Confessions of a one income family

14 Tools to Make One Income Living Possible

by Marianne Giullian

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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. 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.
  2. Not sure where to start with making a budget? The affordable Home Budget Spreadsheet from makes budgeting simple.

  3. Find a suitable home that is affordable on your income, whatever it may be.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Related: How to Never Have a Car Payment

  7. 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.
  8. Start your emergency fund today. Here are 11 easy ways to find $1000 for an emergency fund.

  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 14 Tools to Make One Income Living Possible
  12. 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.
  13. 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!
  14. Take the TDS Pantry Challenge.
    Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!

  15. 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.
  16. Related: Cheap Mom & Dad Dates and Family Activities

  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Related: Could You Earn $50 While Junior Naps?

  21. When traveling, contact the local hotel 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.

Reviewed February 2018

Take the Next Step:

  • Use this 6 month stay-at-home mom plan to transition from a two-income to a one-income family.
  • Learn smart ways to raise your family on one-income in this two-income world. The Dollar Stretcher's Guide for One-Income Families will give you ideas for reducing expenses and making money from home.
  • Don't allow debt to prevent you from providing for your family the way you would like. Find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle. Start today so you can give your family a better tomorrow.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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.

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