Living on one income can be quite tricky in this day and age. If for whatever reason you find yourself in this situation, I hope the experiences I have had will be of some help to you too.
My husband and I both worked when we were first married, but after the birth of our first child, I had a strong desire to be at home full time. This has been a rewarding yet also very challenging decision. Being a full time mom is a topic for another 100 blog posts, for now I will focus on the challenge of living happily (yes I did say happily) on 1 income.
#1: Set your Priorities.
Figure out what is most important to you and your family in life. For me, it was spending more time with my kids while they were young. I also am always striving to make sure everyone’s needs are met (including me). That means emotional needs, physical needs, etc.
When you know what your priorities are, you are more likely to be okay with making sacrifices for those priorities. My family isn’t frivolous and we don’t own a lot of fancy things, but it’s worth it in the long run for us because the time we invest in each other will give back far more in the future than any of those things will.
#2. Create a budget and live by it.Whatever your income is, find a way to live within your means and not outside of them. There is a sweet peace that comes from knowing you are only spending money that you have actually earned instead of constantly borrowing from others. Sometimes debt is unavoidable such as a mortgage for a modest home or a car loan but I have found from personal experience that credit card debt can be a very heavy burden to cary. Avoid it like the plague.
#3. Cook more from scratch. It’s healthier, and if kept simple will be even cheaper than clipping tons of coupons and driving all over town to get those great deals on convenience food. If you have children get them involved.
My kids love to climb up on the counter and ‘help’ in the whole baking process. It can be annoying but I know they are learning skills they will need later in life. The average family spends $20 or more for a fast food meal with little nutritional value. You can make 2 or mor nutritious meals for your family by coking that food yourself and it doesn’t need to be time consuming. That leads to the next tip…
#4. Plan your grocery list and meals around what’s on sale. If it’s fall, and apples are at rock bottom prices, stock up and make a lot of meals and snacks with that item. When I see bananas have dropped in price at the grocery store, I stock up and freeze a ton. I can then use those later for green smoothies, banana muffins, or my kids love to just eat them straight from the freezer. Same thing goes for toilet paper, laundry soap, etc. I wait till my favorite toilet paper goes on sale for 3.99 a package and then I make sure I have enough to last me till the next sale. Sales typically run every 6 months. You will save SO MUCH money by shopping this way Find a website that will find all the best deals at all of your local stores for you. There are even apps that can do that now.
#5: Quality vs quantity. Spend your money on that which will last or that which is better quality. I have learned this over an over again. It’s tempting when you don’t have a lot of money to buy the cheapest, but the cheapest can end up being more expensive in the long run. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I have bought cheap shoes for my kids and then ended up buying them 1 or 2 more pairs later because they fell apart or the tops rubbed off after just a couple of weeks. The same holds true with household items. If you know your kids are rough on stuff (and especially if your kids are boys) don’t buy cheap toys, furniture, or other items in your home that will just get ruined. If you can’t afford to buy new high quality buy second hand high quality. It will still last longer in most cases than brand new cheaper quality items. This applies to the food you purchase too. You could cut your grocery bill in half by buying mac and cheese, ramen noodles, and cheap white bread but you will in turn pay for it when your health goes bad and your medical bills soar. Shop the sales, but buy food with high nutritional value.
#6. Hand Downs Rock! Gratefully accept those hand downs from friends and neighbors when they are available and kick your pride to the curb because buying new clothes is a huge budget buster! Wait till your kids are teenagers when they actually care about where their clothes come from and then they can get a job and pay for it themselves! I still remember when I was pregnant with my fourth kid, and my maternity clothes were out of style and looking a little worn. A friend of mine who had had her last kid, gave me a huge bag of nice maternity clothes that she didn’t need anymore. They just happened to be the right size and got me through the rest of my pregnancy.
#7. Use half. Most things we use, can be halved with the same end result. Squeeze out half the shampoo, half the body wash, fill the tub half as full, etc. Did you know that your clothes get just as clean with half as much detergent? Some things aren’t realistic to half, though, like baby wipes, or…chocolate.
#8. Find the best deals. Don’t be afraid to shop around. The internet is my best friend when it comes to finding great deals because it so easy to shop and compare. Currently, we are finishing our basement and I was amazed at how much money we saved my getting several quotes first on the jobs that needed to be done. So shop around and save some bucks! Take advantage of cash back opportunities. Always take advantage of cash back for any online purchases you make. I love EBATES for this because it’s as simple as signing up for an account and then just going through their site to your favorite shopping sites. Then, whatever you buy, they give you cash back. Plus, they give you a cash bonus when you first sign up. Done! You’d be surprised at how fast it builds up! Also, after you sign up, make sure you install the Ebates Bookmark Button (find it at the bottom of the page under Ebates apps and tools) to your search bar so that you get reminders every time you are on a site that is eligible for cash back. Before I did this, I would always forgot and miss out on my cash back. On the other hand, make sure you actually need what you are shopping for. The internet can also be a big money sucker because there are SO many tempting deals everywhere. Just because it’s a great deal doesn’t mean you need to buy it. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to say ask myself first, “Is this a want or a need?” and even needs can be put off for later if there is not enough money.
#9. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without! This is what our ancestors have taught us and we would be wise to follow it. Use up that food in the pantry, find a recipe to use up leftover food in the fridge before it goes bad, fix whatever can be fixed before buying a new one, wear those clothes till they don’t fit then pass them to the next person and worst case scenario, learn to just do without. You’d be amazed at what you’re used to having that can actually be eliminated.
#10. Give to others. This is my favorite tip. It is the tip that keeps on giving. I have found that giving to others only increases the blessings in our life. The more you give, the more you eventually get back. If you have no use for something that is still useable, find a friend who could use it or give it to charity. Give money to your church or local charity if you can. We have always donated 10% of our income to our church. It has just become routine now and we don’t miss the money. I feel that God has blessed us so tremendously and it is essential to give back. We teach our kids to be grateful, to say thanks for our food before we eat, to be grateful for what we have and to be wise in how we use everything. We are stewards over all we have and all we have is actually not really ours. With this kind of mentality, it’s easier to be happy with what you have even if it’s not as much as you would like, and easier to share with others. Pay it forward and you’ll find that it pays you back tenfold. Countless friends and family have shared with us and we try to do the same. Gratitude is the key to abundance and happiness. Be grateful in whatever circumstance you may be in and thankful for your experiences, though they may not be easy, because they are our greatest teachers.
Best of luck in your money saving adventures!
For LOTS more awesome tips on pinching pennies, check out this book at your local library. It’s my absolute favorite!
Also, check out my sister-in-law’s newest hilarious new music video.When you’re done, check out some of her posts here on this blog. If anyone knows what it’s like to live happily on one income SHE DOES!
Taylor Swift SHAKE IT OFF-Mommy-style parody HD
Other posts by Trish: