Inside: Thinking of becoming a stay-at-home mom? Or maybe you already are one and are looking for ways to save money. Either way, these are 7 simple tips I’ve learned to stretch your dollar while living on income.
Having our entire family home has been a dream of mine for quite some time. But before I was able to start homeschooling and before my husband got a work-from-home job, the first step was for me to become a stay-at-home mom.
But we were used to my income, so in some ways the transition was scary. Even after putting in my notice, we wavered back and forth on whether or not we’d made the right decision.
It’s been a few years now, and looking back, I’m so glad we pushed through our fears and made that leap. it’s been SO WORTH IT, and our initial worries about finances now seem silly.
How do-able is living one income?
Let’s just say it’s WAY less stressful than what I’d thought.
And not because our income is some astronomical sum of money! We’re average. Yet, living on one income hasn’t been impossible. Actually, we don’t even miss my paycheck! (There are actually a lot of expenses that were completely cut from the monthly budget because I quit my job.)
So if becoming a stay-at-home mom is something that’s on your heart, it’s definitely worth looking into!
7 Tips for Living on One Income
If you’d rather watch it in video-form, check it out on our YouTube channel!
Set a Budget
This is probably the #1 tip on all the lists. And while it may seem obvious, it’s something I resisted for quite a while. OR we’d set a budget to just completely ignore it.
We’re still ironing out details of our budget and tweaking where necessary, but the main point is to:
know your set bills and then
prioritize your other expenses and goals within what’s left over.
And then stick to it! (More on that in a minute.)
Cut Back Where You Can
What big or set expenses do you have that you could cut back on?
For example, when I first became a stay-at-home mom, we sold my husband’s car. The car itself was paid for, but selling it meant that we not only got a few thousand dollars to put into savings but also that our monthly insurance bill was cut down significantly. It was a way for us to ease into the transition of having only one income.
So where could you cut?
Cell phones? We switched carriers. Medical insurance? Shop around, and see what you can find. Cable? Drop the TV services but keep the internet, and use a service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime (use that link to check out their 30-day free trial).
There are lots of ways to cut back and save.
Learn to be Price Savvy
Beyond those set expenses, you can stretch your dollar on those day-to-day purchases too.
Growing up, I never understood how my mom knew the price of everything, everywhere. But she always knew where an item could be found for the lowest price. We could be in Walmart, but she’d shrug and say, “meh, I can get it for cheaper at…”
Now I understand. As a mother managing a home, it’s wise to know how to always get the best bang for your buck.
It should be said: this is a process. When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I NEVER did this. We bought pretty much everything at ALDI and Walmart. Period.
But now, I know we can get certain things cheaper by buying them in bulk on Amazon and having them delivered to our door. And we can find natural cleaning products, hygiene items, and other household-related stuff for great prices on Grove.
It takes time and may seem insignificant. Like why does an 80 cent difference matter? But all those dollars and cents add up throughout the month and the year. It may be extra gas money, a student loan bill, some extra cash for savings, or it could even go toward paying off your home faster.
It just depends on where you make your money go.
What was I even doing before Once Upon a Child?
With 4 kids, we CANNOT be buying everything brand new. Sure, I also shop sales and clearance. But buying at stores like Once Upon a Child means paying yard sale prices while getting name-brand items (sometimes with the tags still on them)!
Speaking of yard sales, our family loves those too! It just takes a little more work to find the things you actually need.
WORD OF CAUTION: resist the urge to buy all the things just because you found them for a “good deal.” I have been SO GUILTY of this! It’s rewarding in the moment, but a little less satisfying when you get it all home and realize you just added more clutter to your life instead of saving on the family budget.
Reward Your Brain Without Splurging
On that train of thought (while also doubling back to the whole “staying on budget” thing I mentioned above), your brain totally benefits from positive rewards. And while splurging and excessive spending is not-so-great for the budget, there IS a way to get that reward without going broke (and while actually helping you reach your financial goals).
For more on that, check out this post:
Meal planning can save SO MUCH MONEY in the monthly budget. I can’t even begin to tell you how much funds and time we wasted before I started planning our meals.
If you’re looking for a simple way to plan your family’s meals (and a sample plan), you can check out my post on how I meal plan here:
Use Those Leftovers
it had to be said. In the same vein as meal planning, using leftovers has really saved us money and kept us from wasting so much food. Does some stuff still go uneaten? Yepp. But not NEARLY as much as what we used to waste.
On average, our leftovers can supply about 80% of our family’s lunches and one dinner every week. Of course, I learned from my mom when it comes to cooking for an army. So if you don’t make as much food as I do, it won’t go quite as far. But even one dinner a week would be worth it!
Are you considering becoming a stay-at-home mom? Comment below or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to tell me your biggest concern. I’d love to hear from you and help where I can!
Inside: Help your kids get into simple morning and evening routines
It’s all fun and games until I’m running around like a headless chicken, wishing past me had made life easier on present me. Wishing my kids remembered to put their pants in the hamper without a reminder every morning. Wishing I had an extra set of hands and an army general barking orders so I didn’t have to.
Sometimes I’m a slow learner (or maybe just hard-headed). There’s something about the idea of a set routine that makes me want to rebel, even though I know I need it.
But it became obvious that set, easy-to-follow morning and nightly routines weren’t just things that I needed. My kids needed them even more.
When I gave them structured routines (and made them self-directed), it made life so much simpler.
Our Morning & Nightly Routines
Without a simple flow to follow, our mornings can get hectic, and our nights are lacking. Kids (at least mine) truly operate best when they know what to expect. And I’m the most productive when I have a set time for getting important things done.
So here’s what we do.
What we need from our morning routine:
easy to follow
The best course of action for me is waking up early. I know it’s not for everyone. Some days, it’s not even for me. But the mornings when I get up sometime between 4:30 and 5:30 are the mornings that go the smoothest and when I feel the most accomplished.
When I can, I like to head straight downstairs, drink a bottle of water, throw some laundry into the washer, get my essential oils going in the diffuser, and have Bible time. Doing those 4 things right off the bat start my day on the right foot.
Next I shower and get myself dressed and ready. If I stay in pajamas or just throw on some sweats, I’m more likely to have a lazy day. Even though that’s needed sometimes, on the typical day, it’s best for me to get myself together.
For the Kids
After that, I wake up the kids and help them get ready/keep them on track.
When everyone is fully ready, we head downstairs together, and I make breakfast.
HOWEVER, this part of our routine will be changing as our time with public school comes to an end.
NOW I’ll head downstairs after getting the baby ready and fix breakfast while everyone else finishes getting ready and doing their morning chores (mainly making their beds, putting clothes in the hamper, and tidying up anything out of place). While chores are happening, I’ll play some worship music in the background to get their day started right.
After breakfast, I’ll do a quick clean-up. Then we’ll jump right in to our homeschooling schedule, which starts with worship, calendar, and Bible before digging into our morning basket then our curriculum.
What we need from our nighttime routine:
a good wrap-up to our day
easy to follow
For the Kids
In the evenings after we spend some time together as a family, we let the kids sink into some wind-down activities while they each have their turn taking a bath. Of course, at this point, they also put on jammies, comb their hair, and brush their teeth.
When everyone has had a bath, they all do a sweep of the house, making sure any toys and books they’ve had out are put away.
Before bed, everyone has to go potty. Then we snuggle in for a story, sing “Jesus Loves Me” together, talk to God, do kisses and hugs, and they’re off to sleep. (Other than our baby Aspen, who stays up with me for a while.)
Of course, all of that is best-case-scenario. There are nights when there’s a glitch in the system, and someone has trouble going to bed. But generally speaking, that’s the routine.
During all of the kids’ nightly kerfuffle, I’m either giving them the baths OR Chris is doing baths while I clean up the kitchen/do dishes from dinner. Hubby and I also do a quick nightly cleanup where we throw away any trash and pick up any loose ends.
After the kids are in bed, Chris and I have some unwind time. We usually veg out on some YouTube videos, play a game, or just hang out for a while.
I finish my night with working on blog posts, writing emails, editing YouTube videos, creating printables and all of the other things that go into running this site and our channel. I love to go to sleep early (we’re talking like 8 pm), BUT I usually try to stay up until around 9 or 10 to get a nice work session in.
Routines & Learned Responsibility
Those routines are just what work best for us. Regardless, figure out what that flow looks like for YOUR family.
The main point is to get routines down and help your kids learn them. Doing so means your children learn another layer of responsibility and maturity. Plus you’re setting them up for a lifetime of positive and healthy routines.
I also found that letting my kids be in control of their own routine gave them a sense of accomplishment and lessened the amount of early morning/nightly whining that was usually involved in our day.
Keeping it All Straight (Without Constant Prompting)
Even if your child is too young to read, they’ll likely do well with visual cues. That’s why I created cue cards for my kids, along with a checklist to boost that sense of accomplishment as they mark off each task.
And I want to share them with you.
If you’d like these printables for free, you can download them by subscribing below.
Subscribing also means you get the password to our free resource library which houses any printable or other resource that I create!
Inside: My best tip for cutting out spontaneous spending, staying on budget and SAVING while living on one income
Living on one income is totally possible, even if that income isn’t above average. But doing it well does require a little wisdom and self-control.
This isn’t a post about tips for living on one income . For that, stay tuned over on the YouTube channel. This post is for anyone (like me) who has a hard time cutting extra spending to stay on budget and save up for bigger goals.
Staying On Budget while Living on One Income
I am by no means a financial advisor. But what I AM is a woman who’s been running a home on one income for several years. Sometimes well. Sometimes not so well.
Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of experiences that taught me (the hard way) that I wasn’t quite as good at staying on budget as what I thought. Over the years I’ve had to face the cold, hard truth that I actually have a tendency to blow through money like nobody’s business when I’m not careful.
The Little Stuff
Some Chick-fil-a here. A new outfit for the baby there. Or how about a new stack of books to strategically stuff into our already-packed shelves?
The majority of the purchases that I make are small enough that I think, “meh, it won’t hurt. No bid deal!” But as you know, when you throw all those purchases that aren’t a “big deal” together, you’ve got a whole new monster on your hands.
We once tallied up our spending from eating out. To our complete shock, in one week, we spent over $300. Yes, read it again. THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS. In one week. That could have gotten me a new dishwasher on sale. Ouch.
The Big Stuff
The other type of purchase (that I make less frequently) is the large but justifiable purchase. I tell myself:
That would make our homeschool better! Or, that would really help me be a better blogger. Or, I don’t normally splurge. Maybe it would be okay as long as I don’t do it again for a while.
And all of those things may be the case. But as any mom on a budget knows, you have to prioritize.
(That’s not the tip, by the way.)
Why We Keep Spending
We’ve all been told what to do. But there’s something about that immediate reward that makes splurging a little feel worth it in the short term. (But don’t worry. Later we’ll have a talk about how we “really need to get our spending on track” to make ourselves feel better and more responsible.) So even though we know what we need to do, that doesn’t always help in the moment.
What do we do then? How do we counteract that little boost of happiness that we get when we spend?
Let’s say you find yourself wanting some coffee before you head home after your grocery run. You managed to make it out of the house alone, and a quick trip to the local coffee spot would be the cherry on top of a successful shopping trip.
BUT you know you’ve already been kind of loose with you’re spending recently. Sure, you have enough. But there are better things that money COULD be spent on if you’d buckle down.
Psst… DISCLOSURE: Some of the links below may be Amazon affiliate links. That just mean at No additional cost to you, Amazon gives me a small portion of the sale when you click a link and make a purchase.
Here’s what you do. Stop by somewhere peaceful where you can still get a few extra minutes of alone time. Then move the money you would have just spent on coffee from your checking to your savings account.
(And if you really want coffee, start making it at home. I really enjoy doing it with a French press. It feels fancy and sophisticated but costs way less than making a pit stop at my favorite coffee joint.)
Give Your Brain What It Wants
What did the above scenario do? It help you cut spending by rewarding your brain in ways that help your family’s financial goals instead of working against them. Let me explain.
It’s not enough to just resist unhealthy spending habits. You have to replace them with something better that gives you a sense of accomplishment.
And it’s not a false one. You’re truly accomplishing your goals, little by little. Every transfer gets you closer. The more positive choices you make, the more you save. The more you save, the easier it is to be in control of your finances.
A quick note:: Only transfer funds if you were truly willing to make the purchase. The reward isn’t really there if the temptation (or the available cash) wasn’t really there.
Dealing With Bank Stipulations
If your bank limits the amount of transfers you can do in one month, create a note in your phone to keep track of your weekly positive choices. Every time you resist the temptation to purchase something unnecessary, type what it was and the amount into your phone. At the end of each week, transfer the entire amount together. That way, you only have 4-5 transfers per month (which should make the cut for pretty much any bank).
This simple but effective way to handle impulse buys:
cuts back on spending
helps you save & work toward your financial vision for your family
What’s your best tip for staying on budget? Share it with others by commenting below!
Until next time,
New here? Learn more about our family and this blog here.
Inside: a simple family meal planning method that’s making my life 10x easier
It’s 3 pm. About time to start prepping dinner.
I check my current meal planning method (a little chalkboard hanger in our kitchen that I often forget to update). Aaaaand that’s when I realize I should have thrown the chicken into the crockpot at NOON.
But I didn’t. And it’s still frozen.
It might not be such a big deal, but I’ve already forgotten the same meal twice this week and have ran out of other options. I run to check the cabinets for any meal I can throw together that won’t require meat (since it’s all frozen), but sadly we’re all out of pasta sauce. And our fridge is looking a little bare.
So we order pizza. Or go to Taco Bell. EVEN THOUGH we keep promising to stop eating out so much.
I wish this was a rare occurrence, but sadly, it’s not.
So I’m trying something new.
Why Meal Plan?
Let’s back up a hot second. Because before the cute (but for me, useless) chalkboard method, I DIDN’T MEAL PLAN AT ALL. If you think I sound like a hot mess now, hold my coffee because you haven’t seen anything yet.
I would just wing it. At the grocery store. At meal time. And here’s what would happen:
we wasted money on food like nobody’s business
some nights, I wouldn’t get dinner on the table until 7
we bought too much produce, and it would spoil
I’d end up not having everything I needed to make whatever meal I came up with for the day, so I’d have to make mini trips to the store throughout the week
did I mention we wasted A LOT of money?
So when I tell you I NEED a meal plan, believe me. I’m sure some people can function without one. My mom is one of those people. But while I like to wing it, I thrive within the structure of a well-thought-out (but flexible) plan.
The Right Fit
Not all meal planning methods are created equal. And what works best for your family may not work for mine.
So while there are lots of moms who do well with a simple chalkboard, that just doesn’t cut it for this procrastinator momma. I need something more fluid that can easily be switched around when things don’t go to plan.
Plus, when I’d sit down to write out the weekly plan, I’d spend way too much time trying to remember our staple meals while also not repeating the same 7 every week.
A Simple Meal Planning Method for families
So what’s the new meal plan method I’m using?
How it Works
It sounds so simple because it is.
In this house, we have our staple meals (tried and true that I know everyone will mostly eat), and I occasionally whip up a random recipe to try out.
And that’s the real simplicity of this method. Instead of always writing out what we’ll be eating (and then erasing and rewriting when I inevitably have to switch things around), I now use my own pre-printed meal magnets and just arrange them as I decide what we’ll be eating.
Instead of hanging in a spot of our kitchen where I’m prone to forget it, our new meal plan is on our fridge, directly in my face while I get the kids breakfast, snacks, and lunch, giving me reminders throughout the day leading up to dinner. So it’s way less likely (though not impossible) that our meat will be frozen when it should already be cooking.
Psst.. DISCLOSURE: some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. That just means if you click on them and make a purchase, I make small portion of the profit (at NO additional cost to you)!
get it for free!
Since I made myself these cards, I thought I’d share them with you too. The printable includes both a blank sheet that you can write your own meal staples on as well as my sheet full of our family’s favorites. To download and print, subscribe below(unsubscribe at any time. It’s NEVER my goal to hold people hostage on my email list if my content isn’t valuable for them):
You can print it either on cardstock or use plain paper then laminate. Amazon has tiny magnets for the back of your cards here. And the magnetic fridge calendar that I use is this one, also available on Amazon.
Do you meal plan? If so, what’s your current method? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
New here? Learn more about our family on this page!