How to Live on One Income


When my husband and I found out we were expecting a baby, our first conversation revolved around the possibility of me staying home, meaning we would be living as a single income family. We didn’t come to a conclusion until Emerson was six weeks old, and we finally agreed we could make one income work. 

Single Income Family

Here are 8 tips for surviving on a single income:

Budget: We started right when I found out I was pregnant. We use an app called everydollar to track our expenses. The app and website are free and make it really easy to update charges. Budgeting is the best way to tell your money where to go and usually, you’ll find out you have more money than you think.

Pay Down Debt: Luckily, when we found out I was pregnant we only had a car payment and some student loans from Nick. We were on a strict budget the entire pregnancy and used every extra penny to pay down those debts. We paid off all of his student loans the month Emerson was born which saved us about $350 a month.

Emergency Fund: With only one person working it’s important to have a cushion just in case something goes wrong. At the very least you need $1,000, at most you need three months of your household expenses. Since Nick and I still have a car to pay off we currently have a smaller emergency fund, but we do plan on building it up to three months worth of expenses as soon as we can.

Eat at Home: We still go out to eat and each month we budget some money for restaurants, but we eat most of our meals at home. I also try my best to plan out our meals and grocery trips to reduce waste. It’s not easy and some weeks are easier than others, but I keep trying and hopefully I’ll get it down one day.

Sell Things: It’s so easy to sell things you’re not using anymore. I try to purge our home every couple of months. This gets rid of clutter, plus can make some extra cash. Personally, I like to use swip-swap and neighborhood Facebook groups to sell things like small appliances, clothing, books, and furniture. It’s not a ton of money, but even $50 makes a difference.

Explore Options for Cable and Cell Phones: The month before Emerson was born we switched cell phone providers and ending up saving over $100 a month. We didn’t have cable, but if you do I would suggest calling other companies and seeing if anyone can offer a better rate. Often times a company will offer you a discount for switching and you can save even more. Personally, Nick and I opted to use Netflix and Hulu as opposed to cable.  

Buy Used/ Second Hand: I use the same places I sell things to buy things! I’ve bought purses, maternity clothing, baby clothing, and even a dresser for our nursery using swip-swap and I’ve probably saved over $300 just in the past few months. Try not to fall into the trap of buying things you don’t need; just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you need it.

Use Your Skills: Just because you stay at home doesn’t mean you can’t bring in any money. If you played an instrument or a sport all your life, maybe offer private lessons or teach a class a few times a week. Since I’ve danced my whole life I’m able to use that to bring in a few hundred dollars into our house each month.

What tips do you have for surviving as a single income family?  I’d love to hear them in the comments.  Hopefully these help some of you get started if this is something of interest to your family.


  1. I plan a lot of my meals around what’s on sale and coupon specials. We have a membership to BJs because they have their own coupons and honor manufacturers coupons. I got a deal from a local newspaper for 6 bucks a month for weekends and holidays.
    I also use a vet clinic that has a special for shots and but give them their own yearly boosters.
    Mobile apps also are a life saver. I love the mobile coupons.

  2. I use the Kroger mobile app and plan out 1-2 weeks of meals to cut down on grocery trips. Every trip usually has some impulse buys, so limit how often you go and try to stick to a list. Also, I pick up odd jobs when I can like office temp work and do consignment for baby items.

  3. Best tip is to have the plan in place before pregnancy so when it happens, it’s possible to stay home. Buy your starter home based on what can be paid with one salary. Infants and kids outgrow clothes so fast, shop at places like kid to kid or Baby Bloomers. And enjoy the time with your baby, it goes so fast so don’t waste it on stress and guilt.


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