How to Live on One Income and Like it

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I didn’t know that I wanted to become a stay-at-home mom until after my son was born. I always imagined that I would go back to work, that I would want to go back to work.

So when I finally realized that I wanted to become a stay-at-home mom, I had to work quickly to figure out how to live on one income. Not only did I need to figure out how to keep my household running on just my husband’s income, but I also needed to make sure that I still had enough money to start paying off our debt. Student loans and credit cards suck!

I needed to find a way to either save or make about $1000 a month to make our budget work so that I could actually become a stay-at-home mom without making my family suffer.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of my links I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will never suggest a product or service that I don’t use and love myself because that’s just wrong. If you like reading legal mumbo-jumbo then you can check out my disclosure policy HERE.)

How to Live on One Income

Living on one income isn’t necessarily easy, but if you make small changes to your everyday life and are smart with your money, you can absolutely make it work. I know because I’m making it work. And if I can get my crazy family on a budget, then anyone can.

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Get Out of Debt

Getting rid of our debt was number 1 on my list of things to do. I realized that if you didn’t include our two cars or the house we owned, we had over $40,000 in student loan and credit card debt! I nearly had a heart attack when I saw that number.

The first thing we absolutely, without a doubt, HAD to do was stop using our credit cards. We used them more often than we really needed to because we kept telling ourselves that we were earning points for vacations and such.

True, we were earning points, but we couldn’t afford to take the vacations because of the huge bill that came with the cards. And then there is the MASSIVE amount of interest fees associated with credit cards. It just wasn’t working for us.

So I started using Dave Ramey’s debt snowball method and began to see real results. I was skeptical at first, but this method really does work. In just two months I was able to pay off three of my seven student loan debts. Not only that, but using this method freed up a lot more money than I thought possible which brought me one step closer to my goal of becoming a stay-at-home mom.

Shop Smarter

Sometimes you’ll go to the store and see an item on “sale” and you immediately think it’s a good deal. That isn’t always the case. It’s important to keep track of the common items that you buy and the prices that they typically run for. That way you’ll know when that “sale” price is actually a good deal.

You can also increase your savings by using coupons and money saving apps when you’re at the grocery store. Ibotta is hands down my favorite grocery saving app. If you aren’t already using Ibotta then sign up right now and you’ll get $10 just for signing up.

I use this app every time I go to the grocery store just to see if I can save a little extra money on the things I’m already planning on buying. Every little bit adds up. I also never buy anything online anymore without first checking with Ebates. I love, love, LOVE Ebates!!

I have saved HUNDREDS of dollars shopping with Ebates. Membership is completely free and they send out checks once a quarter, that’s it. It’s so easy. You’ll also get $10 when you sign up as well. Totally worth it!

I downloaded the extension for my web browser and now anytime I’m on a website that has cash back deals available, Ebates automatically tells me. Not only that, but it’ll apply any coupons it can find automatically too. I LOVE it!

Meal Plan

I’m sure you’re heard a million times by now that you need to plan out your meals for the week. People say that because it really does make a difference in your monthly budget. The trick though isn’t to just plan out your meals, but to also be smart about how you’re meal planning.

Most people will tell you that you need to have a plan of meals for each and every day of the week specifically for each day. Monday is this, Tuesday is that, etc. That method just didn’t work for me.

There would be too many times that I would either be behind on something or the baby would be fussy or I would just be too tired to cook the meal that I had designated for that day. Instead of having an easy backup option available, we would just order pizza or something.

Not only would I then feel like crap because I ate the greasy, cheese-covered monstrosity, but we would have blown a lot more money than I had budgeted for. Not good for my budget or any of my plans.

Now, when I meal plan, I have a list of meals that I have all of the ingredients for at the house. I also make sure that at least a couple of those meals are easy options that I can quickly throw together.

If every single menu item is a new recipe that you picked up from Pinterest, you’re going to be less likely to actually stick with it on those bad days when you just don’t feel like it. Having some new recipes to try is definitely a great idea, just don’t do it every night.

Have a couple of easy go-tos that you can throw together in 30 minutes or less. Even if it’s just pasta and a jar of sauce is still better than blowing $50 on pizza delivery.

To take all of the guess work out of meal planning, I highly, highly, HIGHLY suggest getting the Ultimate Bundles Healthy Meal Planning Bundle. It’s over 200 different easy and healthy recipes from breakfast, dinners, snacks, and even some desserts. It’s on sale right now for at STEAL at only $47. It’s a $1,000 value and it won’t last forever so definitely don’t wait.

How to Live on One Income and Like it 1Shop Your Pantry

When you’re planning out your meals for the week, don’t just think of all of the things you want to eat and buy the ingredients for them. Take the time to go through your own pantry and fridge to see what ingredients you already have and see what meals you can make with them. You’d be surprised how many random things get shoved back in the far reaches of the pantry.

I am so guilty of buying items because I assume I don’t have any, just to get home and realize I have a brand new container of it. Going through and taking an inventory of the food items that you already have will save you so much money in the long run.

It will also cause you to get creative with your menu options because you’ll actually start planning meals around your ingredients rather than buying ingredients for your meals.

Though the food budget is still the area where my family has the most trouble (we like very particular things), I’ve still managed to cut our food budget by 70% just by eating at home and not buying things we don’t actually need.

Buy in Bulk

I did so much research about whether or not wholesale stores are actually beneficial before signing up, and I can’t stress enough the amount of money that you can save shopping at one.

I personally have a Costco membership and it has been completely worth it to me. Though you may spend more money up-front when you go shopping, the fact that you won’t have to go back to the store every couple of weeks for things like rice and flour can really make a difference.

The only issue with buying in bulk is being able to actually store all of the supplies. Buying a 25 pound bag of flour for $10 is great, but if you don’t have anywhere to put said bag of flour then you may run into other issues.

Don’t buy things just because it’s a good deal. Only buy it if you know your family will use it and if you can store it.

One thing that really helped us in this regard was getting a deep freezer. Now I’m not as worried about buying bulk items because I have a place to store it. It has really made a difference in our shopping habits.

Cut Back on Extra Expenses

When I decided I wanted to become a stay-at-home mom, I started cutting anything that I felt I could get by without.

  • Cancel the cable. We got rid of cable and only watch Netflix. Though it causes some issues during football season, we’ve managed to make it work. And not having to spend $200 every month on cable that we barely watch anyway is a win in my book.
  • Stop buying fancy coffee. Save the $5 a day and learn how to make your own coffee at home. Your wallet will thank you. Besides, if you’re staying home all day with the kiddos anyway then you really don’t need to waste the money on gas driving to and from the coffee shop. Money saving all around!
  • Cancel Satellite Radio. I love having satellite radio in my car. I really do. I’m a huge rock fan and it’s a nightmare trying to find local radio stations that play what I want to listen to. Paying the extra money each month just for a little radio convenience just doesn’t add up in the long run. Use Pandora for free or just deal with regular radio for a while. Your bank account will thank you.
  • Drop the expensive phone plan. My husband and I use Verizon for our phone plan. I’ve considered dropping to a cheaper carrier, but where we live they really do have the best service. So instead of dropping them all together, I was able to drop us down to a cheaper plan. We didn’t have to get rid of our smart phones or our service, but we are now paying for less data. We weren’t using it anyway so it didn’t make sense.
  • Do your own nails. Going to the salon for a mani/pedi is great, but spending the extra money to do something that is easily done at home is silly.

Shop Thrift Stores

Even if you aren’t willing to buy used items for yourself, getting them for your kids can save SO MUCH MONEY.

My kid outgrows his clothes faster than I can get more. I’ve stopped buying his clothes new and either picking them up from thrift stores or getting them from friends and family with older kids. I may not find everything that I’m looking for in thrift stores, especially if it’s weather specific, but saving the extra money on easy things like onesies and pants is huge!

Brown Bag It

When I looked at my budget, I was SHOCKED to see how much money my husband was spending on lunch each day.

It didn’t seem like much at a time, but the $7 a sandwich 5 days a week really added up quickly. I put my foot down and had him start packing his meals for work.

I started making a little extra food for dinner each night so that he would have leftovers the next day. I also started making large batches of things like pasta and pasta sauce and freezing it for both an easy option for his lunches as well as an easy dinner idea.

Monthly Savings

If you’re like me and actually want to see the monthly savings break down, I totally understand. Here is how I’ve managed to free up money in our budget to allow me to become a stay-at-home mom while we live on one income.

  • Debt snowball method reallocation – $367.35
  • Loan Pay-off – $87.22
  • Grocery Bill – $455.00
  • Brown Bag Lunch – $140.00
  • Cancelled Cable – $171.38
  • No Satellite Radio – $34.95
  • Lower Phone Bill – $90.12

Total Monthly Savings – $1,346.02

That’s right. I managed to save almost $1,400 a month from our budget without bringing in any extra money. These savings allowed me to finally become a stay-at-home mom for my son, and they also allow us to live on one income comfortably.

We still keep our budget tight for now. I really am trying to get rid of all of that extra debt that we have, but if you want to become a stay-at-home mom and live on one salary. It is completely and totally possible. If I can make it happen, anyone can.

Are you struggling cutting down your monthly budget? What issues are you having? Leave me a comment below or join the conversation in our Facebook group.

Until next time!

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