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Going From Two Incomes To One: How I Stay Above The Poverty Line

Updated on May 18, 2017

My husband and I made the decision to become a one-income family two years ago. In doing so it brought about change for the better but a reduced income inevitably brings other problems. Adjusting to living on one income could have been more difficult had we not followed a ‘cut your cloth accordingly’ mind set. Here’s how we make a success of it.

Closer to the Poverty Line

We often think that if you’re employed full-time you should be able to meet all your basic needs but millions worldwide find that it’s still a problem. When a family has only one income that poverty line is ever looming and one hiccup could have us fall below it.

But being in poverty isn't always about being financially stricken. Sometimes it's about choices and making correct choices for each different situation will hopefully accumulate to a better life.

For me it's important to stay as healthy as I can, both physically and mentally, because being healthy allows me to stay strong, stay focused and stay in control... and yes, help me to make the right choice for each difficult situation that comes along.

I work at my relationship and both me and my husband recognise that sometimes life it tough and it does take it's toll on our relationship but we like each other, appreciate each and love each other. It isn't about being lucky. I refute that. I think it's about working hard to earn respect in our differing roles. We are determined to learn from the rough times. It's hard but I know I would struggle without the love of my husband so it's worth the work and never taken for granted.

I am respectful, law abiding and an all round good citizen. But essentially I am scared of being judged or getting into trouble. I'm an anxious person and I have to work at that. In life I have experienced some tough times in situations I cannot control. There are times when I could have thrown my hands up in the air and just gone with whatever anti social behaviour was en vogue at the time. I didn't because I had respect for myself and others but essentially I had to be very strong to fight the feelings of 'what is the point' and more importantly, fight the feelings of wanting to seek happiness, affection or being part of something successful, however misguided.


So it's as much about mind set as it is about practicalities but without being practical I wouldn't be able to manage. Here's a glimpse into the methods I use to keep the family finances in check.

1. Budget

We have a monthly budget that consists of our sources of income and all of our living expenses. Within the budget we look at our less frequent financial needs and try to understand that if it isn’t in the budget then it’s not likely to be achieved until it is. Our budget helps us to keep in control of our spending so to avoid the feelings associated with becoming overwhelmed by a lack of money.

2. Cut back on utility usage.

We make an effort to be aware of just what we resources we’re consuming and how much. We all have the drive to conserve energy now and although the motivation has been prompted for financial reasons, we would not go back to mindless consumption.

3. Waste not, want not

I use up all of my foods. If it doesn’t feed our house rabbit it will be in soups, quiches or baking and breads. These items make up our lunches and suppers. For clothing I repair as much as I can, use hand-me-downs from my eldest to my youngest and buy second hand from charity shops.

4. Toiletries and cleaning items can be minimised and made from items in the cupboard

This is the one area that I have scaled right back. It’s been a realisation that soap is cheap and just as good for me as all the expensive marketed must-haves. I use sugar in honey for exfoliation and olive eye as an occasional cleaner. As far as cleaning goes I have a reliance on washing up liquid now. I use it’s grease cutting ability of all surfaces really. I use vinegar for windows and lime scale removing. Home made toiletries and cleaners is a subject that is vast so I endeavour to keep on learning.

5. Mindful food shopping

I have built up a staple food store cupboard. It contains all I need for my meal planning. Keeping these stocks healthy is the priority because without them I couldn’t keep to my food budget. On top of those I have a shopping list for monthly shopping, weekly top ups and twice daily fresh food buying. I never deviate from the shopping lists because food shopping is one area that our finances could spiral rapidly. We grow our own produce too but never rely on them as staple offerings – they are made into baked items, jams and chutneys.

6. Change in mind set

A mind set that is able to be happy with the ‘make do and mend’ ethos is a mind set that cope with all the frugality that a one-income family inevitably faces without much in a surplus income. We appreciate that we are lucky to have food on the table that is balanced and nutritious and in having done this we appreciate that if further financial problems occur we have the skills to make it through them now, hopefully able to not just survive but thrive somewhat.

7. Save

Within our budget we put away savings every month. If the budget is adhered to then we can save. We feel the need to have both an emergency fund and a holiday fund. The emergency fund helps with security feelings and the holiday fund acts as a motivator while helping us feel that we can experience different things too. Sometimes we can’t save but that just makes us more determined the succeed the next month.


For us this decision was voluntary. It was what we all wanted, and needed to some extent, to make life easier and smoother. I do believe that is why we feel able to cope with the barriers that come with a lower income. We are determined to succeed with a positive, proactive approach. Had we been forced into the situation through stress and circumstance I feel our ability to cope practically and emotionally would not be as strong but I do believe we can all achieve positivity eventually. The crux of it is having the motivation to make the necessary adjustments and sacrifices.

Being mindful of our spends is the most basic but the most effective way for us to manage our money. We clearly know where to allocate our money so we do have control and ultimately some choice over what we’re able to do with any surplus. It isn’t easy though. Everything has to be consciously considered and we all have to be committed to the greater cause.

There’s no right or wrong way to live life. We all have to make the best of what we have in any situation we find ourselves in. To be able to do that with a warm heart and an appreciation is something that we are proud of as a family. The rewards associated with mindful budgeting and consumption are life affirming and for anyone who is sad to find themselves in a dire situation financially, I would like to just say that with a plan and a determination you can get there. Some of us are thriving with very little... It's not about having, it's about being.

The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything.

In closing

My family experienced financial ruin in 2008. We lost our home, couldn't pay our bills and had very little to eat. We have had to pull ourselves up from under the poverty line together. We have experienced life struggling to live, love and eat in a damp rental house while trying to get back on our feet at a rate of one step forward, one step back.

We are only where we are today because we worked hard to try to recover. It's only because of our mental strength that we are above that line today. There is hope with a strong mentality.


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    • mchllhwgt profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle How 

      2 years ago

      It's easy but doable. I just can't takemy mind off the money... literally! Thank you for commenting

    • profile image

      Diana Abrahamson 

      2 years ago

      Great when the two budgets become one. Great ideas to save our money. As we know full well how expensive living has become. All the best in your new venture!

    • mchllhwgt profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle How 

      2 years ago

      Thank you for the comments. Very much appreciated

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      2 years ago

      We are currently a one income family and your ideas will be useful as we make this transition over the next few months. I have found there so many free events to attend in our area making our weekend outings worthwhile. Thanks for the wonderful advice.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You shared useful ideas here and thank you for commenting on my hubs.

    • Becky Callahan profile image

      Rachel Finlay 

      2 years ago

      Wonderful and inspiring advice! I especially like your section on mindful food shopping; this has always been a challenge for me.


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