whatever it may be.

  2. Carry no non-mortgage debt. If we use credit cards, we write a check right away for the purchase. Pay your bills on time to avoid late feels and interest and don't carry a balance on your credit card.

  3. Pay cash for cars. This has been a challenging goal. We bought an old car with cash and saved money in the bank for a newer car. As my car gets older, I have really wanted to replace it, but we have committed to wait until we can pay cash so I just wait until we get enough cash to buy a new car. This way, you do not pay any interest and you will definitely appreciate your car a lot more since you had to wait longer to buy it with cash. It is much cheaper to insure an older car than a new car. This is good to remember if you have teenage drivers. It also makes it easier to handle when they dent an older car instead of a new car.

  4. Live within your income and make a budget that you follow. I used to think that a budget was just a restraint, but I have found through the years that it can give you freedom. You can have a sense of peace without worrying about your bills.

  5. Have an emergency savings. Things will always come up and it is better to have the money to pay for them, instead of having unexpected things cause extra stress and leave you wondering how to pay for them.

  6. Save ahead for birthdays and holidays. If the money you have saved is not much, then change the gifts you will give according to your income. Maybe one year you will give homemade jam instead of costly fruit baskets.

  7. Cancel cable television. It is better for kids to read or watch movies without all the commercials to convince them of what they want. You can buy movies for only 25 or 50 cents at garage sales and that is even cheaper than renting.

  8. Go to garage sales. I can get top name brand winter clothing for 2 to 4 percent of the original cost. Many items are in like new condition. I also buy books for 25 cents at garage sales and then resell or donate them when I am finished.

  9. Shop sales for grocery items and eat what is on sale. I would rather pay half as much for the same item. As you stock up on items, you will have a lot more choices as time goes by. Set a limit on your grocery budget and make it last through the month. Use less meat in recipes. Use ingredients that aren't as costly such as carrots, onions, potatoes and bananas. Learn to cook from scratch. This alone has saved us hundreds of dollars each month. If you run out of money, just eat what you have in the house for the rest of the month. This experience will make you much wiser next month!

  10. Go to matinees instead of evening movies. For the same price as an evening movie, you could pay for a matinee and a fast food dinner. If money is tight, check out DVDs instead. Most movie stores have specials on certain days and you could make that night your movie night. If you don't have money for entertainment, trade movies or borrow from friends, or check with your library to see if they have movies or if they can order them through interlibrary loan.

  11. Plan your errands carefully and wisely to save gas and time. With the price of gas these days, any effort you make to cut back will make a difference.

  12. Buy clothes off-season and on sale. Find someone you know who has clothes the size you need and bargain for something else they want. Trading services can save you a lot of money.

  13. When going out to eat, go to lunch instead of dinner. You can also split a meal or go to a restaurant that has a special. A $10 burger may taste better than a $1 burger, but they both satisfy the hunger.

  14. When traveling, contact the local motel instead of calling the 800 number for reservations. Ask about specials. They are more willing to negotiate with you. We have stayed in nice motels with good breakfasts for less than the price of economy hotels.

Living on one income isn't easy. It takes a lot of effort, but it is worth it. I was the one to see my child's first step, to teach them to read, to spend time with them. I will never regret the decision we made to live on one income. The sacrifices we have made will never equal the joy we have received by doing so.


Marianne Giullian is a freelance writer and mother of five children. She enjoys finding ways to save money so they can live on one income. Ms. Giullian has a degree in Elementary Education.

Take the Next Step:

  • Is having one parent home with the kids important to your family? It is possible, but you may have to make a few new lifestyle choices. Take a serious look at the above 14 tools. Is there something there that you can use in your one-income arsenal that will make your dream of staying home a reality?
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