How to Live on One Income

Talking about money is weird, but here we go. I want to start by saying I’m not laying out a set of rules in this post. What is helpful for every family is going to look different. Seasons of life are also different for everyone and income is different for everyone. Goodness, it’s been different for us at various stages of our life even. If you have more resources enjoy them, but if you’re struggling to live on one income here are ways we’ve found to cut corners at different points of our life as a family.

It’s going to come down to defining what a full life looks like for you. We are all going to have different answers to that. Maybe you want to save up to buy a farm and you both want to work hard for a few years to reach that goal. Maybe homeschooling isn’t a good fit and you would rather work and pay to send your kids to the incredible school nearby. None of these are wrong. We all have goals we are working toward. The key is stewarding well the life and resources God has given!

Regardless of your goals, as Christians, we believe to live in contentment and satisfaction with enough is to live counterculturally. Living on enough shows we believe that this world and what we collect now is not what defines us and brings us ultimate joy!

Ways to Save on Groceries

If you want to live on one income, this is one of the easiest and hardest ways to save money. I’ve talked a lot more about how to eat at home. I have systems in place to keep me from ordering take-out or fast food. Here are some additional ways we’ve saved money.

  • We rarely go out to eat, if we get take out it’s a pizza, we don’t buy fast food, and I’ve never door dashed.
  • We shop first at Aldi and fill in at other stores only if they don’t have what we need.
  • Gardens in our area don’t really save money, so look out for produce sales, and freeze stuff when you find it at a reasonable price.
  • Ask when your store marks things down. At our Aldi, it’s 9 am on Wednesday. Or a store called Sprouts did a double sale day on Wednesdays.

Kid’s Clothes on a Budget

Kids need a lot fewer clothes than we are led to believe. It also helps so much to have simpler clothes. Buying classic clothes makes it easier to hand them down from kid to kid without them going out of style. I wrote a whole post on how to thrift kids clothes too!

  • Capsule wardrobes for the kids. 5 shirts, 5 pants, and 2 church shirts After reading Jodi Mockabee’s book I’ve put away all but 2 shirts and 2 pants for each kid. I use Abbey Wedgeworth’s habit tracker, which prompts me to do laundry every day. This allows them to always have clean clothes without having them available to strew all over their room. They get to wear their favorites every day and I know what’s clean and dirty! If ever I don’t do a load the rest of the clothes are in the guest room closet to grab in an emergency!
  • When possible garage sale rather than consignment. You can often get clothes for .50 instead of $5
  • Consignment over box stores, unless you are one of those amazing people that smell out the
    sales. Some people have good success shopping at the end of a season for the next year, but my kids have always grown too unpredictably.
  • Only buy clothes 2x per year, so you know how much you spend. This also allows me to make sure everything is mixed and matched. If I’m buying a little at a time it’s harder to keep track of what I already have. If I just go once it’s so much easier to catalog everything and buy ONLY what I need.
  • Gather everything you think is cute and cull out the higher tags. Consignment can be tricky. I’ve found the same pair of pants at different prices. So check the tags. It’s not like shopping at Old Navy. It’s often dependent on the mood the person tagging is in.
  • Buy classic so it doesn’t go out of style

Books when you Live on One Income

We live in a home where having a separate space for books hasn’t been possible. We outfitted a coat closet to double as a library, but it still doesn’t hold a ton. This has caused me to be pretty picky about what I let in the house to stay.

  • We try to get most of our books at the library. The ones we love, we check out over and over again.
  • For our curriculum, there are often books required that they don’t have at the library. But they are also books I don’t want to read again. I’ve found most picture books have a read-aloud recording with visuals on youtube. I look up the author and title and let someone else read it to the kids.
  • So many friends pay for audiobook subscriptions. Our library allows us to connect to Libby, Overdrive, and Hoopla. Among those, I can usually listen to any book I want. Sometimes I have to wait a bit, but I have enough books on my list that there’s another one to read while I’m waiting.
  • If a book is beloved and you find yourself reaching for it over and over try to get it at a used book store. This is our list of must-own books.
  • Visit your local Library book sale. There isn’t a cheaper way to find books. If you want to keep some on hand, this is a great way to acquire them.
  • See if you have a local homeschool book swap/sale. Our area always has multiples at the end of a homeschool year.

Homeschool Doesn’t have to be Expensive

  • Try to stick with one curriculum and don’t buy subscription packages, unless it’s the curriculum you picked for the year. I’ve heard of so many friends who follow amazing homeschool accounts. Many of them offer subscriptions and curriculums and these mamas buy them all. You can’t do them all in a year because they are all full curriculums. So pick one if you want to go that route, and then get another one the next year. FOMO is real, but the only thing you’re missing out on is stress.
  • I also have friends who have jumped from curriculum to curriculum during the year. Sometimes this is necessary, but if you look at other people’s books before buying your own you can rule out what probably won’t work.
  • It’s easy to get caught on cute toys and trendy learning pieces. Try to think “Did they need it for a one-room schoolhouse?” Usually, things stand the test of time, because they are most efficient. I won’t say always, but often.
  • If you want an age-specific learning experience cycle and trade things with friends. I bought some cute reading cubes, but we used them for a few weeks and then moved out of them. I’d be happy to lend them to a friend for a few weeks. They were fun but had a short shelf life.

Lifestyle to Live on One Income

  • I choose not to follow aspirational accounts. By following people whom I can tell have similar budgets. It gives me ideas for fun and ideas without leading me to want things outside my budget. It also cuts down on my discontentment and frustration when they mention an $800 espresso machine.
  • It’s easy for me to get on Amazon and have shipped to my house something I want. I have found if I wait a day before spending money on something it reveals if I really want/need it.
  • If you don’t need something don’t go shopping. Also know what you need before you go out. If your staple shirts got holes in them, go out with the intent to buy shirts. Shopping just to shop usually result in items I’ll never use.
  • Hang out most with friends who have the same goals. Or plan ahead activities that don’t cost. Be honest about your financial situation. It may feel awkward, but people usually understand and want to help you meet your goals.

If you’re trying to live on one income the Pantry Inventory is helpful!

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