Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mommy 101: Getting By On One Income

The Mommy 101 posts are part of an occasional series in areas where we feel knowledgeable. Each mom brings her own set of life experiences to these posts and we hope that you can benefit from these tidbits. Read all of the posts in the Mommy 101 series here.

By Rachael

Ever wish you could quit your job and stay home with your young children? Feel like you can’t afford it? Some families truly do need both incomes, but with a little creative budgeting, many families may find they really can pull off living on one income.

Here are 10 things that our family has done to get by on just one income so I can be at home with our daughters. Hopefully these ideas will help you as well.

1.      Track your budget. Create a spreadsheet and keep track of every dollar spent, or use a site like It can be helpful to see just where all of your money is going, and it may help you spot ways to cut back. Did you really spend that much on lattes last month?

2.      Eat meals prepared at home. This is one of the most obvious ways to save. Scour websites like for new recipes to try. We like to try replicating our favorite dishes from restaurants. A Google search will help you track down recipes for everything from Red Lobster’s stuffed mushrooms to Chevy’s salsa. You can also do themed nights. Taco Tuesday, anyone? Or how about Meatless Monday? In our house, Sunday is frozen pizza night and we enjoy soda as a treat.

3.      Entertain friends in your home instead of going out. This goes along with eating meals prepared at home. We take turns playing host with our close friends. When you have young kids, you may not want to spend an evening corralling them at a restaurant anyway. It’s less stressful to let them play with all the toys at their friends’ house while the grownups visit. Also, if you like cooking or have a great go-to recipe, having friends over is the perfect way to showcase your culinary skills.

Take a vacation... to the local campground
4.      Consider cutting the cable television or satellite service. Our family saved $600 a year and it was easily the biggest thing we did to save money. If you live near a major metropolitan area, you may get more channels via antenna (often in clear, digital high definition) than you might expect. In the St. Louis area, we get local and national news programs, great kids’ programming like Sesame Street, and sports broadcasts for my husband. With many shows online these days, you may not even have to miss your favorites.

5.      Forgo the new vehicle purchase. When we were expecting our second child, we made the tough decision to hang onto our two paid-for, 10-year-old sedans rather than upgrading one sedan to an SUV or minivan. We made our first long-distance trip as a family of four during the holidays to visit relatives, and yes, it was cozy and we had to be careful not to over pack, but every month we don’t buy a new vehicle is one more month we can sock away money for that purchase in the future. This also saves us money on insurance.

6.      Live in a small or modest-sized house. Not only will your mortgage be more affordable, but you’ll save on utilities as well. Our family of four lives in a house that is barely more than 1,000 square feet plus a partially finished basement. I save time by having less house to clean, and the smaller space prevents us from accumulating too much clutter.

7.      Go on stay-cations. Take advantage of museums, performances, and other attractions in your own town or in a city nearby. You can also camp. When our oldest daughter was almost 3, we camped at a state park with my parents, who own a small camper. We pitched our tent on their site and went in together to pay for food for the week, and we took advantage of the park’s amenities like a visitors center, riverfront, playground, and a neat cave. Our daughter’s favorite place was the air-conditioned camp store, where she could pass a hot afternoon looking at all the trinkets for sale.

8.      Negotiate lower rates with the companies with which you do business. Call up your phone, internet, or cable television provider and ask if they can lower your bill. Do some research on competitors’ rates, or mention that you’re thinking of taking your business elsewhere, and many companies will make you a deal. You can also negotiate with your credit card company for a lower interest rate.

9.      Learn to use coupons, or buy the majority of your groceries from a low-inventory, no-frills store like Aldi. I use coupons regularly, but I don’t have what it takes to be an extreme couponer. I do, however, love shopping at my local Aldi, which has dramatically lower prices probably 98 percent of the time.

10.  Follow a few good blogs about finances and frugality. My favorites are and You’ll learn new ways to save money, and it’s encouraging to know you’re not alone in your efforts to live a thrifty life.

Your turn. What are some things you've done to help your family save money?

Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She is a former newspaper editor and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

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The Stay-At-Home Parent: Financial Considerations


  1. One of the best ways we save money is with our phone service. We got rid of our land line a few years ago and never missed it. Then last year we switched to pay-as-you-go Virgin phones instead of signing a contract. The monthly cost is about half of the price of signing a contract, so even without the "free" phones, we come out ahead.

  2. A big money saver for us is our cell phones. My husband has one provided through his work and I just have a Tracphone...driving kids around I definitely want something in case of an emergency, but don't need all the extras. I spend about $20-$30 once every three months to add time to my service. Can't get much easier than that. Also, with two boys, I like to try to buy clothes for next year at the end of each season. We live about a half hour from a really nice outlet mall, and I love going at the end of, say, winter and buying long sleeved tees and sweaters for next winter at a couple bucks each. I admit I have bought things that haven't fit when it's time to wear them, but that's when I can bless someone else with a brand new shirt. I avoid pants and shoes, as you just never know how much the kids will grow...shirts are more forgiving.

  3. Pear Budget ant SparkMoney (Or Spark savings?) Are great online tools for budgeting we use. AMEN to the old car, my 12 yo car is still humming along and when ti dies we will be paying cash!!!

  4. When we do eat out we share drinks and fries and we bought a savings card from a local school fundraiser that saves us tons. We can feed our family of 9 fast food for under $40! Also, my mommy group friends are great for trading babysitting and handing down clothes.


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