13 Clever Tips For Living On One Income When Money Is Tight

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We all face different life and financial situations. The choice of living on one income isn’t always something that we are given the chance to make. Sometimes life hits you with a ton of bricks and you are forced to live off one income when you least expect it.

Living on one income is definitely challenging. That’s why I’m excited to share all of my secrets of how we’ve been able to change our ways and live on one paycheck.

How Do People Afford To Live On One Income?

After living for several years on two good incomes we are switching it up and learning how to live frugally on one income! Yes, we are no longer DINK’s (double income no kids). We are a married couple who has decided to live solely on one income.

Our story of living off one one income may not be quite as inspiring as a family of 5 living off one income. I totally get it! However, we made choices early on that were deliberately planned so that we could live a life different than they typical 9-5 grind.

Because of our planning you aren’t going to hear some struggle story of how we scraped by for years on only $10,000 between the two of us. No, I’m going to give you the step by step actions of what we did to allow us to live off one income.

Unfortunate Situations Happen

However, let me take a quick step back and say I totally understand some people get broadsided and end up having to support themselves on one income out of necessity not choice.

For the people who are in this situation I want you to know I sympathize with you and I hope some of the information below will be helpful to you.

The Decision Wasn’t On A Whim

Our decision of living off of one income isn’t something we decided to do overnight. In fact, I put a lot of work into making sure it was financially feasible to have my husband quit his good paying job.

That’s right, I’m now the sugar momma bringing in all of the money ;). I’ll explain further below what he’s spending his time working on now.

1. Live Below Your Means

This is the BEST money saving tip I can give you. If you hope to live off of one income in the future, but you currently have two incomes coming in, live a lifestyle RIGHT NOW that only one income supports and bank the other.

By starting to live a life on one income now it will be so much easier to adjust to living on one income in the future. A bonus is you’ll have money saved in the bank too!

2. We Planned Ahead To Live Financially Free

Yes, it takes a bit of planning to get to where you want to be financially, but it’s not impossible. I have to admit I’m a bit different than most people, I started planning at a fairly young age. I opened my first savings account at the age of 10 which I immediately began contributing to.

I started a ROTH IRA account when I was 18 and have contributed the max amount each and every year. Both my husband and I have always contributed to our employer sponsored retirement accounts since they were offered to us.

Emergency Fund

If you haven’t heard of an emergency fund, it’s this nice little fund you create that allows you to save money for those times when you really need extra cash fast. An emergency fund gives you piece of mind in knowing that you have a savings reserve if anything should happen.

3. We Purchased Within Our Means

Of course no one really wants to feel poor or indebted to creditors. To combat this we chose a house and a mortgage that is well below the amount the lender offered us.

As most of you know, the more money you make the more you spend. Be aware of this! It’s simple, it’s called lifestyle inflation.

Don’t get me wrong, there were times we thought about buying something “bigger or better.”  But our gut instincts told us different.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that we listened to our instincts and chose a house that we can comfortably afford, especially on one income.

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4. We Paid Down Debts

Absolutely, there have been times when our spending has gotten out of control and we had to reign it all back in. We’ve had our fair share of spending sprees (new bikes, new skis, new clothes).

However, with each of those sprees came prioritization. We chose to prioritize our payments to our credit cards. Consciously and routinely we made payments to our debts with each and every paycheck.

Believe me, there’s no way I could have felt at peace with my husband quitting his job if we had a large chunk of debt looming over our heads.

We worked our booties off to pay down $20,000 of vehicle debt. We also paid extra money to our mortgage payment each and every month to allow ourselves to eliminate of our $120 PMI (private mortgage insurance).

By paying off all of these debts it freed up $1500 a month! That’s a ton of money that we now have in our pocket.

5. We Budget To Live Off Of One Income

To continue doing what we are doing its crucial that we keep a budget. I am a strict budgeter and use zero-based budgeting as my preferred method to keep our budget straight.

I also use Personal Capital, it’s a fantastic app I have on my phone that allows me to regularly check our finances to verify we aren’t overspending.

It wasn’t always this good, approximately 10 years ago we were on a much stricter budget. We had school loans, car loans, credit cards you name the debt we probably had it.

I discovered something that was exactly what we needed to keep us moving towards our financial goals, it was the cash envelope system. Let me tell you, the cash envelope system may not be for everyone but it’s definitely something that worked for us.

If you’re living on a tight budget that has little room for error I’d definitely take a look at the cash only system.

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Budget Trackers: 11 Free Trackers To Get Your Finances Under Control

6. Rethink Your “Necessities”

The reason we are able to live on one income is because I know what I can go without. For example, I no longer mindlessly head out and buy myself the latest and greatest clothing or gear. Nope, instead I check the consignments stores for a good deal or wait for a killer sale.

Also, instead of spending a chunk of change on overpriced cleaning supplies I opt to make my own with simple household staples such as vinegar and baking soda.

  • Instead of buying those all-purpose wipes that come in a plastic container; I make my own saving the environment and my family from toxic chemicals.
  • I regularly opt for using newspaper instead of paper towels to clean glass surfaces.
  • Did you know that you can use white vinegar in place of an expensive fabric softener? You can, I do it all the time!
  • I also dilute my dish detergent to stretch it a bit further and I’ve never noticed a difference with the dishes not coming out clean.

OK, I’m sure you’re getting the idea, I’m frugal AF at times! As you can see there are places in all of our lives where we can cut back or decide to eliminate completely.

7. Save Money On Monthly Bills

Saving money on your monthly bills can be touchy topic for some people. Obviously, I’m not your mother to tell you what you can and can’t do but I feel that most people have at least one bill that they could eliminate to save money.

Do you really need to be paying for cable? Why not opt for Amazon Prime or Hulu which will save you a ton of money over the long run.

Insiders info: if you do decide to use a streaming device for your TV be mindful of your internet bill. There was a month we had a family member staying with us and there was a whole lot of Netflix watching going on. Our darn internet bill increased by $25 because they bumped us up into the next usage plan.

When this happened, I simply called our internet company explained the situation and they thankfully downgraded us back into our previous plan.

I can’t begin to tell you all of the different ways you can save money on electricity each and every month. I have an article full of great details here.

However, for those of you who aren’t into reading a full article here are a couple of my favorite tips!

  • Run your appliances during off peak hours. Electricity companies charge a higher rate for using electricity during the peak hours of the day. If you’re smart about when you run your appliances you have the ability to save approximately 50% on power.
  • Always run full loads when you’re running your dishwasher or washing machine. Both these machines use about the same amount of energy no matter the size of load, so go ahead and fill them up.

8. Save Money By Not Going Out As Often

We really love going out. One of our favorite things to do is to pop into our local brewery for a tasty brew. But when we’re trying to save money going out isn’t always the best choice.

Instead of going out we’ve gotten used to having friends over to our house. If we do decide to go out we’re very conscious of our spending and use these great tips for how to save money when going out with friends.

9. Eating Healthy While Saving Money

We also have a pretty strict policy about eating out. Definitely no lunching out.

To combat the feeling of having to go out to eat we make sure that we meal plan. Meal planning guarantees we’re always prepared for when hanger begins to set it. If you’re looking for some ideas for meal planning or how to save money at the grocery store check out these articles:

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Do you think you’re interested in meal planning but not sure where to begin? Check out $5 meal plan. Honestly, if you’re a busy person looking to save money on groceries you’d be crazy to not give it a shot.

Sign up for $5 meal plan here and get heathy cheap recipes sent straight to your inbox every week.

With $5 meal plan you’ll receive a weeks worth of delicious recipes and a specially curated shopping list to make things super easy. The best part of all of this is the meals cost less that $2 a person.

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You can save hundreds of dollars every month when you get into the habit of cooking at home. It’s a much healthier option, and you can exchange those expensive nights out for something way more exciting…

10. Learn To Live Frugal

Of course it’s always nice to have something sparkly and new. But, is that something new really worth the cost?

Instead of purchasing that brand new $200 Patagonia jacket consider taking a gander at the consignment or thrift store. I can’t tell how many times I’ve scored and found the perfect item I’ve been searching for for a fraction of the price.

There are sooo many ways to save money on clothes, I can’t understand why someone would choose to pay full retail price when there are fantastic consignment stores popping up all over.

Frugal Foods For Living On One Income

Let’s talk food real quick one more time! Shopping at Whole Foods (whole paycheck) IS expensive any way you look at it. I find great food at half the price by shopping at our local grocer or Trader Joes.

Also, while you’re at the store there’s no need to buy those brand name expensive items. Always always always choose the lesser priced generics. I promise there’s no difference in flavor.

If you are looking for great ways to eat healthy food on a budget this book has tons of good information!

11. Stash Money When And Where You Can

Just because you’re living on one income doesn’t mean you can’t try and stash away a bit of money here and there. I love using Acorns to help us save money.

Acorns is money saving system that rounds up purchases and puts the rounded up money into an investment account to grow. The great thing is, I don’t even notice it’s happening it’s a “behind the scenes” money saving app that you’ll be glad you did!

You can read my whole review on Acorns App Here

12. Save 100’s of dollars a month

I love discovering various ways to save money. A good way to save money while shopping online is to use eBates for coupons and cash.  If you’re not into using eBates at least do yourself a favor and compare prices on Amazon to see if you can buy your item cheaper.

Ibotta is a money saving grocery app that saves people tons of money a month. Check Ibotta for any cash back deals. It’s so simple all you have to do to redeem your money is snap a photo of your grocery receipt and your Ibotta account updates with money. Just like that cha-ching!

If you would like to save on groceries and are interested in receiving free money every time you shop download the Ibotta App here and grab a free $10 gift card just for trying it out!
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13. Last But Not Least…We’re Working On An Alternative Income Source

You may be wondering why would my husband quit work? And why was I on board with him doing so? Well it’s simple, we’re craving something different. Something with more freedom and location independence.

To make this happen we’re (him full-time, me when time allows) working on an alternative income source. Yes an unconventional way to make income on a regular basis.

Our biggest passion in life is travel. We decided there’s no better way to showcase the amazing places we’ve been than to create a travel blog so our loved ones can follow our journey.

He’s working his rear off on this travel blog, yes many days he spends 12-14 working on this. To some of you this may sound like hocus pocus. But did you know that you really can make good money from blogging?

It’s true Michelle is living proof that you can live a location independent life while making fantastic money blogging.

Alright there you have it! All of our favorite ways to save money and allow us to live in one income! Do you have any suggestions or anything you think I should add? I’d love to know!

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