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Want to learn how to live off one income? I never in a million years would have guessed we would be able to do this since we had student loan debt the size of a mortgage and live in a high cost of living area. But we took some steps early on that have allowed us to live off one income and let me be a stay at home mom. Maybe these steps will help you to consider this possibility for your own family.
I had a dream to be a stay at home mom for a long time. I had it when I was a little girl, when I was in college, and it stayed happily in my heart all the way through my single years. However, when my (now) husband and I were dating, one look at our student loan debt as well as the cost of living for where we were living at the time made us realize that dream probably wasn’t going to happen.
A year after we married, we moved to a different state with a lower cost of living which definitely helped us but those student loan debts loomed. We came up with a plan, and began to implement it. It was slow going, but when we found out we were pregnant, there was a glimmer at the end of the tunnel that maybe, just maybe I could stay home after the baby was born.
And thankfully, I’ve been able to stay home with our daughter for the past four years.
Now it hasn’t been all roses. We’ve had some big challenges but it has been possible for us to do this.
The Steps We Took to Live Off One Income
We unknowingly began to take steps towards financial freedom when we were still dating. I say unknowingly because we were both just trying to take responsibility for our individual financial situations at the time. We had not combined finances or anything. But those initial steps were crucial. (You can definitely do these steps after you’re married; I’m just sharing what we did so you can see the arc of our journey.)
- We took a class that gave us a common financial language. This also helped me to face some of my demons with money. (i.e. Men are supposed to do the money thing while we women just smile and look cute. That’s another post, I’m sure, but I believed it because money felt so stressful for me!)
- We started a budget that worked for us. I was anti-budget because for many years I made very little. Every time I tried to do a budget online with the common “budgeting line items,” I would end up in tears. My salary didn’t stretch that far, so I figured budgets were for rich people. Wrong. I finally learned that a budget works for you. You’re literally just telling your money where it needs to go each month (also known as spending your money on paper.)
- We took incremental steps. Because budgeting was a big deal for us, we slowly but surely eased into tightening the budget. Telling myself I needed to cut my grocery bill in half was stressful, but if I made it into a game to see how much I could get for a certain amount each week, it became a challenge. As I became wiser to how much food should cost, I was able to slowly lower our food budget, and we barely noticed it.
- We used only cash. One of the first things we did was do the cash envelope system, and we’ve never looked back. We spend a LOT less because we learned to stop spending once the cash is gone. It’s also much easier to spend more when you’re using an ATM card. I don’t know what it is about those cards, but sometimes I don’t even know what the total bill was before I swipe and pay. Sheesh!
- We learned to live on one salary when we didn’t need to. This was KEY. Before we had to live on one salary, we slowly but surely began to live on only one salary. Being able to do so made us realize this was a possible dream, despite our debt payments.
- We paid my salary towards debt and built up our savings. The year before our daughter was born, we paid a huge amount towards our debt and built up our savings account just in case we needed to switch gears. This extra savings has been crucial as the cost of living here has continued to rise to the point where we are paying double in rent what we paid five years ago.
- I couponed, used Ebates for online purchases, and earned gift cards through Swagbucks. These did not equal a ton of money but it did help with extras such as gift buying throughout the year. Even though I now bring it an income with my blog, I still use Ebates and Swagbucks because they’re just plain awesome! I mean, who doesn’t like getting a check in the mail just because you bought something online? (Also, I trade my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards—these make great gifts for us AND for our family.)
All of these steps have allowed us to live off of one income for the past four years. I seriously never would have guessed this would be possible. No, we don’t go on cruises every January, but we’re happy, and we have plenty of art supplies. 🙂
When our daughter turned two, I started this blog to see if I could make a second dream of mine come true which was to not have to re-enter the workforce. I really, really like this lifestyle of staying at home and so wanted to make sure we would continue to meet our goals financially while I continued to stay home.
I usually write about nurturing your creative side on this blog, but this post has been on my heart. I think it’s so important to have goals and dreams, even if they’re not what the rest of the world is after. It’s okay to not want to make millions. It’s okay to want to be an artist. It’s okay to dream about living overseas. Whatever your dreams are, they’re valid, and I truly believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Don’t let anyone ever make you believe that your dreams are too small. They’re your dreams.
We’ve been so blessed to see this goal to live off of one income come true, but it has definitely equaled a lot of hard work and dedication. That said, it’s so worth it.
I hope this is an encouragement to you if you’ve ever wondered if it would ever be possible to stay home and live off of one income. Let me know in the comments if you have additional tips for living off one income. We can all learn together. 🙂
Have an amazing day!
That’s such an amazing story Jennie. It takes a lot of discipline to do what you guys have done. Wishing you many more happy years working from home.
Thanks so much, Michelle! 🙂
So this is something my husband and I need to seriously work on, because he will be retiring soon. He’s 10 years old than me, and we want to wait until his maximum age to start social security (but also for him to not work), so we need to figure this out (eventually). I totally hear you on the anti-budget!
Hi June! Thanks for your comment. I’d definitely take it in baby steps so the budget thing doesn’t “hurt” very much. If I had to jump to where we are in our budget now when we first started, I would have passed out, haha Having a big goal like retirement helps a lot too to gain focus. I appreciate you stopping by! 🙂
So many great tips! I think using cash makes a huge difference because a lot of times it doesn’t feel like you’re actually spending money when all you have to do is swipe a card. Living this way takes a lot of discipline…well done! Thanks for sharing at the Home Matters Link Party! #HomeMattersParty
Thank you so much, Sara! I really appreciate your comment. 🙂 I totally agree about not feeling like you’re spending with swiping a card. There have definitely been moments when I’ve thought, “Wait, how much was that?” as I walk out the store. :/ Hope you have an amazing week!
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