Although this question isn’t spoken out loud, I know that secretly in every person’s mind when they find out I stay home full-time is, “How do you survive on one income?”
Living in Canada, the cost of living is expensive. Food prices rise every year. Gas costs fluctuates so often and seem to only be getting higher and higher every month. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment can be anywhere between $1,200-$1,700. Throw in pets, transit costs, hobbies, recreational events, and money can be tight. For some, they may not have enough to pay the credit card bill.
So people wonder, “How do you successfully live on one income?” To be honest, I’m not quite sure myself. We just do! I believe it comes down to team effort and being blessed.
My husband works really hard to provide for us. I, in turn, make sure our money is going towards important things, whether it be towards groceries, food for the pets, living necessities, things that can be considered an investment in the long run, and that whatever comes into our home is used or will be used over time.
I also truly believe that God makes sure we always have enough money (and even more than enough) because when that credit card statement comes in, we always have enough and some left-over each month. We both do our part, and because we tithe and are honouring the Lord – Matt through his business and me through my homemaking, and keeping him at the center of our marriage – we are truly blessed and never lacking in anything we need.
But apart from the Lord watching over us and providing for us, there are many other little factors that come into play that make it possible for me to remain home full-time. Maybe you can adopt some of these habits into your own life, too.
Living on One Income Successfully: Financial Goals + Frugal Living
Eliminate a Vehicle
Yes, we actually did this! I never thought I would be that person who would sell her car to save on money. After a few months of consideration and a short trial run, my husband and I decided to just go for it. During this time, the cost of gas was getting out of control, and insurance rates are rising every year.
I drove my car mostly to run errands, and my husband was driving his car less and less to work and taking the company truck instead. This meant his car sat in the driveway 5-6 days a week, while I drove mine 3-4 days a week for a few hours max. So we ended up putting my car in the garage for a few months and tested out driving with one car for the summer, just to see how it would work out if we both needed the car at the same time.
And the results were great! I completely forgot I had a car. And we had no issue if one of us needed it. Matt would just say he had to take the car for work one day, and I’d adjust my schedule accordingly (the joy of time freedom). There were other ways of transport that I could use, or I’d plan to run errands later in the day once he returned home.
Now we save a few hundred dollars on gas, insurance, and car maintenance.
Thrifting is a great way to save money. Furniture, clothes, decor, books, and many other unique and interesting items can be found while thrifting.
When some think of thrifting, they think “old, used, worn-out and broken”.
But one thing you have to understand is that we live in a world of “consume, consume, consume”. This means many people follow the pattern of “out with the old, in with the new”. They follow what’s currently trending that season, or want the newest items on the market.
What those people may consider old, could actually be clothing that has been never worn with the tags still attached, or a book they read once that is practically brand new. Many items are in good condition and ready for a second life.
So don’t dismiss thrifting right off the bat. You might find some unique treasures you never thought you’d love.
Cutting Out Unnecessary Expenses
This can be tricky, but cutting out unnecessary money eating expenses helps a lot when living on one income.
We don’t have over-the-top phone plans or have cable TV. We don’t use food or meal delivery services, gym memberships or Amazon subscriptions. We don’t have any hobbies that cost us monthly to attend. To us, these are almost like little luxuries that add up each month that we are paying for, but don’t necessarily need.
Gym membership? Nope, walk the dog in the park for an hour.
Meal delivery services? I can grocery shop myself or cook at home.
Cable TV? We have Netflix and Youtube.
By living this way, we save so much money on both our ends. Not bashing anyone who has or does any of these things. If it benefits you or works for your family by using these services and subscriptions, that’s awesome because you’re getting your money’s worth! But for us, it isn’t worth it, so we decided against it, once again saving us a good chunk of money that can go towards something else.
Dollar Store Shopping
Yes, I totally shop at the dollar store. No shame. Some people hate it, mostly because “cheap” is thought as “poor quality”. I understand. And there are some things I do not buy from the dollar store due to quality. However, there are plenty of great items!
Special occasion cards, wrapping supplies, soda, candy, hair accessories, picture frames, kitchen utensils, baking supplies, baskets, organization tools, crafts, and home decor. These are some of the things I personally have bought or often buy from the dollar store.
I have had no problems with any of the items I have purchased, and have saved tons of money this way. Just be wise at the same time on what you are buying.
Canning, Baking, & Gardening
I think we can all agree that a majority of people’s income goes towards food, whether it be going to the grocery store, buying a coffee, or going out for dinner with the family. But it’s the little things you can do that can have a large impact.
Canning is a great skill to have. You can ferment vegetables, and make homemade jam or sauces. These items can be stored and preserved, lasting a long time if done correctly, and then you won’t have any need to buy those items. And you control what ingredients are being put in, too!
Starting a garden and growing your own vegetables, herbs, and fruits is not only much healthier and organic, but you will also have such an abundance of produce, you won’t need to buy from the grocery store! And with all that extra fruit and veggies, you can use all the ingredients you have grown yourself for canning! It’s a win-win situation! If that is not possible for you, farmers markets are the next best choice. Support your local farmers or small family businesses if you can.
Also, baking desserts or bread from scratch are other money-saving alternatives. I’ve recently taken up making homemade bread to save a little bit of money since we eat bread almost every day. And it’s not as hard as I thought it would be! I even purchased a book all about baking bread for $7. I can’t wait to attempt the other kinds of bread and experiment with different flours.
Clothing, Accessories, & Cosmetics
I love shopping just like any other woman, so going cold-turkey is not possible for me. Instead, I try to shop intentionally. I tell myself often I do not need a new wardrobe for every season or that I need to buy whatever is on-trend.
However, if I see something I absolutely love, that fits my style, or I know I will use or wear often, then I buy it. Most of the time, I’ll usually give it a few weeks to a month or so to think about it, and if it is still on my mind and is available, then I’ll buy it.
This is a great mindset to have instead of being impulsive for every single thing you see.
Shopping intentionally also applies to craft supplies, books, home decor, gardening tools, etc. Whatever your weakness may be, always ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Do I already have this or something similar? Will I use it? Will it benefit me, my spouse, my family? Does it have a place in my home?”
⇒Use and Finish What You Already Have⇐
Use every bit of product available in the bottles or containers of your hygiene products, such as body wash, hair products, and skincare you currently own before buying more or something new.
Sometimes I’ll buy in bulk if there is a great bundle deal, and I’ll put it away in storage. This means I don’t need to buy any replacements for at least a few months.
I do, however, need to constantly remind myself that even though I would love to try this new skin serum or I love the scent of this body wash, I already have something similar at home that I need to finish and that works just fine.
Finish what you already have before buying more and spending unnecessary money when it’s not yet time.
The same thing applies to make-up. Use and finish what you have first before buying another blush or mascara. Love the make-up collection you currently have, and only buy something new if you truly love and want it.
Use up whatever food you have in your house before buying more (unless you are stocking up and buying in bulk).
People can acquire so many pantry items and half the time, they sit in there for months or even years. When it comes to the fridge, you may have a jar of mayo sitting in the back that you completely forgot about or a container of cheese that has now moulded because you’ve been using the newer block you recently purchased.
See what you have, use it up and finish it (or be close to) before adding it to the grocery list. Sometimes this can make you get creative and make interesting dishes!
♥ 10 Stay-at-Home Date Night Ideas That You Will Actually Want to Do
♥ 10 Different Ways I Grocery Shop for Cheap and Save Money
♥ 10 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Beautiful for Summer on a Budget
Cheap Date Nights
I love going out as much as any other woman, but now that I’m married, my husband is no longer required to win me over with extravagant dates. Not that he doesn’t treat me every once in a while or take me out on special occasions, he totally does! But now that we are one income and I see how much money we have, and since our relationship is on a different level, I no longer need to be wined and dined every single week (multiple times a week even), as he did during the dating phase of our relationship.
We like to save those expensive date nights for special occasions and find cheaper alternatives for regular date nights. It’s the simple dates that I adore now, the ones that can be done in the comfort of our home.
A reason for me being at home is so that I can cook homemade meals from scratch, seeing that what we are consuming is healthy and will nourish our bodies.
By cooking at home, we save tons of money, which allows us to afford to eat out whenever we do feel like it.
We like to occasionally order a pizza on a Friday night, have a lunch date at our favourite sushi place, or go out for Korean BBQ with friends. We do not restrict ourselves when it comes to eating out, but we do consider it as a treat, so we don’t do it too often.
It’s about finding a balance. We make sure that we do eat all the food we have at home, not wasting anything if possible, and if we have some spare cash, we will treat ourselves to something out of the home.
Whenever we have something on our mind that we want to do or have, whether it be travelling, buying a new car or a house in the future, we come up with a game plan and have financial goals for ourselves. How much do we want to spend this month? How much can we save? If we do this each month, when can we afford this?
This is crucial to discuss, especially if you’re engaged or married.
If both partners work (whether inside or outside the home), your earrings are now pooled into one income. There is no “his and hers”. You share it. Is one person’s income going to pay bills and the other groceries? One income for spending and the other into savings?
If it is only one income coming in from one spouse, it is even more so important to discuss financial goals/plans. Is another income needed? Can we budget and save money by one person remaining at home? What will our finances look like in the long run?
It is necessary and even beneficial to discuss your financial goals and what you wish to accomplish in the next year, 5 years, and 10 years. Talk about budgets, eliminating debt, and saving goals with your spouse.
⇒Living a Comfortable Lifestyle⇐
As much as I love the luxuries life has to offer and possibly living a more luxurious lifestyle, I personally feel so much happier and free by living a more comfortable and simple life.
To me, living comfortably is living within our means, living with intention, using my time and our money wisely, and doing things that will benefit me personally, as well as my spouse, my animals, and my family.
Things such as gardening and picking my own vegetables, baking bread or making jam from scratch, reading and always learning to expand my knowledge and skills, and using what I already have in my home, what’s around me, and making things work is what I consider a simple and comfortable lifestyle.
Even though all of that sounds like work, I genuinely enjoy doing those things, because I know that in one way or another, it is beneficial for myself and my family. That’s why I decided to stay home and quit my job, to stop career chasing. By having the time freedom to do these things, I could achieve and live that comfortable and simple lifestyle I yearned for. There is no stress, no anxiety, and very little to worry about.
Once you decide that you no longer want to keep up with what society expects of you – having a giant house, the best car, designer clothes, eating at fancy restaurants every weekend, having expensive hobbies, etc., and you realize that maybe a more simple and comfortable lifestyle sounds more appealing. Not only is way more affordable and you save tons of money, but you may also feel better as an individual, healthier and happier even.
Your happiness increases, your health can improve by eating more homemade and nourishing foods, and of course, finances will grow because you’re not wasting it on unnecessary things just to keep up an appearance.
It doesn’t mean you suddenly need to stop doing enjoyable activities, such as going to the movies, eating out, buying new clothes, etc., it just means you begin living with intention.
When tempted to spend, ask yourself, “Do I need this? Will I use it? Do I have something similar at home? Can I wait till later to buy it?” Really think about it! Be stern and answer these questions to yourself before making a purchase.
Sometimes we spend money without a thought. It’s so easy to swipe a card and think nothing of it. However, once you get into this mindset, you realize how much you bring into your home that you do not necessarily need, and that it’s money that shouldn’t be spent, but can be saved.
I truly believe that shopping with intention is a vital key in saving money and being able to live on one income. And as much as you wish to keep up with the trends and purchasing the newest products on the market, maybe cutting back in certain areas is something to consider. Using what you already own, learning some skills that save you money (gardening, cooking, sewing), and cutting out unnecessary expenses helps a ton!
And to answer your questions if you haven’t figured it out already:
No, we are not broke and are barely scraping by each month.
No, we are not rich either, but we can afford things when we need them. However, with the Lord watching over us and providing, I do consider us rich in that regard, and because I refuse to have a “poor man mentality”.
No, I do not contribute financially, but my homemaking skills, homesteading knowledge, and everything else I do for our family is 100 times more important than any amount of money I could bring in (words my husband has said to me when I asked if I should go back to work).
If we want something, we get it. If we want to do something, we go out and do it. We don’t let money hold us back, because we both do our part in saving and spending wisely.
So, yes, it is possible to live on one income! My husband and I are proof that it can be done, as well as plenty of other young couples, some who start off married life with absolutely nothing to their name, yet live on one income and do not fall into deep debt. Just be wise, have faith, and trust in the Lord that He will look after you, as long as you do your part, as well.