“Families Can’t Make It On One Income”

“Families Can’t Make It On One Income”

This is the comment I receive the most whenever I write about women being keepers at home: “Families can’t make it on one income!” I asked the women in the chat room how they’ve been able to stay home full time and live on one income.

Stephanie: It’s hard but it’s doable. We do without things a lot but we have what we need. He’s enough. We give when we can and somehow God always sends us what we’re lacking. We didn’t know how we were going to pay rent last month. My husband took on extra hours at work without asking for anything in return (no extra pay) even though we were short. He bought breakfast for his team. He ended up with a bonus he didn’t expect for doing these things for his boss. We made rent. It’s about doing things Gods way. Give and don’t expect. It’s hard and uncomfortable but He always comes through.

– Cook from scratch
– Use things up and fix what you have instead of just throwing something out and buying new
– Stay home instead of always going out
– Simplify and be creative with your resources – you really don’t need all the things you think you need

Danielle: My friend Megan does this so well! (She used to be part of this group but went off FB.) They have a huge garden, they shop at yard sales, and don’t eat out. She’s such an inspiration in this area. Her husband teaches and coaches at a private school.

Taylor: buy kids clothes/shoes on consignment
Cook all 3 meals
We don’t have cable or netflix.
We go on vacation once every 2 or 3 years not every year.
Shop at Aldi for groceries.
We bought our cars with cash.
We use Simply Switch to help us save money on energy bills.
My MIL cuts our hair for free but if she didn’t I would do it.
I don’t get my nails done or anything like that.
My kids don’t have very many toys, but they don’t know the difference.

Carlee: -Don’t have debt. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
-Meal plan, coupon, cook from scratch, and don’t eat out anymore than you can afford.
-Stop going shopping unless you have a specific need, budget, and list. Don’t wander around the mall aimlessly.
-Don’t buy things just because someone asked you to support them or do a fundraiser. Learn to say no.
-Stay home or visit friends at their homes instead of always going out and about to do things. When you take a long trip to do one activity, it usually ends up costing way more than you planned for because of gas, eating out, snacks, etc.
-Learn to be content with what you have.
-Give up junk food and sweets and pop. People spend insane amounts of money on pop at the store when water is free, even at most restaurants.
-Don’t feel obligated to buy your child things every time you go out. Buy their needs, and they’ll be happy with what they have.
-Buy quality items when it counts but cheap things when they’ll do just fine. Something that should be high quality is the comfort of you and your child/children. Something like a twin mattress that needs replacing is essential for a good night’s sleep. This is an aspect that buying cheap won’t benefit anyone.
-Don’t care what people think of your car/house/lifestyle/choices.
-Don’t pay for TV.
-Live on a written budget.

This is a little off topic, but I love this quote from Dave Ramsey: “People are buying things they don’t want with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like.” Stop this madness!

Corrie: I think when asked this question everyone seems to answer the same. God provides. Go without. Cook from scratch. And all that. People who want to fight about this want hard facts. Let’s share numbers and areas of the country. To convince people you have to give them unarguable facts. Here’s mine:

My husband and I live in GA, have 4 kids and collectively we’ve never made more than $40,000. For the last 4 years, we’ve also been paying down $50,000 in consumer debt. Since my first child was born I haven’t worked full time outside of the home. At the most I had a super flexible (like go in when I felt like it) part-time job at a police department. I’ve done transcription work from home and have sold my extra breastmilk to a pharmaceutical company. Every month I never saw how our budget would work on paper but every month the bills got paid and we ate. Through prayer and trust, God can and does provide.

We have recently sold our home for full asking price which will allow us to completely pay off all of our debt and have money left over. We were given an amazing opportunity to purchase a broiler farm and are being allowed to live and work there until we can get financing in order. I buy all our clothes and furniture from thrift stores although we are given so much from friends I rarely have to do that. We have two vehicles. One is paid for and the other has a small payment. I do my best to price shop everything: insurance, groceries, household items. If something breaks I’ll contact the company who made it to see if they will replace it for free. 90 per cent of the time they do. Even without warranty. If I can buy something online, it’s almost always cheaper and it saves me from going into town. I’ve also breastfed all my babies. That’s saved thousands.

Meredith: When we had our first baby my husband was a stocker at a grocery store. We qualified for every government assistance available, but managed to not use any of it by being frugal and buying only things that were truly needs. We lived 40 miles from his place of employment because the cost of living was much cheaper. We rented a very modest apartment. We didn’t spend money on much besides necessities. No cable. No internet. No eating out. No vacations. We had two (paid for) older cars, but I hardly drove mine. I walked where I could, pushing my baby in his stroller in order to save on gas. When my husband’s transmission broke, we went to one car for months until we could afford to get his car fixed.

Despite money being tight, we had fun. We learned to find things to do for free like parks and libraries. We took lots of walks. I learned to cook from scratch and shop at thrift stores. My husband makes over five times what he made then, so we have lots more discretionary money now. But I look back on those times fondly. We aren’t any happier now with more money than we were then with much less. And in lots of ways things were simpler then. I actually really miss those days.

Jessica: It’s just priorities. Most people are so convinced they have to have expensive things. You don’t NEED cable, or a smart phone, or fancy clothes, or the latest car, or a huge house, or electronics, or a million toys. Put God first, your family second, and keeping up with the Jones’ at the bottom of the list and you will be amazed how it all works out! My husband hasn’t had a “real” job in a year. He’s been doing odd construction work. He is on track to make about $20,000 this year. We just paid cash for a nice used van (that we actually had to have with our fourth child on the way) and we are in the process of buying a cute three bedroom house so we can quit renting. God has provided above and beyond this year ?.

Corrie: I’d like to add this: I see a lot of no cable and no cell phone. Even those things are okay. For example, we have Dish Network. I pay $34 a month for it. That’s AFTER fees and taxes. We have good channels and locals as well as a DVR for that price. We also have smart phones. I currently have an iPhone 5S. It’s not the latest and greatest but it was $100 a couple years ago. My family is also on a cell plan with Cricket. We pay $100 a month for five phones with data. That’s $20 per person and that’s no kids. It’s my mom, dad, myself, husband, and 20 year old step son. I make the 20 year old contribute $25 since that’s still way cheaper than any other plan he could get. All the good stuff is totally attainable. You don’t have to pay $150 a month for cable or $100 a month for a cell phone.

Stephanie: Family of eight and my husband works. Money is tight and has been since I quit teaching 13 years ago. We don’t have a smart phone, cable, or satellite television, go out to eat at all, shop for fun, or take a vacation. We have done the following: 1) Pay off debt, don’t use credit cards or loans; 2) Grow our food, hunt for meat, and can or freeze our food; 3) Most meals are made from scratch; 4) Most clothes the children wear are hand-me-downs from friends or bought at a garage sale or thrift store; 5) Limit snacks and sweets; 6) We have Netflix as our only television…. A lot of it in the mindset that you have.

If you want to make it work living on one income, you can do it, but you must both be on the same page. We are happy spending time together as a family. We have two vehicles both are older and paid for but they work. We do not take government assistance, but just because we qualify for it does not mean that we need it. Have an emergency fund. Follow Dave Ramsey. He is a life saver.

This makes it sound like we never have fun. We do have fun. We are surrounded by lakes, woods, and trails. We ride our dune buggy, go to our children’s sporting events, attend church functions as a family, host a lot of get-togethers at our house, sleep in a tent out on our property. We do puzzles, play with Legos, and work in the garden. Anything can be fun with the right outlook!

Christine: I think if you say you can’t live on one income, you don’t want to. Most Americans are worldly people. They are into themselves and WANT but don’t need things. It’s all in the mind.
It’s a proven fact that you CAN live on one income no matter where you live. But do they really want to?
I say, try living with one income, while having two. Save your income for a year, test the waters!
If you truly want to stay home and just have one income, you CAN!

Sarah: We have been on one income for 12 years now with four kids, and even though my husband’s income has increased over the years, our lifestyle has not. We are debt free other than our mortgage. We don’t have cable. We don’t have internet other than the data on our phones. We don’t eat out often and we don’t pay for hundreds of activities for our kids. I cook from scratch, and we have a very large garden. Living on one income is less about how much you make, and more about how much you spend. When I stopped working, we had debt, and expensive tastes and felt like we “needed” everything we had. Working for years to pay it all off and learning the difference between needs and wants made all the difference.

Sarah: I think people also forget it costs money to work. If you take out your work expenses, how much are you really bringing home? When I worked at the hospital, we had childcare, my scrubs, good shoes every four months because I was on my feet 13 hours a day, ordering food at work, paying for more convenient foods at home, because I didn’t have time to cook from scratch. Then gas to get to work and back, my training every year…it adds up so fast.

Shannon: We live on one income AND in Southern California where the typical rent (not mortgage) for a 3/4 Bedroom home/apartment is around $2,300.00! We make it work by the grace of God. We scrimp, don’t take vacations really, and don’t waste too much in the added things in life: used cars, but nice ones 🙂 Just being content with what God has provided is how we do it.

Kim: These are all great ideas! I’d like to add something I have done in the past. Meal plan! Use the grocery ads to plan your weekly meals. Also stock up on the items that are on sale…..keep a list of prices to check the sale cycles and buy enough, with coupons hopefully, to get through to the next sale. 🙂

Heather: We’ve been living on one income for the past year. Before that, I would have told you it can’t be done. Now, I would tell you it can’t be done without being willing to make lifestyle adjustments. I think a big key is to gather all the paperwork/bills/statements and take the time to figure out exactly where your money is going. That was VERY eye opening for us. It gives you a great roadmap for figuring out where to cut. Here are some things we learned:

– “Mind the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves.” Making our own laundry soap, baking bread, using the clothesline, unplugging appliances except when we’re using them- they all save a few cents at a time, and don’t feel like they’re worth it. But all those pennies add up if you keep at it month after month.

– Buy food, not “food products.” If it comes ready made in a box, you’re paying waaaaay more than if you bought the ingredients and cooked from scratch. It’s also healthier, tastier, and better for the environment.

– Buy less meat. It’s crazy expensive. Look for vegetarian alternatives and legumes instead. Or combine- mixing half ground beef & half lentils, for example.

– DEBT. My goodness! I had NO IDEA how expensive it is to have debt. And I just accepted debt as normal- everybody does it. Until I sat down and looked at where our money was going. Our *minimum payment* on our student/consumer debt each month was actually more than our mortgage payment. And if you’re only making minimum payments, you actually go more into debt each month. This is probably the biggest thing. I know so many people who only need two incomes because of debt payments. It’s nuts. It’s slavery. If you have debt, you need to be ruthless about paying it off as quickly as possible. Dave Ramsey’s snowball method has been really helpful for us.

– You do not need a cellphone. Just because “everyone has” something, does not make it a need. For our two phones and a modest data plan, we were paying $110/month. I bought out my plan, and now I use Fongo. It’s a VOIP provider and I can call or text anyone I want for FREE. My husband does need a phone plan due to his work, but he dropped data and reduced his plan to the smallest minutes available, which shaved over $30/month off his bill.

– Walk, bike, bus instead of drive.

– Do you really need a second vehicle? It may be convenient, but is it a need?

– Do not take on debt to buy toys. A holiday trailer, a boat, a quad, a gun…are not needs.

– Call around about your bills. We were able to find slightly lower rates on all our insurance and major utilities, and cut our internet bill in half by shopping around and comparing companies.

– If you have debt, call the credit card/loan company. Most of them are willing to give you a lower interest rate just because you called and asked. This blew my mind!

– Use your house as an income source. We live in our basement and rent out our main floor. Sometimes, I get annoyed about the lack of space, but the benefits outweigh that.

– You don’t need to spend a ton of money putting your kids in lessons and activities. There is such cultural pressure to enroll the kids in everything to give them some sort of imaginary leg up in adult life. Let them catch frogs in the creek- it’s free, and just as beneficial if not more so.

– Stop eating out. Just stop.

Beth: We do much of the same things the ladies above do. We have an extra family member (my mother) who does contribute to our grocery and utility budget because she has a food wants that that are not part of our regular items and our utilities are more expense due to her habits. Still we do well on my husband’s retirement and disability income. It’s not as much as it was before he retired from the Army but it’s meets all our needs and some wants too. We are a family of six with three children 10 and under.

Cassie: One of the biggest things for our family was to actually learn how to budget and then not spend more than we were bringing in. This meant using a calculator when grocery shopping and making sure I stay within our grocery budget, or whatever other budget I was shopping in. I searched for the lowest priced insurance. We dropped the house phone, we have unlimited internet and watch Netflix and Amazon Prime. We only have tracfone for our cell phones. We do not have a car payment on any of the 3 vehicles sitting in our driveway. We have no debt other than our mortgage. We budget for gifts and insurance and everything. A friend of mine recommended we look into something like Intelligent Car Leases, who provide deals on cars for customers and help you save money as you pay monthly leasing a car, as opposed to purchasing it fully. We follow a zero based budget, meaning every penny that comes in has a purpose.

We were also able to, with taxes one year, get our finances one month ahead. So everything we make this month goes to next months budget so we know exactly how much we can spend and not have to worry about more coming in or not to cover it. All of my bills are set on auto payment so I never forget a bill. I also take full advantage of budget billing with the electric company and gas company which allows my budget to be consistent throughout the year. I have babysat on and off over the years to bring in a bit of extra money to up our budget in some areas. Avoid eating out as much as possible and make things at home, this includes coffee and what not. Drink water more than any other beverage it’s healthier and free.

Stacey: Whether you think you can or think you can’t- you’re right.

I couldn’t stay at home until we both thought I could. We both had to prepare and get ready. We paid off debt and used my whole income to save/pay down debt and when we got to a point it was going to savings I quit.

We budget for what we want to do, but used, reuse stuff. Knowing we want freedom and a wife at home not fancy stuff makes it possible. We save up to buy splurges and vacations and it doesn’t hurt us to wait a while.
Saving money by eating at home and generally choosing what we want to spend our money on makes us intentional and more satisfied with our purchases actually.

Having done the two income and one income household- we both prefer the one income household. It’s less stressful and more peaceful.

Brooke: We live simply. We’ve learned to enjoy the simple things in life.

-Enjoy being home: playing board/card games, movies from the library, biking and playing ball or swinging outside. We don’t go do many activities, maybe the park or such but we rarely do paid for activities.

-Make meal plans around sales. Shop sales. Try to save the highest percentage possible every trip.

-Eat simply. Grilled chicken with several different seasonings makes for a different taste for several meals. Plain steamed veggies or raw ones. Fresh fruit. Homemade bread. The less processed, the healthier anyhow. We don’t eat elaborate meals often.

-Buy in bulk whenever possible. Half/Quarter beef, 40lb box of chicken, toiletries, non perishables. If you can stock a freezer, you won’t have to go to the store as often. Take a list to the store and don’t buy anything that’s not on it!

-Garden. A row of beans can provide many meals worth of side dishes through the winter (Blanche and freeze). Make some salsa or strawberry jam. Freezer corn is another super easy preserve. These just make your grocery budget stretch farther when you don’t have to buy at the store. (Canning is a great way to preserve, but it’s costly to start and time consuming. Freezer preserves are easier and cheaper, once you invest in a freezer)

-Use Buy and sell sites for kids stuff. We buy our kids’ bikes off local buy and sell sites. I got a brand new bike, retailing for $185, for $25. People often just want to get rid of stuff for a small return. Gardening tools, outdoor patio furniture, etc are also great on Buy and sell. You have to be patient, do your research and you’ll find great deals.

-Pare down wardrobe. We have home clothes, jammies, play clothes and going out clothes. Just a few of each. Laundry is done twice a week and is never overwhelming. Saves money, sanity and closet space.

Diane: Stay out of debt when you are young.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

17 thoughts on ““Families Can’t Make It On One Income”

  1. The most striking comment to me was Meredith’s: ” We aren’t any happier now with more money than we were then with much less.” I’ve found the same thing to be so true. It isn’t fancy things that provide peace and joy.

  2. This is a topic that is very dear to me because my husband and I have made very unusual and uncommon decisions in this area, and our life doesn’t look like any of our friends’ lives. As a result we have no debt except for our mortgage. I mentioned this to my mother the other day and her eyebrows raised as she replied, “That is so rare! Good for you!!” Our lifestyle is similar to what everyone described in this post. I especially could relate to Taylor’s advice- no salon/spa, no cable/Netflix, etc… Basically, know the difference between needs and luxuries! We don’t feel we owe our kids vacations, toys, or expensive clothing. When they do get something along these lines I make sure to tell them these things are blessings and gifts from the Lord! We don’t deserve any of this! We bought an old house while all our friends were buying brand new homes in expensive neighborhoods… We filled it with used and hand-made (by my husband) furniture instead of buying new matching sets from furniture stores… We homeschool so we don’t have the massive cost of private school tuition. All of these things together make it very doable to live on one income. We have four kids and have been doing it for years. Also- We’ve been generous with our money over the years. We’ve freely given to charities, missionary and church work, etc. God loves a cheerful giver as the Bible says. I believe He has blessed us because of this. I feel hesitant writing this last part because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging- but incase this could encourage someone- it’s important not to get so stingy that you fail to be generous with others. If you’re slow to spend on yourself, but quick to spend for others, the Lord will honor it! Sorry this is so long Lori, I just love this topic! ☺️

  3. There is a lot of great advice and wisdom here! I really love that quote by Dave Ramsey. Shopping has always been a weakness for me. I’ve improved a lot, but there’s still room to do better. I’d like to print this off to keep in my purse and read it if I’m tempted to buy something.

    Thank you, your posts always convict and yet encourage me to do better.

  4. Yes! YES you can stay home! I can see *some* areas where cost of living is extremely high, that you may not be able to stay home-but you can work from home or opposite schedules. I hear a ton of people say they can’t stay home on a healthy income and I will say “let me help you, and I promise you CAN!” Ladies, if you are reading this and desire to stay home, YOU CAN! I promise! TRUST GOD! He provides!

    I’m on the opposite side- my husband has always made very good money. We went through a stretch where he was self-employed and it was scarce, but we trusted God, I worked part time (no kids), and we made it-happily! We don’t have to skim our budgets now, but we still are smart and don’t spend excessively. We are blessed!

    (For some reason I can’t comment from the computer!)

  5. I live in outerMelbourne, Australia, 10 kids, we live an hour from my husband’s work, have 3 cars 1 car so he can go to work that’s cheap to run, 1 so I can drive two of my kids to a school bus that takes them to a special school. The rest I home school, and one family vehicle that takes us all but I’m not ale to drive it without upgrading my permit.) I’ve stayed home for the last 15 years to raise our kids and my husband makes about $55,00 a year. I get government payments and we live comfortably. We live in a house on 1.6 acres worth $420,000 and have paid off half of it already. Our previous house was mostly paid for but we had to move as we had outgrown it. It’s tough at times, but totally doable.

  6. I stopped believing the two jobs lie when I wandered into a used book store and spotted The Tightwad Gazette. How can you pass up a book with that title?! We were visiting my mom for a week. I read that book from cover to cover. That was August. During the 3 hour drive home, I told my husband all about it. We started immediately and saved enough to buy our first house 7 months later. Soon after that, I dropped to part time and then I was home full time. Life improved 1000%. That was almost 25 years ago.

  7. Back in the 80’s and 90’s our family lived this way. How I regret ever returning to work! It started as part-time but kept increasing in hours and took away from my joy as a wife and mother and from the peace in our home. The extra money was not worth it! My prayers are with all of you young mothers who desire to stay at home. Our best years were those in which we struggled to make ends meet, living simply and happily! How I still miss that season of our lives! God was (and still is, by His mercies) faithful to us and He will be to you if you seek to follow His ways with all your heart, by His grace and loving help. ♥️

  8. I love the quote about watching the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves. My husband and I live by this rule, and usually say it this way, “it’s the little decisions that matter.”

    We live on my husband’s teaching income, and try to set aside $1,000 a month from this. This we use for bigger purchases. We’ve bought two (older) houses and our (older) vehicles with cash because of this. We also paid cash to remodel our 2nd house, and are able to use our 1st home to let some returned missionaries stay in until they save up enough money to buy a home.

    Three of our guiding principles come to mind.
    1) Avoid debt if there is any possible way. We had to wait after it seemed to us we had outgrown our 2 bedroom house. The 1-year old’s crib was in the living room, and we were expecting Baby #4 when God provided exactly the right place at the right price. But we had looked for 1 1/2 years.

    2) Learn to not care what others think of you. Think of all the beauty products, fashionable clothes, gadget updates, vehicle updates, etc, that you will avoid if you really don’t care what others think, but only care about being good stewerts if God’s money.

    3) Don’t despise the little savings. “A penny saved is TWO pennies earned.” Count in taxes, extra time away from home, etc, and you’ll find that whatever little steps you take to NOT SPEND, means bigger steps of not needing to earn. So, we use cloth napkins, and wash them. We save paper that still has one good side for scratch paper (children don’t mind and go through lots of paper). We have a contest when we get to the bottom of the toothpaste, who is going to squeeze out the last little bit (and get several more days usage). These are each only saving literal pennies, but it’s the mindset that counts.


    So what they are saying is that God’s Word does not work. It is not truthful. It is a lie. They are saying God is a fraud. They are saying Jesus, as the Word, cannot be trust.

    They deny Jesus, and He says if you deny Him before men that He will deny you before His Father.

    Not good theology. Damnation in the language of Scripture.

  10. P.S. I’ve noted this before:

    with less income you pay less taxes to the government, which is increasingly funding anti-Biblical ways of life.

    SAHMs reduce funding of the nasty social programs.

  11. I work because my husband does not get medical or dental insurance at his job. I do have this coverage included as a school teacher. and we cannot afford to pay the high premiums on his salary.
    Lori, what advice do you have for me.

  12. I really like your perspective on cutting down on daily costs. I took short-term and part-time jobs after I graduated college several years ago. I endured a spiritual attack/situation and period of unemployment(not of my own doing) that nearly derailed me spiritually. Recently, I enrolled in more schooling to increase my “market value” to prospective employers. I was unable to work for awhile and have no husband yet, so I have been looking for ways to cut down on unnecessary expenses. Encouraging words, so thanks again. I hope you continue with your posts that speak about reality and daily living.

  13. Okay but, a quick search turned up that in my area, the cheepest you can find a 2 bedroom apartment in my area is around 1500 a month. If your husband makes $12 an hour, that’s 1920 a month, and 1500 goes to rent. That means you have 420 left for food, heat, water, electricity, gas and maintain for a car (or fares on some form of public transit), new clothing, a phone (even if it’s just a land line), car insurance, renters insurance, and medical insurance. That is simply not possible. Plus, you have no way to safe for retirement, and absolutely no money for if you are faced with a medical emergency. I hear this argument so often from boomers, and yeah, if was pretty easy to support a family on a single income, you could even put yourself through college making minimum wage. But not anymore, cost of living has increased much faster than wages. It’s just not practical anymore.

  14. Lori, I really do not agree with your views on anything. BUT I must say, I really love reading these budgeting tips. They are helpful.

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