Living on One Income

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

In talking about the switch from full-time, outside of the home career to full-time homemaker, I would be remiss if I brushed over the fact that we are now living on one income. John brings home the paycheck and I find ways to make our budget stretch. It's always an adjustment to live on less, but since we've always saved most of my paycheck, it hasn't been a huge change. Still, I've been finding new ways to save and thrive on a single income.


Tips for Living on One Income


I think our contentment with a simple, frugal life is a huge piece of the puzzle. We live within our means, and we're grateful for what we have. We never try to keep up with the Joneses, who over-spend and over-consume like so many Americans. So the key really is all in your attitude, finding joy in flowers picked for free and changing up a dress to make it feel new. If you can adopt that attitude, the tips on this list will just be the icing on the cake:

Home Haircuts. Men's hair is infinitely easier but it's possible to cut my hair too! John has to have his hair cut regularly for his job. Even cheap haircuts add up, so I watched a few YouTube videos and figured out how to do it myself. I also watched some videos to learn how to trim my own hair. I wouldn't dare highlight it myself but I can at least cut down on salon visits by taking care of split ends on my own.

Cleaning and Home Repairs. When I worked full time, we had a home cleaner once a month. It was just too much for either of us to keep up with the deep cleaning tasks, so it made sense to hire out. Now, I have a lot more time to dedicate, so I save money by handling those tasks myself. Likewise, I try to do small home repairs as well. There are videos online to show you how to do just about anything for yourself, so I always go that route before I decide to hire someone. 9 times out of 10, I nail it!

Basic Clothing Care. I mentioned this in the post about proper clothing care, but I learned a lot more than how to just do the laundry. I mend small tears and missing buttons, iron John's uniform when necessary, remove pills to make winter coats look new. All tasks we'd have turned to a dry cleaner for before.

Shopping Second Hand. This applies to more than clothes! I love shopping second-hand, and not just because of the money saving aspect. I personally feel so much better about my carbon footprint when I can give items a second life.

Find New Fun. Entertainment can really get expensive. Just meeting friends for a couple drinks at the bar can turn into a hundred dollar night between cocktails, tips, cabs, and food. We cut back on expensive socializing and instead turned to hosting. It still costs money to invite people over but not nearly the amount it would cost at a bar!

Delay Big Ideas. A bigger house or newer car, an expensive home upgrade or new appliance, or grand vacation. Don't give in to the instant gratification. Take the time to research options and delay the decision until you have the funds fully saved up. If you can't afford to buy it twice, you can't afford it. And that's okay.

Get on the Same Page. It's so important that both people know the plan for the money. It is easier to have one person be in charge and actually pay the bills, but that doesn't mean the other should be ignorant. Both parties should know when bills are due, what the limit is for bigger purchases without the other's approval, even when the working spouse plans to retire. All things everyone should be clear on.

Budget. No matter how much you make, budgeting is hugely important. It's not restrictive. Quite the opposite actually - it gives you permission to spend. It's way to prioritize your goals and align your spending to match. So even if you make a good income, you should still budget those dollars so you know what you're spending and saving and understand where changes can be made. To be totally transparent, even without my income we are still a six figure household. We could get by without a budget. But we wouldn't be nearly as successful with our money. My budget template is still available on my Etsy shop if you're interested!

Think about Retirement Savings. You can't work forever. And why would you want to? There should be an end date or end amount in savings in mind, and both of you should know what that is. Research the best place to park this money.

Continue to Develop Your Skills. Even though you aren't using them in a traditional career setting, you should still develop your own skills and make time for your hobbies. You still have valuable talents to teach others. And you won't panic or stress buy things you don't need because you think your life is all about cooking and cleaning. I make time for blogging, podcasting, organizing and more. I also still keep up to date with changes in the law in case I ever wanted to go back to work.

Learn about Investing. If you are the one staying home and managing finances, this is a great time to learn about investing! It can be a lot of fun. It seems daunting at first but there are so many online resources to help guide you. Make your money work for you.

What I Spend in a Typical Month


The truth is, there is no typical month. But I know it's always interesting and helpful to take a peak at other people's finances, so I'm sharing some of my most common expenses. Of course, the main spending for everyone is housing. The mortgage PITI payment comes out of John's account directly. That's the principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. We also pay for electric, gas, water and trash, wifi and television, and a security system. The total for the bills comes to around $370-$400 a month, depending on usage.

So what else do I spend money on in a month? I think that's the far more interesting part, being a frugal minimalist and all.

Pet Care. This changes month by month because I bulk buy things like dog food, potty pads, and treats. Hawkeye also doesn't get groomed every month, and only goes to the vet once a year. I estimate in a year though, I spend $1,000 on basic pet care. It used to be lower but then we 'adopted' some feral cats. They live in our yard and I feed them canned cat food. And love them. So I now spend $20-$40 a month on cat food!

Groceries. My grocery budget for the two of us is $200 a month. Given my minimalist diet, my food costs are very low. Since John likes meat, the money saved on my end is spent there.

Gas (and other car expenses). The thing about being a homemaker is how little I can spend on gas. I try to walk everywhere, including the to the grocery store. Most days, I don't have to leave the house for any reason and when I do, I group all my errands together. I mostly go over to my parents' house, which is just over 3 miles away. So the most I spend on gas in a month is $40 and that would be high. There are other car expenses I make sure to save for, like tags and insurance and oil changes. Thankfully, these only come up once a year.

Things I Don't Spend Money On


Personal Care Items. I do spend money twice a year getting my hair done. But I don't spend on physical items, like shampoo, toothpaste or makeup. I go through these items very slowly, making sure to use up everything I have, but when I do need to replace something, I make sure to ask for it (or for gift cards) for my birthday and Christmas. That way, I'm sure I'm getting useful gifts!

Gifts. It's not that I don't buy gifts for other people, it's just that I use 'extra' money to buy these things. I earn money on Swagbucks all year long, which leads to a few hundred dollars in free money I have to spend by the time Christmas rolls around.

Entertainment. I just don't enjoy going to the movies. Not that that's even been an option for so long, but even before that, I couldn't stand paying for entertainment. A big Chicago perk is all the free things there are to do. Plus, with John's job, we get into all the museums for free, including the Shedd Aquarium, my personal favorite. There are times when John wants to do something like mini golf, but it very rare that we choose to do anything for entertainment that costs money. And personally, I'd rather host people at my own home, a cost I factor in to my grocery budget.

We've struck a pretty good balance between enjoying our lives and some technically 'frivolous' items on the one hand with spending wisely and saving aggressively for retirement on the other. I'm happy where things stand at the moment, but I'm always watching the bottom line because it's fun for me to challenge myself - we're close to being millionaires in our mid-30s and I think that's a pretty fantastic milestone.

Do you live on one income? Share your money and sanity saving tips in the comments. Which category do you spend the most in, that you could probably cut back?