25 Best Ways to Live Frugally on One Income

Whether your family is living on one income by choice or because of unforeseen circumstances, you can live frugally on that one income and make it a successful adventure.

Job loss today is a real thing.  There is a crisis going on, and unemployment is on the rise.  Finding a way to embrace frugal living is going to benefit you until you can get back on your feet.

Pinterest is flooded with excellent tips on how to be a stay at home mom but when you’re heart is there, but you just can’t find a way financially to come home, these best ways to live frugally on one income will help you do just that.  You can find a way to stay at home with your kids.

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Consider These Financial Goals Before Living On One Income

Of course, if you have just been laid off, these are not going to apply unless you have already done them.  I recommend as your Financial Coach to make sure these are in place right now.

Have an Emergency Fund.

Three to six months of expenses is best, but I would suggest if you know you are coming home, just start stockpiling as much money as you can.  Go on a complete spending freeze and save all the money you can come up with to an emergency fund until you can get to that 3-6 month expense amount.

The starter emergency fund for someone trying to get out of debt is $1,000.  However, if there is any inkling or expectation of a life change, pull together a big pile of money as fast as possible. 

Government stimulus checks and other special funding for unemployment are coming for some relief.

An online savings account is my favorite and an easy way to save money automatically.  Every payday, money comes out of our main checking account, and I don’t pay too much attention to it. Soon enough, you could have an emergency fund, a home improvement fund, or anything that you have decided you want to save for.  Here is my blog post about it.

Create A Budget. 

This is a challenge at first, and nobody is perfect, but a reasonable attempt is so much better than no effort.  As you continue to use your budget and allow for tweaks, you will get better.  But, don’t stop using budgeting tools. 

You might think you don’t need the app or the budget printables, so you stop using them, but you will soon find out that it all goes down the tubes fast.  Raise your hand if you know what I am saying here!

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Understand Health Insurance. 

Decide which plan is best for you.  Do your research and understand that anything medical is not cheap.  From glasses to significant surgery, know what your insurance covers and how much needs to be paid out of pocket.

Make sure that money is set aside in an emergency fund or special medical fund.  So many people find themselves buried in medical debt.

Pay Off Debt. 

Pay off as much debt as you possibly can. There is a release of a burden when debt is at a minimal. I never imagined what a drain on my emotional well-being debt actually was.  There is an absolute calm that you live with when all debt is paid off.  Work together on this and get super excited about where you could be if you didn’t owe anyone anything. 

There are so many ways to tackle being debt-free (including my own) in this ebook and planner.

Retirement. 

Remember, there is still a need for money when that one income earner decides it’s time to retire.  Keep putting money away for retirement.  Even if its 1%.  Don’t stop.  Utilize the income earner’s  401K if offered.  Otherwise, educate yourself in IRA’s and growth stock mutual funds.

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Frugal Living Tips When Money Has Decreased

Cook Frugal Meals.  It is possible to cook cheap and healthy meals.  You might not have the money to shop 100% organic in this season of life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the best you can to give your family nutritious and tasty meals on a budget.

Stay On Top Of Expences.  This includes the cost of cable/internet, car insurance, homeowners insurance, electricity, and cell phones.  Make phone calls and negotiate the prices on these things at least once per year.  Shop around for economic alternatives when necessary.  Different cell phone providers or cutting cable all together would be more extreme, but its an option.

Make Your Cleaners.  There are a bazillion ideas on the internet for homemade non-toxic cleaners that you can make with items you might already have in your house.  Here are mine – including wood polish and leather cleaner.  Stop buying all of those cleaners that you don’t need.

Heating And Cooling.  Pay attention to the comfort of your home. Could you turn down the furnace two degrees and put on socks and a sweater?  Could you be alright with the air conditioners set on 75 during the day? Or even 78?  How far could you push it?

Electricity.  Unplug things that are not in use.  Turn off the lights during the day.  Switch to LED light bulbs.  Phantom power is a real thing, and you are paying for all those appliances, electronics, and chargers that are not being used.  According to How Stuff Works, phantom power can account for as much as 10% of household electricity. Here’s an article about saving on Utility Bills

DIY.  Really.  Do it yourself.  Car oil needs to be changed.  The shirt needs to be sewn.  The lawn needs to be mowed.  The kitchen sink has a drip.   We live in an age where knowledge is at our fingertips.  We can learn to do just about anything with the help of Youtube.  Save money and do it all yourself.

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Embrace a Thrifty Lifestyle

Grocery Shopping.  This can be a huge budget buster for me.  If I don’t meal plan and shop carefully sticking to my list, I can fall into the food trap of grabbing things I didn’t plan for.  I have a great eBook about reducing grocery spending, including meal plans and recipes.

Also, sometimes the convenience of shopping at a higher-end store like Hannaford where I can order my groceries online and just pick them up (or DELIVER!) sounds impressive, but there is a price for that.

I can spend $75 to $100 more than just going to Aldi, renting a cart, walking through the aisles, bagging my groceries, and bringing them to my car.  Yes, it’s going to be more work.  But as my husband says, we have more time than money!

Stay Out Of Target.  I am so guilty of this.  I plan on one trip to Target per month.  I have a printable of the things I usually buy there and a budget of $80 per month. This might be my greatest financial tip for all homemakers.

When I go, I get a coffee and take my time.  I browse through everything and get only what I need.  There may be other items I need that month like a new rug for in front of the door or fresh bath towels.  But those items are budgeted for.  There are no spontaneous splurges.  Sacrifices may need to be made when you’re living on one income.

And I try hard only to go in once a month.

Use Apps.  Let’s go back to Target.  Use their app to save some money potentially.  There are other great apps like Fetch and Ibotta.   I use both.  Also, stores like Dollar General, Family Dollar, CVS, and Walgreens make it so easy to get coupons and deals in their stores.

Take Advantages Of Coupons.  I know many who use coupons to save money when living on one income.  I am not a fan of coupons, but if you have time and love a good game, check out my blog post all about couponing.

Buying Clothes.  Most of us in this house are done growing.  Some of us might be shrinking.  Clothing is something we all need, and when you have littles, you will need it more often.

Facebook Marketplace is a GREAT way to get children’s clothes.  They don’t wear them that long so that they will be in great shape most of the time.  And at a fraction of the cost of brand new, its a win!

I went to visit my mom last week, and she has a store called Savers.  It’s like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  For $25, I got two shirts, a coat, a glass water pitcher, and a book.  All clothes were name brand and on shirt still had the tags on it -priced more than what I paid for all of it.

Compare Prices.  This works for grocery stores for online shopping.  Sometimes Amazon can have it cheaper than Target.  Sometimes Walmart will be more expensive than those fancier grocery stores. If you know how much you usually spend on American Cheese, then you know a deal when you see one.

Shop With Intention.  Know why you are at the store, be mindful, and get what you need.  Shop with blinders on.

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Basic Money Saving Tips For Living on One Income

Think Ahead On Transportation.  You know that like gas needs to be refilled, registrations come due, brakes wear out, and oil changes must happen.

You also understand that at a specific time, cars will need to be replaced.  Plan accordingly for all of these expenses.  I have a sinking fund for transportation because it will be needed. Not if, but when.

Organization.  When you have a lot going on, it is easy to forget things.  Stay organized, whether this is an app, a binder, a planner, or sticky notes all over the refrigerator.

It is vital to have a clear picture.  Knowing when bills are due will save money on late fees.  Knowing there is a birthday party coming in two weeks will allow you to grab a gift bag at the Dollar Tree instead of Wallgreens.

Pay Attention.  Specifically, pay attention to areas of overspending.  Where are your weak spots?  Are you lonely, so you take the littles to Target to interact with other adults?  Find a MOPS Group.  

When you get tired, do you find refuge in online shopping on your phone?  Unsubscribe to those shopping emails and try Candy Crush or Tik Tok (not just for teens anymore).

Know what your weaknesses are and practice redirecting when you get the urge to spend.  This is an excellent mindset financial tip for homemakers.

Understand Want Vs. Need.  I like to keep a notebook or list on my phone of all the things I want.  This way, I can decide whether I really want it and then find the best price.

I did that with my coffee maker.  I wanted this auto-drip coffee maker.  I waited for MONTHS to find a good sale.  It wasn’t a need because we had one that was just fine.

It was a Keurig, and it cost us a lot more than I wanted to spend in K Cups, but it worked.  So I waited.  Had that one broke, it would have quickly turned into a need…more or less.

Keep Your Health.  Stay healthy.  Brush your teeth to avoid cavities.  Eat your veggies to protect that immune system.  Drink your water, take your vitamins, and wash your hands.  Avoid the cost of cold medicines and going to the Doctor as much as you can.

Avoid Restaurants And Take Out.  Plan and cook from scratch.  Now…disclaimer.  If a frozen Stouffers Lasagna or a couple of frozen pizzas are going to save you from ordering delivery, then go for it!  $15 is better than $40.  But know that made from scratch pizza is so cheap!!!  Here’s an article about staying out of restaurants.

Always Research Everything.  From the cost of the cable to a new vacuum.  Make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck.  Even Birthday Cards can be purchased cheaper at the Dollar Tree than Target.  Know this information.

Start Meal Planning.  This will really save money on groceries and take out.  If you know what you are having for meals each day, you are less likely to stand staring into the refrigerator every evening.  I use reverse meal planning, which I explain in this article.

Use A Cash Only System.  When you have to account for every penny, many are not great at doing this with a debit or credit card.  Gong to a cash-only system will help keep the budget on track.  Especially for the areas you may normally overspend in.  I have a great article about DIY cash envelope wallets.

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Benefits of Living on One Income

Spending less money.  There are so many benefits of having one person in the home.    You may actually find savings that happen.  Many times depending on the salary and cost of living where you are, earnings might just be a lot less than you think.  When ain’t into consideration gas, clothing, meals outside of the home, convenience foods, and other added work expenses, there may not be a lot of profit.

Being at home with children is a true benefit.  Having more time with little ones that seem to grow so fast.  Many parents feel called to stay home, and the tips above will surely help do just that.

Saving money and getting out of debt is a full-time job in itself.  To be able to cook your find from scratch, finding deals, as well as planning and manage money down to the penny is relatively time-consuming.

Managed responsibilities. Having one person manage the home while the other leaves to earn an income may take some of the dress off around the house.  If one person takes on each of those responsibilities, it might be a blessing to your relationship.

Consider A Side Hustle

I understand that this is an article about how to live frugally on one income.  However, many times a side hustle will allow you the flexibility to still be home with children or apply and interview for other jobs.  This will give you an opportunity to bring in some extra money for a short while or open up doors for a new business.

If your financial goals are more significant than just the concept of saving money can give you, then its time to make some money. Try some of the suggestions on a side job in this article.

There are oodles of ways to do things in the information era. Going to garage sales or getting extreme deals online. Then resell them in an online shop or Facebook. There are even babysitting or blogging opportunities.  The possibilities are endless.

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Final Thoughts on How to Live Frugally on One Income

Whether it was your choice or the fate of the world today to come home, there are tips to help you live a less expensive lifestyle and embrace frugality to make your financial, family, and personal goals happen.  Planning is always vital, but if you just didn’t have time to do that, jump in where you are and do your best.