Whether you are doing it because you have to or because you want to, living on a single income can be tough. Some months can be tougher than others. But with a little planning and intentional spending, you can do more to make your money stretch a little further. Here are my 8 Best Tips for Families surviving off a single Income.
Do You Feel Guilty about Not Contributing Financially to the Home?
Obviously, I don’t know your personal financial situation, but what I can do is share some of our experiences as a family of six living on a single income.
My husband and I run a plumbing business from home. Although I technically ‘work’ in the business doing the office bits and bobs, it’s his trade that brings the money into our household. If he stopped working, the money would stop coming in.
When times got really tough a few years ago, I would feel so guilty about not getting a job and doing enough towards contributing to the family finances.
I never spoke to anyone about it, because I felt a little ashamed that I was ‘only a Mom’ and secretly I was worried that other people (yup, I really cared what random strangers thought) thought I was lazy or that I was just living a ladies life of leisure while my husband bore the brunt of our finances.
The Numbers Never Added up
The problem was, no matter how many times we did the calculations, it was always more financially beneficial for me to stay at home with the four kids. The money I could bring in if I worked was at least $50 less per week than the money we saved by me staying at home.
I know, Crazy, Right?
How the Non-Income-Earner Can Contribute to the Family Finances
As the ‘non-earner’ in the home, I made it my business to try and relieve the financial stress of single income living by becoming extremely intentional with our household spending. Here are my 8 Best Tips for Families living off a Single Income.
8 Tips for Families living on a Single Income
1. Track your Expenses
You need to know where your money is being spent. And this starts with taking a look at your expenses. Most people use a bank card nowadays, so tracking your expenses is really easy. Simply print off a copy of your bank statement and take a look at all the money spent over the past 30 days.
Go through your statement and highlight any spending that you think you didn’t really need to spend. This includes takeout coffees, snacks or dinners away from home. Mindless spending on small things can seriously add up over a month and will contribute to overspending on an already tight budget.
2. Make a budget
Now I know this sounds like a lot of hard work. And for a many years I put off actually doing this. I told myself it was ‘silly’ but deep down I just didn’t really want to be responsible for all our spending. And I was scared to face the truth of our financial situation.
But it’s one of the most important things you can do for family and it’s finances. And it’s a lot easier than it sounds.
Your Household finances come down to two things:
1. Money coming in (income)
2. Money going out (expenses)
The stress begins when the Money going out is MORE than the Money coming in.
Setting a budget is the first step towards relieving that stress and getting in control of your household finances.The key to this is setting up a realistic budget that fits within your income and your lifestyle. After tracking your expenses over the past 30 days you will now have a good idea about where your money is being spent.
When writing out your budget, make sure you include things like upcoming birthdays, school trips, pending vehicle repairs. These little things come up, so plan to spend for them.
When I first did this exercise, our expenses were higher than the money we were earning. Every month we were overspending by a couple of hundred dollars a month! And this meant we were always broke and always worried about the smallest unexpected bill. If you find yourself in the same situation, then the quickest way to get back on track is to reduce your expenses.
3. Reduce Your Monthly Bills
Go through your expenses, see if there are ways you can reduce your spending. Are you paying unnecessary bank fees or is your interest rate too high? Can you go without certain subscriptions for a couple of months or stop buying take out? With a little creativity, I am sure you can come up with at least 20 ways to save money right off the the top of your head.
For more Money Saving ideas:
- 200+ Genius Ways to Save Money and Reduce Your Monthly Expenses
- 51 Free and Fun things to do with Kids on a NO SPEND Weekend
4. Create a Money Saving Meal Plan
A huge portion of our income goes towards our Grocery Bill. It is the first place I go to when money is tight because it’s the biggest opportunity to save. Here are a few things to do to save on Groceries:
- Make a list of at least 5 – 10 Budget meals you can cook for your family.
- Grow your own Vegetables or herbs.
- See what you have in the pantry and plan meals around these ingredients.
- Buy Seasonal foods. You can find these by seeing whats on special at your local Supermarket. Seasonal food is often cheaper because it’s available in abundance.
- Opt for cheaper cuts of meat like ground beef or Whole Chickens and make a meal around these.
- Bulk up meals with vegetables like potatoes or tomatoes.
- Make all lunches, snacks and dinners at HOME!
More Ways to Save Money on Food:
- 15 Brilliant Budget Ground Beef Dinner Recipes
- 10 Common Sense Tips to Eat Healthy on One Income
- 14 Healthy Meals to make with a Jar of Pasta Sauce
4. Simply Stop Spending
Consider a spending freeze. For the next 30 days stick to your budget completely. Do not spend on anything that is not accounted for or allocated in your budget. Get the family involved and make it a project. Keep a little notebook and write down the amount of money you saved each time you DON’T spend on un-budgeted purchases. It’s an empowering feeling walking away from a wasteful spend. Even if it’s only a couple of dollars each time.
5. Find Fun Stuff to Do for Free
Not everything needs to cost you money. Make a list of activities you can do in your area that your can do for free. Here is a list of 50 Fun Things to Do For Free with the Kids this Weekend. Choose at least two each weekend and schedule them in so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
6. Set up an Emergency Fund
This was a life changer for me. Having an Emergency Fund in place let’s you sleep a little better at night. Knowing that there is a little cash stashed away for life’s little emergencies is so important that I am surprised we weren’t taught this at school. It’s one of the lessons I will be teaching my kids that I know they will come to appreciate.
It doesn’t have to be a lot. And you don’t have to come up with all of it today. But you do need to Start today. Set an amount that you plan on saving. And START SAVING.
7. Cut the Clutter for Cash
If you need to come up with a little extra cash to help out with the months expenses, then consider cutting the clutter and selling some of the stuff you have accumulated around the house. Old clothes, unused furniture, sporting goods that are gathering dust, books that aren’t being read.
8. Forget the Fairytales
We all have this idea of where we ‘should be’ at this stage of our life. Often this idea of what life ‘Should be’ spurs us on to spend beyond our means. It comforts us into thinking everything is OK. Don’t be sucked in to this agenda. Decide on what’s important for your family and be intentional on your own journey. As Dave Ramsey puts it “The Joneses are Broke”.
What to do now.
Money problems can cause unnecessary stress in a family. Make yourself a cuppa, sit down with a pen and the Monthly Budget Worksheet and start to build your financial plan today.