How to Live on a Single Income

I know a lot of people who were asking if it’s possible to live on a single income before the proverbial excrement hit the rotary device, economically speaking. I imagine there are a great many people who are worried about losing their job and are now asking themselves if their household can live on one income if that day should ever come. Well, it can be done, but it takes planning as well as the right lifestyle and temperament to pull it off.

The key to living on a single income is living below your means. Frugality and a debt free lifestyle will make the single income family a reality. I happen to know this first hand. Five years ago, my wife left the work force and gave birth to ou


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11 Responses to How to Live on a Single Income

  1. Alice Kramer says:

    Living on one income can happen and you can be successful. What many folks don’t think about is what you are not spending if there is a stay at home parent. There is no day care cost. You can drive a junker and you are not gassing it up every 2-3 days. I know stay at home moms often have a “uniform” which is cosiderably less expensive that “work” clothes. A stay at home parent can shop things like insurance, the end caps at Target and the like. Cutting costs is a job and a stay at home parent can do it very well, they have the time. Garage sales and thrift stores are very affordable and can replace the mall. It really is about being conscious about what you spend and where. Thanks for the helpful tips.

  2. Monkey Mama says:

    What strikes me is I know so many people who “wish they could stay home with their kids” who make considerably more gross than us (we live on one income) but the more you talk to them the more sometimes I feel like we make more money. Once you consider tax savings, daycare, working/commute costs, etc. we actually net more cash. & since we don’t have debt, our lifestyle surpasses theirs in many regards. Even though many of them make like $40k more a year. Seriously!

    Of course, this will only be true in the early years of daycare. But once the daycare years are over my spouse will return to work.

    Taxes are another HUGE factor, particularly where we live with high state income taxes. On one income we have pretty much avoided income taxes for about 3-4 years, and last year we maybe paid $1k. Our peers who make six figures pay 5 figures in income taxes. I make a good wage, but the tax code favors our home ownership and kids.

  3. Alain Theriault says:

    With a single income you need to pay more attention to your expenses like the ones you listed. Income tax is also great for single income.

    Also like Alice Kramer said, you don’t need a fancy car and you probably won’t gas up as often.

    Good tips as always!

  4. Marie says:

    I think when most people think we can’t afford it they don’t realize that you can live as a one car family, cell phones aren’t necessary, and to trash the cable can give you a lot of breathing room in your budget to stay at home with your children. But when people tell me I’m lucky to stay home it pisses me off – we made the tradeoffs and I’m sacrificing retirement income later on because I value my children that much. Change your standard of living definitions and possibilities open up.

  5. familyof8 says:

    It IS absolutely possible to live on one income. Our household is doing it :) As the SAHP I am responsible for using our finances wisely and finding those great deals that are out there to be found on food, clothing, etc… I LOVE a bargain! Our kids are dressed in designer clothes that I got for cheep either at a thrift store or through freecycle. We use cloth diapers for the babies which helps. It absolutely IS do-able if you want to! :)

  6. rob says:

    I think there are some good points and anyone who values owning a house as a #1 priority, it makes sense. Otherwise, maybe the author shouldnt be living in a house if he’s got to cut things out of his life so dramatcally.

  7. Joe Morgan says:


    I didn’t have to cut things so dramatically to afford my house. I had to do so to afford my house WITH the level of debt I had accumulated AND because my wife left the workforce.

    Since we have paid off our debt, we have not had to be so draconian in our lifestyle. My main point in this article was that to live on a single income comfortably, you really need to be debt free and live below your means. It’s something we should all strive to do, but becomes essential on a single income, regardless of whether you own or rent your place of residence.

  8. maat55 says:

    I’m a big believer in living on one income at all times. This income does not have to fund retirement, just bottomline living expenses. The other income can be for consumer extra’s and investing. This plan allows for safety from loosing one income and building wealth.

  9. Joe Morgan says:

    @ maat55 ,

    That’s our plan too, once the kids are off to school and my wife goes back to work. We’re able to maintain our lifestyle, avoid “bad” debt and fund our emergency savings on my salary, but we really don’t have anything left over for investing (aside from 401(k)). I’m learning all I can about investing and testing various methods and approaches in free online simulators with the goal of knowing what I’m doing by the time we become a 2 income household!

  10. Carol says:

    Well, I have mixed feeling on this one because we have been a one-income family and now the one income is gone (auto industry). So it is easy to regret not having 2 incomes. But, I will say that living on one income has forced us to make life-style and money choices that have put us in a better position than we would be if we had done like a lot of2 income couples and lived up to the hilt. We are still in the same house that we purchased when my husband only made around 40k, even though his income more than doubled over the years. Because he had a larger income, I was able to work part-time instead of full-time.

    So we will trust the Lord day-by-day and soldier on, which is really what we’ve always done.

    By the way, remember child care costs don’t always end with daycare. What about after school when the children are young? Summer vacation? Around here (Michigan) many summer camps were charging $100-$200 per week per child. I know, because many of my working friends tried to treat me as a free summer counselor because I was at home with my kids!

  11. Jen says:

    I quit my job earlier this year to stay at home with our little girl. We were able to make the switch to a one salary household by supplementing it with income we get from our online business. We started our business last year in preparation for the arrival of our daughter.

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