Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart — how to live off one income. YES it is possible, and YES you can do it!
I’ve worked with lots of young women during my banking career, and one of the saddest things to me was seeing a new mom come back to work after maternity leave. There were always lots of tears and no matter how positive the mama tried to be, you could always feel the underlying sadness.
I’ll go ahead and throw this in now — not every woman is sad to go back to work. Some women count down the days or even go back to work early! I’m so happy they’ve got a career they love. This post is not for them.
Growing up, I always pictured being a stay-at-home mom. At least while my kids were little, I wanted to be home with them and get to be there for all the “firsts.” Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I also see the appeal of having a satisfying career and the fact that life ain’t cheap! Now that our first little one is on the way, my goal is to still stay home with my baby. If that’s the desire of your heart too, I’m here to help!
So how exactly do you afford to live off of one income? Our society has adjusted to two-income families, and cost of living is just not cheap. But I firmly believe it’s possible. You’ve just got to be willing to make some hard choices, try things you haven’t done before, and learn how to be content.
Work the Budget
When there’s two of you working, especially before you throw kids into the mix, it’s SO easy to get a little reckless with your money. Heck, this is the reason my goal has been to get out of debt, year after year, and we’re still fighting our way through it!
Let me guess — you make a budget, stick to it for a day, then forget about it. Or maybe you’re a little better than me, and you stick to it for a whole week. 🙂 Food has always been my biggest downfall, and it’s plain embarrassing how much money we’ve wasted on going out to eat.
If you want to start living off of one income, you’ve got to get serious about your spending. For some couples, they could easily live off just their spouse’s income if they got their spending habits under control. That’s a great sign!
If you’re not a “budgeting pro”, start with something easy and motivating: I call it the Highlighter Budgeting Method. This is going to force you to look at all the money you’re
blowing spending and give you an action plan going forward.
Change Your Habits
All the budgeting in the world won’t get you very far if you keep tripping up over the same things keeping you stuck. For instance, I admit my weakness is food. I love to go out to eat — it’s easier, no cleaning involved, I don’t have to think about what to cook, etc. I could seriously go on about my love for restaurants!
But going out to eat all the time is a terrible habit. It’s extremely expensive (even fast food adds up) and it’s really not great for your health either. It’s hard to swallow the fact that we would probably be totally out of credit card debt by now if we’d been more diligent about eating at home.
But don’t worry — it’s never too late to change!
What habits of yours are tripping you up? Look at the ones that you know cost money first — eating out and shopping are two that jump to mind. Then think about one small way you could start to change that habit. If it’s shopping, load up some clothes and take them to the resale shop. Then pick out a few new pieces only with the money they gave you for selling your old clothes.
It’s all about baby steps and shifting your mindset!
Stock Your Savings
Switching to one-income is downright scary. Especially if you’re getting some resistance from your spouse about quitting your job, you need to have some money in savings. Your hubs is probably terrified at the idea of losing your income! It’s important for both of your peace of minds to have a buffer between you and life in your accounts.
I wish I could give you the perfect number that you need to have in your bank account in order to quit your job, but that just doesn’t exist. This number is really going to be different for everyone because we all have different life situations.
At the very minimum, you need to have $1,000 saved up. That’s usually enough to cover an insurance deductible, pay for a car repair, pay the utility bills if your income is short that month, etc. And it’s kind of crazy how fast you can save up a thousand bucks if you get real intentional with your spending for a while.
Love Your Life
Be content. Learn to be fulfilled for less. 😉 Think about how much you really don’t need in this life. I’m going to guess two big car payments don’t make the cut. Neither do expensive mortgages, shopping sprees, or lavish date nights.
Learn to start loving your life without all the “extras”. Become a homebody! Make those times you go out for dinner extra special. Enjoy the outdoors. Living off one income may mean giving up some luxuries, at least for now. But remember why you’re doing this. I would rather stay home with my baby than have to go to work just to make my car payment. Anything you “sacrifice” is so worth it!
This post could become a book, so I’m going to stop before it gets too long. If you’re looking for some more practical ways of how to live off one income, here are a few tips:
- Practice living off one income long before you make the switch. Even if you can’t save your entire salary right away, put back as much as you possibly can. See how it feels to live without your income for at least a few months before you go all-in.
- Plan your meals. Use a crockpot. Eat the leftovers. You will get better at cooking the more you do it, and eventually you may even prefer the taste of your home cooking over going out to eat.
- DIY your luxuries. Do your nails at home or go to a cosmetology school and get a huge discount. Light some candles and take a long bubble bath. Self care doesn’t have to be pricey.
- Get into some solid routines. Keep your dishes done so you have the space and dishes to cook. Spend a few minutes every day picking up messes so you can actually enjoy being at home.
- Get rid of debt. See how much all your minimum payments are really adding up to each month. That should be enough fire to light under you to get them paid off!
You Can Make the Switch
Even if it seems impossible right now, keep fighting for it. You can live off one income if you want to badly enough. And you can always bring in some money on the side to make things easier on your family while still staying at home. (Is starting a blog right for you?) I just never want to have to see another mama crying over leaving her baby to go back to work. You got this!