Living on One Income

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We had to cut 60% of our budget in order for me to stay home. Here are my best tips for you.  The blessings are so worth the effort!

1)   You must be agreed that you being home is more important than a higher income.  If he is resentful you will encounter problems.  You can have a trial time as well – he might not believe you can cut expenses.  But you can!  Joni McCoy of MiserlyMoms.com has a wonderful audio tape telling her story that is incredibly inspiring.
2)  You must know WHY it is important for you to be home.  Finding Your Way Home, which I talk about in its own post (here), is an excellent resource.
3)  Determine how much the second job will actually cost you – taxes, childcare, clothing, gas, parking, mileage, lunches, dinners, office parties, “I deserve it” treats, medical costs for not being able to stay at home caring for your family, guilt gifts…
4)  Only shop for clothes once a year.  Ask for gift cards for your birthday or Christmas.
5)  Ask your husband to mow your own lawn.
6)  Eliminate your dry-cleaning.
7)   Shop consignment stores like Children's Orchard, or quality thrift stores, or garage sales.
8)  Don’t become addicted to junk at garage sales or stores.  Have a LIST of what you need and look for items on your list.  Be careful.  Don’t waste your family’s hard-earned money!
9)  Know what you spend and why – track it.  Where can you cut back realistically?  Make your budget work on paper, and then see if it is realistic.
10) Keep a set amount of spending money for each of you – this is only realistic ($5 to $40).
11) Don’t forget to budget for gifts each month!  Be realistic about homemade gifts – would the person rather have the gift you made or the $15 you spent in materials making it?  I buy a $10 gift card each month at Target as part of my monthly expenditures.
12) Buy cards for fifty cents or a dollar at The Dollar Store, or make your own, esp. from your children, or to other children.
13) If you have debt, using Mary Hunt’s Rapid Debt Repayment Program for $10 for 3 months or $25 for the year is totally worth the cost.  You can also read all the back issues to inspire you.  I believe Dave Ramsey calls this the “snowball” method.  Her calculator though, is worth the cost because you can keep running the numbers as you add extra money to your debts.
14) Put aside money for car repairs.  Keep it in a separate account – 1/12th of your annual expenses.  Mary Hunt of DebtProofLiving.com calls this a Freedom Account.  It is very helpful and reassuring to have.
15) USE THE ENVELOPE SYSTEM!  Even if you pay your credit cards in full and on time, you will still save much more money if you are using cash and the envelope system.
16) Get a free utility audit, now that you are home and will be there when the guy arrives.
17) Try to raise your insurance deductibles.  Sometimes combining home and auto means savings, but sometimes it is more prudent to go with different providers.  Shop around – but only go with a BIG name provider.  Little names mean trouble.  RESEARCH the company! But also make sure your home will qualify with the new guy.  Don’t jump the gun.  The savings can be tremendous, though, by shopping around.  Changing our car insurance provider tremendously helped me to stay home.  I didn't go with the cheapest guy - I went with the biggest name, best coverage, at a great price.  Ask how you can qualify for more discounts.
18) Now that you are home, you can possibly qualify to be a pleasure driver, instead of a commute driver.  This can lower the rate, plus, if you drive (and can document within the year) less than 7,500 miles, or even 5,000 miles, you can really save big!  We thought of being a one car family, but my car expenses are so low that the convenience of a second car was worth the cost.
19) Luckily, children at home get sick less often than children in daycare.  Focusing on your family’s health usually means better nutrition and less illness.  This lowers co-pay and medicine costs.
20) Only have one car payment if you are in that situation.  Always try to pay off the car early, and then keep your car for ten to eighteen years.  We just put in a new engine.  It was cheaper than buying a used car.  Dave Ramsey has great tips and videos on buying used cars, and discusses why you should only buy used, and how to never, ever have a car payment again.
21) Budget for meals out – keep cutting them down, but keep a set amount for those times you crave pizza or are out with others.  Our budget is only $20! And we've adjusted to thinking that is a lot of money to eat out!  If we want more fast food, then we use our personal spending money.
22) Start tithing if you don’t already.  Begin at 1%.  Increase another percent with each raise, and with each debt paid off, until you are at 10%.  You will be blessed for it in many ways.  (During the Great Depression, there was an unofficial study done at a church.  As each man came in for a handout, the pastor asked him if he had tithed when he had a job.  Each man replied that they had not.  By the end of the depression, his conclusion to the congregation was that every man who had faithfully tithed was helped by God…every man who had not tithed had to be helped by the church.) (I'm trying to find the source of where I first read this story.)
23) Start saving 1% at a time, too.
24) You must get rid of all debts as rapidly as possible before you spend money on “extras.”  Renee Ellison of HomeSchoolHowTos.com has an excellent audio cd called Domestic Tips to inspire you, as well as written information, at reasonable prices.  I’ve listened to this CD dozens of times.  It has greatly helped me to change behaviors and not spend money.  The CD is her reading her written information, so you don’t need both.  It helped me to hear it over and over.  Reading kind of goes in one ear and out the other.  But listening while cooking I always heard something new!  I have the Teaching Tips CD as well; both are fantastic. 
25)  Vacation with family members to share expenses, if you must go somewhere, or stay with friends. 
26)  Don’t buy or rent videos – check out ALL the libraries in your area, not just the one you usually go to.  There are incredible free or low cost deals out there!  If you still have a VCR you can get movies for free from others.
27)  When you want big ticket items or a new kitchen, remind yourself that you’d rather be at home than working to pay off a loan!
28)  Instead of reaching for a marketed product for your need, search The Dollar Stretcher at Stretcher.com for solutions instead.
29)  Encourage yourself by reading others’ stories, searching for ways to cut expenses, find friends who stay home too, and do things you enjoy – don’t just clean.  Stretcher has great articles.
30)  Get outside with your kids in the backyard or on a walk.  Take them to the park, library, and other free events once a week.
31)  Plan special things for daddy that doesn’t involve money.
32)  Spending and keeping money determines success – not income.
33)  Once a week research how to make something from scratch, like "bisquick", cake mix, soup, or condensed soups to use in casseroles.
34)  Bless others with your excess and find yourself blessed back!
35)  Follow the principles of The Automatic Millionaire and the Workbook.
36)  Teach your kids about The Millionaire Next Door and how real millionaires live – not the tv ones.
37)  Have an emergency fund – this should be separate from your Freedom Account.
38)  Downsize your house if it will keep you at home!  Houses can be lost, contents can be lost… memories stay. It all depends on IF you REALLY want to be AT HOME.  I meet women who say it's impossible.  On paper it's impossible for us, too!  Yet I've been home 10 years now.  Living in a small affordable home was key, as was paying the cars off quickly.
39)  Don’t get involved in a home-based businesses.  You can usually learn to save much more money than you can earn with a home business.  Plus, a business really cuts into your time – is it worth it?  Husbands thrive when they can boast that they are the sole provider.  When you complain that there isn’t enough and that you must do something to help the poor guy out, it usually backfires.  He’s not happy, the babies aren’t happy, and you are once again overworked.  Just let him provide while you find new ways to thrive on the take home pay.
40)  Write down possible contingency plans if he gets laid off.  Traditionally, when a man got laid off, the wife took a temporary job with a set time limit (say, three months) while he looked for work.  As this can backfire in this day and age, I would suggest your contingency plan might be before- and after-school childcare, just until he finds a new job.  Make sure you follow the law, and you may need insurance, especially if you take care of a child all day (or when a single parent works nights, all night). 
41)  Have a toy sale in November, OR take them to a consignment shop like Children's Orchard and trade them for new toys.
42)  Plan your days.  Without a daily plan, you’ll falter and waste both time and money.
43)  Plan your meals.  Plan your meals around grocery fliers if possible.
44)  Designate days to accomplish things (FlyLady.net is a good role model).
45)  Resist the urge to fill your time.  If you have your days planned with how you and your husband envision what should happen with you at home, you’ll be able to say “yes” or “no” to people asking you to do things.  Remember why you are at home – does the “yes” or “no” answer fit?  My friends know I stay home EVERY Monday. Monday starts a great foundation for my week.
46)  Plan activities to do at home with your kids.  Have fun with them!  Don’t let the time slip by unconsciously.
47)  If you are happy, everyone around you will be happier.  If you aren’t, determine why and make baby steps to change it.  Happy wife, happy life.
48) Stay HOME.  You’ll get more done, you’ll spend less, and everyone will be happier (really!).
49) Regular park days, once or twice a month with the same group of people, will provide lasting friendships.
50) Try to keep beating your budget.  I write on my envelope the total spent on the envelope for the month.  Money saved should be used partly for debt, and partly for fun! 
51)  You might consider paying young children in Chuck E Cheese tokens.  You can get a coupon deal and it will cost you less than using money.  Go when they earn 20 coins – and don’t buy any food!  Bring a few extra coins for you to play with them and to replace any coins gobbled up by broken machines.
52) Keep looking for ways to save – Read www.lainesletters.com.  Click on the letter and read “Home Economics: Fifty Ways we Paid Off Our House on One Income.”  (So bummed! These links no longer work.)  Yay for Lori Alexander!  She re-typed Laine's Letter here.
53) Check out the mortgage, car and debt calculators at Bankrate.com.  For debt I recommend Mary Hunt's, but bankrate's are free!
54) Read "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki
Robin and Joe Dominguez.  It can be life-changing!
Best financial book out there.  It also made me
stop being scared of inflation.
55) Read "What I don't Use"and Other Thrifty Tips.
57) Pray before you pay.
Plan to take care of your husband, and 
watch him take care of you! 

I will keep updating this list as I remember ways we met the goal.   Janine at www.keeping-house.blogspot.com


  1. I just found your blog through the Women Living Well link-up. I have already read almost all your posts. I currently work full-time and am completely overwhelmed but I am longing to be home caring for my husband, children, and home. This post in particular was very helpful. I cannot way to try your suggestions. Thanks for the help! :)

  2. I'm your newest follower having found your blog through Women Living Well! You have a great list of suggestions! I blogged about how we lived frugally a few months ago on my blog. I always love seeing others ideas! I can't wait to read more!

    Monica @ theatypicalhousewife.com

  3. Rebecca, I'm so glad you found this helpful! Thank you for letting me know. I highly recommend the books "Finding Your Way Home" and "There's No Place Like Home." (I do not get any financial compensation for recommending books or through Amazon.) You've encouraged me to write more on the topic and I'll try to post more this month on what helped me get home. May God bless you as you strive to do what is best for your family!

  4. Monica! Thanks for joining and for your encouragement! I'll drop by and check out your suggestions, too!

  5. Good tips. But I take issue with #39. I work from home and on a busy week I only work around 20 hours, yet I bring in about as much as my husband does (he also works mostly from home). There is definitely money to be made at home, and I'm almost positive I would not be saving over six figures a year by focusing on frugality.

    1. Hi Adriana - I'd love to know what you do to bring in that much money!
      I keep hearing of people working from home in the media, yet I never meet them in person. Most of the jobs from home I hear about only pay $10-$12/ hour or are MLMs. That is so not worth it to me. I occasionally help out former coworkers and charge them $40/hour, but have found that in my case, the time isn't worth the chaos it causes me. It makes me uptight, I'm always on the computer, I need silence, I have to run to the post office and/or beat Fed Ex's pick-up time. My stomach gets in knots! For me, it works out better to spend way less and not try to make more. If your children are older than 5 and can read on their own or play without needing supervision, then for some women working at home can make sense. In my circles, I've yet to find that woman who is working from home, or p/t out of the home, that is content with it. I'd be willing to hear more if you are that woman!

    2. Hmm. Well, I think it depends on the business, and the approach you take to working from home. Many SAHMs, and women in general, choose to start/run/be a part of localized, customer-facing businesses, which are very difficult to run if you've got an unpredictable schedule. An example of this type of business would be an online store, a "consultant" at a larger company (such as Mary Kay or Lilla Rose), or an eBay seller. These businesses are finite in their ability to provide income (you only get profit for physical product), and they require you to be constantly promoting, advertising, and dealing with customers and logistics.

      I think the key to working from home is to start a business that will bring in passive income, and that can be worked on in short, unpredictable bursts. An example of this type of business is an income-generating website (one that doesn't require you to ship out product), or some sort of service-based business. As for me, I'm a freelance writer. I write mostly for magazines (print and online), and I also write novels and screenplays. I can write whenever I want to -- whether it's while I'm waiting in line at a Starbucks or in the middle of the night when everyone's asleep, so I never have to worry about keeping a specific schedule.

    3. Thank you for your thoughtful answer! I hope it will be of help to others!

  6. Coming home from work is so worth it!! I quit my job over 25+ years ago and never looked back. That is a wonderful list of ideas and worth lots of people reading it. Thanks for sharing this over at WholeHearted Wednesdays. Have a great week!!

  7. thanks for linking up with this post on MMM link up party! What great tips and advice. I am a huge fan of Miserly Moms. That book jump started my being able to stay home successfully. I open the link up back open this evening and I hope you will come and link up another great post like this! I shared this on my Adventures in Mindful Living FB page too!