How to live on one income
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Have you ever wondered how to live on one income? Have you ever wondered if YOU can afford to live on one income? Many of you may not realize that about 1.5 years ago, we decided to do this very thing – we went from being a two income family to living on one primary income. It was a scary decision, but it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Now that 2010 is here, I want to challenge all of you to consider this possibility for YOUR family. We used to never think it was possible to live on one income, but we have been living on one income now for awhile and are happier and better off financially than ever.

How can you afford to live one on salary?

Even in today’s world, I am convinced that most families can afford to live on one salary. Now I realize that not everyone can, but I truly believe that most families can make this a reality. First, take a hard look at where your income is going. Take a notebook and write down every single expense you have. When you buy something, write it in the notebook. After a month or two, analyze your spending. Where is your money going? You may be surprised at how quickly the “little expenses” add up – $2 for a cup of coffee here, $3 for a hamburger, there… and so on. Once you know where your money is going, you can start figuring out where to cut back on expenses and how to eliminate unnecessary spending. Use this information to create a basic monthly budget.

frugal living

Explore income opportunities from home

Look at ways you may be able to make a small income at home. This may be as simple as selling extra things on Ebay or . Obviously you will not get rich from this, but even an extra $50 – $100 a month from such ventures may give you the extra padding you need to live on a single income. It may sound crazy, but believe me, we are speaking from personal experience here – The give us a nice padding each month, and I encourage you to look into paid surveys if you haven’t started doing them already!

Do a trial period of living on one income

For several months, live off of one salary only. Put all the money from your second salary into savings. Pretend that you don’t even have a second salary. After the trial period is up, look at your results. Talk about how you did as a family. Is this something you could continue doing? Did you even miss the second salary? You may be surprised at what you find!

Living on one salary may require sacrifices and self-discipline

Yes, there may be sacrifices and self-discipline required to live on one salary. And let’s face it, sacrifice and self-discipline are NOT encouraged by our society these days. But I can personally tell you that all the sacrifices required ARE worth it. I am staying at home raising our two boys right now, and not paying someone else to raise our children. I will NEVER regret the time I have gotten to spend with them and the memories I will have watching them grow up.

Plus, we have less expenses now than before (no daycare, less gasoline, less work clothes, cheaper car insurance, less eating out) and more time to save money, find bargains, and use coupons! And the best part, I get to share all of the and I find with all of YOU! 🙂

Living on one income may not be for everyone – it may not be for your family. I am not trying to judge those families living on one income, nor trying to judge those families living on more than one income. Everyone knows what is best for their family and must make their own choices. But if you have considered quitting your job to stay at home with the kids or dreamed about it for awhile, then let 2010 be the year to seriously consider this option for your family.

See our own blog posts when we struggled with this very decision in 2008. You may find some of the comments from readers inspirational in your own decision making.

ASK THE READERS: Are any of you living on one primary income? How did you make the decision to be a one income family? OR – Are any of you wishing you could become a one income family? If so, what is holding you back?

Are you new to our site? Sign up for our free email digest and let us show YOU how to save money, get freebies, and live on one income!

Comments {19}

{19} Comments

  • 01.06.10 Christina D.

    We’ve been on one income since my husband left his job so he could stay home with our now six year old. Our son didn’t do well in day care. My son was kind of fired from two at home daycares! That was when he was about two and before our second boy was born. We’ve been getting by since then on my salary and my husband’s freelance work. The freelance has dried up recently so things will be getting tight soon. He would like to go back to work full time and then I would take his place at home. My goal is to cut back on debt and save an emergency fund to make it easier to do this.

  • 01.06.10 Abigail

    I would be interested to know just what constitutes “one income.” (I know the exact definition, but how much is considered feasible?)

    My husband and I both have health problems that limit our ability to work normal jobs/full-time. (It also causes more medical bills than the average household.) So we have been living on essentially one income for most of our time together (4 years in May). We’ve never made more than $40,000 — and that was before my husband’s health really deteriorated.

    Right now, we’re living on $36,000 and paying down debt at about $1,800 (57% of our income) a month. With unexpected expenses, it sometimes closer to $1,500.

    We’re on track to pay down our credit card debt by June(ish) which is when my contract work runs out. This is after we added $3,000 to our debt with a move to Phoenix — necessary for my husband’s health.

    On the other hand, we don’t have kids. We want to have some savings and an emergency fund before we even get a dog. Since kids are one of the main reasons people choose to go down to one income, I wonder what the threshold is for feasibility.

    I suppose if we didn’t have the debts, it would be possible, if tight. Especially because my husband’s ADD can create problems in being completely frugal. (He can’t comfortably stay at home every night and just watch TV the way I can. He’s naturally more impulsive with spending, though he’s come a long way.)

    Still, if we had the extra $1,500-$1,800 a month currently thrown at debt, I suppose it could work.

  • 01.06.10 Paula

    We have been living on one income since my son was born. We couldn’t find adaquate daycare so it started out as a temporary solution in my husbands mind. Then we realized the benefits outweighted the costs.

    I just wish we were living on my husbands one income and not mine. I would still rather have my hubby at home than working. I guess stay at home Dad is the next best thing to stay at home Mom. I’m just ready to switch for awhile. Unfortunatly that is not on the horizon any time soon. Maybe once the kids are out of college? 8^)

  • 01.06.10 maryanne

    We’re a one-income family. We live pretty frugally, my kids wear secondhand and hand-me-down clothes, and we hardly ever eat out. For us, it’s worth the sacrifice, especially since I really love staying home with the kids! And, with three very young children, I’m not even sure how much of a financial benefit there would be to my working and putting all three in daycare every day.

  • 01.06.10 Julie

    We also live on one income. There are a lot of sacrifices, but being able to see my 2 older kids off to school and welcome them home is gold to me. Also not having to leave our baby in someone else’s care is priceless.

    We do a lot of secondhand shopping. Why not? It’s new to us anyway. All of my kids’ back to school clothes were name brand, pristine condition right off of craigslist for a fraction of the price.

    There’s not a lot of eating out, which is healthier in the long run anyway. The last couple of times I can remember not eating at home was for my birthday in Nov, and Christmas eve we ordered pizza. I use coupons for everything I can, we may as well eat what we’ve got 🙂

    We budget EVERYTHING! DH wants beverages after work? It comes out of his budget. My coupon shopping? Right out of our food budget (though it’s amazing how much further I can make our food budget go now!). We also send 30% of our income to another bank for savings. So we pay bills, food, clothes, and any incidentals on 70% income! And then have money stashed for our yearly vacation in April.

  • 01.06.10 Katy

    My husband and I have been talking a lot lately about whether or not we could live on one income. We both would really like to and are trying to do what we can to someday make it there when we decide to start a family.

    Right now the biggest issue is that he is on commission, and people aren’t wanting to pay for the services he provides (he’s a personal fitness trainer), and we are on mandatory reduced hours at my work, so there goes another part of our original planned income. It’s a little tough right now, and we’re already living pretty frugally! We are still paying of my student loans and of course, the mortgage. We feel like our savings never really seems to increase.

    We just don’t know what else to do to get to the point of being able to live on one income so I could someday stay home with our future children.

  • 01.06.10 Gina

    I’ve been home since the birth of my 1st child almost 5 years ago. I was only working in a local nursing home. If I kept my job we would be losing money between day care, gas, etc. It order for it to be possible for me to stay home we do alot of things. We built our home with SIP (Structurally insulated panels),use compact flourescent light bulbs, dry on a clothes line, & put plastic on our windows to help with energy costs. I am a hard-core couponer. I saved $4000 last year just in coupons. 95% of the time I buy with a coupon. I also have 2 closets in my house that I use for items I can stockpile when I get free things we don’t need immediately but we will use. I also do alot of mail-in rebates. I belong to several survey sites; survey head, pine cone, light speed for example. We always look online for free things to do on the weekend. My girlfriends with kids and I get together at the beginning of every season a do a clothes swap for our kids. I also try to shop at the season end clearances and plan ahead for the coming year with clothes. We only have a pre-paid cell phone. It does the job and only costs $15 a month. We don’t eat out very often.

    We do have to make some sacrifices and the heating season is like a juggling act for us, but it’s well worth it.

  • 01.06.10 Tracy

    I’ve been living on one income for 15 years ever since my divorce. Child support has been practically non-existent most of the time. I don’t know why any of you married people can’t live on one income, because we single moms do it all day long!

  • 01.06.10 Lacey

    We have been on a limited income since Oct 2008, and one income since April 2009 when my unemployment ran out.

    Its not as hard as I once thought. We live on less than $30,000 a year. We also have a 1yr old. I buy clothes on clearance or craigslist. I grocery shop on less than $150 a month. And we eat pretty well. I cloth diaper and that saves us some money.

    We are just starting our journey to paying off our debts. It took awhile for my husband and I to realize we are doing decent and we have extra that we are blowing. So now we are putting it towards bills.

  • 01.07.10 Kriket

    DH and I are working on being able to work on “one income” we would rather both work very part time 🙂 We have about 1/3 of our debt paid off, I am back in school to hopefully get a better job, and we are thinking about moving!

    I do very much agree that living on one income isn’t for everyone. Even though DH and I are planning on it, we will only be making about 12-14,000 a year. Which is well below the poverty level. Poverty is a state of mind, and we aren’t poor! It is taking a lot of planning, years of prep work and moving houses.

  • 01.07.10 Robin A Collins

    We are currently living on one income and have done so since we decided to have children. Not so we could stash the other’s salary away but because I wanted to stay at home and raise our kids the way they deserve to be raised- with a parent who is always available to them and not always “at work”. Sure it is a sacrifice on myself and my husbands part but our kids are spoiled with love, time and attention and never want for anything. We go without, not them, as it should be. I deeply respect anyone-Mom or Dad who is willing to stay at home and raise their own children. However, I live in reality and I know this is NOT always an option. If you need two parents’ salaries to properly run your household and pay the bills, fine. But, if you both work so you can have a BMW in driveway then I have very little respect for you. My car is 10 yrs. old and it gets us to soccer, karate, cheerleading, church, etc… just fine. It’s just one of the sacrifices we’ve made for the good of our children!! I honestly believe there wouldn’t be so many rotten kids in this world if the parents were actually spending time with those children instead of letting them always “fend for themselves”.

  • 01.07.10 Robin A Collins

    YOU GO GINA!!! I’m so happy you decided to raise your own child instead of dumping him/her in daycare!! I read the sacrifices you and your husband have made but, it sounds like you really know your “stuff”!! Your child will be all the better for having been raised by you, his/her loving mother and not some stranger who is being paid $8.00 an hour. Kudos to Gina and Hubby!!

    PS There are so many programs out there for low-income families to keep their homes warm during the winter months. Your taxes pay for these programs so, why not use them when needed.

  • 01.08.10 jessica

    I have read the comments with interest, as currently we are a one income family.

    I worked on and off during my children’s lives (they are 10 and 15 now), and I was sort of ruffled by the comments about if you need work to survive=ok, if you need work for extra money or ?=bad.

    Personally, I found myself happier when I had a job outside of the home. I needed the adult interaction so I didn’t start drinking by 10 am!
    There is a happy medium of course. I went to work at a Church daycare when my daughter was 3 (I had stayed home until that day) and she was with me all day then. Not only was I working and getting out of the house and even making some money, I was with my daughter all day, every day. She benefitted from the social interaction as much as I did. I worked there for five years, had a second child, and since I didn’t have to pay daycare expenses, it was awesome!
    I am now at home again, being a military spouse we just moved to a new area, and I’m already getting crazy-eyed from the isolation ;P

  • 01.09.10 3boyzmom

    We made the decision to be a one income family about 2 years ago. When my last son was born, I had to be back at work, dropping him off at a day care at 9 weeks old. It broke my heart and my pocketbook to do that. But my husband stays home with the kids while I work. When people hear this, I get mostly negative comments such as, “Eww, your husband doesn’t work? What’s wrong with him?” and similar comments as this. I’ve been shocked by the things poeple say and think about the man staying home and the women working. Actually, my job was more secure, as I am tenured, and although our yearly salary was about the same, it made much more sense for me to continue working and my husband to take a few years off. I think society frowns upon this while they embrace women staying home while the man works.
    But I agree with you, while we may not have the extra spending money we used to have, at least I know my children are being raised by a parent and not by a child care provider. The biggest sacrifice we had to make was going from 2 cars to one.

  • 01.09.10 3boyzmom

    I forgot to mention that where you live makes a difference to. I see many comments of people who are able to live off $30,000-$40,000 per year, but I can’t see that being possible here in CA. I have friends in other states that live comfortably off of that per year, but I can’t see that working where I live, where housing is so expensive. Even a small apartment will cost you $1000/month here. I even have a friend who left CA so that she could afford to be a stay at home parent, and she was able to do so comfortably.

  • 01.23.10 Lilah

    It is most emphatically not true that society embraces women staying at home. Women who stay at home are often ridiculed and criticized and told they should have their own career. The reason there are so many women in college now is that thehy were raised to believe they have to have a career and work outside the home and not to be stay at home moms. As far as people criticizing your husband for staying at home, I don’t really see why it is wrong to criticize men for staying home but perfectly acceptable to criticize women.

  • 03.12.10 Anna

    I am getting married this year and I am currently in a two income family. In order to give the “cushioning” in our finance, I have been working 3 jobs since 2009. We figured that if we could pay off our home in a couple of years instead of 30 years, we will be stable enough to have a family. I think its possible to live on one income. With careful planning, I am working toward that very same goal.

  • 02.11.11 art ist

    Very informative article, we actually have been doing most of the things you recommend and we have found out that we can live very well with a small income without making big sacrifices and the sacrifices we have made once we have made them we have realized that they were not important at all

  • 09.01.12 Tammy

    Thanks for the article, I have been wanting to do this for some time, but everytime I think we can something happens. As I get older I have become very frugal, I wish I had done that in my 20s and 30s. It feels good to save my family money and therefore I have started working part-time instead of full-time, eventually I would like to stay home, but for now its a good compromise for us. Its hard to give up a steady paycheck, but with all the amazing blogs out there helping us save money it might be a possibbility in the future.

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