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How to live on one income and live well

Updated on December 30, 2017

How to live well on one income

To hear it from most people, we all need two incomes to live. This has made it so mom and dad both work. It has been this way for decades now and I am here to tell you that it is a myth. I have been a single mother that homeschooled for many years and I did it all on one income, a paltry low income at that. So here are my tips and tricks, as well as an exercise to show most of you that you do not need that second income stream to live well.

How much is that second income really costing you?

That is the real question that we need to ask ourselves. Your second job, especially if you have a family is costing you money and before you can even decide if that second stream of income is worth it, you should first find out how much it is actually worth to you.

Hidden costs that many people don’t think about, as well as some common cost associated with a second stream of income when both parents have to go out to work They go as follows. I will leave the categories, as well as what I was paying in excess for me to work outside of the home. Since I was a single mom, I learned to work from home, so the extra costs were the same as if I was another member of the family working outside of the home.

Child Care Cost: 1000/month This was a big one for me and for many others.

Gasoline: 100/month Cost of going back and forth to work can really add up quickly.

Clothes: 50/month Most jobs will come with an uniform requirement that you are going to have to bankroll.

Lunches: 100/month While we start out with good intentions, most people will end up going out to eat for lunch. Even if you get only fast food, you are going to average 5 dollars a meal. This of course can be reduced a couple of dollars if you bring leftovers or bring your own, but most do not.

Well we are up to a very mild estimate of $1250 a month that it costs you to work. This is based on a low-income area and one child. You will have to do the numbers on your own situation and see how much that second job is costing you.

Other hidden costs associated with both parents working

More eating out… You are always tired and instead of cooking every night, it is much easier to just go ahead and order a pizza or two. You end up eating subpar food that you pay more for and there is still the rush at the end of the day to get something on the table for your family. There is a reason our grocery bills are higher from fast processed foods that we can throw in the oven, as well as our eating out budget is higher because of that stop on the way home because the last thing that you want to do is make dinner after an eight hour day and one hour commute.

Less time for everything…. This is going to be less time for everything. Helping kids with homework as well as seeing your kids in general. You are tired when you get home and there is the mad dash to get everything done before going to bed and having to do it all over again the next morning.

I used to have to get up at 6 a.m. to get my son to daycare for 7, to be to work for 7:30. I got off at 4:30 and had him picked up for 5 p.m. That is a whole ten hours that I was apart from him and I was paying for it in more ways than one. I paid for it in guilt and his behavior was far less controllable. The quality time that we want with our kids is hard to get back and you are stuck relying on other people to take care of your kids.

More stress… Life was far more stressful when I was meant to do it all with less time. I had to get home at around 5:30 and make dinner, take a bath, give baths, help with reading and school type work. By the time all this was done, I was left with very little time with my child. It was heartbreaking and I never think back on that time of my life fondly.

But I had to work, because no one can live on one income, right?

How to make it all work.

Go to one vehicle and make sure that you buy one that doesn’t have a note attached to it. Pay cash and keep minimal insurance on it.

Eat out less. With all that extra time being home, this becomes a lot easier to do.

Meal plan. Make a list of meals you are going to make for the week and buy those ingredients.

Shop sales and build up a small pantry. Buy groceries on sale, never pay full price. With a small stock on hand, you will never be forced to buy things not on sale. It is also a good hedge for a lean month where groceries can be reduced to help pay for something else.

Rethink your bills. Many bills are discretionary and you have to ask yourself, do I really need this? Does it make my life better?

Don’t buy things you don’t need or can’t afford. A funny thing happens when you are away from kids all day. You feel guilty and tend to buy them more out of that guilt. It’s a vicious cycle and you will find that you buy way more than you need.

Minimize reoccurring bills. Do you really need cable? Expensive phone plans with data when you can easily get a 20/month plan?

Use utilities wisely. Turn things off when you leave the house. Turn down your heat a few degrees in the winter and up in the summer. Every little bit makes a difference. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth and limit water consumption by shorter showers. Switch to energy efficient bulbs and appliances.

Stick to a budget. A budget tells you where your money goes. It’s that simple. If you want to make the most of your money, have a plan.

Move if you live in a high cost area. Move outside of the city or a different state if you can’t afford the one you are in. If you rent is too high and you are struggling, another area may be the relief that you are looking for.

Buy clothes on clearance, off season or used. Clothing doesn’t cost that much if you get it at the end of a season or around black Friday sales. Thrift stores are also another way to get the clothes you need for far less. Buy classic clothing styles that can be worn for years to come, instead of umping on every trend bandwagon.

Save. Save for a rainy day like you live in Seattle. They are going to happen and having some money on hand in an emergency fund will save you from going in debt and paying more to fix a problem.

Find local and free entertainment in your area. Everywhere has libraries that offer free book and movie rentals, as well as great activities for the kids. Parks are a great resource. Everywhere has many options of how to get out and have fun for less. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a nice day out. A picnic and play time at the park or lake are great ways to have an inexpensive day out, as opposed to a fifty dollar movie that you will forget an hour after you leave. Do an internet search of your area; you will be surprised what you will find.

Garden. Great way to reduce your food bill and another great free or low cost activity to do with your family. It also teaches your kids where their food comes from, as well as being proven to lower stress. It's a win-win all around. Pick things to do that create wealth, not drain what little you have.

Cut the crap and vices. This is smoking or anything else that can be cut that you don’t actually need. Ou don’t need your nails done or facials. These can be done at home for a fraction of the cost. Learn to do things yourself. Learn to cut your kids hair. Many services that we pay for can be done ourselves for a fraction of the cost.

Find a side hustle. With all of that time you now have free, find a way to monetize a hobby or passion. There are many ways to work from home. I freelance solely for my one income and it is easier than you would ever think it is. When you find out how much that job costs you and subtract it from what you make, I have a feeling that much smaller number is doable. Just find something that speaks to you or a skill you are good at and market it online. In a couple of hours a day, you can make up the difference.


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