We’ve lived off of one income successfully for almost 17 years. It hasn’t always been easy and we’ve made many sacrifices, but knowing we had one parent home with the kids (at least part-time) was totally worth it! I’ve listed 10 money saving tips on how to live off one income that have helped us live as frugally as possible. These financial tips are awesome frugal habits to live by regardless of what your family goals are.
I grew up in a single family low income household and many of the frugal habits I developed as a kid heavily influenced our financial habits while on one income. Even as our income grew, we didn’t increase our spending our lifestyle habits, and because of that, we’ll still be able to retire early too. (Or at least give ourselves more options career wise 🙂
I sincerely hope these will help you with your family finances and learn new money saving tips whether your goal is to learn how to live off one income or simply to help improve your personal financial situation. <3 Jen
1. Live Below Your Means
The very first money savings tip is one of the most important on this list! If you hope to live off one one income in the future, but currently have two incomes, live a lifestyle NOW that one income supports and SAVE the other income.
My step niece just received her doctorate in Engineering, she plans to be a SAHM once she and her husband start having kids, and he is a school teacher. When they bought a house while she was still in school, they only purchased what a teacher’s salary could support. If they had bought a house off of their current combined income, there’s no way she could be a stay-at-home-mom later without selling the house.
Ways to live below your means:
- Drive used cars instead of new and don’t replace them unless you have to!
**We’ve wanted an SUV to make it easier to take road trips, instead of paying $50-$70K for a vehicle, we drive smaller cars and RENT an SUV the 2-3 times/year when we need one.
- Reconsider that newer, larger or fancier home. Kids care more about your love than the family possessions.
**We purchased a beat-up 1980’s ex-college rental house that we’ve slowly fixed up. Having a smaller mortgage payment has been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to be home with my kids.
- Buy high quality items for less or shop second-hand
- Don’t eat out and pack your lunch
- Drop the “extras” you don’t really need like magazine subscriptions or expensive cable packages.
It’s hard to save money and reach your goals if you don’t know how much money you have and where it’s going. BOTH spouses need to agree to the budget plan to make it work.
- Mint or Quicken are both great ways to keep track of expenses. Mint is a free app you can use from your phone and perfect for people creating a simple budget. Quicken is a paid computer program and works well for those also wanting to keep track of investments, 401k, etc.
- Have a weekly budget review with your spouse, and also a monthly, quarterly and yearly review.
3. Always Think Frugally
This money savings tip goes hand-in-hand with the “living below your means” section, but it’s interesting that habits of millionaires are also often the same habits of very frugal people.
An example of this, my wealthy uncle who retired at age 50 thinks it’s ridiculous to buy coffee at coffee shops. His solution? He swings by and gets a free cup of coffee from his bank when he’s out running errands!
Other Ways to Think Frugally:
- Stock up on items when they go on sale. Stores “usually” have a 2-month rotation for sales, so buy enough packaged goods until it goes on sale again.
- Buy used furniture or accept hand-me-down furniture gracefully and simply fix them up. While I’d love new furniture, I can’t stomach the price tag and so our house is filled with hand-me-downs!
- Plant a garden. The $2 I spent on 4 zucchini starts yielded 120 zucchini this year!
- Drop the expensive beauty products, treatments, clothes and gym memberships. Frugal people don’t have those except for rare treats! Exercise outside for free, buy clothes from consignment shops, and do at-home spa treatments.
- What are little things you can do to save your family money here or there? Little things add up to big things! The new way I just started is by using the free grocery savings phone app Ibotta.
I just started using Ibotta in December and it’s already helped me save $30 on groceries and shopping in under 2 weeks! The company even gives you a $10 Welcome Bonus just to try their free app. How cool is that? Here’s detailed post I wrote about my Ibotta experience and here’s how to give Ibotta a try if you’re like me and love free things that help save your family money or make a little money! I love to hear feedback on other mom’s that try this fun coupon app!
4. Plan & Set Goals
What are your long-term goals? Don’t just focus on now, what do you see in your future and what steps will you take to get yourself there?
Our future goal is to have my husband retire early; he works 50-60 hours/week and travels for work way too much. We’d planned on starting a bathroom remodel this winter but his self-employed income is projected to be less than last year. Are we going to start the remodel anyways? Nope! My plan is to paint the vanity and make little changes during the year instead.
Because we still want to put extra money towards our mortgage so he can retire early and we can’t do both.
Achieving your financial goals sometimes means making hard decisions that aren’t fun and goals are hard to reach without a plan!
5. Side Hustle
Maybe I’m just a cautious person, but I truly believe than even stay-at-home-moms (or dads!) should have a side hustle of their own. You never know when your life circumstances will change or when an emergency might happen.
I won’t go in to too much detail on this since I wrote a very in-depth blog post about Why SAHM’s Need a Side Hustle.
A few posts of mine that include easy side hustle ideas that I’ve done myself, I personally know people who’ve done them or my adult daughter, Madi (who helps PT with the blog), has done. Feel free to ask questions about any!
- 14 Fun Ways to Earn Money That Aren’t on the Internet
- How I Made Over $1,000/mo Flipping Toys on eBay PT
At a bare minimum, even if you truly don’t have time for a side hustle right now, my guess is you do have time to fill out a periodic survey (my favorite is Pinecone Research and they pay $3 for each!) Instead of scrolling through social media while waiting on the kids to get out of school or for practice to get done, complete a quick 10-15 min survey!
Another easy way to make extra quick cash is with Swagbucks. Swagbucks has surveys, but you can also earn money by watching videos and playing games and is another super easy thing to do while waiting for the kids or when you have 15 extra minutes. They even give you a $5 bonus for giving it a try!
6. Keep Your Pre-SAHM Skills Current
I’m a stay-at-home-mom but my background is in accounting and banking. Did I completely give that up when I stopped a professional job? Not at all! I’ve been doing financial volunteer work for various non-profits the past 16 years to keep skills on my resume. And while I’m not going back to an accounting office job, I’m using those skills to help grow my blog and eventually be a freelance financial writer.
My cousin’s wife is a dental hygienist and she knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. She works one day per week to keep her skills up because she knows her kids won’t be home forever. As her kids got older, she started filling in for co-worker vacations and when others got sick.
My friend was a teacher and wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, so she teaches preschool 3 mornings per week to keep up her teaching skills. She paid me to watch her younger daughter while she worked, so it was a win-win for both of us.
**Your kids will get older some day!! It’s never to early to figure out your “next steps!” **
If an online business like blogging might interest you, reach out to me and I’ll tell you exactly what to do to get started! I basically outlined exactly how I’ve grown my blog so quickly and the steps I took in my first month blogging report.
7. Find a Way to Save Money
You NEED to pay yourself first or you won’t ever save money. The best way to do this is with automatic deductions from your paycheck or checking account so you get used to living without it.
Auto withdrawals work best for bigger savings goals, fun money challenges are perfect for smaller goals!
Here’s a post about a money challenge I recently started and here’s a round-up of the top 10 fun money challenges for 2018 you’ll want to check out. Everyone has different goals and likes to save in different ways, I can guarantee there’s a fun saving money idea in there for you too!
If you’re thinking to yourself you can’t afford to save extra money, then you’re only option is to find ways to MAKE extra money! (and then go back to #5 on side hustles 😉
8. Both Spouses Need to Know Where the Family is Financially
It’s easy to fall into the habit where one spouse takes care of the bills and keeps track of the money and the other is in the dark. Don’t let this be you if your spouse pays the bills!
It is CRITICAL for both spouses to understand the family finances.
- If you have an emergency, how much money do you have?
- Is there life insurance if your spouse passed away?
- Are you saving enough for retirement?
- Where are the passwords to all of your accounts?
Financial planning isn’t always pretty and it isn’t easy–but it’s critical!
9. Avoid the Credit Card & Debt Trap
You cannot live off of one income, retire early, pay for your kids college or whatever your personal goals are if you fall into the credit card and debt trap!
Do not ever put purchases on credit cards unless it’s an absolute emergency. People don’t need fancy furniture, fancy clothes, or a Hawaii vacation that badly! You can afford what your INCOME supports. I get it, life happens! You’ll need to make a plan and tackle that debt step by step to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Only keep credit cards for a true emergency OR only use credit cards to earn perks like travel points if you are disciplined to pay the balance off in full monthly.
10. Don’t Ever Take Money for Granted
And lastly, don’t ever take money for granted! Life can change in a blink of an eye and don’t assume what you have today will be there tomorrow.
My mom’s story is one of the reason’s I’m so cautious every day with money.
My mom was happily married and in a career she worked hard for when she had to have an emergency brain surgery that didn’t go well at age 46. I was 21 years old at the time; thankfully she lived, but she’s disabled with a brain injury and wasn’t ever able to go back to work.
- If something happened to your spouse, what is your plan?
- What if you’re self-employed and lost your business, what is your plan?
- If the stock market tanked right as you planned to retire and most of your money disappeared, what is your plan?
The key to living well off of one income, being able to obtain your future goals and handling what life throws at you, is to make a plan!
I truly hope some of the habits we adopted to help us live off of one income will help you too! If you have other ideas not listed, please share below! 🙂