Living On One Income

First of all, I want to start by saying how much I love blogging and the whole Balancing Home community. I know my post have become irregular. Funny thing is: I have so much I want to share with you. I’m hitting the third trimester of pregnancy so by the time the kiddos are in bed I am pooped. This is probably  going to sound weird too, but the chair we have at our desk is literally painful to sit in. It kills my tail bone, which makes it even less likely I will plant my bottom down and get to writing. I’m on the look out for a comfy, cute chair. But no wheels friends, because kids and a chair with wheels in my living room would be a total disaster. If you have any chair recommendations, I would love to hear them. Funny how I am posting about living on one income and I lead with what I want to buy. Hmm….Anyways, I wanted to let you know that thanks to smart phones I stay pretty active on social media so if you want to stay in the loop follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@balancinghome).

This whole living on one income post was born out of the very, very, exciting news that we got a minivan. It is kind of crazy how exciting this news is. I guess I am officially old. Well not yet, I turn 30 on Saturday…as for now, I am in my 20’s. I actually put a minivan on my life list. Not only did we get a minivan, but we got a way nicer minivan then I ever imagined we could have gotten. Sadly, the owner was blind and his wife died. Without her to drive the car was useless so the kiddos traded it in. It is a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with 27,000 miles. The van has perks we never would have been able to afford like power sliding doors, power trunk, heated seats, back up camera, etc. I don’t think anyone ever even sat in the back two rows. The car is like new and we couldn’t be more excited as a family to be minivan owners. Aside from the fact that our family wouldn’t fit in our one car when the new baby comes, it was a giant inconvenience. We also missed the giant family camping trip the last two years, because we didn’t have a way to get our brood and our stuff to Michigan. A week into owning a minivan and we are in love!

One of the reasons owning a minivan is such a big deal is because we live on one income and have had one car (A tiny Mitsubishi Lancer w/2 car seats, and a 6-7 husband) for nearly two years. It isn’t easy for us to live on one income, but it is something that is important to both my husband and I. I have worked full time as a teacher and put Quinn in daycare. All told, I think he spent a year in daycare. Our main priority is to have me home with the kids. We knew that when baby number two came that would be even more of a priority, because we wanted our kids to grow up together. In most daycare settings, children are separated by age. I worked in daycare all through college. One day a mom reversed pick up order and I was shocked to find out one of my favorite kids had a brother. I was even more shocked to find out that they were under the same roof all day, but never saw each other. I didn’t want that for my kids. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to stay at home with my kids. It suits me. Truth be told, two kids in daycare full-time did not leave me with any money to bring home on my teacher salary anyways. Making the decision even easier.

We have never been financially comfortable and it has never been “easy”, but we are by no means without.  It seems like we are always finding ways to scrape by. There have been so many times where it felt impossible and then there would be a tax return or a bonus or freelance money or a raise and somehow things have a way of working themselves out. We are not destitute or without by any means, but we do sacrifice a lot. I thought I would put together some of the ways we have eeked by to help out any other families who might be in a similar position.


Living On One Income: 13 Ways to Find Money

1. SACRIFICE- Not in a martyr kind of way, but figure out your priorities and that figure out what you can get rid of. For some, it might be buying a home or a car or staying at home with their kids or traveling the world. For us, it was keeping me home with the kids. We sold our second car and lived with one car, saving us a minimum of $300/month or $7,200. Technically more due to the cost of gas, license registration, insurance, upkeep, etc. I rarely get my hair cut, forgo fancy dye jobs and have paid for one pedicure in my life. We have had to forgo family vacations and my closet is less than stellar. You would be surprise at what you can live without when push comes to shove.

2. REFINANCE- When I was taking a year long leave to stay at home with Quinn (no income for 15 months) we refinanced our house. This ended up saving us $300/month.

3. CUT CABLE– I promise, it really isn’t a sacrifice. Subscriptions to Hulu and Netflix (Which can be shared. So have your sister pay for one and you pay for the other) cover we watch, except for Blue Bloods and Person of Interest (which we can watch online). And we watch A LOT of TV. An antenna should get you your basic channels for sports. I suppose for some guys that means living without ESPN. My husband hijacked his parents cable app so he can watch ESPN on his phone or the iPad. Cutting cable saves us $90/month or $1080/year and I honestly don’t feel like I gave up ANYTHING.

4. MERGE PHONE BILLS– We are with Sprint and can have up to five lines on our plan. We added my sister and her husband to our plan. We all have iPhones, so the bill gets split right down the middle. We both have access to the account online and pay using our own credit cards. Merging our phone bill with theirs saves us around $40/month or $480/year.

5. GET PAID TO WORK OUT– You may be unaware of this, but a lot of insurance companies will pay you to work out. We have a Y membership that is $60/month. If my husband and I hit the gym 12 times a month, we get reimbursed $20/each meaning $40 of our gym membership gets paid. If you have a gym membership you could be saving $40/month or $480/year.

6. BREASTFEED– I breastfed both kids for the first year (and then some due to weaning) and will do the same for the third. I just read somewhere to plan on $200/month for formula. Yowzers! Breast milk is free :). It certainly isn’t always easy or convenient, but stick with it and you could save $200/month or $2,400/their first year.

7. EAT AT HOME– This is a tough one for us, but we have been working on it and I know it saves you big money. This one is common sense, but limiting eating out will save you money.

8. SIDE JOBS– Most of us have talents we can uses to bring in some extra money here or there: Dog sitting for friends, tutoring, teaching swim lessons, etc. Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot, every little bit counts. I run this blog, which does add to my family’s income. My husband is an uber talented graphic designer and does freelance work and we run an Etsy shop. All these things add up to extra money and they always seem to add up to extra money right when the s**t is about to hit the fan and you think you are doomed. With that being said, visiting the blog, pinning, telling friends, etc. all helps this blog grow and bring in money for my family so THANK YOU!

9. KEURIG– Huh? Yup, our Keurig has saved us money. My parents actually got it for us for Christmas. It is so easy to use and has so many fun flavors that I haven’t had one Starbucks since receiving it. My Starbucks habit had me stopping probably 3-4 times a week. When a cup runs you 4-5 bucks, that is roughly $16/week, $64/year, and $768/year. I didn’t ditch my habit, per say, I just replaced it with a cheaper one. Something to consider for sure.

10. CREDIT CARDS– I’m no financial expert, but I have found that using cards smartly has helped us out. For example, a few years ago we splurged on a big old comfy couch from Pottery Barn (that was on sale). By opening up a credit card we were able to save like 15%, which is a good chunk of money on a big expense. We paid off the balance and didn’t incur any interest so it was a win-win. We also have a Target Debit card that pulls right from our bank account. Whenever we use it we save 5%. We use Target brand diapers and by using this card we are able to save 5% on diapers…and every other random thing you feel the need to buy when in Target.

11. SHOP OUTLETS SMART- We head down to the outlets every Labor Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend to take advantage of the huge sales. The Old Navy outlet has 40% off of EVERYTHING in the store. This is when we stock up on kid clothes. Labor day is for cold weather clothes and Memorial Day is for summer clothes. We try to stick to the basics with kid’s clothes. If I bought everything that was cute we would be BROKE! One year we even held a rummage sale over Labor Day weekend and then took the $300 to the outlets and bought the kids clothes.

12. CHOOSE ENTERTAINMENT WISELY– I truly believe in making memories for my children and having them fully engaged. While we may not have a ton of extra money, we are always busy. We live in a community that offers a lot and we take advantage of it. We head to the beach or the fountain for free fun in the summer. We have a zoo pass (very affordable) and hit up the zoo a couple times a week. We do story time at the Public Library and Barnes & Noble (both free). And never forget about good old fashioned fun. The park is free, a sprinkler or water balloons in the back yard can make some pretty fantastic memories.

13. DIY/BE CREATIVE– At the end of the day I love creating and having a beautiful home, but rarely have the money to live out my dreams. When I wanted new drapes and saw how much the pretty printed drapes were and then priced fabric and found out how much that was-EXPENSIVE! I stenciled my existing drapes for a fraction of the cost. Goodwill, paint, hand-me downs and fabric scraps have all helped me to create a home and space I am proud of.

I also have to say that I have an incredibly generous family. For bridal showers and baby showers I was showered with gifts and money. Wonderful things we are still using today. There have been many times that we have been taken out to dinner or had a box of diapers dropped off or a pair of shoes picked up for the kids. These little things add up to a lot. At the end of the day I am incredibly grateful for what I have and the opportunity to stay at home with my children.

I hope you found something useful here. If you have any tips for saving money, I would love to hear!

If you wouldn’t mind clicking over and voting for me I would really appreciate it! Circle of Moms- Top 25 Creative Moms


Sharing this project at: Thrifty Decor Chick-Before and After Party

  • Ashley at the BWF

    These are really great tips! As a SAHM of four myself, I am always looking for ways to save a little here and there.

    • Megan Bray

      Never seems like enough, huh? Any tips on your end?

      • Ashley at the BWF

        One thing we’ve been trying is to use the slow cooker more. The tougher meat is cheaper but gets so tender when in the slow cooker all day. I like to serve with rice, pasta or even just lots of vegetables. I love any meals that stretch a little futher! :)
        For the kids’ clothes, my two favorite places are ebay and consignment sales. They both involve a hunt, but you can often find new/like new pieces for very little.

        • Megan Bray

          Yes! We love the slow cooker. I haven’t been patient enough to hunt for clothes second-hand, etc. Thanks for the tips :)

  • Sarah Delaney Gi

    I love the workout idea I just called my insurance but they were closed. I love the idea of being able to take the kids to the Y for almost free.

    • Megan Bray

      We have United Healthcare and I’m pretty sure that is standard for them. Good luck!

  • Renae C

    Great post!!! We are an one income (teacher salary), one car family as well. I think #1 is my favorite! I can’t count how many times I have moms tell me that they are jealous I can to get stay and how lucky I am…yet they are also the ones who can’t understand why I can’t splurge on a mani/pedi or grab a coffee, or how we can survive with one car and not have cable or central air.

    • Megan Bray

      Exactly! To each their own, but my choices definitely come with a sacrifice. Wouldn’t trade being home with these stinkers for all the mani/pedi’s and fancy dye jobs in the world. I think it is easy to pick out the good parts of someone’s life and want that without realizing the work and sacrifice that goes into having it. I have to remind myself of that often. Good for you and your family. I don’t think you’ll ever regret your extra time with your kiddos & your family.

  • Allison {A Glimpse Inside}

    Great post Megan! We are 1 income too and set up a budget once Travis got home to try to pay off some debt. This past week, I actually cooked everyday, which is huge, and Travis has LOVED it. We do a couple of the other things on your list as well so I’m hoping we can get a few things paid off or nearly this year.

    • Megan Bray

      Good luck Allison! Paying things off feels so good :).

  • Heather

    Good post! I’m always happy to hear about people who have one car for any amount of time. We’ve had only one car for about 4 years, and we carefully chose the area to look for apartments so my husband can ride the bus to work whenever I need the car. I am so thankful for a man with a cheerful attitude about it. A tip about kids’ clothes: thrift stores & garage sales! Especially for younger ages…they outgrow clothes before they wear them out, so the stuff at the thrift store is usually still in great condition! Especially little boys’ polo shirts. Most people think of them as dressy clothes, so they’re like new! My boys wear them every day, and they’re comfy, and they look nice! We also say yes to every offer of hand-me-down anything, because if we don’t want it, we can pass it on.

    • Megan Bray

      I really need to make a point of stopping at thrift stores more and taking the time to go through clothes. Kudos to you and your family for making smart choices and sacrifices to be with you kiddos.

  • Heidi McCarty Milton

    Good for you, Megan! I remember those days SO well — and all our friends were dual income with kids in daycare! You won’t regret these days when you’re sending them off to college… promise. :)
    xo Heidi

    • Megan Bray

      Love hearing from mom’s who lived through it. I know I’ll never regret my time with my kiddos, I just wish we had a little more of a cushion :).

  • Sara @ Russet Street Reno

    Sounds like you have a solid plan. There may come a time very soon where I will be in a position to stay home, and I will be doing many of these things too. It all adds up! And I definitely agree, thank goodness for family and friends that help out with those little things…especially grandmas!

    • Megan Bray

      Yes! The little stuff sure does add up. Thankful we have found ways to get by so far.

  • Christina

    love all of this post! such good tips! pinning this now :)

    • Megan Bray

      Thanks Christina. I wish I had more :)

  • Kristina Brusso

    Great tips! Many tips that our family follows so I can stay at home with our kids. We have moments were we miss being dual income but we get over that quickly when I’m able to participate in something with the kids without worrying about getting a day off from work. Plus, it’s just so rewarding to be here for them when they are little…it goes by so fast! We used to eat out a lot too but now we rarely eat out. We actually prefer home cooked meals. I plan out the menu for the week in advance so I can make grocery list and not just randomly purchase/waste money on stuff we won’t eat. Slow cooker meals are the great! We have a membership to Costco so we can get our meats there…buy hamburger and it will last 2 weeks cause we divide it up. As for kids clothing, some friends do a clothes swup….I myself am a huge Old Navy fan. I check in online often cause they’ll have a lot of sales year round that they don’t always advertise and online you are almost guaranteed the size you need…also have a Old Navy credit card so we earn reward dollars that we then can use to purchase the clothes. Last year we redeemed $300 in rewards and saved $500 on clothing…for a family of 5 that’s good in our book :) Good Luck!!

    • Megan Bray

      I have an Old Navy card too, but I rarely use it. I thought of another one when talking to my friend. Lots of cell companies give discounts to certain occupations: teachers, nurses, realtors, etc. You are right though, we have our moments where we miss the money too, but it quickly disappears. They are worth it all :).