We’re A One-Income Family And We’ve Finally Figured It Out — Here’s How

Nov 5, 2019

My mum loves to tell the story about when I was a toddler and grabbed a stuffed animal off the shelf while we were shopping. I wouldn't let it go, so she bought it for me.

That stuffie, Yellow Ted, has been with me my entire life. But when my kids want to buy something they see, it doesn’t usually have that kind of staying power. Dealing with my kids’ wants when funds are tight can be frustrating and defeating, but we've developed a system for keeping everyone happy as a one-income family.

Living on one income doesn’t have to feel suffocating.

The best thing we do as a single-income family is budget, of course. Then we expense track and follow the budget. After the bills and mortgage are paid, we have a set amount to work with that is automatically debited to different accounts every two weeks (payday).

Taking the decision-making out of money makes our lives easier and keeps us on budget. These automatic withdrawals are boundaries we can work within. It took a few months of fine tuning, but now that we’ve figured it out, it makes things so much easier. Here are a few tips to make your budgeting easier too.

More Budgeting Tips: 12 Places Parents Can Look For Savings

Wants vs. Needs

We have taught our kids the difference between wants and needs. You need new jeans when you’ve outgrown the old ones, you want the brand new sparkly ones that cost $50. If our kids really need something, we’ll get it. We’ll check the thrift store, ask friends and peruse the local buy-and-sell to see if they have what we need. Only after we’ve exhausted those options do we buy new. I got all three kids’ fall wardrobes second-hand this year for $30 (and they have a great variety of clothes to choose from that fit their individual style).

Prepare and plan for upcoming expenses

I’m a recovering procrastinator. I’ve learned that when I prepare in advance for upcoming events and expenses, we can save for them. This goes for everything, but most importantly: meals and clothes. We meal plan every week and only buy what we need. If I go into the week without any plan, I’ll end up ordering takeout, or have a higher bill at the grocery store. When I plan ahead for the upcoming season (including kids’ clothes, birthday gifts and holidays), I can either look for a deal or check out the thrift store when I’m not in a rush.

Choose where to splurge

We were happy to invest in higher-end scooters for our kids after going through a couple very quickly and having them break. It was definitely an upfront investment, but they get used daily. The kids' bikes are all thrift store purchases or found on garbage day at the end of a driveway. My husband used to be a bike mechanic and has them running smoothly in no time.

Once the kids stop growing so quickly, we’ll likely invest in higher quality bikes that we’ll save for. If something is really important to our kids, we will encourage them to save money from grandparents, allowance and birthdays so they can work towards their goal. This teaches them money management and delayed gratification.

You'll Also Love: How I Learned To Entertain My Child When Funds Are Low

Say no when it doesn’t align with your goals or values

We have a list of things that we prioritize for our family, which makes it easy to say no to things that don’t get us any closer to our priorities or goals. We really value unstructured free play in nature for our kids, so we don’t do a lot of extracurriculars that will take us away from outdoor family time. I’m sure this will change as our children get older, but an unhurried childhood where they have time to explore in the outdoors is something we really value (bonus: It’s budget-friendly!).

Side Hustle

Most people have something they love to do that can help generate an income. Love to bake? Sell your goods. Is writing a creative outlet for you? Pitch ideas or start a blog. My husband and I love to refinish furniture. We often find things people are ready to throw out or give away for free, and give it new life. It’s a fun (and lucrative) date night for us when we’re working on something together that can also help us generate extra income to work towards some bigger goals that might not fit into our regular budget.

Living on one income doesn’t have to feel suffocating. Yes, we stick to a budget (and it might take a little bit longer to save for bigger items), but the most important thing we do as a one-income family is appreciate what we do have: time together.

Article Author Rachael Watts
Rachael Watts

Rachael is a freelance writer whose current idea of a party is a Saturday night at home with a Harry Potter book or Netflix. She loves outdoor adventures, pumpkin spice lattes and any DIY project you can throw at her. She stays home with her three daughters and considers yoga a must for extracting herself from her kids’ beds or wrestling children into snowsuits.

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