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How To Save Money On A Single Income + Printable Budget Planner

How To Save Money On A Single Income + Printable Budget Planner

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Save money, cut expenses, and take control of your finances with a printable budget planner, plus 17 ways to save money…

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Dream with me for a minute…

Wouldn’t it be lovely to get paid to be a stay-at-home-mom?

I know I’ve dreamt of it quite a few times…

According to an article on Salary.com, the average salary of a mother should be about $162, 581 (in 2018)!

Too bad my ‘boss’ is a toddler who has no cash ;).

If you’re new to living on one income, know that it isn’t as scary or impossible as it may seem!

There are some easy ways to configure your budget to make it work for your household, from your expenses to grocery shopping.

Depending on your expenses, you may need to make some important decisions about what you are spending money on each month.

You’ll get the chance to reevaluate your expenses, determine what’s really necessary to you and your family, and see just how much you are spending each month on nonessentials!

While I can’t promise you’ll get that $162k in your pocket, here are some easy ways to save money on a tight budget…

Reasons For Being On A Single-Income


There are dozens of reasons why you might find yourself in a situation where you need to pay for your monthly expenses on a single income, but here are a few of the most common:

  • you or your spouse recently lost a job
  • a difficult pregnancy forced you to quit your job
  • health or illness
  • childcare is too expensive
  • you are using your second income for something else (wedding, college, etc)

For our household, childcare is far too expensive.

I’ve always dreamed of being able to stay home and take care of our children, and am so thankful that we are able to do so!

As much as I miss work, I can’t imagine having to pay for before/after school care for our 9-year-old and daycare costs for our 3-year-old.

Benefits of Being On A Single-Income

  • you can stay home with your children (my personal favorite)
  • no need to pay for childcare or before/after school care
  • possibly start your own business
  • more time for family!

Ways To Save Money On Monthly Expenses

Contact Your Current Service Providers For A Discount


Did you know you can call up your service providers and ask them to lower your bill?

Tell them about your current situation:

My spouse just lost his job/I just lost my job, and now we are on one income. I’d love to continue our service, however, it just isn’t in our budget right now. Is there anything you can do for us during this time?

While not everyone will be accommodating, some companies will help you out (even if it’s just for a 6 month period).

Try your cable company and cell phone service provider to start with.

You might be able to call your car insurance company to get a different rate if you’ve been a member long enough and have a good enough record.

If your current service providers aren’t willing to negotiate with you for a lower price you can do one of two things:

  • call other companies and see what their rates would be
  • politely inform the service provider that you are going to have to cancel your monthly service with them

Sometimes, if they feel like you are actually going to leave their company completely, they will pull out the red carpet suddenly and be willing to negotiate.

It’s the representative’s job to keep you on as a customer while losing the least amount of month per month.

But something is better than nothing to your service provider!

Start Tracking Your Expenses

printable budget planning bundle

The best way to quickly figure out where your money goes each month is to start tracking it.

Ideally, you should start tracking your income and expenses several months before you find yourself needing to make it work on one income, but life doesn’t always give you the biggest heads up or even a warning.

Start tracking everything you spend money on (including fast food, groceries, entertainment, and gas).

You can use my Budget Planning Bundle to get started – just print it out, put it in a clear sleeve, and use a fine tip dry erase marker to keep track of your monthly expenses.

OR, print off as many copies as you need for easy expense tracking. 

Give Yourself A Budget

After you’ve figured out how much you spend on things like food, cable, gas, and trips to McDonald’s, you can start giving yourself a budget.

The idea behind budgeting is to limit yourself to spend only what you need to, and pocket the difference.

If you’re spending $75 a month on fast food, try cutting your fast food budget to 1/3 of that (in this example that would be around $25).

Take Advantage Of Sales And Coupons

Keep an eye out for sales, and when your weekly sales ad comes in with your newspaper be sure to glance at it before tossing it so you can learn about sales on brands and products your family truly needs.

If you need some laundry soap, and Family Dollar is having a huge sale on the brand of soap you need (maybe you’re picky about the brand, the scent, or how hypoallergenic it is because your toddler breaks out in a rash anytime you use another detergent), take advantage of the sale!

If, and only if, you have the extra cash set aside, feel free to stock up on the sale price. 

Redefine Your Entertainment


If you find yourself going out every Friday and ordering drinks, dinner, and dessert, or you like to take the kids to the movies 3 times a month – you may need to change that up a bit.

Try having fun at home.

Yes, it’s not as ‘exciting’ as going out, but it’s a great way to save money, especially f you have a family of four or more that you’re spending money on each time you go out.

Instead of going to the movies, try to have a movie night at home.

You can still eat popcorn and candy, but you’ll pocket at least $20 just by staying home.

Cut Out Unnecessary Bills


Believe it or not, there are some monthly bills you can live without…

I know so many people that love having cable!

But with so many other cheaper options available (like Netflix, Hulu, and even YouTube paid subscription), you can easily skate by without this huge expense.

How To Save Money On Groceries

Eat Before You Go To The Grocery Store


This is such a simple common-sense tip, but it really makes a difference.

If you are hungry when you step into the grocery store, you won’t be thinking with your head, you’ll be thinking with your stomach. You will most likely find yourself adding in everything that looks good as well as what you actually need!

Try Meal Planning For Your Family

Meal planning is great for you if you want to save money because it focuses in on buying foods with a purpose.

When you sit down to meal plan, you take into account:

  • what foods you already have in both your fridge and your pantry
  • meals you want to make for your family
  • dishes that you can make in bulk and freeze
  • cutting out unnecessary ingredients or snacks

Meal planning helps make the most of your budget because it only allows room for what you need.

Also, when meal planning, be sure to print coupons out and research recipes using those ingredients.

You can find coupons online or in your Sunday paper.

Read more about meal planning here: Weekly Meal Planner Template + Over 100 FREE Recipes!

Don’t Get Hung Up On Buying In Bulk


It’s easy to get blinded by sales in your grocery store…

Buy 5 bags of pretzels for only $4.99, or $1.25 per bag.

If you aren’t going to be eating FIVE bags of pretzels in the next two weeks, save yourself the few extra dollars right now and just buy the $1.25 bag.

You’d be spending $1.25 vs. $4.99 (before tax), and saving yourself $3.74.

While $3.74 doesn’t sound like much if you think about applying this same idea to everything you buy and focusing on only what you and your family needs, you’ll find that that invisible number really adds up and ends up saving you a bunch!

Continue buying only what you NEED instead of worrying about buying in bulk (unless that’s part of your meal plan and you’ll be cooking and freezing in bulk).

Tally Up Your Total As You Shop


Open up your calculator app on your phone and add up the prices of each item as you shop.

You can track your spending in real time so you won’t be surprised at the register with an overbudget total.

Here are some apps you can download and use to help with grocery shopping as well. 

Garden And Harvest Your Own Vegetables

To save some cash, you could always invest in your very own vegetable garden.

Go Grocery Shopping Alone


If you can, leave the kids at home with your spouse and go grocery shopping alone.

You can focus on what you need to buy and get in and out with little to no distractions.

*My mom always banned my dad from going growing shopping with her because she would end up spending anywhere from $50-100 MORE than what she budgeted for!.

Order Your Groceries Online


If you have trouble overspending during your usual grocery shopping trips, try to order them online.

You can add food to your online shopping cart while following along with your shopping list.

I currently do my grocery shopping online.

It’s easier because I can avoid my toddler’s tantrums in the store when I don’t put cookies and candy into the cart, I stay on budget with my weekly meal plan, and I don’t walk out with $50 more than I wanted to spend.

I do my online grocery shopping with Walmart now,  and am not charged any convenience fee or upcharge vs. shopping online and picking them up myself.

An employee puts the groceries into my cart (even our large 35 lb. bag of dog food), and they can’t accept tips so I don’t feel pressured to spend more.

If you have this option at a grocery store near you, I highly recommend it.

Choosing Generic Brands

While you may be used to buying the same box of macaroni and cheese for your family, or using the name brand box of chicken stock for your Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, think about trying out the generic (store brand) brands.

Some store brands are often made by name brands, anyways.

For instance, Kirkland Signature Coffee (at Costco) is actually brewed by Starbucks!

How To Build Your Savings

The Old-School Method


Sometimes the best way to save money is to use the out of sight, out of mind method.

Pull cash out of your bank and put it aside.

You can put it in a special spot that only you and your spouse know about and add to it every paycheck!

Open A Savings Account


If you haven’t already opened a savings account, now’s the time!

Consider switching banks (after from thorough research) – oftentimes banks will offer incentives for new customers to open checking and saving accounts.

You could get a couple hundred dollars deposited into your new account just for opening one with your new bank!

Transfer Money Into Your Savings Account Immediately

Immediately after your spouse gets paid, transfer the amount you have budgeted for savings directly into your savings account.

A dear friend of mine takes $50 out of her husband’s paycheck every two weeks and puts it into their joint savings account as soon as the money hits their checking account.

Your employer, if they use a Direct Deposit pay option, might even have the option to take a certain amount or percentage of your/your spouse’s paycheck and deposit it into your savings account while the rest will go into your checking account.

I hope this post helped you discover some new ways you can save money and make living on one income work for you!

Take advantage of my printable budget planner bundle and start tracking your expenses today to get a real handle on your finances.

*Post originally posted May 2019, last updated December 2021. 

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