A few years ago we went from being a two income household to one. I had to resign from a corporate position that provided more than half of our total household income. My job was transferring me even further away from my home, which meant being away from my family for at least 12 hours each day. It was not a decision we took lightly, but at the time it was the best choice we could make for our family. So how did we do it? By budgeting and watching carefully how we spent every penny. Was it easy? No, but I think that many families would be surprised how living on one income could be a reality if they simply trimmed the excess. So today I’m going to share with you some of the things we did that enabled us to live on one income.
7 Tips For Living On One Income
1. Lower your housing expense.
When we looked at our expenses, we knew that our biggest expense was our mortgage. We went ahead and took advantage of the low interest rates and refinanced, which decreased our payment by $150 per month ($1,800 in yearly savings). You could also consider moving to a less expensive home, or to a home that is energy efficient. We had to make that decision last year for our family. We moved to a town that is just a few minutes away from my husband’s business. We estimate that we’re saving at least $400 per month in our current home ($4,800 per year) because our heating/cooling bills have decreased dramatically and my husband is spending a lot less on gas to commute.
2. Lower your food expense.
Our second largest expense was food. One of the biggest culprits for this was eating out several times per week. Since I would work long hours and was simply too tired to make a meal, it was easy for me to pick up take-out on the way home. We would also go out to eat on the weekends to unwind from the long work week. We were spending $100-$200 per week easily. Now we make a meal plan, cook our meals, coupon (I only do it for paper products) and only go out to eat occasionally. Each month I try to find new ways to lower our food bill even further. Being more aware of what we spend and making meals at home, has saved us thousands each year.
3. Cut the line.
This is where you will need to evaluate what’s truly a need or a want. Up until recently we only had Netflix and Amazon Prime as our only source of entertainment. A $100 cable bill was not an expense that we could justify and I knew it had to go. Surprisingly, we didn’t miss it. We were able to catch a lot of our favorite shows online for free. There are even some websites that will live stream sports events. We got rid of our house phone since it was never used (not even our parents called it). We also, evaluated our cell phone bill and changed to a network that offered a much cheaper family plan. Also if your family doesn’t use the internet much, ditch it, and instead go to the library where it’s free.
4. Adjust your tax withholding.
This is one that gets overlooked very often. If you go from a two income household down to one, your tax bracket is also going to decrease. Make sure you consult a tax professional first, but once you find out what tax bracket you fall under, adjust your withholdings accordingly. You can do this by simply filling out the proper paperwork with your employer. When less federal taxes are being withdrawn from your pay (or whomever is working), the higher your take home pay will be.
5. Negotiate your utilities.
Gather your latest utility bills and contact each one to find out how it can be lowered. Yes, it’s time consuming, but well worth the effort. You will find that most companies will be helpful and try to work with you. If you don’t get a representative willing to help, simply hang up and try again until you do. You should also try to place your utilities on a budget plan. At the least, your heating source and electric. I like to do this because I know what my utility amount will be regardless of the season so I can budget accordingly. I have also been able to negotiate our insurance rates, electric and internet.
6. Stop trying to live like the Joneses.
So you just found out that your best friend bought a brand new home along with a car to match. Unfortunately, some people simply need a situation like this as motivation to go out and spend. We often mimic those that surround us, but when we mimic the financial decisions of others, we can easily put ourselves in financial ruin. Remember that just because someone appears to have it all, doesn’t always mean they are able to afford it. Think of your long-term financial goals and don’t be a victim of the green-eyed monster called envy.
7. Learn to be content.
Learn to be content with what you have and what truly matters in life. It’s silly to obsess over a new piece of furniture or designer shoes when life is way more valuable than things. Spend time with your family and loved ones doing things that don’t require spending money. Go for a walk, play a game or make a meal together. Whatever you do, make the best of the season that you’re currently in. When we had zero money in the bank and little to spend on anything besides bills, we were the happiest. We made the best of our situation and focused on each other, and because of this, we’re now more appreciative of what we have been blessed with. Our focus is on creating memories and not acquiring stuff.
So what are some ways your family saves? As always, I would love to hear from you!