Living on one income

I remember going back to work six weeks after my first baby was born. I think that was one of the hardest things I have ever done! I cried and cried my first day back in the office. Thankfully my only task that day was catching up on emails and phone messages.

When we became pregnant with our second child, I wanted to do everything in my power to have the ability to stay at home with my kids. After her birth in 2009, my dream became a reality!

I get asked a lot how we can afford to live on one income with such a large family, so I decided to share some of the things we’ve done to make it possible!

1. Use the envelope system (a.k.a. use cash to pay for purchases). It is a statistical fact that people who use cash for their purchases spend 20% less than people who use credit cards. Budget how much you want to spend each pay period on groceries, gas, eating out, etc. Take your first envelope and write “Groceries” on it, along with the dollar amount you budgeted. Repeat for each category on a new envelope. The next payday, make a cash withdrawal and fill each envelope with the designated dollar amount. When the envelope is empty, your budgeted amount for that category has been spent and you need to wait until the next pay period to fill it up again.

2. Stop eating out. Okay, maybe not altogether, but try to limit it. This is the area I struggled in the most at the beginning. I LOVE eating out and consider it one of my hobbies. (Does that even count as a hobby??) Here is a good test to see if you have the same problem we did: go through your last month’s checkbook register and add up how many times you ate out. Be sure to include all fast food, gas station, sit-down restaurant, and vending machine food purchases. The results may shock you; all those little purchases add up fast! Set a realistic monthly eating out budget (ex: $100.00 or $25 each week) and stick to it!

3. Buy things second-hand. There are many great baby and kids’ items you can buy used at thrift stores, garage sales, consignment sales, on Craigslist, and Facebook selling pages. Buying used clothing and other necessities will help you get what you need while being able to save the difference you would’ve spent had you bought things brand-new at the store. For those of you with babies or toddlers, cloth diapering is an inexpensive and easy alternative to buying disposable diapers! Gently used cloth diapers are easy to come by and can help get your stash started. We also get hand-me-downs from friends and family members whose kids have outgrown their clothes.

4. Cut out the cable and satellite. I know, a lot of people think we are crazy for doing this, but weeding out wants from needs is key in making a single income work. And you know what? We spend a lot more quality time together as a family since making that cut. We also use Netflix now so we still have the option of watching things besides our DVDs (because, let’s be real here, I can only watch Frozen so many times before my head starts to meltdown).

5. Shop and stock up using coupons. This one is fairly new to me. I started complaining within the last two months and have saved so much money, I can’t believe I didn’t put more effort into this sooner! My favorite website so far is TotallyTarget ( because they lay out the most recent Target ad and coupon match-ups for you. All you have to do is print the list, gather your coupons, and head to the store. You can also use these following (FREE) apps to help save even more money: ibotta, Checkout51, Receipt Hog, and Target Cartwheel. I’m sure there are more that I’m missing but I’m still learning myself. 🙂 Feel free to share your favorites!

6. Get out of debt and stay out of debt!!!! This has been a challenge while living on one income, but it is definitely possible. We follow Dave Ramsey’s financial plan (Total Money Makeover/Financial Peace University… Same principles, different names) and it has really been life changing in a good way! We started the plan two years ago and have paid off over $20,000! We still have a long ways to go, but it is reassuring to see progress. Check out his website ( and see what he is all about. Checkout one of his books (I highly recommend The Total Money Makeover) at your local library. Dave will walk you through the baby steps so you can become debt-free and live a more full life.

There are MANY other things you can do to make staying at home work for your family. Ask friends and family members how they are able to afford staying at home on one income to gather more ideas. Find what works best for your family and make cuts where you need to. The small sacrifices you make now to be at home with your kids will pay back in big ways down the road!


5 thoughts on “Living on one income

  1. I have a eating out problem to! I started using shopmium. I like it because you get the money in your paypal account right away, no waiting for checks or a minimum amounts needed. I will check out that totally target website. I do most all my coupon shopping at target and cvs.

    Living on one income is totally doable, you just have to live intentionally.

  2. Pingback: Reasons You Shouldn’t Be A Stay-At-Home Mom | Coffee Mugs and Sippy Cups

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