Living on One Income: How to Survive and Thrive

The daily grind of being a two-career family with kids can be tiring, stressful and expensive; many families with young children would prefer living on one income so they can spend more time with their kids while saving money on daycare.

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Living on one income often seems like an impossible dream. It’s hard for many parents to figure out how to give up the security of a second paycheck. But the truth is, with careful planning and some short-term sacrifices, living on one income is more possible than you might think.

Here are seven ways your family can learn to live with less money:

1. Pay off Debt First

It’s hard to live on one income if you’re making big debt payments each month. Try to pay off your credit card debt, student loans and car payments before you take the leap of living on one income.

2. Get a Mortgage That is Affordable on One Income

Living on one income might require you to downsize your house or move to a lower-cost neighborhood. Consider whether moving is a possibility and whether you could find a more affordable option.

3. Try to Get by With One Car

When you’re a two-career household, that often means two commutes — and, in most American cities, that means two cars. If you have a parent who’s home full-time with the kids, it’s harder to afford two car payments. So be prepared to sacrifice: Could your family get by with one car? Could the parent who works outside the home start taking some form of public transit? Could the stay-at-home parent drive the other to work in the mornings? Are there other transportation options like carpooling or ride-sharing apps to get around town when needed, instead of paying for a second car?

4. Save Money on Food

Living on one income means you’re going to need to cut back on restaurant meals and takeout, and start cooking dinner at home more often. And that’s fine. Cooking at home is a great way to save money on your monthly food budget. Get a membership at a warehouse retailer and buy food in bulk. Plan meals ahead of time and buy two weeks’ worth (or more) of groceries per trip. Cook a week’s worth of meals in advance and freeze your weekly dinners so that they’re ready to warm up in the oven or in the microwave — you might find that cooking at home can actually saves time as well as money.

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5. Enjoy Free Entertainment

Instead of spending lots of money on going to movies, bars and other live entertainment, start looking for free options for entertainment. The good news is, there are lots of great options. Spend time at public parks, riverwalks, beaches and other public spaces. Check with your local city for free museum admission days, free outdoor concerts and other fun activities that won’t cost money. Instead of paying for an expensive monthly gym membership, go for walks in the neighborhood or push your baby in a jogging stroller on a public bike path.

6. Save Money by Quitting Your Job

Having two jobs can cost money — think of all of the costs of having a job: daycare expenses, taxes, commuting expenses (gasoline, wear and tear on your vehicle), clothing expenses, lunches out during the workweek. Living on one income could be more affordable than you might think.

7. Embrace a New Mindset

If you want to start living on one income, sit down and do some financial planning. Make a budget and figure out how much money you’ll have coming in and going out after giving up that second income.

Be prepared to embrace frugal living, think creatively and be open to living differently — with a bit less convenience or comfort than when you had two incomes.

If you really want to have a parent home full-time, with some thoughtful money management, it can be done. And you may find that, aside from a few conveniences or fun material things, you won’t miss that second paycheck much at all.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

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