How To Live On One Income Successfully (With 40+ Helpful Tips)

Last Updated on 17th January 2021 by Emma

You’ve read about people successfully living on one income but they all seem to earn 6-figures.

Hello real world!

Trying to live on one income in a two income world is hard, especially when you and your partner do not earn six figures.

You’re fed up, you want tips for living on one income that don’t rely on one of you earning big bucks or giving up everything that you enjoy just to make ends meet.

You still want a life right?

You’re looking for the secret to living on one income. I believe there are 2 secrets you need to know and to make this work you need to adopt them both.

Do so and you have this nailed.

Before I forget let me just say……

When you are thinking about living on that one income you need to understand this:

It is more about the little things you do, not the big things.

Yes big bills can be cut, maybe once, but often you can’t. You can’t reduce your mortgage by half without it impacting on your life in other ways.

So remember, as a one income family, every little thing you do by saving a few dollars here and there WILL make a difference.

The Secrets to living on one income

Your mindset

How you approach a drop in income both now and in the future is one of your critical success factors.

Dread or resent it and you will struggle. Approach it with enthusiasm and willingness and be successful.

Know that it’s your mindset that will determine your success, more than anything you cut back on.

Lifestyle change

How do people survive on a single income? By doing things differently.

It’s not just buying less take out coffee or new clothes (but they help), it’s changing the way you live life. Absolutely not for the worse, but change must happen and you need to embrace it to be successful.

Keep spending like you have two incomes then you’ll continue to need two incomes.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read more here)

why You Might Want to be living on one income

A one income household benefits from many things not tied to money. Actively choosing to drop an income means you are prioritizing other parts of your life.

If you’ve never done it before then have a test run of living on one income before you make the transition to a single income family. A test run can take a little of the stress away as you get used to living on less.

These are just a few of the reasons why people are determined to afford to live on one income:

Becoming a stay at home parent

Having children puts your money and your whole life into a different perspective. Living costs have rocketed and staying at home with your child is now a decision that will have a major impact on your finances.

Childcare can also take up most of a salary so quite often the decision is made for you. You have to live on one income whether you both work or not.

Job loss

Often these come out of the blue in which case you are straight into survival mode and living on a survival budget. Sometimes, you see this coming so you can start applying for other jobs and cut back on your spending while you still have that 2nd income.

Switching careers

Too often we end up in jobs and careers that we didn’t set out to do. Changing careers can put you back to square 1, needing to re-train and start back at the bottom of the career ladder.

Paying off debt

Whether that’s your mortgage, student loans or other debt, sometimes you want to focus everything on getting rid of it as fast as possible.

It’s never fast when you are talking mortgages and student loans, but putting a whole salary towards it definitely speeds up the process.

A big savings goal

Saving up a deposit toward your first home is a big goal that many people aspire to achieve. Keeping your living costs low can free up more money for savings.

A whole salary siphoned off into savings helps you not only get a big deposit, it means your mortgage will be smaller and you can get the best finance deals.

Grab your free copy of the money saving mini bundle to start saving money today

Benefits of living on one income

It is possible to live on one income and the positive benefits outweigh the changes that you
need to make to be successful.

Benefits such as achieving your goal of being a single income family, a stay at home parent or paying off debt.

Being able to survive on just one salary while your spouse finds another job or retrains is a huge plus. No added debt!

It gives you financial freedom, you know you are not tied to jobs forever because you know how to save big when you need to.

  • You can pay off your mortgage 10 years early, like we did.
  • You can retire early, like we did.
  • Anything is possible when you set your mind to it.

Just remember those 2 secrets to being successful – your mindset and embracing lifestyle changes.

40+ Tips For Living On One Income

Budgeting Your money

1. Create a budget

Every penny of your single income needs to be given a job and that is what the purpose of a budget is, to tell your money what to do.

You need to control your money, what you spend it on, where it goes and not overspend. Using a spending tracker will help you keep on budget.

Write down everything you spend and compare it to your budget. It can be quite eye opening, but so helpful!

For budget help the Empower app is the perfect choice, it makes budgeting so simple even I can use it. Empower is an award-winning mobile app that makes managing your money the easiest thing you will do all day.

Writing out your budget or using a spreadsheet can be time consuming whereas Empower makes budgeting so easy, no need for multiple apps for saving, budgeting and banking as these are all features of the app.

Find out more about the Empower app here and sign up for your free 14 day trial.

2. Have a family finance officer

Money decisions should always be shared but to be successful when your budget is tight, it helps to have a Family Finance Officer (FFO) in charge.

In charge of managing the budget. In charge of ensuring you are paying the least possible on your bills. Ensuring you don’t pay bank charges. Your FFO keeps things ticking over and helps the family keep on track towards your goals.

3. Track your expenses

Planning your budget and spending it can be two different things. When every penny counts then you need to know that you are spending according to your budget.

If you spend $600 on groceries when you budgeted for $400 then you need to know this. You need to know where your money is going. Not just hope all is going to plan.

The Empower app is perfect for this because it automatically tracks your spending and gives you updates on where you are against the weekly and monthly spend limits you set up. Remember to check out the Empower app here and sign up for your free 14 day trial.

Reduce Expenses

4. Pay off debt

If you have debt then your monthly repayments are eating into your chances of dropping down to one income. You need to pay off your debt fast, preferably before you lose that 2nd income.

Try living on one income and saving the other to throw at your debt. When you become a one income family stress about debt repayments is something you don’t need, your budget might not stretch that far.

Related post: How To Stop Spending Money: 12 Tips You Need

5. Cancel non-priority subscriptions

As a one income family, some subscriptions need to become non-priority payments and potentially be cancelled. The lower your expenses are, the higher your success rate for one income family living is.

If a service is no longer a priority to you, make it a priority to cancel. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Do I get value from this service (or product)?
  2. Can I find it cheaper?
  3. Do I need it or can I do without it for now?

Your FFO should cancel any that fail these questions. An even better way is to get TRIM to do this for you. Trim is a virtual personal assistant that constantly works to save you money. TRIM will help you cancel old subscriptions so you don’t need to.

advert banner for TRIM financial

6. Squeeze monthly bills

Many of your monthly bills are not set in stone, indeed they are ripe for negotiation and reducing. Pull all your recurring bills out, such as utilities, car insurance and home insurance and shop around to see if you can get them lower.

Remember there is no existing customer loyalty these days, most companies offer better deals to new customers. You don’t even need to do all the hard work of shopping around, get Billshark to ask for you.

Billshark negotiates lower prices on your monthly bills to save you time, money and hassle. You could save hundreds each month with the help of professional bill negotiators at BillShark, starting today!

advert banner for billshark

7. In The UK? Renegotiate Your Energy Bills With LAMB

Look After My Bills is a fantastic new service in the UK that will automatically switch you to a new energy provider to get you the cheapest rate. You could save up to £450 a year when you sign up to Look After My Bills for free.

LAMB will get you a great deal on your energy and when that deal ends, they’ll switch you again. You can sign up even if your current deal with your energy provider has not yet ended.

8. Reduce your utility usage

If you can save $10 a month on your utility bills, that’s $10 you don’t need to earn. You can save on your bills by doing things just a little differently. Like wearing an extra layer, turning the thermostat down one degree.

For more information on reducing utility bills check out these posts:

How To Keep Your House Warm In Winter And Save Money

10 Ways To Save Money On Your Water Bill

9. Use an energy efficient power strip

For many people the TV area has a plethora of cables and plugs for the many different devices located there. Turning off each socket can be difficult to do and reach.

Using an energy efficient power strip solves this problem for you. Buy one with surge protection and it will protect your devices if you have an electricity surge as well as saving you money.

10. Change Your Cell/Mobile Phone Plan

Check out your actual data and minutes usage over the past 6 months then research plans that give you that but for less. You don’t need a brand new phone every year so find a data only package – you’ll save a ton.

11. Cut Cable

I’m not saying get rid (but do feel free if it suits) because we still have cable. But we don’t have the full package and I phone up every year to get a better deal. The only time this is a problem is when the grand-kids come to stay and want the Disney channels, which we don’t have.

12. don’t buy too big a house

The bigger your house the bigger your mortgage. But also your bills are that much bigger too.
Never mind the extra time it takes to clean and the cost of more furniture and the knick-knacks you will buy.

When you want to be living on one income in a two income world you need to be willing to buy small, stay small and keep your costs low.

13. Drop Down To One Car

Cars are expensive to buy and expensive to run. Work out the logistics of dropping to one car. It’s often cheaper to use taxis and Ubers occasionally than have a 2nd car. Walk short distances rather than use your car.

14. Love Your Library

You local library is a treasure trove of free entertainment. Not only do they have books galore for the whole family. They have instructional books where you can learn more about the world around you. They have CDs, DVDs and often have free events that you can participate in.

15. Create free entertainment

Have an old fashioned games nights with games from your childhood. Be different and have a games night that does not include a games console. Games such as charades or a traditional board game are not only fun but send you down memory lane.

For more budget friendly family ideas why not check out Debt Free Family’s blog?

Save Money

16. Have an emergency fund

Living on one income means you’ll have less flexibility in your monthly budget and therefore having an emergency fund for, well, emergencies is essential.

Ring fence this money for emergency use only. If you’re not convinced then read this post on emergency fund examples of why you need that money saved.

17. Save For Big Purchases

Appliances and the like eventually need replacing. You know that so set aside money every month into a replacement appliance and big purchase fund. Don’t put these purchases on finance and pay interest.

If you were going to pay finance of $100 a month, save $100 a month instead, ready for your next purchase. Big purchase savings are often called sinking funds.

Different to your emergency fund as sinking funds are for expected expenses whereas your emergency fund is for unexpected costs.

Related posts:

10 of the Best 52 Week Money Challenges For You

How To Save 10K in A Year, And Some!

18. Budget For Fun Money

I believe everyone needs a little fun money in their lives. Even if it’s only $20. Fun money is your money to do with what you will, no guilt tripping. Mine is usually spent on chocolate!

Without fun money you are much more likely to resent your new life of frugal living on one income and end up having a spending splurge.

19. Create A Savings Habit

Always find a way to save a little every month. Even if it’s just $5, it’s a good, strong, sensible habit to get into.

20. Test run living on one income

If you still have 2 incomes, there is no reason you cannot live on just the one. Indeed this should be your challenge. Start living on one income and saving the other.

Prove to yourself that it is possible to live off one income and that you really can do it. Unless you have debt in which case the goal should be to live off one income and use the 2nd one to pay down your debt as fast as possible.

21. Get Rid Of Debt

If you have debt then your monthly repayments are eating into your chances of dropping down to one income.

You need to pay off your debt fast, preferably before you lose that 2nd income. Try living on one income and saving the other to throw at your debt.

When you become a one income family stress about debt repayments is something you don’t need, your budget might not stretch that far.

Grab your FREE copy of the Money Saving Mini Bundle and start organizing your money.

Be a savvy shopper

22. Have A Clothes Shopping Ban

I bet you have enough clothes in your closets to not need any new clothes for a year. Should you go without new clothes for that whole time? That’s up to you. But why not see how long you can go without buying new clothes?

23. Credit Card Cash Back & Vouchers

Some credit cards pay you in vouchers or cashback when you use them regularly.

As long as you are paying your credit card off in full every month, then take advantage of these cards. Use them for everything to gain maximum cash.

24. Shop Around

Time is something you do have, money is something you don’t. Use your time to research and shop around for the best bargains on things you need to buy. Don’t buy at the first opportunity, take your time and see what deals are there to be had.

25. Spend On Your Priorities

No longer should you blindly spend, even if it’s within your new, lower budget. Focus on your financial goals and your priorities. And only spend on them. Priority spending means no wasted spending.

26. Combine journeys

Drive fewer miles and save fuel by combining errands and trips you are making. It’s very easy to jump in the car and go grab something. Make a list of jobs and errands needed and see if you can do them in one day. This also gives you back more time.

27. Walk more

I can be guilty as you of jumping in the car for a very short journey usually justifying it by saying I don’t have time. The truth is I didn’t plan my time and my errands well enough and that’s why I take the odd short trip.

Walking is great exercise, and free, save money and get more exercise by walking to those short errands and leaving the car behind.

do it yourself

28. Do Your Own DIY

Instead of getting someone in to do basic home maintenance like fixing shelves or repainting a room, do it yourself. I bet you can find a YouTube tutorial for any DIY task or maintenance issue you need to tackle.

29. Exchange your skills

Bartering is alive and well in many parts of the country. Exchange a skill of yours with a neighbor and you both win.

30. Wash your own car

There are plenty of inexpensive car washes but the cheapest way to wash your vehicle is to do it yourself. If you save $10 every time you wash it yourself then that’s another $10 you don’t need to be earning.

31. Cut your own hair

For many people getting your hair done is a nice treat and activity that takes up a couple of hours. But it also sets you back a few pennies (make that a lot at roughly $50/£40 each time).

Cut your own hair or get your partner or friend to do it for you and you will save a significant sum of money every time. And have fun doing so. YouTube tutorials are your friend here.

32. Do your own nails or swap with a friend

Having your nails done is another activity that can be fun but the costs add up. I know it can be difficult to do your own nails, one hand never works as well as the other does it?

So hook up with a friend and swap nail treatments. Again YouTube can give you handy hints on getting a salon finish.

33. Downsize Your Stuff

We all have stuff we don’t use cluttering up the house. Have a declutter and sell the things you are no longer using. A few extra dollars earned is always a good thing. You can sell on Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, Craigslist and Gumtree.

For help on decluttering check out these posts:

Declutter Your Home – 2021 Easy Peasy Declutter Challenge

How To Declutter Your Home FAST When You Ain’t Got Time For That!

34. Exercise For Free

Gyms might have a ton of fancy equipment but to get regular exercise and keep fit you do not need all of that. Exercise in your local area whether that is running, walking or joining in a community exercise class.

There are many organized Parkrun’s operating, find out if there is one near you.

reduce grocery spending

35. eat at home

Eating out costs much more than the same meal made at home. When you are tired and cranky I know you don’t want to start cooking which is where your freezer meal from your batch cooking sessions will save you.

Cutting back or at least reducing the number of times you eat out each month can save you hundreds as it’s the biggest chunk of your food bill.

You can find more help on deciding what your budget will be in my post on how much should i spend on groceries each month.

36. meal plan

Meal planning is the mainstay of every frugalista. By planning what meals you will be having for the upcoming week, you know what food you need to buy.

When you know what food to buy you don’t end up throwing extras into your trolley just in case. I like to plan the meals we have without assigning a day, that way it doesn’t feel too restrictive.

If planning so many different recipes each week feels a little overwhelming right now then use the $5 meal plan service.

For just $5 a month you not only get a weekly meal plan, you get a grocery list of all the ingredients you will need to make those meals. That’s less than $1.25 a week to ensure you don’t waste food and have easy, yummy meals to make every night.

Start with their 14 day FREE trial so you can see how they will work for you.

37. Go generic

Don’t buy premium brands just because you always have. Generic and value brands cost much less than premium and taste just fine in their own right.

Premium brands cost more partly because the manufacturer needs to recoup all the advertising money they have spent trying to tell us their product is best!

I’ve seen so many blind taste tests where the generic brands beat the premium brands much to the surprise of the testers. You can save up to 300% when you buy your stores own brand or value brand.

38. batch cook

Batch cooking has saved my budget so many times. Who hasn’t come home from work drained
of every ounce of energy? Starting a meal from scratch is not going to happen on those days.

Batch cooking is simply making your normal meals but double or even triple the amount. Chili, Spaghetti bolognese sauce and soups are perfect for cooking up in a big pot.

Freeze the portions you don’t eat that night and you have a ready meal for another day when you hate the thought of cooking. This is where Myfreezeasy can help, it is a personalized freezer meal plan to suit your time, tastes and budget.

Myfreezeasy meal plans come with videos, shopping lists and simple to follow directions to get your bulk meal prep done in no time at all. It’s all about making 10 meals in just one hour! 

Choose the freezer meals you want to prep on the mobile app with their simple drag and drop tool. All the freezer meals are budget friendly recipes.

You can try Myfreezeasy for free when you join the Freezer Cooking 101 Workshop. When you join the workshop you will also get a free sample freezer meal plan to try it out for yourself.

39. drink water

Water is basically free to drink at home and it’s also good for you. The more water you drink the less you drink of other liquids like soda, squash, coffee and alcohol. All of which cost money.

40. coupon wisely

Coupons can save you money but only when used carefully. Many coupons are for premium brands. The coupon gets you money off but not so much that it makes the price cheaper than the generic brand price.

If a coupon saves you real money then use it, otherwise ignore it and know it for the sales gimmick it actually is.

Cut your grocery spending even further when you join the FREE 7 day Grocery Budget Challenge

Living On One Income – Do What Works For You

When you know the 2 secrets to successfully living on one income and you have these 40 tips to point you in the right direction, I am sure you will have frugal living on one income down to a T within a couple of months.

For more tips and help on frugal living have a read of these posts:

How To Be Frugal: 200+ Best Frugal Living Tips To Try Today

How To Love Living Within Your Means Every Day

Live Cheaply – How You Can Win At Living On Next To Nothing

Grab your copy of the money saving mini bundle for immediate help in getting your savings organized

pinterest image for how to live on low income
pinterest image for living on one income

* Banking services for new accounts provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.

About Emma

I'm here to help you become confident in making the best money decisions for you and your family. Frugal living has changed my life, let me help you change yours.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.