Frugal Living on One Income: Where Should You Focus Your Efforts?

frugal living on one income (1)

Last year, 19 million children were living with single-parent families. For parents, one income family living can cause financial stress and uncertainty.

If you’ve already tried cutting back on your expenses, it’s time to start living more frugally.

frugal living on one income

Frugal living on one income: top tips

Is it possible to live off one income? Absolutely, with some frugal tips and planning.

Read through our practical frugal living on one income tips and learn how to be financially secure without sacrificing too much.

Make a budget plan

Without a budget, it’s hard to know exactly where your hard-earned money is going.

Budgeting is important whether you earn $10,000 a year or $80,000, but it can help your money go further for families who live on one income.

Wondering how to rethink your budget with one income?

Track your spending for a month to help you base your budget on a realistic figure rather than guessing.

Then set a spending limit per category, for example, $400 per month on food.

A budget will help you identify areas where you can cut back and save money.

Knowing the difference between your wants and needs is also an important part of how to live frugally.  

Budget ideas on one income include cash-only budgeting and zero-based budgeting.

Free budgeting tools such as Mint can help you create and manage your budget.

Don’t stop saving

Just because you are living off one income, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save money.

An emergency fund is designed to cover unexpected expenses such as a car or home repair.

An emergency pot can also stop you from adding to your debt and paying more interest to clear it.

You might think you don’t earn enough to save, but even putting aside a small amount every month will soon add up.

Skip your regular takeout coffee and save the money you’d spend on that instead.

Plan frugal meals

Frugal living on one income isn’t easy.

You need to plan and be prepared.

Without knowing what meals you will be cooking for the week ahead, it’s easy to add extra items to your grocery shop that you don’t actually need.

Simply choose your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week, then write a list of all the ingredients you need to make them.

If you have any leftovers, use them up for lunch the next day or freeze them for the following week.

To make your grocery budget go further, plan at least one meat-free meal per week and avoid recipes that contain special ingredients that you might not use again.

Buy in bulk

You can save yourself a small fortune by buying certain groceries and household items in bulk.

Here’s a list of what you should buy in large quantities to save money in the long run:

  • Pet food.
  • Coffee.
  • Toilet roll.
  • Diapers.
  • Pasta and rice.
  •  Nuts.
  • Cheese and butter.
  • Cereal.
  •  Laundry detergent.
  • Shampoo and conditioner.

 Negotiate your bills

Some people may find negotiating their bills awkward, but you are the only person in charge of your finances and every monthly bill is negotiable.

Why pay more for something than you should be?

Start by making a list of how much you pay for all your utility bills, service bills and subscriptions.

Do some research online to find out how much you would pay if you switched providers.

Once you’ve got all the information you need, contact your current service provider and ask what they can do to lower your bill. Be prepared to walk away and end your contract if you’re not happy with the price.

Reduce your utility usage

Turning the thermostat down a few degrees and wearing an extra layer instead can dramatically slash your utility bills, freeing up your monthly income for other things.

Other energy-saving ideas include:

  •  Investing in efficient appliances.
  • Turning off appliances instead of leaving them on standby.
  • Wash your clothes at a lower temperature.
  • Draught-proof your property.
  • Insulate the roof.
  • Use the right size pan for the food you’re cooking so you don’t waste energy heating a bigger surface than you need.
  • Buy energy-saving lightbulbs.
  • Turn the pressure down on your shower.
  •  Install a smart meter so you know which areas you can cut down on.

Pay off debt sooner

Paying off debt will mean you spend less on interest, so your income will go further.

You could get out of debt much faster with a balance transfer deal.

Buy second hand

Successful living off one income is all about making the dollars you do spend go further.

Clothes are an obvious item to buy second-hand, but also consider wedding dresses, toys, baby items, books, furniture and cars.

 Give free entertainment a go

If keeping your family entertained is one of your biggest spend categories, be more frugal and give free entertainment a try.

Rather than going to the movie theater, take a trip to your local library and check out a DVD or box set instead.

Spending time outdoors, listening to music and getting crafty are other great ways to keep little ones entertained for little to no cost.

Use coupons

A popular frugal idea to save money is couponing.

A website such as Honey will search for online coupons for you so you can track prices, get great deals and even earn rewards.

Do your own DIY

Before reaching for your cell phone and paying for a service, consider whether you can do the work yourself.

Don’t attempt to do jobs that are outside of your skillset.

Some tasks are easily achievable when you know-how.

For example, you can fit the underlay to your carpets yourself with a stanley knife and a staple gun.

Asking a professional carpet fitter to quote you for just the carpet will be significantly cheaper than quoting for the underlay as well.

Pinterest and Youtube are great sources for budget-friendly DIY inspiration.

Exercise for free

An annual gym membership in the US costs a staggering $479 on average per year.

Yet there are thousands of online fitness videos available online for free.

Save some money by ditching the membership and give these free exercise ideas a go:

  • Walking: instead of getting the subway, save your dollars for something else and walk.
  • Running: local park running groups are a popular choice of free exercise, and a great way to make new friends in your area.
  •  Cycling: this is a great way to get your kids involved in exercise.
  • Team sports such as tennis and football: check what’s running in your local state.
  • Yoga and Pilates: YouTube has hundreds of workout videos that you can access for free.

Try a spending freeze

If you’ve struggled with spending too much money on your single income, a spending freeze could help you get rid of bad financial habits.

A no spend challenge is also a great way to learn about your money habits, both good and bad.

First, decide how long you want to do the spending freeze.

Don’t overcommit if this is your first time as you’ll need to resist parting with money for that amount of time.

Before your spending freeze, make sure your freezer is stocked full of home-cooked meals that you can feed your family.

The money you save from your spending freeze could be used to pay off debt or as an extra bit of income for the following months.

Living frugally on one income

Managing your money while trying to look after your family can be tough, but our tips show living off one paycheck comfortably is definitely possible.Our personal finance blog is the place to go for people who want to take control of their money.

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