How To Live On One Income Successfully (With 30+ Helpful Tips)

Last Updated on 11th September 2020 by Emma

You’re fed up! I get it. You’ve read about people who are successfully living on one income.

But so far it hasn’t worked for you. You are still searching for the right tips to make it work for you.

I know how you feel.

Trying to live on one income in a two income world is hard. Doubly hard when that income is not a six figure luxury one.

Want to know the secret to living on one low income?

Actually there are 6 secrets. To make this work you need to understand and adopt these secret strategies.

Do so and you have this nailed.

Before I forget let me just say…

When you are thinking about how do people survive on a single income you need to understand:

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 and help you stay frugal.

Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!

(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)

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6 Secrets To Living On One Income

1.Your Mindset

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

Approach it with dread, with resentment, and you will always struggle.

Approach it with enthusiasm and willingness and you will be successful.

If I could only suggest one tip for living on one income then this would be it.

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

Have the right mindset and the willingness to do what it takes and you cannot fail but be successful in achieving your goal.

For inspiration, check out what rich people do and embrace their mindset and habits.

2. Embracing The Lifestyle Change

Living on one income, successfully, requires you to do things differently.

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

It’s not just buying less take out coffee or new clothes (although they do help), it’s changing the way you live life.

Absolutely not for the worse, but change must happen and you need to embrace it in order to be successful.

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

Make some positive changes to your lifestyle and spending habits and you will be amazed at how much less you need.

Living as a one income family and learning how to live on less money gives you the opportunity to step away from an over-spending mindset and do a lifestyle reset.

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

3. Time Not Money

Pre-prepared vegetables, coffee to go, washing the car, eating out. These are all activities that are convenient to pay others to do for you.

But convenience comes at a cost. We turn to convenience when we think time is money and we don’t have the time.

The secret here is to switch it up. You have time but now you don’t have the money. Certainly not to spend on pure convenience.

It’s time to say no to costly convenience and yes to doing it yourself.

rolls of dollars

4. It’s All About Why

You need to have a why to change your lifestyle and stick with it.

Doing it, just because, won’t cut it.

At the first sign of feeling skint, you’ll be into feeling deprived mode and start overspending as a result.

You need a rock solid why to do this.

We lived off one income after Mr2p lost his Dad. He was part way through re-training and had been working part time.

Being bereaved unexpectedly made us re-evaluate our priorities.

And that why kept us focused even when we had no money left and payday was still a few days away.

Living on one income = your goal = spending less = happy to do so.

5. Follow Your Own Path

Life isn’t equal or fair. We don’t all earn the same money. Don’t do what others say you should do.

Follow your own path.

You have your why, you have your budget. Live your life according to your why and your available money.

Ignore others when they say you should spend more or have more.

6. Be Challenged

It can be a challenge to drop down to one income. But that’s OK because the secret is, you are going to love this challenge.

It’s a challenge you can win and they are the best types of challenges.

The great thing is there is a never ending list of things you can do to challenge yourself, in every aspect of your life.

Got your grocery challenge nailed? Move on to driving down your energy usage. Got that nailed? Work on using your car less.

And now you know the secrets to living on one income let’s look at a ton of helpful tips to help you be successful.

For more money challenges read these posts:

How To Make No Spend Days Successful (And When Not To)

How To Be Successful With A No Spend Challenge

The 30 Day Rule: How To Save (More) Money

33 Tips For Living On One Income

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Budgeting Tips For Living On One Income

1.One Income Family Budget

I know many people dislike a budget, seeing it as a way to restrict you. But remember your goal – you want to drop down to living on one income.

You have to control your money and not overspend.

The Empower app* is the perfect choice for both budgeting help and savings.

It make budgeting so simple even I can use it!

Tracking what you spend and where can be a bit of a faff if you do it the old style way (writing it down or adding to a spreadsheet).

Empower automatically tracks your spending and gives you updates on where you are against the weekly and monthly spend limits you set up.

Empower makes budgeting so easy. No need for multiple apps for saving, budgeting and banking as these are all features of the Empower app.

Find out more about the Empower app here and sign up for your free 30 day trial.

2. Decide On The 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.

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3. Cancel non-priority subscriptions

Maybe you are paying for a gym membership but aren’t making the best use of it.

Perhaps you have subscribed to a hobby magazine but haven’t always found the time to practice your hobby.

As a one income family, some subscriptions need to become non-priority payments and potentially be cancelled.

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.

Need to cancel your old subscriptions? TRIM can do this for you

Need to set spending alerts to keep your spending on track? TRIM can do this for you.

TRIM can even help you fight fees.

advert banner for TRIM financial


happy couple with piggy bank and calculator

4. Squeeze your 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!

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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 provider as your existing one becomes more expensive.

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.

5. 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.

6. Cut Cable

Confession – we still have cable but if we had to survive on a low income we would get rid. Right now we don’t need to but it comes at a cost.

We pay $80 a month at the moment (includes a sports packages that Mr2p apparently cannot currently do without).

That’s a lot of money that you could save in one go if you need to.

7. 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 30 day trial.

8. 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.

9. Test run by living on one income and saving the other

Whilst you’ve got 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.

10. 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.

Arch of coins going between piggy bank and coin pile

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

pastel coloured houses

Reduce Your Home Costs To Live On One Income

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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

18. 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?

paintbrush and carpet of flowers how to save for a vacation

19. Do Your Own DIY

Instead of getting someone in to maintain things, do it yourself.

I bet you can find a YouTube tutorial for any DIY task or maintenance issue you need to tackle.

20. Exchange Services

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

21. 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 – 2019 Easy Peasy Declutter Challenge

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

22. 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.

23. 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.

plates of food on white background

Living On One Income By Reducing Food Costs

Food costs are an area where you can spend big and save big.

It can be such a flexible part of your budget that the list of things you can do to save money on groceries is almost endless. So let’s concentrate on the priority areas.

24. Eat At Home

Eating out might be easy but it sure ain’t cheap. This is where you can save big from day one.

Focus on eating at home and reserving meals out for special occasions.

25. Meal Prep

Always plan what meals you are having for the week/s ahead. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Failing to plan will result in unplanned meals out and we know these are outside your small budget.

Plan all meals, not just dinner and know before you leave the house each morning what you will be eating that night.

However if this 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.

Given we can waste up to 30% of all the food you buy, $5 a month for recipes and a grocery list emailed to you every week will definitely save you a ton of money over the next few months.

Start with their 14 day FREE trial so you can see how it works.

Try $5 Meal Plan Today!

26. Use Your Shopping List

Part of your meal prep is identifying what ingredients you might need for your future meals and buying them.

Create a detailed shopping list and use it! More importantly stick to it.

Don’t throw extra things into your cart ‘just in case’.

If you run out of food I can guarantee you have enough in your cupboards to make a week’s worth of meals.

27. Batch cooking

Batch cooking will provide you with a home cooked meal on a busy night within a few minutes.

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! 

With recipes that require little to no pre-cooking, you can quickly and efficiently get them ready to freeze.

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.

You just need to pull the meal out from the freezer in the morning and reheat when you get home.

28. Drink Water

Water out of your tap is basically free. Why pay for flavored soda’s and juices when you can drink for free?

For more information on controlling your food costs join the grocery budget challenge:

open book with dried rose

Living On One Income – Control Your Entertainment Costs

You can pay out a lot for your fun and entertainment. However it isn’t necessary in order to have a great time.

Finding ways to have fun for free or very little are your aim right now.

29. 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.

30. DVD Movie Night

If you love a good movie, then have a movie night at home. An old DVD is just as much fun to watch as the latest release but costs a fraction of the price.

Pop some home made popcorn and you’ve got a night at the movies all wrapped up.

31. Bring Your Own Suppers

Having friends round for dinner, especially a group of friends can get a little pricey when everyone eats a hearty meal.

Gather all your friends together and have a pot luck supper instead.

With everyone bringing something to share and eat there will be plenty to go around and no-one is out of pocket.

3 people lying on grass with daisy flowers in their feet

32. Traditional Games Night

Traditional games have almost fallen by the wayside since we have so many electronic and internet based games to play with.

But traditional games are fun! Whether you want to play board games, card games or interactive games you are bound to really enjoy your time.

33. Family Time At Home

How often do you have planned family or couple time at home?

Being at home and doing something there is both free, relaxing and fun.

It doesn’t matter whether you are doing chores together, watching a film together or making a meal together.

The key ingredient is spending time with the family.

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

34. Find Local Free Entertainment

Your local community can be a wealth of free and cheap entertainment. You will find weekend, daytime and evening activities.

They are also a great way to get to know your wider neighbors better.

35. 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.

Living On One Income – Do What Works For You

Knowing the 6 secrets to successfully living on one income and 35 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

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* 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.

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