Skip to Content

7 Tips For Living On One Income

Sharing simple tips that enabled our family to live on one income!

Can a family survive on one income? Yes! Although we had little time to plan for it, we were able to make it on one income for several years. Here I share 7 things our family did that enabled us to live on one income.
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.

How did we do it? By budgeting and watching carefully how we spent every penny.

Was it easy? Not at all, 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.

1. Lower your housing expenses

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 expenses

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 as our only source of entertainment before adding Hulu Live.

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 withholdings

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!

How to save money when you're barely surviving2

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. jessie says:

    Spmething I’ve done is trading services. When my son was born, i wanted newborn & family photos, but we had NO money. So, i instead traded crocheted photo props for the photo session (cd included). I utilize my talents/abilities to earn extra money or trade for things we couldn’t normally afford.

    TThese are great tips! How do you negotiate your utilities??

  2. Michelle says:

    One of the things we did was to consign childrens items at a semi annual church consignment sale where we paid a fee and kept 80 percent of the sales proceeds. We would get a preview shop night and would purchase items we needed for the children at the preview. We could usually estimate what our sales would be and could stay on budget with purchases in the same amount. This helped us as they grew up to buy things for the next stage.

  3. […] few years ago I found myself in a situation where I suddenly became a stay at home mom without little to no preparation. It was a scary and uncertain period for our family, but I can […]

  4. Lina says:

    Great tips! These are helpful for anyone who is trying to save money and live more frugally! Thank you for sharing!

  5. These are very nice tips. I am now trying to find ways for us to cut down on our expenses. My income serves as more than half the income as well and it’s so easy to get carried away with spending. I think back to when I made a third of what I make now and everything was fine.

  6. Darice Rene says:

    This is such a great post. It seems so easy and simple to do too. We’ve started down this road – not because of going to one income but because it’s just smart for our finances. The tip I loved the most was #7 being content. That’s huge in a society that rewards the “Haves” with all its commercialism. Those who can be content are usually the most peaceful and the most joyful. That’s what I’m striving for.

    • Suzy says:

      I think that #7 is important, but one thing I noticed being touched on was groceries. I was surprised by the fact that no one mentioned OAMC. Once A Month Cooking. I thought every one knew about this. Since I stared doing it about 4 years ago I have saved thousands of dollars. I was ambitious and started huge and spent a lot to get the process started, however for me it paid off. The concept is that you plan your meals for a month and freeze them. I found that I was feeding a family of 5 and sometimes 6, breakfast, lunch and dinners for $400.00 every three months. So about $133 a month. I did this by utilizing sale ads, coupons, and outlet stores (mostly bread stores). I also stopped buying name brand cereal in the box and went to the bags of Malt-O-Meal cereal. I can sometimes get them on sale for about $2.98 for the large bags. This is when I stock pile them. I also buy the large bags of pancake mix and make my own waffles and pancakes then freeze them. The kids pop them in the toaster like Eggo but cheaper. I also do French Toast sticks, these are great for a change. If you live in an apartment I would recommend starting really small, like freezing just a couple of extra meals. Most of the research has already been done on what freezes well and what doesn’t, but it also has to do with what you like to eat. I don’t have to live on one income but I choose to, I like the security of knowing my home will be paid for in a couple of years, we don’t have car payments, and we don’t have credit card debit. The rest goes into savings so that we have something “for those just in case” situations that pop up.

  7. […] biggest expenses such as housing. Can you refinance? Or move to a more affordable home? When we lost one of our incomes several years ago, we decided to refinance our mortgage which decreased our monthly payment by $150 […]

  8. Jessica says:

    Just saw your post. Its great advice! There are no coincidences in life. I came across this as I am nearing a journey into full time student, and out of full time employment for the first time in 12 years. Great encouragemnet. 😀

  9. […] 5 Habits That Are Sabotaging Your Income 7 Tips For Living On One Income […]

  10. Ever since we’ve had kids, we’ve lived on one income (and a little side income from me), but when we started paying off student loans in a hurry, things got as tight as they’ve ever been. We took #1 to the extreme by moving into my in-law’s unfinished basement (rent-free) while we pay off loads of law school debt. It allows us to make progress we otherwise could not make.

    • Jesenia Montanez says:

      That’s awesome Stephanie. I remember reading your story before, you’re truly an inspiration!

  11. […] 7 Tips For Living On One Income-7 things our family did that enabled us to live on one income. […]

  12. Nita Martinez says:

    Jesinia, another way of saving would be to watch for your weekly sales papers.
    Buy what’s on sale and make your dinner from your sale items.
    Easily done.

    • Jesenia Montanez says:

      Great tip Nita! I completely agree and try to do this myself. 🙂

  13. […] 7 Tips For Living On One Income says: May 16 at […]

  14. Alisha says:

    I love this! It’s really inspiring and helpful considering we are about to drop down to one income. We’ve finally agreed for me to go back to school in the fall and it’s going to be rough. Luckily our vehicles are paid off so that’s a plus! But I’ve been trying to plan ahead so I have a huge shelf in my craft room where I’m stockpiling grocery items with long shelf lives and basic necessities like toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. I BOGO and every second item I get goes to that stockpile and won’t be touched until it’s needed. Thankfully I’ll only be in school for one year and I can go back to work. I will definitely reference everything you’ve said in my preparation!

    • Deitra says:

      SO smart to stockpile like that. I’ll start student teaching in the spring so will have to walk away from a REALLY well paying job. We’ve talked about building our bank accounts up, but didn’t even consider the other ways we could prepare. Genius!!

    • Jesenia says:

      Hi Alisha! I know you must be feeling a bit anxious and excited all at once. Having no car loans is HUGE, we have also chosen to stay away from having car payments and it makes a world of difference in our budget. Stockpiling, meal planning and couponing will all help you save. I also recommend creating a budget and try to go over it together at least a couple of times per month. You will be surprised how one week your budget looks perfect and the next week you realize that you’re overpaying in an area you may have overlooked. It sounds like you’re well on your way to a one income household, best of luck to you in your new journey! 🙂

  15. Sybil Brun says:

    This was a super-inspiring and helpful article! Love your blog, Jesenia!

    • Jesenia says:

      Thank you Sybil! It’s not easy, but with God’s help and a strict budget it’s certainly possible. 🙂

  16. Summer Stone says:

    This was a lovely and insightfully written post. Thank you for your encouraging words of advice and wisdom!

    • Jesenia says:

      Thank you Summer! Love your name by the way. 🙂

  17. Great tips! Our first baby is due in two weeks, and after the school year ends, I will be staying home with the baby. We’re in the process of transitioning from 2 teacher incomes to 1, so these are all great reminders of things we can do to make the transition easier.

    • Jesenia says:

      Congratulations!! It does take a lot of discipline, but it definitely can be done. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  18. Marlin says:

    Very helpful tips !! We were just switch our internet service because the previous company keep raising their price. So, we shopped around and found something that fit our budget.

    • Jesenia says:

      That’s a great time to switch. I’m ready to due the same with my cell provider for the 2nd time now. Glad you found one that works! 🙂

  19. For my husband and I, the biggest thing we had to do was create a budget and talk about it. We had somewhat made a budget before, but never really reviewed it or talked about it. Now, at least once a week we are looking into it and making sure we have things under control.

    • Jesenia says:

      Yes, a budget is super important. Otherwise, it’s like making blind decisions since you truly don’t know what you can afford. I really need to get better with looking over it more often. Thanks for the tip!

  20. Leah Sannar says:

    These are great tips! my husband and I are currently trying to get by on one income and it is hard work! I’m definitely going to call the utility company! Fluid your blog in SITS Share Fest.

    • Jesenia says:

      That’s awesome Leah! Yes, it’s hard and sometimes even frustrating. I just try to think of my long term financial goals to keep me motivated. Glad you found the tips helpful. 🙂

  21. Danielle says:

    I love all of the tips, but SO with you on the last one. So often we think that external things will make us happier or we need to get this/that overlooking the blessings we have right in front of us. Sure, it’s nice/fun to have luxuries, but if you have no one to share them with, it may not be as fun as you’d think?!

    Great post!

    Visiting from #SITSSharefest
    Come by to visit me at

    • Jesenia says:

      Absolutely Danielle. A couple of years ago we were faced with the decision of earning more income, but being away from the home longer. We made our decision on what we truly value. 🙂

  22. Sarah Day says:

    Wise advice. It isn’t easy, but it can be done!

    • Jesenia says:

      Yes it can! Thanks Sarah. 🙂

  23. Desiree M. says:

    Excellent article! I never thought about talking to the utility companies to negotiate a payment plan. I think I’ll do that this week. I’m still recovering from how cold it’s been. My poor energy bill.

    • Jesenia says:

      I know what you mean Desiree, this winter has been brutal to us too. Yes, most (I really believe all) will work with you in some way. Thanks for visiting!

  24. Your last point, learn to be content, is possibly both the most important and the hardest. I know people who have everything, a large house, multiple cars, etc, but are miserable from stress, and people who can barely make ends meet but are happy all the time. Doing your best and then accepting that you can be happy where you are in life is an important lesson. (Hello from Thrifty Thursday.)

    • Jesenia says:

      Yes Melissa! I couldn’t agree with you more. Memories over things is what I always say. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  25. I’m single but these are still great tips to follow. I am working on starting my own business, so I can’t afford things a lot of my other friends can and it sometimes sucks, but you’re right, you shouldn’t try to keep up with them! I am now comfortable saying no when they ask me to go out to dinners or happy hours…I just don’t want to throw away my money ont hat stuff! Who knows if they call me cheap or something, but I need to save what I can now since I don’t have a full-time income. Great post!

    • Jesenia says:

      Love your attitude Patty! Make sacrifices now and reap the rewards later in life. Before you know it, your friends will be asking you for tips. 🙂 Oh and congrats on your new business! I checked out and liked your business page, social media marketing is hot right now, I’m sure you’ll do great!

  26. Your final point is your best. We need to learn to be content with what we have. Living on one salary is possible. But it’s a choice we make.

    • Jesenia says:

      I agree Shannon, it’s best to embrace the different seasons in our lives and enjoy the simple things in life. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

      • Amy says:

        How do you negotiate with the utilities? What do you say to them? I’ve never considered that this was even possible. I’d love to know how to go about it. And thanks for the fantastic tips!

  27. I’d never thought about calling to negotiate the utilities before. Great tip! I took a pay cut to work from home and our biggest challenge was cutting our food costs… it’s still a challenge, but we definitely eat in more than we used to!

    • Jesenia says:

      Food is always an ongoing challenge, just take it one step at a time and set a goal to lower your bill each month. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way. And yes, ALL utilities can be negotiated. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. 🙂