How to Live on One Income

Living on one income is not an easy thing anymore in the generation we live in. That’s why if it is your desire to be at home with your children, or maybe you or your spouse lost a job, I want to give you tips for living on one income.

how to live on one income

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Since my daughter was born almost 12 years ago now, until last year, we have lived on one income. It wasn’t until I started blogging that we started bringing in more than one income. I’m going to say we bring in two incomes yet, because my income doesn’t quite qualify as full-time right now, but let’s say we’re bringing in 1.5 incomes. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, for over ten years we were a full, one income family. There have been many times it has been hard. There have been times we have made bad choices financially that have not helped us. But we’ve also learned a lot of what to do and what not to do to live on one income.ย  We’ve grown over the years and learned how to manage living on one income well.

I remember a conversation I had with someone once who didn’t really know me all that well. When they asked what I did for a living I said that I stayed home with my kids. Their reply was, โ€œit’s nice that you have that luxury.โ€

They weren’t being trying to be rude. They genuinely believed that only a few people could make it work to stay at home, and that the only way I could be at home was because we must make a LOT of money from my husband’s income.

Well, nothing could have been further from the truth. We were a low-income family and there was a lot of sacrifice. We had a tiny house, one vehicle, and our kids weren’t in too many extra-curriculars.

While staying at home with my kids has been a huge blessing, there were times, especially in those early years, where I wondered if my not being able to give them more would actually hurt them in the long run.

Because, let’s be real here โ€“ if you are a stay at home mom you feel guilty. If you are a working mom you feel guilty. If you are a work-at-home mom you feel guilty (ask me how I know.)

We always are wondering if we are doing everything we can be doing to raise our children into well-rounded people who feel loved and accepted. Will they know that so many of our choices we made because we wanted the best for them? Or will they grow up and feel like they missed out because of those same choices?

Parenting is hard, y’all.

Anyways, bottom line, I know that whether you choose to stay home or whether you choose to work outside the home, that there is no easy answer anymore. While years ago it was easier to stay at home if you wanted to, I understand how difficult it can be and completely understand that people feel that they have no choice anymore.

However, if you DO want to stay home, I truly believe you can. It is not going to be easy, but it can be possible.ย  While this post is going to focus on tips on living on one income, I do want to start out by saying that living frugally on one income is not the only way to stay at home.

With the evolution of the internet and employment, there are so many jobs you can do from home. If you feel like you absolutely need to bring a second income in, you could do something like blogging, or network marketing, or as a virtual assistant (check out this course to get you started as a VA). There are so many options.


Drive one vehicle. If you are living on one income and you are a two adult household, chances are one of you doesn’t need to drive to work every day. I know it can be difficult to be limited to where you can go during the day, but vehicles are expensive! We have lived our whole 15 year marriage with just one vehicle (except for 6 months in between) and we have managed. As our kids are getting older we are now finally talking about a very cheap, second vehicle, but we’ve made it this far without it.

Does it mean some inconvenience? You bet. There are days I have to drive my husband to his work, 40 minutes away, so I can have the vehicle to take kids to appointments. However, that is STILL cheaper than owning a second vehicle because that isn’t an every day thing. A second vehicle comes with insurance costs, gas, and maintenance and repair costs. It adds up quickly.

Shop secondhand. Secondhand stores are a one-income family’s best friend. You can find many items for your home and your family at a fraction of the cost of buying it new. Now only are secondhand stores great, but you can find great deals on yard sale sites online as well. Sometimes you can just put the word out on Facebook if you are looking for something specific and a friend on your list may have what you are looking for and are willing to sell you the item.

Pay off debt and don’t rack up more. Debt payments can really increase our cost of living, not to mention that it is just downright stressful to live with large amounts of debt. If you have a lot of debt, work hard to get it paid off. If you are a two income home and you are working towards becoming a one income home, work at paying that debt off BEFORE you go down to one income. And you definitely want to work at not racking up more debt or you may discover you have to go back to two incomes.

Build up an emergency fund. This may be difficult living on one income, but even building a small emergency fund will help you in a crisis. When you don’t have two incomes it becomes even more important to make sure you have money to fall back on.

Cut out extras. This may be cable or satellite. This may be buying lots of clothes at the mall. This may be data on your cell phone. If you are living on one income, consider cutting out any extras to help you stay within budget. You want to be able to live within your means so that every month that you are living on one income you are not stressed that you aren’t working. That means sticking to the budget and cutting out those extras will become really important.

Save money in the kitchen. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, because I am always saying that one of the easiest ways to save money is in the kitchen. Our grocery bills, while often larger than we like, are not a set expense. It changes. That means we have the ability to change it, at least a little bit. You can use coupons, (my favorite free coupon app for my phone is Checkout51,) shop the sales, and buy cheaper food. In our home we don’t eat a lot of steak. It just is too expensive. However, we make an amazing pork chop. ๐Ÿ™‚ Check out this list of ridiculously cheap meals you can make.

Choose cheaper extra-curriculars. Extra-curriculars can be a pretty penny. However, just because you are living on one income doesn’t mean your kids don’t have the opportunity to be involved in extra-curricular activities. There are activities they can do that offer subsidies, and there are also cheaper extra-curriculars to choose from. My kids do a kids program at our church once a week, and my boys also do soccer. My daughter has taken horse back riding in the past and will do so again, but we do it every second week instead of every week because of cost. She still gets to do what she loves, but we aren’t going into debt for it.

Consider downsizing. This is a great idea if you have lived on two incomes and want to move towards one income so you or your spouse can stay at home. More than likely you are looking at the long-term in that kind of setting, therefore, you may need to downsize your home (and/or vehicle) to something that is more manageable payments wise.

This isn’t as beneficial if your one-income living is going to be temporary. But if you foresee you and your family living on one income for a long time, it may be time to downsize.


Whether you need to live on one income out of necessity, or have a desire to stay home with your children, you can make it happen. It will definitely take sacrifice, and there will more than likely be an adjustment period if you are used to living on two incomes, but if your heart’s desire is to be at home, it can work.

You may need to do some prep work before you can come home from work to stay home and live on one income.ย  If you are in that situation, consider making the changes above months in advance before you actually only have one income.ย  This can go a long way in making sure all your bases are covered financially.

And again, if you find that you need to make SOME kind of income from home, consider the ideas I shared above.ย  Even an extra couple hundred dollars a month can help.

Do you think I missed anything? If so, leave it in the comments below.

Article Name
How to live on one income
You may be living on one income out of necessity or desire to stay home with your kids, but maybe you feel it's impossible. You can make it happen with these tips.
Publisher Name
Simple Life of a Frugal Wife

3 thoughts on “How to Live on One Income”

  1. Nice article, for people on one income I’ve found cut out debt to be one of the major keys to staying afloat, the pressure to keep up with the neighbors drives a lot of people into loans and credit card debt.
    Its a sad fact that as a generation we made dual incomes the norm and locked ourselves and future generations into overpaying for everything and very poor work life balances.
    Great to see some tips to help people start to swing that back.

    1. I agree, making dual incomes the norm has hurt many of us in the long run. Paying off debt helps us live on one income more comfortably. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. One income has always been sufficient to raise a family.
    Actually what has been omitted in the posting and reply is the huge subsidy the government’s hand out to young families these days,that is wildly more than when I was a child.
    My husband works very hard to make sure there is enough to raise our family well.

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