50 Clever Tips to Live on One Income – It’s not easy to live on one income, but it can be very rewarding, and with some effort, completely do-able. Take a look at what you can do to save money and successfully thrive on just one income.
It’s getting more and more difficult to live on one income. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of families have 2 parents employed.
But living on one income could save you so much money on childcare. Plus, lots of families make this decision based on personal values (who is going to spend the most time with the child?) and honestly just less stress (way less running around).
So, is it possible to learn how to live on one income?
It’s not easy. But, yes, it is doable.
In fact, these 50 tips will show you how to live on one income – and thrive while doing it! It may take some time to successfully implement each of these tips, but know that the effort will be well worth it if your goal is to learn how to live on one income.
50 Clever Tips to Live on One Income
1. Get Out of Debt
The very first step is to get out of debt. Imagine not having to make a single credit card or other debt payment. How much money would you save each month?
There are lots of different ways to get out of debt. The most popular was created by Dave Ramsey. His “Total Money Makeover” follows what he calls the “debt snowball.” Basically, you pay off the smallest debt first.
Then, you take the money you were paying on that debt and put it towards the next one.
Keep doing this until all your debt is completely paid off.
Get Out of Student Loan Debt
Student loan debt is one of the worst kinds. The worst thing you can do is just ignore them. They won’t go away and they could go after your income tax refund or even wage deductions.
Thankfully, there are some options out there for you.
First, try to apply for an income-driven repayment plan. There are four different options you can choose from, and it could make your payments a lot more affordable.
Another option is a loan assistance repayment program. These are programs that will help you pay off your student loans, many of them are things like jobs that offer repayment options.
Get Out of Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is super annoying. You definitely don’t want to just pay the minimum payment. Get out of credit card debt as soon as you can.
This will free up more money short term (no more monthly payments) and in the long term (giving these companies less of your money).
Need more ideas for getting out of debt? Check out these ideas here:
- Top 10 Ways to Pay Off Debt Fast
- How to Have a Debt-Free Christmas
- Top 10 Things I Did to Pay Off Debt in 2 Years
- How I Paid off $40,000 of Debt in 7 months
- The 3 Rules to Paying Off Debt Fast
- Debt Snowball vs. Avalanche
2. Reduce Expenses
If you are going to live on one income, you’ll have to reduce your overall expenses. This includes how much you spend on gas, the movies, and groceries.
Keep a “spend less save more” mindset and you’ll be able to make it.
3. Save Money on Groceries
There are a few ways you can save money on groceries. Even cutting $25 per week out of your grocery budget can save you $100 a month. So it’s worth it to whittle this down.
- Shop around: Try shopping at a discount grocery store if you have one near you (places that sell dented cans and such). Or shop at Aldi’s in addition to your other favorite store. Find the lowest prices.
- Buy the sales: When meat goes on sale, buy it and freeze it. Meat is one of the most expensive parts of the grocery budget. Plan your menu around what is on sale that week.
- Reach for the store brand: Buy the store-brand items. This alone will save you a few bucks on each thing.
- Only buy what you will eat: Cut down on food waste by shopping a few times a week if you have to.
4. Save Money on Utilities
The next place you can save money is on your utility bills. Look at your statements. How much are you spending on electricity, water/sewer, trash?
Find ways to cut these costs down. Be frugal with how much electricity you use. Try and keep your thermostat set at a frugal but comfortable level.
5. Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill
Next, have a discussion with your partner about your cell phone bill. There are lots of very inexpensive options out there that work just as well as the big-name companies.
If you don’t travel much, it might be worth it to save a few hundred dollars a month and buy a smaller plan.
6. Set Up An Emergency Fund
When you live on one income, something as simple as a broken refrigerator could be financially devastating if you don’t have a savings account.
An emergency fund is a savings account that you keep on-hand to use for those big, surprise expenses – busted pipes, car accident, hospital bills, etc.
How much of an emergency fund should you create?
Experts say you should save up 3-6 months of income in your emergency fund. That way, even if you get laid off, you will still have a way to pay your bills.
7. Set up a Budget
Setting up a budge will prevent you from overspending. It’s super important. And there are even free apps out there that make it really simple.
How to Budget
Here’s how to set up a budget. It really is this simple.
- Categorize Your Expenses
- Plan Where Your Money Will Go – Including Savings
- Allow yourself a set amount of money for each expense
Some people like to do this before they get their bills and guess at the amounts. Others create a new budget every month based on their bills and expenses.
Whichever way you do it, when you have a plan you will save a lot more money.
8. Utilize Free Services
Based on your income, you could qualify for programs to help pay for school clothes for your kids or free or reduced school lunches.
Take some time and search for services that can help you pay for some of your expenses so you can afford to stay home.
9. Free Date Ideas
Don’t give up on dates with your partner just because you are trying to save money. There are tons of free date ideas. It’s more about spending time together alone than how much you spend doing it.
- Walk downtown and window shop
- Picnic at the Park
- Play tennis
- Cook for each other
- Play cards
10. Free Entertainment for Kids
Just like you are looking for free date night ideas, try to find free entertainment for your kids too. Check out the parks and rec pages of your local city and see if there are events happening near you.
The library, local parks, and hiking trails are other fun places to take your kids for free.
11. Swap Clothes with Friends
Get together with your friends and shop each other’s closets. If you aren’t the same size, then do an accessories swap.
You’ll get new-to-you things that will feel like a shopping haul, without spending a dime.
12. Make Money at Home
There are lots of ways to earn a few extra bucks while staying home with your kids. Here are some legit ways to earn money at home.
- Take Surveys
- Be a Freelance Writer
- Be a virtual assistant
- Learn how to work as a proofreader
- Sell things on Etsy
- Be a Lyft/Uber Driver while kids are at school
13. Do a Financial Audit
You’ll be much more successful living on one income after you know where your money is going now. How much do you spend on food? What about gas?
Get out a spreadsheet and do a financial audit. Look at how much you spent each month and go back for 3 months.
This information will help you spend less and understand where you spend the most money.
14. Meal Plan
The simple act of creating a weekly menu will save you a ton of money. You’ll eat out less. This alone will save you at least $10 per meal.
I use Eat at Home Meals so I never have to find recipes and make the grocery list for my shopping. And you can get 25% off with the code CAROLINE25.
15. Save Money on Cable
How much are you spending on cable? You could pay a lot less by just paying internet and subscribing to services like Hulu.
16. Downsize your home
If you are going to live on one income, you might have to move to a more affordable home. Look at your current rent or mortgage payment. Can you afford it with just one person working? If not, moving might be a good option for you.
17. Barter Services
What services or talents do you have? What about your friends? Everyone can save money together if you barter with each other.
Maybe you can offer to organize your friend’s kitchen in exchange for hair cuts for your kids.
18. Swap Babysitting with Family or Friends
One easy expense to cut is babysitting money. Offer to swap date-night babysitting with friends. This is money in your pocket.
19. Sell What You Don’t Need
Look around your house. Do you have electronics or purses that you could sell? This could be a way to earn a little extra cash.
Be safe and sell them online. You can either do this on Amazon, eBay, or on apps like Mercari.
20. Prioritize Expenses
After you do your financial audit and sit down to create your budget, prioritize your expenses. What is a need? What can wait until the next month?
This way, the most important expenses will be taken care of first.
21. Shop Only Discount
No matter what you buy, never pay full price. Clothes, food, accessories, or even concert tickets. Make it a habit to save money on everything you buy.
22. Find Local Resources
Look into local resources and begin to use them. Some churches offer date-night babysitting. Others have community meals once a month.
Look into organizations and resources that can supplement your budget.
23. Make Your Own Household Supplies
You will be amazed at how much money you can save just by making your own household supplies.
Here are some of the ways to save money by making things at home:
24. Change Your Mindset
This is perhaps one of the most important tips in the list. If you are going to live on one income, you will have to change how you feel about spending money. Instead of “oh I want that, I’m going to buy it now!” You might have to change it to, “I want that, how can we plan and make it happen? Or is it even important?”
25. Save Up for Things You Want
Part of changing your mindset includes saving up for things you want instead of impulsively buying them.
You definitely want to avoid going into debt to buy something. When you live on one income, you need to avoid credit card debt as much as possible.
If you see something you want or maybe even need, create a plan. Save up for it, and then buy it.
26. Get Term Life Insurance Policy
When you depend on one provider, it could be devastating to lose that income. Term life insurance is an investment that will provide money when you need it most.
27. Negotiate Lower Rates with Bills
Did you know you can actually negotiate lower rates on most bills? Spend some time calling your utility companies and discuss your current bill. You could be missing out on possible discounts.
28. Make Your Home The Place You Love to Be
Another huge money-suck is leaving the house and spending money while you’re away. Make your home a serene place that you adore. Maybe that means creating a reading nook or giving yourself a clean and organized crafting corner.
29. Buy in Bulk
Next, consider buying things like toilet paper, pantry staples, and toiletries in bulk. Look at your current budget and consider if a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco is affordable. If it isn’t, you can also look at buying in bulk on Amazon. With Amazon Prime, you can buy bulk orders with free shipping.
30. Keep Food Fresh
You’ll save a lot of money by keeping food fresh and reducing food waste. Literally, when you throw away fresh fruits and vegetables, you are throwing away money.
Don’t buy the same veggies twice.
Use proper containers, and think about shopping more frequently for items that don’t last very long.
31. Reuse Leftovers Creatively
As you create your menu plan, consider how you can use the leftovers in the next meal. Here are some really popular ideas:
- Roasted Chicken – Turn into Chicken noodle soup
- Taco meat – Reuse on a Taco Salad or burritos
- Pork chops – Use again in pork fried rice
32. Create A Plan With Your Partner
Living on one budget is tough. You’ll need to create a plan with your partner. Talk this out. How does each of you view spending? What about budgets? Hash out all your feelings and do this together.
You need to support each other through the months where money might be tighter than is comfortable. But you can do it if you do it together.
33. Adjust Tax Withholdings
Ask the main earner in the family to talk to their employer. By adjusting your tax withholdings, you could earn more money in your paycheck and still earn a refund at the end of the year.
Use this table to see how much you could save just by adjusting this number.
34. Use Coupons
Lots of people make couponing a lifestyle. By using coupons on top of sales prices, you could buy things at a super steep discount.
35. Practice Living on One Income
Before you make the leap, practice living on one income for a month or two. Take 100% of the other person’s income and put it into savings. Can you live on just the one yet?
Take what you learn from this experience and note where you need to make changes. What did you have the hardest time with?
36. Use Ibotta to Save Money
Ibotta is a rebate app. By scanning receipts and even shopping through the app you can actually earn money back. This money can then be used on other expenses like gas money and groceries.
37. Dry Clothes Outside
Just by drying your clothes outside (or inside using this easy to store drying rack), you could save every year on electricity. That doesn’t seem like much, but it varies depending on your dryer. And if you use dryer sheets you’ll save even more money.
Use the Energy Star Calculator to see how much you can save by not using your dryer.
38. Pay for Everything with Cash
Paying for groceries and entertainment with cash is a way to keep you within your budget. When the cash runs out, you are done spending money. It’s that simple.
This method works best for visual people. So if you prefer seeing the cash and you think that will motivate you to spend less, keep a monthly envelope of money for each category.
39. Set up Bills to Auto-Pay
Ask your cell-phone provider and all your other providers (car insurance, utilities) if they offer discounts for auto-paying bills.
This will also help you to avoid paying late fees.
40. Set up a Capsule Wardrobe
Is one of your biggest expenses clothes? You can save money really easily by creating a capsule wardrobe. Just keep everything simple and be able to mix and match it to make new outfits.
41. Bake Your Own Bread
One loaf of bread costs about $2. However, if you bake your own bread, you can cut this cost down to about $0.50 per loaf.
The Frugal Girl broke the cost down per ingredient so you can see the savings.
42. Learn How to Stretch Meals
There are lots of ways you can stretch meals to feed the entire family without expensive ingredients. Make soups out of broth, add beans to a casserole, and rice makes an excellent filler.
43. Recycle for Cash
Ask your local recycling center if they pay cash for any types of items. You could earn a little pocket change by recycling aluminum.
44. Wash Clothes in Cold Water
You can save another $60 a year just by washing your clothes in cold water. Using your hot water heater will increase your electric bill. And it isn’t more effective at washing clothes, either.
You can double these savings by making your own detergent that works for cold water (and takes 2 ingredients to make).
45. Budget Fun Money
Just like going a diet, budgeting your money can feel restricting. Don’t overspend as a way to rebel. Budget in some fun money so you can enjoy your new lifestyle.
46. Sell and Shop at Consignment Shops
Another way to save money is to sell and shop at consignment shops. This is especially important if you have a baby. Baby products (like infant bathtubs or high chairs) are expensive. Instead of spending too much on them, just buy them second-hand.
If you receive new items as gifts, sell them at consignment shops when you are done with them.
You can earn extra money and save money at the same time.
47. Ask for Gift Cards and Practical Items as Gifts
At holidays and birthdays, suggest to well-meaning friends and family members that they buy practical items as gifts.
You can also ask for gift cards. No, you don’t want to have to buy laundry detergent as a Christmas gift. However, you can use these gift cards to control what you buy. Maybe splurge on a home update that you have been putting off.
48. Do a Secret Santa or White Elephant Gift Exchange at Christmas
You can also save money at Christmas by suggesting to extended family members that you all do a one-gift exchange instead of buying for everyone.
Maybe draw a secret Santa or do a white elephant game. There are lots of fun ways to still do a holiday gift exchange that doesn’t have to cost everyone a lot of money.
49. Learn How to Fix Things Yourself
While not everything should be DIY’d (like difficult plumbing issues or electrical problems), some smaller problems can be solved yourself.
You can find a solution to almost any small fix online. Look for videos that show you how to fix things step by step.
50. Buy Used Items
Finally, buy used every chance you can. Browse thrift shops, look online, and save money on second-hand items. Often you can find things like cell phones and even game consoles at a large markdown simply because they are slightly used.
Living On One Income Is Possible
Yes, it will be tight. It absolutely will be a lifestyle change. But it’s possible to live on one income. Discuss it with your partner/spouse. Create a plan, and attack this new change.
Want to know how we manage to live on one income as a family at five? Here are the tips I personally did to make that happen for our family.