How to Survive on One Income

We’ve been a single-income family for much of our married life. Here are my tips for how to survive on one income.

how to survive on one income

How to Live on One Income with a Family

For almost fifteen years our family lived solely on my husband’s modest income.

It took some time and creativity to learn how to live on one income as a stay at home mom, but it was so important to me to be home.

Being able to stay at home with our children and homeschool them has been worth the sacrifices we have made.

We’ve endured some pretty lean years, but looking back, we’ve also been extremely blessed, especially by the generosity of others.

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How to Survive on One Income

There are many ways to cut costs and live on a tight budget.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box and be creative to make it work!

Here are some of the things we’ve done in order to learn how to survive on one income with our family of seven.

1. Only have one vehicle

Up until last year, for the past 16 years, we only had one vehicle.

My very generous in-laws gave us a minivan years ago. Then, last year, my husband’s brother bought us a new (used) minivan as a gift.

Since then, our oldest daughter got a job and a driver’s license, so she now drives our old van (which might not be her favorite, but at least she has something to drive to work!).

2. Cut your own hair

I have been cutting all of my family’s hair (including my own) for the past 16 years.

Many years ago I bought a simple barber kit like this one to cut the guys’ hair. I also invested in some scissors and a hair cutting cape (like this kit).

My oldest daughter recently decided she would rather have professional haircuts, but she’s the only one who wants to pay for hers, so I still do everyone else’s.

3. Use TracFone

There are a lot of options for discounted cell phone service.

We’ve been using TracFone for our cell service for quite a few years now and it is an affordable service.

We started off with a very cheap phone from the Dollar Store and then we buy airtime as we need it.

4. Grow your own food

For most of our marriage, we’ve had a garden. We started out with a smaller but very productive garden in our suburban backyard.

Later, we moved to a rental house on 10 acres with a huge garden spot. In that large garden, we grew so much of our own food!

We grew tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, radishes, corn, green beans, pumpkins, herbs, and so much more! It was our dream garden space.

We’ve since moved to a 1-acre property and have six raised beds.

Growing your own food is a great way to cut your grocery bill in half and save money on groceries!

(Here are some cheap and easy meal ideas.)

We also have backyard chickens for fresh eggs.

5. Shop discount grocery stores

We get a large portion of our groceries from bargain and discount grocery stores. This has saved so much on our grocery bill!

We also get natural and organic foods from Azure Standard, which helps to save on groceries by buying in bulk.

Here is how we cut our grocery bill in half.

6. Eliminate extras like cable and eating out

We haven’t ever had a TV, so cable wasn’t something we needed to pay for.

We also chose the cheapest home Internet plan, which saves quite a bit each month.

We also try to keep our pantry stocked with basic ingredients so we don’t find ourselves needing to go out to eat out of desperation!

If we do go out to eat, it’s usually because we’re away from home or because it was a planned event.

7. Save your change

We keep a change jar in our closet, and we regularly add our spare change to the jar. It’s always fun to take it to the bank and see how much we’ve accumulated!

It’s been close to $100 before, and one especially lean year it even helped pay for Christmas gifts.

8. Use coupons

We don’t use a ton of coupons because we often buy food from stores that don’t accept coupons (like the discount grocery store I mentioned above).

We live in a fairly rural area without a lot of choices, and sometimes coupons aren’t available for the type of food we prefer.

However, we do use coupons whenever possible, and I may start using them more often!

Comparison shopping is a great idea if you have more than one grocery store in your area.

9. Buy used or make your own

We’re no strangers to garage sales and thrift stores. And we’re not afraid to accept things other people are getting rid of.

Our whole living room is full of hand-me-down furniture or items we purchased at flea markets!

I especially love to buy gently used children’s clothing  or make my own clothes (although I don’t do this as much anymore).

Kids are so hard on clothes that it doesn’t make sense to buy expensive clothes for them.

10. Lower monthly bills

Try to get your monthly payments as low as possible. We’ve even been able to negotiate with some companies in order to get a lower bill.

11. Avoid debt

This is one of the keys to being able to live well on a lower income.

We’ve been working toward becoming debt-free, and I so much wish we were at the end of the journey already!

What Are Your Best Tips for Surviving on One Income?

I’m always on a quest for more ideas, and we’re constantly scrutinizing our lifestyle to see where we could save more.

Do you have any money-saving tips for how to survive on one income that have worked for you? We’d love to hear them!

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  1. Great tips! We are on one income and recently paid our mortgage off so we are debt free!

    But since you live in a rural area, I would say grow your own food! We lived in the suburbs, and my parents turned our backyard into a garden. We grew tomatoes, green onions, squash, spinach and eggplant. Whatever we could not eat, we shared with neighbours and then the rest we froze for meals during the winter. It was a great help and my parents were able to pay off their mortgage in 5 years!

    1. Thank you, Samirah! And congratulations on becoming debt free! That’s our goal, too. And thanks for sharing the garden tip. We do have a garden every year, so I’m not sure why I didn’t add that to the post—definitely going to add it in! Loved hearing about your parents’ experience, too. Very encouraging!

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