how to survive on one income
Advice / Wisdom,  Family,  Finance

How to Survive on One Income?

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The economy isn’t what it used to be, friends.  20 some years ago it was completely acceptable and attainable for families to get by in a one income household.  Nowadays, we see moms dropping off their newborns to daycare, relatives homes, leaving them with dad who just got off third shift work himself, and hustling off to a 9-5 (or more) job.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with moms working, heck – I say more power to ya if you can juggle it all! – but… lots of moms don’t have a choice.  There are some families who want mom to stay at home and raise the kids, but they just can’t make it work.  Financially, it’s a huge burden to the family and just sadly not an option.  What are some ways to save money and bring mom back home?  I’m glad you asked.

The choice to stay home

Listen, I’m not a financial expert by any stretch of the word, but I do know how to pinch pennies and stretch food.  Almost exactly 6 years ago today, I left my job as a waitress at popular chain restaurant, Cracker Barrel, awaiting my middle daughter’s birth.  I had 3-4 weeks until she was due, and boy was I exhausted!  Being a server/waitress is hard work, and not for the faint of heart.  When I left, I actually had every intention of returning 6 weeks after she was born, as that’s when my family leave pay would run out, and I assumed I’d be ready to go back.  Boy, was I wrong!  The moment she was born and I looked at her, I realized how wrong I was.  I did not want to ever put her down!  Well obviously, 6 weeks came and went very quickly, and I had phone calls asking when I’d be returning to work.  I had a chat with my husband and we decided that we’d try out this “me staying home and raisin’ babies” thing.  After all, I was also breastfeeding, and yes I could have pumped, but I did not respond well to a pump, and I likely would have just given up.

Here we are 6 years later, and it has not been easy, but by the grace of God, and some careful planning/saving/cutting corners/budgeting, we are still kicking.  Below are some tips that have helped immensely with transitioning to and sustaining ourselves as a One Income Household.



Extreme Couponing always fascinated me.  How did these women have entire rooms jam-packed from floor to ceiling with toiletries, potato chips, and more?!  I had to find out!  Well, turns out it isn’t quite that simple.  I mean, yes, it’s possible obviously, but it takes some real dedication.  It’s basically a full-time job to see results like that.  I was going for something more along the lines of shaving a good 25% off of our weekly grocery bill, and I typically was able to do that, and more, without much time investment.  I’d say I spent maybe 3-5 hours on any given week looking for coupon deals, making my menu plan/shopping list, and going out finding said deals.  Some of the sites I loved to use were:

  • Living Rich With Coupons – She posts deals daily, both online and retail stores.  I was really only concerned with Acme (which most websites don’t have cause Acme is limited to here in the DelMarVa region.) and Shoprite
  • Living Well Spending Less – This started out as a couponing/recipe/home tips blog, but has now transitioned into a self-help sort of blog too, very good reads, even if you don’t coupon
  • – This is a site where you can print online coupons, 2 per device.  They also have a mobile app, which is great in a family full of ipods and phones, I used to print a ton!
  • Ibotta – This rebate app works by scanning your receipt.  It is great because it’s not always brand specific, so you can sometimes get .50 back just for buying any brand bread, etc. and they also have online offers, which again, I don’t really use.

Very seldom do I coupon anymore, and that’s for several reasons.  One, to be 100% truthful, we eat a lot different now than we used to, and, that means 95% of the food products we’d use coupons on, we no longer purchase.  I do occasionally pick up a good deal on toiletries, paper products, or stock up on items for our church when I see a deal, but I typically don’t seek these deals out – if I see them, I see them.  Also, there’s the time thing.  Time is money, so you need to figure out what your time is worth to you.  Of course this is going to vary for everyone.  So ultimately, if you’re not avoiding certain foods, have some free time, and think it’s something you’d enjoy, you can really save a ton of money with a little careful planning using coupons.  I say try it and see how it goes!  There’s definitely a rush in the checkout line when your total comes up over $100 before coupons, and you know it’ll be $15 after the cashier is done scanning!


I thought this deserved a section of it’s own, cause it’s not technically a coupon, and it works quite differently than the above apps/websites.  Rakuten is a cash-back program, where you can just install it and forget it! It runs in the background (taking up very little if any CPU) and when you visit a website that it works with (and there are tons) a little popup comes up in the upper right hand corner letting you know there is a cashback opportunity there!  It’s a really great way to save up cash without even realizing it, and they also have a killer referral program!  For every friend who signs up using your link and makes their first purchase ($30+), you both get a $30 bonus!  Now that’s something that’ll make your liver quiver!  Rakuten has been around forever and is a completely safe and widely used company, so I think you’ll love them.

Buying in bulk

This option is great if you have a family, or extended family/friends to split things with you.  Costco, BJ’s & Sam’s Club are all Wholesale / Bulk buying stores, which can save you big bucks if you know what to look for.  That said, some things aren’t cheaper, and you can find a better deal on Amazon or locally.  Keep in mind, these stores charge an annual Membership Fee, so you’ll have to take that into account also when deciding if shopping there is for you or not.  Costco is my personal favorite, as I find a bigger selection of organic/vegan products there, however each store varies by location too, so while my local Costco is great, BJ’s is terrible and Sam’s Club is way too far for me to have an opinion, you may find the opposite true for you.  I can speak for at least Costco and BJ’s when I say that you can Try before you buy, they offer a trial membership, and also typically a full refund if you’re unsatisfied for any reason, even after the entire year is up!

Batch cooking/Freezer meals/Scratch cooking

This is an excellent way to save big and waste less.  Towards the end of my last 2 pregnancies, I did a month’s worth of freezer meals, and let me tell you, it was Amazing!  It’s such a great feeling knowing that you have dinner in the freezer, ready to be heated up and served, as needed.  That said, I had the itch to get back in the kitchen in under a week with my third child, but it was amazing having all that food there for the evenings when I was absolutely exhausted.  I plan to implement this again soon, and no, I’m not preggo!  Don’t get me wrong, I still love cooking, but some days I’m just not feelin’ it, or we are just so busy and resort to takeout (gross!).  Cooking from scratch is an excellent way to save money too.  8 Flour Tortillas costs about $2.50, and they have barely any flavor, I can make 10 homemade Flour Tortillas for under $1 and they taste like heaven! With proper planning and preparation, you can save big bucks on your grocery budget – a huge money sink for most families!

Wait for sales

Laptop broke?  Need a faster blender?  Itching for a new pair of shoes?  If you can, wait until a sale!  Black Friday/Cyber Monday can be great opportunities to save big, if you can hold out.  This goes for groceries too, plan your menu around seasonal produce, rather than making a menu off of “what you have a taste for”, Cauliflower is typically $4.99 a head here where we live, but once a month or so it goes on sale and I go Cauliflower-Crazy when it does! Shop seasonally.

Buy used

This is a way of life and it will be difficult for some to adopt.  Personally, I never buy my kids new clothes, with the exception of them needing a specific item for a specific purpose, we shop local kid’s Resales/Consignment Sales, yard sales, rotate hand-me-downs, etc.  I typically do the same for myself and my husband, too, although honestly I can’t remember the last time I bought myself clothes at all.  Kids are so rough on their clothes/shoes that it doesn’t pay to buy new.  My daughter’s clothes especially are barely fit for passing down once she’s grown out of them.  Obviously underwear and socks are bought new.  Yikes.

Take care of what you have

This is a given, but it needs to be said.  Our generation likes to toss broken things rather than fix them, have y’all noticed?  Now, to be fair, They don‘t make stuff like they used to, but some items are durable and fixable, use common sense here.  Yeah, if your kid has a plastic Made in China toy and it breaks, I say chuck it when they’re not looking, but if your wooden chair leg breaks or something?  Perhaps it can be repaired instead of replaced.


Honestly, this one is so crucial if you’re a believer.  I truly believe 110% that when the Lord says “test me in this” when speaking of giving Him our first fruits, that he is serious.  I’ve seen both sides of this, and while I find it uncouth to speak specifically when it comes to tithing, I can say with certainty that giving God what’s His results in financial blessing, and the opposite is true for not tithing.

Make a budget

This can take on many forms, and there is no right or wrong way.  I’ve heard amazing things about Dave Ramsey and his program, although we have not personally done it.  I find that if we are disciplined and keep envelopes/a ledger that it’s fairly easy to stay on track here.  There are an insane amount of resources online to help you with this, and I do plan to eventually show how we do ours.  So stay on the lookout for that if it’s something you may be interested in.  You can sign up for our email list, and you’ll get updates whenever I add new posts.

Don’t go in the red at the bank

This one is obvious, but what I mean more specifically is that some banks charge overdraft fees.  I’m not perfect, OK?  and sometimes it happens.  A few overdraft fees, even from going a measly few cents into the negative, really hurts when you already don’t have money, right?  Keep your check register up to date, and remember to account for any automatic withdraws you have set up.

Pay bills in advance when possible

This is great if you’re able because

  1. you won’t forget to pay the bill, which could result in a shutoff/extra fees/interest
  2. some companies offer a discount if you pay 6-12mo. in advance.  Ask!

Cut the cord – cancel Cable TV

Let’s get serious here, how many channels do you actually watch on television?  For me, that was an easy one, none!  I very rarely watched television, and when I did it was either kids shows or movies, both of which we can watch on Netflix / Amazon Prime / Pureflix / Youtube.  Guess how much I watch those services right now?  Next to none!  I know I’m not old OK?  but hear me out, the older I get, the less time I like to waste.  I have dreams, big dreams, and watching arbitrary shows isn’t going to help me reach those goals, is it?  There was literally no point to be shelling out $80+ a month for something we didn’t make use of.

Take advantage of points/incentives

Our local Acme has a program called MyMixx, it offers digital coupons, savings, and Gas Reward Points.  For every $1 you spend on groceries or pharmacy items ($2 on gift cards) you get a point, 100 points = .10/gal savings.  It’s not a huge savings, but you’re already buying groceries anyway, and you need gas, so why not save some cash?  Check to see if your local grocery store offers a similar incentive, too!  Every little bit adds up.  If you have credit cards, which I don’t recommend, a lot of them do have point incentives so you could look into that as an option if you’re willing and able to pay it off before interest is acquired.

Make a Plan!

These were just a few ways that we implemented for me to be able to stay home and raise our children after they were born.  This list is not exhaustive and there are countless ways to both save and make money, it just takes some creativity and a drive to do it!  Have you transitioned to a one income family?  How has your experience been?  Please share in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!

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