Tips for making it as a one-income family

My Story: Six Years, One Income

by M.S.

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My husband and I have been living on one income since we married six years ago. Although I hope this situation will change soon (I'd really like to start a business of my own), I am happy to say that we learned A LOT living on a tight budget. Both of us were used to spending a great deal of money and never thought we could make it on only one income but before we knew it, we did:

In order to maintain a good credit record, we pay all our bills right away (preferably the same day I get them in the mail, regardless of the due date).

We chose not to have a car. In this city car insurance is very expensive. Since banking, shopping, etc. are within walking distance, we don't really need to spend that kind of money. In the summer we rent a car every other weekend or so. This allows us to take mini-trips to cottage country where we stay over night at B&Bs. So far we couldn't afford to take a real vacation so we really look forward to these mini ones.

We never eat out. Being a good cook myself, my philosophy is that money spent at a cheap restaurant is money misspent. I cook from scratch and never buy frozen meals. We like to eat Mediterranean style so our fridge is always full of veggies, dairy and some meat/fish. Although we are just two people, I usually cook for 4 and freeze two servings. That way every other week very little cooking is needed. We buy groceries once a week and toiletries once a month or two. Sticking to a basic shopping list has cured our impulse shopping habits.

We buy generic products or brand name ones if/when they're on sale.

Being gentle with our appliances/electronics pays off: in six years we haven't spent a dime on repairs. More often than not we had to make do with very little. At the beginning this was hard to deal with, specially for me as I love decorating and found it very frustrating when I couldn't afford to buy some little things I really wanted but then I started using my imagination (something I'd hardly do when money wasn't an issue) and put some time into learning things like furniture refinishing, some basic upholstery, some basic sewing, some flea market/garage sale hunting skills. The results: my husband and I feel very proud when friends compliment us on how nice our home is. Granted, I put lots of time into making this place look like a million dollars spending close to nothing, then again, time was the only thing I had plenty of.

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We had to learn how to have fun spending very little. In summer this is not much of a problem but we had to come up with some frugal ways to keep a good mood through the winter: Instead of watching TV movies/shows, we record them to watch on the weekends. A neighbour of ours likes to rent movies so he passes the tapes on to us and we pay half the price. Every other Tuesday we go to a theatre (half price tickets and an almost empty theatre!). Reading and crafts are the best frugal pastimes.

Keeping a positive attitude made it easier for us to cope with our limitations. Even though most of our friends are double income couples, who can afford to do things we cannot, we don't feel envious or frustrated. The way we look at it is that they are always complaining about not having time to do anything, not being able to spend quality time with each other, being on the run all the time, having bad eating habits, being totally stressed out to the point they just can't enjoyed the little spare time they have, etc. Some of our friends live beyond their means, they keep a flamboyant lifestyle but are buried in debt. We don't have those problems.

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