Putting the Stereotypical Notion of a Tightwad on its Tush

How We Would Live On One Income

The following is a guest post by Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Her blog covers living expenses, saving for your future, and the fun stuff along the way (something us tightwads forget about sometime).

If I do hit my blogging goals and leave my current job to blog full time, I would be way more comfortable if we could simply pretend that my income did not exist. I wouldn’t want my slow months to affect our quality of life.

I was thinking about this about the same time MikeS forwarded me this article. Here is their list of suggestions for families considering moving into the one income status:

1. Get on the Same Page With Your Partner
A joint goal is not a joint goal unless it is agreed upon. Obviously if Mr. BFS and I are ever going to make a single income work, we would both have to be involved. Even though we both know who makes more and when, neither one of us would be succeeding if not for the other. We both seem to get that and “ownership” of our money has never been an issue. Thankfully. 🙂

2. Carefully Map Out Your Budget
As the article states, you can only figure out what you are willing to give up when you know exactly what you have been spending on. I have kept up with our own spending for more than 4 or 5 years now, so it is simple for us to take a look at our budget and know where our money is going. Prioritizing our spending still takes a bunch of effort when we get to the nitty-gritty details, but just having every single expense in writing really helps.

3. Trim Big-Ticket Items First
I agree that cutting back on big expenses will help a lot more than cutting out occasional indulgences. Don’t get me wrong though, daily habits are not “occasional indulgences.” I do think that the latte factor is alive and well. Sure, renting out a spare bedroom will give you a lot more money than not having a $5 Starbucks run every morning, but that Starbucks run is also costing nearly $150 a month. Renting out a spare bedroom AND cutting out the daily Starbucks helps a lot more than just doing one or the other.

4. Say “So Long” to the Joneses
I am so glad that Mr. BFS and I rarely get hit by the competitive spending bug. Every once in a while, we will splurge on something we see at our parents’ homes since we like it so much (like our 47″ LCD TV), but you will never see me buying a $60,000 SUV unless I’ve won the lottery or something along those lines. Even then, I think you’d more likely never see me again since I’d be vacationing, not buying expensive vehicles, lol. If we did decide to live completely off of my husband’s income, you might not see me in a restaurant more than once every month or two…

5. Don’t Cut Back Too Much
I could not agree more. As the title of my blog would seem to suggest, I do think that everyone should budget some fun into their lives. A super strict budget without any wiggle room will lead to burnout. As mentioned above, daily habits make need to be cut out, but I wouldn’t suggest never going to Starbucks again.

*Side note, I’m only picking on coffee because it came to mind…please substitute whatever your habit is, lol. Mine would be the fact I had to stop buying a snack every day from the vending machine…*

6. Recast Your Savings Strategy
The article suggests living on one income and using the other for savings. That is exactly what Mr. BFS and I do already. If you look at our budget, you will see that the actual expenses account for a little less that 90% of my husband’s salary. We use the other 10% of his salary and 100% of my own to cover all of our savings goals and fun money. If my salary takes a hit, we have to readjust our fun money and maybe some of our savings goals, but our day-to-day life wouldn’t have to take a big hit. I actually already wrote about what we would cut if one of us lost our job – it still seems to fit our situation today.

7. Give it a Trial Run
I like the idea of practicing living on just one income. During that practice time, the second income could be used to hit debt or socked away in the best online cash ISA as a big emergency fund for when it’s no longer just practicing. The article suggests practicing for one year, so I now need to go discuss that with Mr. BFS. I wonder how pretending that I make nothing would end up changing our entertainment budget or our savings goals? If we do try this out, I’ll turn it into a series here at BFS so you can all follow along, lol.

If you live on a single income, how do you pull it off? If you don’t, would you ever consider it?

Editor’s Note: Crystal is a great writer who presents a very balanced viewpoint. She was very kind to assist me by contributing this guest post during a difficult personal time; I whole-heartedly recommend you visit and subscribe to her blog and hope she makes her full-time goal soon.

6 Responses to How We Would Live On One Income

  1. We practiced for one year and it was easier than we had thought it would be. The money came in handy the next year when we were living someplace more expensive on one income. Then we put the leftovers (more than 60% of what we'd saved) towards our mortgage. Since then we've upped our retirement savings and started prepaying the mortgage. Next year our expenses will go up again and we won't be able to make it on one income quite so easily.

  2. We have been on one income on and off the last 13 years. (The minute our budget matched my husband's take-home-pay, I quit to be home with the kids.)

    I have worked on and off part-time over the years since, and I just mostly save that money, or use it toward vacation. It has worked out really well. Any money I make feels almost like a gift!

  3. I hate to have extra income just lying around. We have a lot of extra income but it quickly gets funneled into retirement, home improvements, or mortgage paydown. I actually don't know how easily we could live on one income. On paper it should be pretty simple but I think retirement savings would be the hardest hit.

    I can't agree more on big ticket items. I'm big on the 80/20 rule.

  4. @nicoleandmaggie, some years are just easier than others. Mr. BFS and I could technically live off of his income, but we'd have to give up a ton of savings and fun…

    @Everyday Tips, I am jealous of your situation but couldn't justify staying home myself right now since we don't have kids…I'd just be doing it because I don't like working, lol.

    @First Gen American, the 80/20 rule works everywhere, doesn't it?! When Mr. BFS and I want to save quickly, we know we have to hit our biggest non-necessary expense first – food. We cut back on the expensive cuts of beef and eat out 1-2 times a month instead of every week.

  5. This is such an inspiration. My husband and I have decided to live a more frugal life this 2011. We absolutely have to cut our expences because our debt is just continuing to rise more and more. I will print your post and try to stick to it. It's just like being on a diet. It's hard in the beginning but once you get the habit it just becomes natural.

  6. @nicole and maggie: I think for many people income has a tendency to fluctuate, but you have an exemplary handle on lifestyle inflation that allows you to "practice" living on one income. Cheers to you!

    @Everyday Tips: You're life is my goal! 😉

    @FGA: Having purpose for your money is really the best. Living on one income might not be meeting your goals, but it sounds like your current lifestyle is.

    @Crystal: Thanks again for filling in for me. You're a gem!

    @staub: Glad to see you here. Cutting expenses is hard but it's possible to live a very fulfilling life even with little means. I look forward to seeing more from you.

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