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Living On a Single Income

Single Income Living

Money can be a sensitive topic, but in the interest of keeping it real around here, I'm going to break a few etiquette rules.

We don't have a lot of money. And that's okay.

I'm not here to brag, or even claim we have it all figured out. I'm here to offer advice and encouragement to those sharing our circumstance, or planning to in the future.

For the mom or soon-to-be-mom out there who is struggling with the decision to stay home, my advice to you is to do it. If you are in the financial position to live off of a single income, even if things are a little tight, there are ways to make it work. We've done it, and I don't regret it at all. Single income living is a big adjustment to make, but if it's the one that's right for your family, you will be just as confident one year in as I am that it was the right decision.

Even before my husband and I planned to expand our family, we knew that I would likely stay home. My mother stayed home with my brother and me, and I knew that was something I wanted to do for my children. Though I have both bachelor's and master's degrees, I chose to forego a career in the interest of raising our babies. I'm not interested in starting a debate on working versus staying home, but that's just to explain the personal place I'm coming from. I could work and earn more money for our family, but to be completely honest, with the expense of childcare, we don't feel it would be worth it for us.

My husband Tyler is able to have a career that he loves. I love that he is able to follow his passion. As a stay-at-home mom, I also have the opportunity to spend my days doing something that I'm passionate about, and love my choice to spend my time with our daughter. I am so proud of my husband's career, and of mine as a stay-at-home mom.

So we're a single-income family, basically living paycheck to paycheck, and that's what we've chosen. It's a choice we'd make over and over again, because it's what's right for our family.

When our daughter was born last year and I quit my job, it was shocking to see our bank account drop so drastically. Factor in the sticker shock of hospital bills, and we definitely questioned what we'd gotten ourselves into. Here are some potential issues that we saw arise from our financial stress over the past year:

  • Money problems are the #1 cause of marital fights. Tyler and I have very different financial views, and money became the forefront of our fights. He's the saver, I'm the spender. He's the worrisome one, I'm the carefree one. He gets frustrated that I don't seem to care (or even realize) that we only have $11 in our checking account, and I get annoyed with him always stressing over it (how does that change anything?). I find it is easier not to even check our online banking, because I really don't want to know how much money we don't have. To be honest, I don't have to because Tyler logs on enough for the both of us.
  • Financial stress can result in loss of sleep and weight gain. Need I say more? As if having a baby didn't already impact those things.
  • Financial woes place pressure on the breadwinner. Tyler's the worrier, out of nature but also because it's his job to provide financially. Being the primary breadwinner for your family is such a huge responsibility, and feeling like you're not bringing home enough can be a really tough pill to swallow.

We don't go by a budget per se, but more of a "we have this much left after all the bills came out. This much is allotted to food and the rest gets prioritized according to necessity" kind of thing. A few things we do to stretch our money are: grocery shop at Aldi and Costco, utilize money-back apps like Ibotta and Ebates, eat out less and eat leftovers more.

It's hard for me to admit that we don't have much money. Yes, we have everything we need (and more) so I don't classify us as "poor" because we do enjoy some luxuries. That doesn't mean I don't wish I could shop more, travel more, etc., because who could honestly say, regardless of their income, that they wouldn't want those things? However, to accommodate our individual wants, Tyler and I keep separate personal savings. That money comes from saving birthday/Christmas money we get and selling and consigning unwanted clothing and accessories. We're able to afford a few luxuries from that method, including a couple Louis Vuitton bags for me and a designer watch for Tyler (he saved for years!). I like to always have a little stash that I can use to fuel my shopping addiction, while Tyler chooses top shelf bourbon.


Is it difficult? Yes. Is single-income living right for every family? No. But it was right for us, and I love being able to share the lessons we've learned as a family, and the methods we use with other parents.

What ways have you found to cut back on costs and stay in budget? What suggestions do you have for single-income families?

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