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How to Comfortably Live On a Single Income

As many of you may know, my husband and I have been living on a single income (mine) for the past two years as he finishes school. We live in a part of the country that is getting more expensive by the year (Denver is one of the top five growing housing markets in the country), with wages not necessarily growing in proportion to cost of living. Living on a single income has not been easy, but it is so worth it as we have continued to stay out of debt and built our savings little by little. Our single income will soon turn into two incomes as Alex has finished school and is looking for a job, but we are going to continue to live off of a single income, saving the entire other income in preparation for some expenses that we know are coming soon. Below, I've shared my tips for living comfortably on one income. I'm super passionate about this subject and love to share how we've done things so please comment or email me with any questions or comments you may have. 

1. Create a budget, and stick to it! 
This is probably the most important thing you can do if you want to successfully live off of one income. Setting a good budget includes sitting down and looking at exactly how much you make, and how much your expenses are. If you don't know this right off the bat, take a month or two to write down your expenses (you can use a spreadsheet like we do!) so that you can get an idea of your expenses. 

Once you get an idea of where your money is going, sit down with your partner (if you're married), and create several categories and assign dollar amounts to each of these categories. Some of these categories may include rent, car payment, electricity, entertainment, gas and groceries. 

Set a realistic amount, yet don't over budget- your goal here is to either break even with the single income or even come out with some savings. 

2. Get used to a new standard of living. 
This is super easy to write and super hard to do. If you're used to ordering Starbucks three times a week and going out to eat five nights a week, it's going to be hard to change those habits. But to successfully live off of one income, you're going to need to cut some stuff out. 

I suggest you start small and work your way into things. Cut down your Starbucks treat down to once a week while you learn to create your favorites at home using copycat Pinterest recipes. Start making one more meal a week at home than you normally would. Once you see how much you can save each month by adjusting your standard of living, you'll be more motivated to continue. (Example: 3 Starbucks drinks a week at $5 per drink = $15 a week, $780 a year. 1 Starbuck drink a week = $5 a week, $260 a year. That's a $520 difference! That's almost two extra car payments, an extra payment on a student loan, or $500 towards family vacation!) 

The key is moderation- allow yourself to have a treat once in awhile so you don't binge. For example, if you're a shopper and are a fan of "retail therapy", give yourself a $50/month budget instead of saying that you can't ever go shopping again. Make sense? 

3. Become friends with coupons and Groupon. 
My husband and I love going on fun dates- our monthly recap posts are proof that we don't just sit at home and watch Netflix. However, my husband is the coupon king, and we often go to places at a discount. We're not crazy couponers at all (don't I wish), but we'll glance through coupons that come in our mail and we're huge fans of the app Groupon. We'll often get discounts on mini golf, drinks, and meals because we take a few extra minutes to look. It's almost a challenge- can we do everything on a coupon? And using coupons forces us to try new restaurants we wouldn't normally try- a win win! 

4. Give generously. 
You may be surprised that this is on my list of ways to successfully live on a single income, but I am a huge believer in the power of giving your first fruits. In the Bible it says that we are to give a tenth of our first fruits back to the Lord and this looks differently for different people. Some think that this means giving back a tenth to your local church, to others it means giving to local charities, to others it means giving to both. To read one of the best posts I've ever seen on tithing, go ahead and click over to "Why We Tithe" written by my friend Amanda . 

Whether or not you believe in the Bible or in tithing, I think you'll find this principle to hold true. In our giving, we take the focus off of ourselves, and focus on blessing others. If you can find the right heart of joy in your giving (instead of doing it out of obligation or drudgery), I believe that you will be blessed in return. This may not be monetary blessing- it may be blessings in your health, family, or other ways in your life. I, personally have found that in generous giving, the Lord always provides the money when we need it the most.

Don't skip this step, friends, it's the most important. 


For more resources that I've written, check out my Money page. In it, you'll find posts on how to create a budget and how to save on specific things including entertainment and groceries. 

Those of you that have lived off of a single income, what other tips you have? What questions do you have about living on a single income? 

{Linking up with Grammie Time for Tuesday Talk!}

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  1. Love these! Exactly what my husband and I do as we pay off college loans.

  2. Solid tips! As hubby and I look forward to having kids and my potentially staying at home, we will have to really kick butt when it comes to budgeting. Love these ideas!

  3. such a valuable post, and such good insights! we've been in the same exact boat for our first 2 years of marriage (i was in school, devin was working), but last year i got a job and it's been GLORIOUS to have 2 incomes. suddenly we feel like the richest people ever (when, in fact, we both make somewhat paltry amounts. but combined?!). we had a really simple budget during my last semester of college when i wasn't able to work part-time and it was devin's income only: don't spend money. cutting things out wasn't that bad when you can borrow movies from the library/go biking/etc. which are all free activities :)

  4. Girl you got it! It's really not that bad- you just have to get creative! And I think we're going to feel the exact same way when Alex gets a job and we all of a sudden have two incomes (woahhh we're rich!)

  5. Ahhh yes you probably will have to do that Lauren but as the child of a single income family and a stay-at-home mom, it'll be SO worth it for your kids! :) (you probably already know that)

  6. Yayyyy Veronica- good for you and your hubby attacking those loans right away! :) So inspiring!

  7. I love that you did not leave generous giving out of this!! What a great post!


  8. My husband and I lived on one income while raising our children many years ago. We did this because we felt it was more important for me to be home with them. We sacrificed a lot, budgeted and although times we difficult, God was faithful in His provisions. This is so hard to do these days with the instant gratification of so many. What a great example and tips to be sharing with others and your testimony to the fact it is working for you. Thanks for sharing this on Tuesday Talk. I am giving you a shout out feature on my blog at next week's Tuesday Talk. I hope you join us again. Link up at Grammie Time and read my thoughts on your post.

  9. My parents did the same thing- we didn't have a lot but my Mom was at home and as a grown child of that now it is SO precious and I'm sure you're kids will come to realize the same thing (if they don't already!) Thanks for the feature, I'll check out Grammie Time! :)


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