If you’re terrified about the idea of living on one income because you don’t want to be broke, let me tell you — what you’re feeling is TOTALLY normal.
I was scared too. My husband made less than $35,000 a year and we liked to eat out a LOT.
But I think the thought of dropping my brand new baby off at daycare every day and not being with him actually scared me more. So while I was pregnant with our second child, we worked our tails off to make sure we could afford to live off his income.
Yes, there were times when money got tight. Yes, there were times when I questioned if we made the right decision for me to stay at home with the kids.
But being able to see my baby take his first steps and see my oldest son off to his first day of Kindergarten made all of the sacrifices we made to get here (like not buying paper towels and downsizing our home) SO worth it!
That gave me the motivation I needed to stick to our frugal lifestyle and our budget.
- 18 Ways We Cut Costs To Live On One Income (and saved over $22,000 in a year!)
- How To Make A Budget That Works + FREE Budgeting Printable
- 60 Real Ways To Be A Stay At Home Mom and Make Money
So after living on one low income for the last 4 years (and with four kids!), I can tell you that it IS hard, but it IS possible!
Here’s how we successfully live on one low income (and how you can too!):
1. Plan every meal
The trick to saving money on food is knowing exactly what you’re going to eat BEFORE you buy anything. Learning how to meal plan was one of the BEST ways I’ve found to save a ton of money on food.
But if making a meal plan from scratch every week overwhelms you, I recommend you start off using the $5 Meal Plan. Because you’ll get custom meal plan sent to your inbox every Friday and all you have to do is buy the ingredients!
Plus, they’re super easy to make and very cheap too (like $2 per person!).
Here are some recipes we’ve tried and LOVE:
- Ginger Peach Salmon
- Slow Cooker Caribbean Chicken
- 20-Minute Spinach Lasagna Skillet Dinner (I didn’t even know you could make lasagna in a skillet!)
- Pineapple BBQ Pork Chops
- Baked Cinnamon Apples With Pecans (YUM!!!)…
Then when you’re ready to plan your meals yourself, you can always hop over to Pinterest for dinner ideas, inspiration, and to new recipes to try.
2. Live Below Your Means
Seven months after I had the baby I got pregnant again! So we sold our condo and moved into an apartment to save money on living expenses.
Now I realize that not everyone is in the position to downsize, but you should definitely consider it if you can. Because wherever you choose to live will make a big difference in your budget.
Plus, it doesn’t make sense to be stuck in a rent/mortgage that you can’t comfortably afford. It’ll be harder to save, pay off debt, or have any “fun” money.
3. Lower your cell phone bill
Our cell phone bill was costing us almost $200 a month for TWO unlimited lines. I was sick to my stomach forking over that monthly payment because I felt stuck.
And you probably feel stuck too. Don’t you?
Well, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are not your only options! There are many reliable prepaid phone plans available that are a fraction of the cost.
We switched to MetroPCS (now Metro by T-Mobile) and went from paying almost $200 a month to just $80 a month for the same service!
Other prepaid phone companies you can try include Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Straight Talk Wireless.
So, if you feel stuck with your cell phone company, I suggest you call them up to see how you can lower your bill first. If that doesn’t work, then consider switching to a low-cost cell phone plan so you can stop overpaying for the service you need.
4. Buy Used As Much As Possible
I hardly ever buy things brand new because I hate paying full price. So I prefer to see if I can find what I need in used, but perfectly good condition.
Some items we’ve bought used include refurbished electronics, video games, kids furniture, anything from thrift stores, designer shoes and handbags, home decor, appliances, and more!
I’m telling you, finding gems like these in barely-ever-used-condition feels like a STEAL!!
My favorite places to find good quality used stuff include Craigslist (just be careful of scammers and never go to buy something alone), the OfferUp or Letgo App, on Facebook, at thrift stores (great for finding stuff you need for your home), garage/yard sales, and eBay.
I also buy almost all of my kids’ clothes secondhand. We go to stores like Once Upon A Child and then resell any items they outgrow to get cash or store credit to buy new stuff — so I’m practically getting clothes for free!
5. Learn To DIY
I’ve always kind of been the type of person that won’t pay for something if I can learn how to do it myself. And the internet makes it super easy to learn how to do almost ANYTHING!
Especially short tasks like small home repairs and upgrades, manicuring your nails and feet at home, sewing and crocheting, or even brewing Starbucks right in your kitchen!
You can find easy DIY ideas and how-to videos on YouTube and Pinterest.
6. Avoid unnecessary fees
Paying late fees for bills that aren’t submitted on time is a waste of money. And so is using non-bank ATM machines.
It’s easier to avoid unnecessary late and bank fees like these when you plan ahead. For instance, if you’re going someplace that may not accept plastic withdraw just enough cash in advance.
If you have a hard time remembering when all of your bills are due, make it a priority to get organized so you can keep track of them. You can use a bullet journal, digital calendar, or reminders on your phone — whichever works best for you!
Because you’ll be better off planning ahead and getting organized than falling behind on your bills and throwing your budget off track.
7. Have Fun For Free (or almost free!)
You don’t have to go broke trying to have a good time with your family and friends. Especially during the summer months when everyone is traveling and you don’t even have enough money to go see a movie (I know how that feels).
We take advantage of free events in our community by following our local news networks on social media to stay informed all year long. That’s exactly how I find out about free admission days at the zoo, museums, and the free Boyz II Men concert I’m excited to attend!
So when the weather breaks, find out what’s happening for free in your city instead of sitting in the house.
8. Cut the cable cord
Getting rid of our cable was a HARD decision. My kids are obsessed with Paw Patrol and my husband is a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Plus, I love me some Housewives. Thankfully, though, there are many free or cheap alternatives to cable available to us these days that make cutting the cord not only easy but a HUGE relief on our wallets too!
So just because you get rid of your cable doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite shows.
9. Cancel All Subscriptions
We don’t have anything that auto drafts from our bank accounts. You know why? I’ve had one of those subscriptions overdraft our account.
It’s so easy to forget about all those tiny memberships and subscriptions that you’ve signed up for when you have to keep track of their payment dates.
Plus, spending $5 here and there seems innocent until you have more than 10 of those tiny $5 subscriptions. And when you’re living on one income having an extra $50 each month can go towards something a lot more important.
10. Find ways to make extra money
Once you’ve cut your expenses down to the bone, the next best thing you can do for your low-income budget is to make more money.
The possibilities are ENDLESS and they really come in handy when you’re living on low income! In fact, I’ve tried MANY ways to make extra money.
Learning how to live on one low income boils down to knowing how to manage your money effectively. You’re going to need a budget and you can use these FREE Paycheck Budgeting Worksheets to help you organize your finances every time you get paid.
Once you have a budget in place, if you’re still struggling to make ends meet on one income, then it’s time start making money on the side or working from home. Because growing your income just might give you the extra breathing room you need to get ahead financially on a tight budget.
How do you save money living on one income?
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