Take advantage of these money-saving tips. Great for a one-income family or a home with a stay-at-home parent.
When I became a stay-at-home mom, there were several days when I wondered how we were going to make things work financially! God is good, and I know He will provide for us. But as stewards of the riches He has blessed us with, I want to make sure we’re doing what’s right!
Here are our tried and true money-saving tips that we live by as a one-income household.
Why live without credit cards?
You may have seen the title of this blog post and thought “Yeah, right.” So before we dive in, I’d like to hit you with a few fast facts.
By the end of 2023, Americans’ credit card bills (read – outstanding balances on credit card statements) exceeded 1 trillion dollars. At the start of 2024, the average credit card interest rate is 28.15 percent. That means if you carry a $100 balance over one month, you can expect to pay $28.15 in interest. But based on the type of credit card you have, your interest may be accrued daily.
Finally, as of 2024, 48 percent of Americans admit to using a credit card to cover essential living expenses. (For more staggering statistics, check out this blog post from DocuClipper.)
Credit card debt is crippling financial growth for American families. But we’re being sold consumer debt as an option. In today’s climate, it’s an option just to get by!
My hope with this blog post is that you’ll see debt as a negative. There are 23 options for you to consider doing besides going into credit card debt.
My husband and I are by no means financial experts. We’re just passionate about letting families know that there are other options besides debt.
Living intentionally, without any debt but our mortgage is what has afforded us to have a stay-at-home parent. And we pray that by sharing these tips with you, you will be able to do the same. So let’s kick things off by getting rid of your debt!
23 Tips for Living Off of One Income (Without Credit Cards)
1 If you’re able, test it out before becoming one income
Before we welcomed our first child, we were living off of one income. This was great practice because it showed us a few things.
First, it showed us whether or not we were making enough to cover our bills. Second, it showed us where our wants and needs were. Were we spending incredible amounts of money on things we didn’t even need?
Finally, it showed us where we needed to make changes. Because we lived off of one income, we saw the need to get rid of our debt and create a savings account.
2 Don’t list debt as an option
There’s this misconception that by creating boundaries, you’re limiting yourself. When in reality, drawing a line in the sand can be the most freeing thing you do.
When you create a budget, you’re giving yourself the freedom to spend money. You are just spending money intentionally. When you take going into debt off the table, you are making a conscious decision to fund your life with the income you have at your disposal. Out of money? Time to look at ways to make more.
Consider avoiding debt entirely, especially if you’re a single-income family.
3 Pay off your existing debt
Can you imagine your life with no car payments? What about no credit card debt? If your family operates on a dual income, where would that second salary go if it weren’t toward debt payments?
I highly encourage you to consider paying off your debt as one of your top financial goals. Not only is it a great idea to reduce the risk in your life if you are operating on a single income, but it will automatically give you extra money to work with. This money isn’t appearing out of thin air. It’s just staying in your house, under your control.
Who doesn’t want to have control over their own money?
Frequently Asked Questions
What are quick ways to save $500?
You can quickly save $500 by doing a few things. Consider not eating out, doing a 30-day spending freeze, looking at ways to cut utilities and insurance bills, and staying home instead of going out.
How can I get my grocery bill down?
You can save money on groceries by shopping generic brands and shopping your fridge, freezer, and pantry first. Don’t overspend on food anymore! Use up everything you already have in your home before going to the store for more.
4 Shop second-hand
Thrift stores are your friend! Keep an eye out for quality brands.
And shop multiple locations, multiple times. I keep a running list of things my children need on my phone, as well as a mental list of things my home needs. That way, when I see a quality item for a good deal, I can jump on it.
It also helps to keep a line item in your budget, or some extra cash in your wallet so you can purchase these things without wrecking your budget.
5 Don’t spend money on single-use products
A package of paper towels from Sam’s Club is $19.98. An 8-pack package of dish towels from Walmart is $19.76. Depending on how long a package of paper towels lasts you, you will likely return to Sam’s Club for another package of paper towels in a year. Why not spend that money on the small laundry cycle you could run to reuse your dish towels?
Other single-use products you may be wasting your money on are paper plates, plastic water bottles, straws, paper napkins, coffee cups, face masks, and cotton balls. Each of these has a sustainable option that will drastically reduce your waste.
6 Don’t eat out
Some statistics say that when you eat out, you’re spending 5 times as much than if you were to eat at home! Let’s say the average cost of a home-cooked meal is $4 per plate. You would be spending $20 per plate!
Put that money back into your grocery bill and stop eating out. With your savings, you could purchase a cookbook that will help you learn how to make all your favorite recipes from scratch.
If books aren’t your thing, check out Pinterest for easy meals! Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for more money-saving hacks.
7 Learn to practice patience
So much of consumer marketing is immediate. And we give into that marketing because we feel like they’re right. We can’t live without it! And since there’s only a limited number in stock, we have to grab one now so we don’t have to live without it.
If this type of marketing draws you in, consider something like a 24-hour rule. Make a note of the product in question, throw it in your Amazon cart, and if in 24 hours you’ve thought of that item, make the purchase. If you forget about the item, you likely don’t need it.
The 24-hour rule is also incredible to exercise for big-ticket purchases. Think about it before spending your hard-earned money.
8 Only buy things when they’re on sale
Just like waiting to make a purchase is a good practice, only purchasing things on sale is a good practice.
Throughout the year, you can get a feel for a good deal by paying attention to price. So when a sale does happen, you know when you can make your purchase at the best price point.
Black Friday and Christmas sales are notorious for this. Consider your big-ticket purchases for the end of the year.
9 Learn to practice gratitude
Take a moment to make a list of the things you’re thankful for. Start with 10. Then see if you can name 20. By the end of your list, you may see that you have so much already, you don’t need anything else!
10 Start side hustles
There are so many ways to earn money from home! If you’re a one-income family like we are, starting a side hustle is a great way to earn extra income.
Our side hustles have included selling beeswax beauty products, arts and crafts like decor and t-shirts, and freelance work.
11 Consider selling items you aren’t using/don’t truly need
As my children grow, my husband and I are left juggling baby items that we never truly needed. Instead of holding on to these items, we prefer to let them go.
In your case, that may be an electronic you don’t use, furniture that’s taking up space, or other appliances that you don’t use.
12 Make what you can
This is one of my favorite money-saving hacks.
Think of a few things around your home that you can make yourself. Some of the most popular things are cleaning supplies and snacks. For snacks for my kiddos, I swapped out cups of yogurt for Greek yogurt and pure maple syrup. Instead of buying pre-sliced meats and cheeses, I slice them myself. Instead of buying store-bought popsicles, I make my own.
If you’re looking for other things to make yourself, here are a few ideas! Soap, spices, dry shampoo, anything in the frozen foods section (like lasagna, waffles, casseroles, etc.), dips like hummus or guacamole, breadcrumbs, and pasta sauce.
13 Reduce your waste
I’m not talking about taking recycling seriously.
When I say “reduce your waste” I mean use up everything to the best of your ability. Do you have hair products that won’t come out of the spray dispenser? Twist open the top of the bottle and work it through your hair with your hands. Do you have ketchup that won’t come out of the bottle? Stand the bottle upside down and let the ketchup fall. This works with every other condiment you have, too.
Let nothing go to waste!
14 Shop off-brand products
All brands are not created equal, but some are. Canned food, for example, is known to be labeled by different companies, but processed at the same facility. That means it’s the same product!
Jarred sauces and frozen goods may also fall into this category.
I say all that to say – you’re paying for marketing when you buy name-brand products. So read your labels in the grocery store, and spend less money by buying off-brand products.
15 Buy in bulk
One of the easiest ways to stretch a dollar is to shop in bulk.
I buy almost all of my dry goods in bulk. Flour, rice, sugar, salt, and other seasonings, and oats, to name a few. By shopping around at bulk food stores in my area, I was able to find 50-pound bags of flour and 50-pound bags of organic oats for a fraction of the price of traditional grocery store packages!
And what’s more, buying these items in bulk lasts my family a long time. I’m not running through a 5-pound bag of flour in one week. Flour now lasts my family months!
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do if I’m barely scraping by financially?
If you’re unable to make it on the tips in this blog post, there are “bigger” steps you can take. A stay-at-home parent can consider going back to work. Or, you could consider downsizing your home. That can either look like moving into a smaller home to free up money in your budget or moving to a less-expensive neighborhood.
How do I learn to live below my means?
Living “within your means” means to live within the bounds of your income. That means if you make $50,000 a year but your house payment is almost $3,000 a month, you are not living within your means. However, if you’re renting an apartment for $850 a month and take an annual vacation that costs no more than $2,000, you are living within your means.
I encourage you to take a look at your budget and consider what portion of your budget is going toward necessities and what portion is going toward frivolous spending. Aim to reduce frivolous spending and increase things like saving for future emergencies and paying off debt.
16 “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
17 Ignore the latest trends
Keeping up with the Joneses is a great way to spend too much money. Trends come and go! Consider investing in things that work for your family.
18 Create a realistic budget for your season of life
As my children grow, so does my grocery budget. And up until this point, I’ve been dreading it! However, I can’t avoid it any longer.
We are at the point in our parenthood journey where I need to buy two of everything from the grocery store. We can no longer get by making one batch of pancakes for breakfast. I have to make two batches or I don’t have enough for everyone to eat!
19 Learn to barter
We have friends and family who will gladly trade their time and talents for ours. We have other friends and family who will trade labor for something like a beloved baked good or craft.
As you look to curb your spending habits, assume that others are interested in doing the same! When the opportunity comes up, it’s always a good idea to see if who you’re working with would be willing to barter time, goods, or services to knock some dollars off of a transaction.
A few more ideas…
20 Work with another family in your stage of life
As a stay-at-home mom who runs side gigs, I love supporting other SAHMs in their side gigs. But I could easily apply this to date nights, meal preparation services, or dog walking services.
Ask yourself – is there something I can exchange with a family in a similar stage of life that would mutually benefit both of us? This could be something like car-rider pick-up for school kids or babysitting for a family with younger children. Finding ways to offset childcare costs would be an incredible place to start!
21 Review your subscriptions and insurance policies
A simple way to “find money” is by reviewing subscriptions and insurance policies. So much of what you may be spending could be gym memberships you aren’t even using. Or health insurance that you’re overpaying for.
Take the time to comb through your budget and verify where your money is going. Be thorough!
Take insurance, for example. There are so many different categories! Be sure to look at things like life insurance and homeowner’s insurance to see if anything needs to be adjusted.
22 Sign up for automatic transfers
23 Participate in free, local activities
You will be amazed at how many activities in your area are free. Consider starting at farmer’s markets. Find out when the farmer’s markets in your area are and begin attending them regularly. In our area, the largest farmer’s market shuts down the city square on the first Friday of the month for families to attend themed activities, meet local businesses, and more. And it’s free!
You can get more great ideas from the free or cheap family activities series I published on the blog. I encourage you to volunteer at a food bank, attend live music, and go through a corn maze during the fall. I give you ideas for cooking, science experiments, and game nights during the winter. I break up indoor and outdoor activities (like indoor obstacle courses or creating a fairy garden) during the spring.