By the grace of God, our little family has always lived on one income. When our first born arrived, we were 5 months out of college and 9 months into our marriage. Parenting had fallen into our laps before I developed a career, and the logical choice was for me to stay at home to care for our baby boy. (Side note: This was such a blessing in disguise. I’m so grateful the Lord worked to keep me at home from the very git-go!)
Being at home with the children is such a gift to me, and I’m so grateful for Husband who goes to works daily and diligently to give me that opportunity!
I know many women say they would like to stay at home, but they can’t afford to. The truth is, many stay-at-home-wanna-be’s can’t afford their chosen lifestyle on one income. Counter-cultural choices and sacrifice is involved even for those one income families who bring home a comfortable income. There are less extravagant and fewer vacations. The family’s “new” car may be 10 years old. There may even be duct tape holding in a window pane on your porch (hmm…wonder where I got such a crazy idea?).
It would be a lie if I told you every family could survive on the husband’s salary alone. If your family simply can’t make ends meet on one income, then know that providing financially for your family is what God has called you to in this season. However, in determining whether necessity calls us to be a two income family, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves.
For our little family, living on one income has provided us the opportunity to be amazed at the way the Lord provides even the littlest of needs and wants. I can’t help but smile at His ways! He has delivered truck loads of mulch to our home, free playground equipment for the kids, bags of clothes from friends, just to name a few unexpected blessings.
Husband and I are blessed with money-wise parents who gave a real head start in life. We would not be where we are today financially or otherwise without their wisdom, example, and generosity. I thought it would be fun to share some of what I’ve learned from our parents and the last 11 years of homemaking with all of you. Many of you who read the blog are fellow single income homeschoolers yourselves and I’d love you to chime in on what mindsets have allowed your family to live on one paycheck.
Before I can share with you some of my favorite money saving tips, it would be helpful to start with what makes up the foundation of frugality. Here are my 15 top mindsets to get you living within your means!
15 Foundational Strategies for Living on One Income
1.Patience is a virtue.
Patience is the key to saving money. Patience helps us wait until we see a desired item at a reasonable price. Patience helps us wait as we consider whether this item is a need or want. Patience waits until we can afford to make a purchase, even if it is a necessity. Patience researches models, types, sales cycles, and customer reviews. Frugal minded folks tend to take months to make a major purchase like a vehicle or furniture. Buying a house may even take years!
2.Making the most of your money can actually be fun!
When many people think of thrift and saving money, they think of sacrificing the things they want. Contrary to popular thought, frugal people can find money saving an adventure! I love to shop at thrift stores and garage sales – I never know what I’ll find or what I’ll come home with!
Making Crockpot Refried Beans!
3.Frugality requires creativity.
I don’t think of myself as a creative person, but many, many times I’ve had to use all my creative juices to solve problems without spending money. Oftentimes, our initial reaction is to throw money at our problems. This doesn’t always solve the underlying issue! In fact, purchasing more “stuff” to fix a problem usual results in more problems! You’ll never regret the money you didn’t spend when you try to fix something for free! Which leads me to #4.
4. You rarely regret money you didn’t spend.
Sadly, we have all spent vast amounts of money on items that went unused or got broken quickly. Thinking of that wasted sum of money can be maddening! On the flip side, I rarely, rarely, rarely regret NOT spending money. When in doubt, don’t buy it!
5.Less is more.
less stuff= a more organized and clean home!
less spent=more money in the bank!
less electronics = more space to think!
less distractions = more time with family!
6.You can almost always make do.
When you find you are out of that one ingredient to make supper, don’t run to the store (I swear by biweekly grocery shopping)! When your window breaks and you can’t afford another one right now, staple up some cardboard and plastic! When your roman shade mechanism breaks and you can’t open them, use clothes pins to hold them up. Live with unfinished floors for several years until you can afford to have them finished! (Every single one of these examples comes from our real life experience!)
7.Just because you can write the check doesn’t mean you can afford to.
Having the money in the bank does not always mean you can purchase an item. You must be prepared for a rainy day. Do you know that half of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank? That is CRAZYYYYYYY people! That is the epitome of STUPIDITY! One major car, an unexpected home repair, or a huge medical expense and you are suddenly in debt!
With your husband, take time to consider a comfortable level for a rainy day fund (this level is going to be different for all of us). Take into account such things as job stability, possible medical bills, major car purchases or repairs, and major house repairs. The last thing you want is for some catastrophe (or two or three) to come along and knock out your savings and land you in debt! Don’t forget about big expenses down the road like new vehicles, college tuition, and retirement.
(I’ve heard the rule of having a money buffer equal to what it would take you to live on the number of months that equals the unemployment rate. Okay, that sentence probably made your head spin! Here is an example to illustrate my point: If the unemployment rate is 5%, plan on saving 5 months worth of expenses. You may want to add more to this level if you have old cars, medical issues, or a house in constant need of repairs.)
8.God cannot be beat in generosity!
Tithe 10 % of your income. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. For many of us, tithing can be a stretch, but God will always provide for you. Even if it isn’t a stretch, it is too easy to see that money as “ours” when, in reality, all the money we have is God’s. In the past, there were times when I wasn’t quite sure if tithing was the best for our financial situation, but God always, always, always pulled through.
When we moved in to our home, we had a MAJOR water leak that wreaked havoc on our downstairs. Husband and I worked hard to complete as much of the work by ourselves as was possible.
9. Learn to do it yourself. (sometimes!)
Oftentimes, it is cheaper to make or do something ourselves, but this rule does not always hold true. Remember to factor in your time as well as tools and equipment you will need. Making my children’s clothes does not pan out financially when I can purchase clothes at garage sales for $.25. However, Husband has been able to save us thousands of dollars since we moved into our new home by teaching himself electrical and basic plumbing skills.
10.The law of multiplication.
Every penny counts. I often find it a useful mind trick to multiply the savings. Here are a couple of examples.
If you go to the grocery store and buy the generic and save yourself $.20 on an item, it doesn’t seem like you are saving that much. But, chances are, you went in for more than one item. If you buy the generic of every item you buy and you buy 50 items, you save $10. Multiply your $10 savings over the course of the year’s weekly grocery shopping and you save $520.
Here is another example. Let’s say you find yourself stopping at a drive thru every time you go grocery shopping with the kids. You spend $10 every week. It doesn’t seem like much and it is awfully convenient. With a little planning, you could make PBJs and freeze them so you can grab them on your way out the door every week. Yearly savings: $520.
When I am tempted to get a coffee while we are in town or grab a treat for my kids at the grocery store, I can usually turn down the temptation by using the law of multiplication. I’m not saying we should never treat ourselves, but when we treat ourselves all the time we’ll find we have holes in our financial pockets!
11. Snowball your savings.
To expand on Rule 10, if you can find 20 different ways to save $520 every year, you now save yourself $10,400!!! Do those 20 things for 5 years and you net $52,000! 10 years and you save …get this…$104,000! Never, never, never underestimate the power of saving a penny!
12.Cheaper isn’t always better.
Contrary to what people may think, frugal minded people don’t always buy the cheapest item on the shelf. Have you noticed there is a lot of junk on the market today? Nothing frustrates a frugalista more than purchasing something only to have it break immediately.
Case in point – Husband’s jeans. When we were first married, I would buy whatever pants I could find that were the cheapest for him (usually around $16). We soon realized the pants were wearing out within a few months. I ended up purchasing a pair of jeans for him from LL.Bean just to try. The jeans cost 2.5 more than the cheap jeans (approx. $38), but lasted at least 8 times as long. This means that over the course of the life of his LL. Bean jeans (over 2 years), we saved $90 by purchasing the more expensive jeans. Which jeans would you purchase?
Sometimes this involves taking a chance and it doesn’t always pan out. Last year I attempted to save money by using the StitchFix service (a service that sends you clothes in a box at pre-selected intervals). I thought the service could potentially save me time and money. After a few boxes, I realized it was not saving money as I had hoped and I cancelled.
13.A little planning goes a long way.
Planning ahead almost always saves you money. I plan easy to pack lunches for days when I know we’ll be out of the house so we aren’t tempted to use the drive-thru. When our children have their swimming lessons, I pre-make a huge batch of crockpot friendly freezer meals so supper is always at home. I look for garage sale finds all summer for Christmas presents for the kids.
14.Good organization will save you a lot!
When you know what you have and where to locate it, you won’t be wasting your money purchasing a replacement at the store.
It’s so gosh darn hard to be humble, isn’t it? It is humbling to drive to the family reunion in your bucket of rust when everyone else has a shiny new vehicle. It is humbling to ask someone for their hand-me-downs. It is humbling to say “no” to something good/fun when you know you can’t afford it. It’s humbling to invite others over to your under-furnished home or ask them to sit on your couch and then it squeaks.
Humility is hard, but it isn’t bad. In fact, it is a very, very, very good thing.
We are reminded through these humbling experiences that everything we have is a gift directly from God’s hand and that none of it really matters in the end. As the saying goes, “I ain’t never seen a hurse with a luggage rack!”
I hope to help give you some more practical advice in a couple more posts. Leave a comment or email me if you have a specific money saving question for me to address or an idea you want to share.
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