How to Live Frugally on One Income: Tips For Families
Moms Make Cents Logo
Close this search box.

How to Live Frugally on One Income: Tips For Families

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.

Searching for practical advice on how to live frugally on one income?

You’ve probably done almost everything. Stopped eating out too often. Cut the weekend night-outs with friends. Reduced every unnecessary expenditure. Tried many money-saving life hacks.

But despite these things, you still haven’t seen a significant improvement in your savings. And now, you’re doubtful over the promise of thrifty and economical living.

You’re probably wondering how to live frugally on one income.

Yes, living on a limited income can get really challenging.

You get the feeling you’re trapped by your economic situation. As much as you’d want to pursue other things in your life, you can’t. Doing so can mean missing a paycheck, which you can’t afford to lose.

Chances are you’re jaded on the idea of saving money and frugal living.

Being frugal can be very challenging.

Maybe you or your partner would like to pursue further education. Or one needs to stay at home to watch over the kids. Or perhaps the company that you or your partner was laid off.

These are just some of the instances that give rise to a single-income household.

For some, the transition is easy. Either or both of the partners probably earn more than enough that cutting out one income source wouldn’t set them back considerably. Maybe the sacrifice involves no more yearly vacations or extravagant purchases.

For others that sacrifice the additional income to pursue a degree, it’s a necessary trade-off. Getting that diploma can mean working on a job that makes significantly more money as opposed to getting stuck in a dead-end job.

But for many, making a limited household budget work can be difficult. Especially when there are two or more mouths to feed.

Living frugally on one income is not for the faint of heart.

If a one-income household is your current situation, frugal living may only be your only option.

So is it really possible, living frugally on one income?

The answer is yes.

It’s difficult but not impossible. Living on little income entails a lot of sacrifice and patience in knowing something better will come along; a great trade-off to make all of these worth it.

So how to live frugally?

Living frugally isn’t for everyone. Especially if you’re used to something more than being thrifty or economical. More so if the cost of living is higher in your area.

But when circumstances dictate it, there’s not much option, is there?

For those who want to make it through a tight budget and limited income, you’ve come to the right blog.

Here at Moms Make Cents, we love saving money and making extra income on the side. And we also adhere to a frugal and economical lifestyle.

So if you’re searching for practical tips on how to live frugally on one income, we have just what you’re looking for. See if what works for you and your household.

What we have in this article is a list of smart ways to live frugally. Let’s dive in.

1. Pay off your debts.

Whether you’ve planned to have a one-income household or it was borne out of circumstances, you should first consider wiping out your debts.

It’s not a good idea to carry loans, especially the high-interest ones when you live on a limited income. A sudden drop in the money coming in could drastically change your situation for the worse.

Think of your credit card use too. Resort to them sparingly, limiting it to essential purchases like the grocery or for the gas and utilities.

If you’re struggling to meet the minimum monthly payments, it’s best to leave your credit cards at home. Stick to old-fashioned cash for your daily purchases.

As for your other debts like mortgages, you might want to consider refinancing options.

Or you could put up an extra savings account and stash your future payments in it. When the amount is due, just get it from this account. That way, you won’t miss the payments due to lack of funds.

2. Set up an emergency fund.

What better way to prepare for any eventuality than to have an emergency fund. You don’t want to be caught off guard with an unscheduled expense, which could burn a huge hole in your budget.

An emergency expenditure could mean an unexpected car or house repair or medical check-up. With this urgent expense, it could throw your lesser-priority needs off.

Are you familiar with the cash envelope system?

Developed by Dave Ramsey, it’s a budgeting system that forces you to come up with cash for your expenses. It can effectively control spending and help you stay on course with your budget.

3. Ditch the unnecessary spending.

Here’s an effective way on how to live frugally on one income?

Cut down on the unnecessary spending.

Don’t you think it’s time you consider looking for cheaper cell phone packages? Perhaps give it some thought about getting rid of your cable TV subscription.

If there’s only one working in the household, the expenses need to go down. This includes spending on lunch-outs, clothes and shoes, car-related expenses, and more.

Looking for ways to cut household-related spending?

Instead of hiring someone to do the lawn or clean the house, you or your partner can do.

Ordering takeout can make a huge dent in your wallet Processed food also tend to be pricey.

Your solution? Trim the cost by changing your habits. Opt for the healthier options by getting your ingredients and cooking your food; you can save a lot when you do that.

4. Lower the housing-related costs.

Do you live in a home that is larger than you really need?

Downsize to something that’s enough for you and your family. Instead of a big house with lots of bedrooms and garage space that you don’t need, scale down to a home that’s not as big and not too small; just enough for your needs.

Instead of a townhouse that usually has a hefty HOA fee, go for a single-family house or something smaller. Or you could repurpose the other rooms in the bigger home like renting it out or offering it as an Airbnb space.

If you’re shopping for a home, ideally, you want to live in a decent community that’s near a good school. But if it’s way above than you can afford, you’ll need to adjust.

Another option to consider when it comes to your home is refinancing.

Don’t feel too compelled to keep up with your friends. There’s no sense in competing when you can’t afford to keep pace who has the bigger home.

5. Dispose of your costly or depreciating assets.

Do you drive a truck that consumes a lot of gas?

You might want to get rid of your gas guzzler and consider getting a fuel-efficient car instead.

Have two or more cars and can no longer afford to maintain them?

If there’s no absolute need for a second car, sell it. Consider public transportation instead. Or you can ride a bike.

6. Ease the impact of living on a low income with remote work.

Did you know you don’t have to go into an office to earn a living?

Have you considered working remotely? There are plenty of side hustles and money-making opportunities online. All you need is a computer and internet connection, and you can get legit work-from-home jobs.

Wondering what are best ways to make money from home?

You can earn between $500 and $50,000 a month as a blogger. Or you could work as a virtual assistant for a company, which pays up to $15-50 an hour.

Do you have a passion for writing? You can earn up to $200,000 a year as a freelance writer.

The list of legit online jobs for moms goes on.

Who knows, doing online jobs can lead to more career options for you down the road.

7. Get back to the basics.

When living frugally on one income, you’ll have to stick to the basics. This may seem boring since you’ll be putting your spending habits under restraint.

First off, you’ll need to differentiate need from want. Sticking with the essentials is what you have to do; otherwise, you’ll end up spending more than what’s necessary.

Your practicality is usually tested when you go to the grocery. It can be challenging to stick to the basic necessities in your list. But as time goes by, you’ll be able to see what your needs truly are and focus on them.

Read: How To Make A Budget + Free Printable

8. Making the right financial decisions.

It seems easier said than done, but if you want to live frugally, you will need to make the right decisions with your money.

For starters, live practical and cheap. If you need another set of eyes to check on your purchases, the better.

Perhaps your partner can analyze your spending and identify where you went awry with your plan on being frugal. You could also ask other loved ones and trusted friends to give you recommendations on the ideal financial decisions to make.

Being thrifty can be a game changer, which can help you stretch your budget.

9. Make certain sacrifices.

Here’s a practical tip on how to live frugally on one income.

Let go of some things to achieve a bigger objective; in this case, to be able to survive in a low-income household.

These sacrifices don’t have to be big. It can be as small as avoiding dining out and takeout. The sacrifice may come in the form of cooking your food at home instead.

Another form of sacrifice is changing your cell phone plan to the basic packaging. Cutting down on the monthly phone cost will help you get a handle of your finances

10. Monitor your spending regularly.

One of the best ways to check on your progress is to monitor your expenses frequently. Designate a day of the week (or month) to see if you have aligned your spending according to your customized financial plan.

Ideally, you should have your partner or loved ones take a look at your expenditures with you. The goal is to achieve the lowest amount of expenses possible.

Here’s a tip: just trim down your spending a little at a time. Go for the expenses where you can make the most cut such as your groceries or entertainment and leisure expenses.

You may also want to search for options to lower the costs of your utilities. Or perhaps consider finding cheaper alternatives to your phone coverage or cable TV subscriptions.

11. Be creative.

This is the fun part of how to live frugally on one income. If you want to cut costs, be creative.

For example, your old clothes may seem outdated and out of style. But you can transform them into something hip, cool, and up-to-date.

Is your furniture banged up? Repair and repaint it.

What’s old and worn out isn’t necessarily useless and belongs in the trash. Do your magic and transform it.

12. Stop keeping up with the Joneses.

Are you like these people who like to brag? Trying to crow about things to prove you have money?

These days, virtually everyone is flaunting their wealth on social media. They’re flashing their new cars or showing off their cash or jewelry. It’s an ostentatious, albeit unnecessary, display of affluence.

But guess what?!

You don’t have to compete with the Joneses. It can be very stressful to keep up especially when you’re trying to live frugally on one income.

So what if your friends have their BMWs while you drive an old Toyota (I personally drive a 13-year-old Toyota with over 100k miles)?

You don’t have to compare with other people. Stay within your lane and live within your means. With the pressure to keep up, you’ll be happier that way.

13. Learn to be content and happy.

You don’t need a Rolex or to travel around the world every year. You don’t have to keep up with the trends or secretly compete against a friend.

Being content is the key to happiness.

This old adage will ring true especially when you’re squeezing your budget and stretching your limited dollars.

Living frugally on one income isn’t impossible.

It’s difficult, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s not impossible. With the right plan and sticking to it, you can make it work.

Share your tips below on how you live frugally on one income. 

graphic that has a white calculator and the text how to live frugally on one income

McKinzie Bean
McKinzie is a mom of two, and a personal finance enthusiast. She loves teaching other moms how to save money, make money, and take control of their financial situation. She has started five profitable businesses and in college, she double-majored in Financial Planning and Psychology. You may have seen her in publications like Forbes, The US Chamber of Commerce, Yahoo Finance,, The Penny Hoarder, & more.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *