I am going to share ten simple ways to save money for your family so that you can successfully live on one income. I came up with unique ways for our family to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. And if we can do it, I know you can do it too!
Let me tell you that before I was married, and then before we had kids, I had certainly grown accustom to a certain way of life. Budget was basically a dirty word. I didn’t want to save money, I wanted to spend my money the way I wanted.
I reasoned that as long as our bills were paid what was the harm in spending money however I wanted?
Then we had a baby, and our budget (there’s that dirty word again) got a little tighter.
Truthfully, at first we didn’t change much about our spending habits. Because we really didn’t have to. I was still working at the time and needed minimal childcare.
Then I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom. And reality hit.
No more random shopping sprees at Target. I couldn’t just “accidentally” spend $100 on yoga pants cute accessories when all we needed was paper towels.
Gone were the monthly pedicures, (almost) daily coffee trips, unnecessary clothing items (looking at you random sequins skirt), and all of those little extras I had grown to love.
And for the most part they were pretty easy sacrifices to make. I was focused on being a full-time mom, a homemaker, and a wife.
Being a stay-at-home mom was my dream life! So while I missed the pedicures (and all the other stuff) I was focused on the joys my new life brought.
Then we had another baby. And the budget got tighter.
15 months later we had another baby. And our budget got tighter than I could have ever fathomed. To say I was looking for ways to save money was an understatement.
We now had a big family with lots of mouths to feed, children to clothe, babies to diaper, and we were attempting to do it all on one income.
In Colorado. Which at the time of writing this was one of the most expensive states to live in.
I was on a mission to save my family money.
Now some of these we cut a while ago, pretty soon after I first quit my job, some of these have been more recent cuts.
I’ve put them in order of how we cut back to save money (as best as I can remember). Of course, the first one was the first place we cut back in our budget, and number ten is a more recent (within the last six months) budget cut.
Our budget isn’t perfect. And we often go through seasons where we desperately need supplemental income, but we manage to make ends meet. And I don’t think we could manage that if we hadn’t been ruthless in cutting back our spending in order to save money each month.
10 Simple Ways Your Family Can Cut Back on Spending to Save Money
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We cut cable to save money on our monthly bills.
This was the first to go. It was an obvious way to save money. As much as I loved having cable it was a luxury that we flat out couldn’t afford. We downgraded to only internet and save anywhere from $100-$150/month depending on what internet plan we currently have.
Plus, these days there are so many great alternatives. We have a Netflix subscription and a Hulu subscription and love them both! And I know there are tons of other services out there that offer the perks of cable TV at a way more affordable price.
I stopped spending mindlessly.
I was totally the girl who would run into Target for milk and diapers, and come out 45 minutes later with $100+ of stuff I didn’t need.
And I never really had to worry about it. Until I did. I had to become disciplined enough to go to the store and stick to my list. That was hard, and it took me years to perfect. And yes, there are times that I still stray from the list.
But I’m much more aware of that “mindless spending” now and that has helped us save money in a big way!
I started to look at purchasing clothing as a necessity, not a hobby.
When I was young and single clothing wasn’t just a necessity, it was fun! Shopping was a hobby, and pairing new outfits together gave me a fun way to spend my free time.
But raising three kids on one income didn’t provide the budget for buying clothes that weren’t an absolute necessity. And truthfully, I was staying home all day, did I really need 47 bangle bracelets and 20 different handbags?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that moms (especially stay-at-home moms) should stick to yoga pants and ratty t-shirts. Not at all. I own nice things and I appreciate the occasional splurge on new earrings.
The difference became my mindset. We needed to save money so that we could feed our kids. So I started to look at clothing through a different lens. Shopping wasn’t my hobby anymore, saving money was. I couldn’t afford to buy every “cute” top I found in the store.
I had to be much more intentional with how I spent our clothing budget. For me personally, this was probably the biggest mindset shift in our quest to save money.
But, it has paid off in dividends. And it was one of the first steps I took in living a more simplified and minimalist lifestyle (although I didn’t know it at the time).
Choosing to buy only clothing that I know I truly need and will wear regularly, instead of an item I might wear once if the right event presents itself, has not only helped us to save money, it helps us keep our house free of clutter.
It’s a win-win!
I made sure we got our money’s worth for everything we purchased.
One of the biggest, and easiest, changes I made was when I really started paying attention to how we were using things we were purchasing.
And making sure we were getting out money’s worth.
One of my favorite examples of this was cutting open my lotion bottle. I purchased a huge bottle of lotion from Amazon (I love this stuff, I still use it everyday on myself and the kids) and I used to toss it once the lotion stopped coming up through the pump. I assumed that meant it was gone.
But one day I cut the bottle open and I was shocked to see how much lotion was still left in the bottle that the pump couldn’t reach.
I got another month out of all that lotion and I save myself the expense of buying lotion before I truly needed it.
And that’s just one example. I started turing the lights off when we weren’t in the room, making sure the A/C wasn’t blasting all day long, taking shorter showers, saving food the kids didn’t eat at lunch.
And over time all of those little thing started to add up and helped us save money. I guess a better way to word this tip is that I just learned the value of a dollar.
I learned how to be a little bit more frugal in my lifestyle.
It suddenly mattered to me that I had spent our hard-earned money on that bottle of lotion and I was going to get every last drop!
We stopped eating out so that we could save money.
This was my biggest pain point, and it still is. I actually enjoy cooking and preparing meals.
But at the end of a long day it’s hard to pull myself into the kitchen and stand on my feet for close to an hour just to put food on the table. That my kids may or may not eat.
And there’s just something about the simple luxury of having food prepared for you. I can’t describe it, I truly enjoy eating out.
But the truth is, as much I would like to believe otherwise, eating out is a luxury. One that we can’t often afford.
So we set a goal to only eat out once a month. And we set boundaries around what that would look like for us. Like how much we could spend (no appetizers or dessert!), what restaurants we would visit (local over chain), and whether or not we would bring the kids.
We stuck to that goal for a while and it definitely was key in our goal to save money each month.
Now we eat out about once a week, usually on Fridays when we get pizza. We get two $5 pizzas from a take ‘n bake shop, and that’s more than enough to feed our whole family and then some.
When we do eat out we look for deals, have the kids share with us, and skip add-ons like desserts, appetizers, and drinks. All in an effort to save money.
I canceled my gym membership.
I hung onto this one for a while. My gym memberships was easy to justify because it was time for myself, money spent on my health, blah blah blah.
And that was true. But the bigger truth was there were a lot of free ways for me to get time to myself. And there were also a lot of free things I could do at home to focus on my health.
Eventually I realized that if we were going to stay afloat my gym membership had to go. It helped us save a significant amount each month.
I sat down and set a budget for our spending.
I’m kind of embarrassed that this one is so far down the list. You would think it would have been our number one step in trying to save money. But nope. Remember, I thought “budget” was a dirty word and I avoided it like the plague.
I always kept track of our expenses and I knew where we could cut back. But once our bills were paid I always had a lump sum of money for us to just……..spend.
And that lump sum covered everything from groceries and diapers to eating out to items we needed around the house.
It was supposed to cover everything. And I reasoned that as long as we paid our bills and put food on the table then we could burn through that lump sum of cash in whatever way we wanted.
Really, I was just trying to find a way to still keep spending money on the things that I wanted.
And the big problem was that we would run out of money! So we would start out the month eating well and taking the kids to fun activities and end the month eating whatever I could pull together out of the freezer and staying in all the time.
There was no balance in our month and no plan for our spending.
One day I finally sat down and broke out our expenses into categories. And that big lump sum of money got divided up into necessities like groceries, gas, dog food, diapers, household supplies, etc.
It took me a while to get the hang of it but once I did it was way easier to stick to our budget than I thought.
Despite our difficulties living on one income as a large family, setting a very specific budget is the one thing that helps us stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. We got a handle on our finances and told our money exactly where to go. And that felt amazing!
We sold items that we didn’t need anymore.
The last trimester of my third pregnancy was basically “Operation Save Money”. We spent a lot of time and energy making big and small life changes to make our budget work.
Somehow we knew having three tiny mouths to feed was going to get expensive fast and we needed every dollar we could get our hands on.
My husband and I began to sell expensive items that we owned and didn’t need anymore. I’m talking power tools, furniture, cars, a trailer we owned at the time. Big ticket items that we no longer had a use for.
Yes, this was helping us earn money, but it helped us save money too.
Because we were eliminating the cost of maintaining those items. And for some of those items the cost to maintain them each month was incredibly high and was completely killing our budget.
Plus, selling off big ticket items is what allowed us to pay cash for our minivan (hello, mom of three status!) and that has saved us a continuous monthly car payment!
As of now we do not have a car payment and I will make sure we never have another car payment again.
Take a look around your house and be critical of some of the big ticket items you have in your house. Do you really need them? If you sold them could that money help you save money in the long run, by paying down debt or freeing you from a car payment?
Can you really afford the cost of maintaining those big ticket items? Be brutally hones with yourself, if you want to save money it might be time to free yourself of those items.
We didn’t know it at the time but this was the second step we took in living a simplified life free of clutter and in living a life with more intention. And it helped us save money in a really, really big way.
We switched to cloth diapers to save money.
When I found I was pregnant with baby #3 only seven months after having baby #2, my quest to find ways to save money went into overdrive.
I put every little piece of our budget under the microscope and trimmed back everywhere I possibly could. One day I did the math, and I figured with two kids in diapers we would easily be spending $100 (or more) each month on diapers alone.
That didn’t include wipes, diaper cream, diaper genie inserts. That number was just diapers.
My jaw hit the floor.
We eventually switched to cloth diapers. I think we’ve invested around $150 in diapers total and we absolutely love them!
Now to be fair, cloth diapers aren’t exactly cost-free. We have to buy a special laundry detergent (which usually lasts around 3-4 months), and we still buy wipes and disposable diapers for overnight.
But I figure we do end up saving about $75-$100/month because we use cloth diapers. This has been a tremendous help in our monthly budget.
We downgraded our data plan for our phones.
For a lot of people this would have come right after cutting back on cable. But at that time we had a service-based business that required heavy use of our phones. We needed the larger data plan.
But once we dissolved that business we didn’t need the large data plan anymore. Ultimately this move only saved us about $25/month. But that adds up over time.
And for me adapting the “every little bit counts” attitude was probably the best way to approach saving money.
Because every little bit does count. It counts a lot.
And all of these changes that we’ve made over the course of nearly five years of living on one income have allowed us to live the life we want to live. Which is for me to stay home with our children.
If you are wondering how to save money on one income so that you can stop living paycheck-to-paycheck this is exactly what we did. It worked tremendously for our family and has allowed me the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom.
Do you have any suggestions that helped your family save money? Leave them below!