How To Live On One Income

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live only off of 50% of your income? Do you think your life would be easier or nicer? Do you want to be a stay at home parent but don’t know if you can afford it? Maybe you want to quit your job and,…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 5, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live only off of 50% of your income? Do you think your life would be easier or nicer? Do you want to be a stay at home parent but don't know if you can afford it? Maybe you want to quit your job and, therefore, want to lower your expenses...Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live only off of 50% of your income? Do you think your life would be easier or nicer? Do you want to be a stay at home parent but don’t know if you can afford it? Maybe you want to quit your job and, therefore, want to lower your expenses…

Living off of one income or 50% of our income is a big goal of ours that we finally reached last year. We currently live off of less than 50% of our total monthly income. The other half goes towards extra debt payments. It does help that we have increased our income from our main jobs by a significant amount, and also that we make so much in extra income now.

Anyways, back to the main topic, we’ve come a long way from where we used to be. When we first moved out when we were young, we were definitely struggling.

Related articles that will help you to learn how to live on one income:

It wasn’t horrible, we just had no spending and saving priorities. We made just enough for expenses and not a penny more. And our expenses were pretty low. I think the house we rented was $350 per month.


We depended on each paycheck. We probably could’ve worked more, but we each were already working full-time and going to school. We weren’t exactly living paycheck to paycheck, but it sure felt like it. Living off of one income seemed impossible back then. I do realize that living off of one income or 50% of your income is not possible for everyone also.

Living off of half of our income is possible for many reasons. We are pretty safe with our money. We still have fun and spend money, but we have consistently been trying to increase our income, and this is what has made living off of 50% of our income possible. One tip that I do have is to not sacrifice EVERYTHING in life in order to become a one income household. What you sacrifice should be sustainable into the future.

There are many reasons why a person might want to live off 50% of their income:

  1. To make life easier. This is a given. If you can live off of half your income, then at least some of your financial stresses will disappear. You won’t have the overwhelming feeling of not knowing whether or not you can pay your bills.
  2. To prepare for a baby. Maybe you or your husband or wife want to stay home after you have a baby. Preparing now and saving money for the future can be very helpful for when you do become a one income household.
  3. To retire early. This is our main reason for why we want to increase our income and save more. Being able to retire relatively young is a dream of ours.
  4. To prepare for a layoff, job loss, etc. If you’re already living off one 50% of your income, then it would be much easier to prepare for something bad that might happen.

If I ever do make the leap into self employment, we definitely want to continue living on only one income. Both of our jobs would not bring in a steady and 100% reliable income, as he is in sales. This just gives us even more motivation! There are many things that a person can do in order to become a one income household or to live off of 50% of their income. I’ve outlined some examples below:

 

Look at your overall spending

Everyone in the family should be on the same page. Where should your spending be for different categories? Everyone should be aware and understand.

Also, try and look at where you might be able to cut back. An area that we are constantly working on is our food budget. We spend way too much on food. We could probably live on way less than 50% if we spent what the average 2 person household spends on food in a month.

Here are some things you may want to check out if you are trying to lower your budget.

  • If you are looking for a cheap cell phone service, check out Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless is a service I’ve been using for over one year now, and I’m still happy with the service. They have monthly cell phone plans as low as $15 per month. Read Saving Over $2,000 A Year With Republic Wireless Review.
  • Negotiate any bills that you have such as phone, internet, etc.
  • Use a programmable thermostat so that you can heat and cool your home efficiently and more affordably.
  • Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for just spending like how you normally would online. The service is free too! Plus, when you sign up through my link, you also receive a free $10 gift card bonus to Macys, Walmart, Target, or Kohls!
  • Eliminate your cable bill. Buy a digital antenna (this is the exact one we have) and enjoy free TV – this is what we do!
  • If you have trouble eating at home, then try out $5 Meal Plan. They send meal plans directly to your email. It’s a service that I personally use and me and my husband love it!
  • Refinance your student loans. I highly recommend Credible for student loan refinancing. You can lower the interest rate on your student loans significantly by using Credible which may help you shave thousands off your student loan bill over time.
  • You should know your credit score – Check your credit score with Credit Sesame for free!

 

Try not to Keep up with the Joneses

If you are trying to live on only one income, then keeping up with the Joneses might not be possible. It’s most likely not a good idea also.

Live for what makes you happy, not what you think makes others happy.

I highly recommend that you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is very similar to Mint.com, but 100 times better as it allows you to gain control of your investment and retirement accounts, whereas Mint.com does not. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, your cash flow, detailed graphs, and more. You can connect accounts such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more, and it is FREE.

 

Pay off debt

If your debt is gone, then this will greatly decrease the amount that you need in order to pay your bills and living each month. Having that weight off your shoulders when you’re trying to become a one income household is most likely a lifesaver.

 

Increase your income

Of course, some things in this area cannot be done forever.

If the only way that you can be a one income household is if you work 90 hours a week for the rest of your life and never see daylight, then this might not be the best idea for you. You should still have fun and enjoy life! However, if you can find other ways to increase your income, then do it. This could include asking for that much needed raise that you deserve, finding a side gig such as tutoring or finding a new job that pays better and suits you well.

Some side gigs you may be interested in may include:

  • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I earn over $100,000 a month online through my blog and you can read more about this in my monthly online income reports. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.75 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial. Also, I have a free How To Start A Blog email course that I recommend signing up for.
  • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include SwagbucksSurvey JunkieAmerican Consumer OpinionPinecone ResearchOpinion Outpost, Prize Rebel, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming grocery coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5.00 for free just for signing up!
  • Become an Uber or Lyft driver – Spending your spare time by driving others around can be a great money maker. Read more about this in my post – How To Become An Uber Or Lyft Driver.
  • Swagbucks allows me to occasionally earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded “Swagbucks” for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough Swagbucks, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
  • Another one you may be interested in related to this one is Nielsen Digital Voice. Digital Voice is a part of Nielsen, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. All you have to do is surf the web and you may be able to start earning money.
  • One company I recommend for virtual assistant work is UserTesting. This website pays you to test websites and they pay fairly well.
  • The many other side jobs listed in my post Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month which include babysitting, mowing lawns, and more.

Related articles:

Are you a one income household? If not, what percent of your income do you live off of? What goals are you trying to reach by spending less than what you earn?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. myfijourney

    I currently live off of 50% of my income in order to achieve financial independence by age 45. It's difficult even though I make a high salary. The biggest challenge is that I can't buy whatever I want. I have to be very selective. Sometimes this puts me into the realm of being cheap or not appropriately budgeting in the fun stuff.

    1. Congrats on living off of 50% of your income. We want to achieve financial independence as well.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  2. John S @ Frugal Rules

    We've been very close to living off of one income, but that was due to debt repayment and have since moved away from it as we had been delaying doing other things while in debt repayment. I think the main takeaway is that it can be done, it just requires some hard work and sacrifice. It's not easy, but it can be done.

    1. I agree, it can be done but you may have to adjust some things in life.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

      1. It is make true , may be it not easy to do but i will try and how to get in come.

  3. This is another good reason to start living on one income: to prepare for a baby. Thanks Glen for stopping by.
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  4. nicoleandmaggie

    60% plus 12% gets saved manditorially for retirement. In May, my DH is quitting his job. http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/t
    My recent post Authoritarian vs. Authoritative parenting

    1. That's great! PS just added your post to my weekly roundup for this Saturday. Great post.

      1. nicoleandmaggie

        wow, thanks!
        My recent post Authoritarian vs. Authoritative parenting

  5. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence

    I used to live on less than half my income to reach financial independence. If one income households can do it with kids why can't anyone?
    My recent post Big city life, is it worth it?

  6. mycanuckbuck

    Retire early – most definitely – that's my goal!
    My recent post Is it possible to save money when decorating?

  7. We have lived off one income our entire marriage. I have until recently been a SAHM. I now have a small income and work outside the home a few hours a week. We use the money I make to save for big items we may need to purchase or to do fun stuff with. All bills and household things are paid for with my husbands income. We are debt free except our house. I hope to pay that off early also. We will see ๐Ÿ™‚
    My recent post Love Sign

    1. This is pretty much what we want to do. Live off of one income and I become a work at home mom ๐Ÿ™‚
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  8. Amy

    Right now, my husband and I make a combined income of $85,000; he saves $16,500 in his 401K and $2100 in his HSA; I save $7350 in my 401K and $2100 in my HSA; after these deductions come out, we then save 50% of our take home pay. We've maxed out our IRA's for the past two years. The key for us is: we have no debt, our house (small condo) is paid off and our one shared car is paid off. We have no kids at home (he has three adult daughters). We are practicing on lower our expenses even more so test out our early retirement budget.

    1. Sounds like you two are doing great!
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  9. therandompath

    We live on one income; my husband works outside the home and I stay home with our daughter. We make it work, but some months are tougher than others financially. If a parent plans on staying home with the kids while the other parent has outside employment, plan for it! Little expenses come out of nowhere and you want to make sure you've got all your bases covered!
    My recent post Your Wedding Doesn’t Have to Break The Bank

    1. I plan on being a WAHM but we need to save ๐Ÿ™‚
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  10. I wish my wife and I would have prepared to live off one income earlier so she could stay home with our son. At this time, it is just not possible and it frustrates me some.

    1. I'm sorry, hopefully some day soon this is possible.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  11. We're also hoping to retire early, & save substantially for retirement. However, our monthly goals are mostly to invest in our two properties, pay them off early, & sell our primary residence when our kids graduate from high school. We chose to live in a very expensive area for the school districts, but do not plan to retire here. Once the kids are out of the house, we'll relocate somewhere else – either somewhere with a warmer climate, or live in our vacation house for a while.
    My recent post What I've learned selling on Ebay

    1. Sounds like a good plan. Good luck!
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  12. 7 years ago we decided that I would stay home with our kids. It's not easy but I love it!! This is my most important job ever. Along the way we learned to be frugal, DIY and overall, wise with our finances. Great post! I try to do all of it ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. You're doing great Lena! I hope to be just like you ๐Ÿ™‚
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  13. I set a goal of saving 50% of my income this year. I manged to save 55% of my income in January. Hopefully, I will be able to continue saving that much. January didn't have any of my semiannual expenses due or any unexpected expenses so it will probably get more difficult to save 50% of my income.

    1. Awesome! Sounds like you're doing great.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  14. savvyscot

    Good post.. I feel that this is something that we are going to think about in a few years when we are ready to have our first child. We are both 24 at the moment and although it is not something we have immediately planned, I think about the measures we would take to make it work if something unexpected happened!
    My recent post Top Money Saving Tips for Appliances

    1. This is exactly how I feel! You never know what may happen.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  15. iheartbudgets

    We are now a one income household as of 1 year ago. it's been a tough transition, and I have increased my income significantly and taken on another job to make it work, but we love it. We started planning on the transition about 6 months before we got pregnant, and had significant savings once my wife quit her job. Mostly, we've just had to stick to a strict budget, otherwise we've be killing our savings each month.

    1. Definitely seems like you and your family are doing a great job. I'll definitely be coming to you for tips.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

  16. Sharon

    Great post, Michelle. It goes hand in hand with my post today too! Taxes on a second income can be very deceiving!

    1. I agree! Your post definitely proved that.
      My recent post How to Live on One Income

      1. That is something very interesting to think about!
        My recent post How to Live on One Income

  17. That's good that you guys are able to live off of one income ๐Ÿ™‚
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  18. I really want to go to Thailand! Maybe one day…
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  19. That's awesome! I'm sure you're saving a ton.
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  20. I'm sure you'll do great Tony!
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  21. I hope it's soon! ๐Ÿ™‚
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  22. I agree with everything you just said. Once you factor in all of the extra costs, especially when you have kids, you might find it more worthwhile to stay at home.
    My recent post How to Live on One Income

  23. @squirrelers

    The only reason I don't live on 50% of my income is because I simply can't afford to do so at this point. That would truly be fantastic to do that though, and I think it's a great goal for people to aspire to. Saving as much as possible, as early in life as possible, is a great way to go. You'll be so thankful for it later in life.

    If the proverbial "Joneses" can be ignored, it sure makes it easier to save!

    1. It's not possible for everyone, but it is something good to strive for ๐Ÿ™‚
      My recent post Pursuing What I Love or What Brings in the (Stable) Money

  24. Right now I can't even imagine living on one income, we keep separate finances and both of our finances are somewhat complex (ex's and children and debt oh my!). But it's something we have to tackle sooner than later if I go into a second career with a lower income within th enext five years.
    My recent post An Easy Way To Save On Your Heating Bill

  25. Laurie

    Such a great post, Michelle. I think it's terrific that you've achieved that goal at such a young age. It will allow you lots of choices in the future!

  26. Nick @ AYoungPro.com

    Now that I have my first job as a professional, we have made the switch to being a one income family. While we were living off of 50% or less of our income in the past, it was still a big change. One positive thing that I have noticed as a result of the change is that it has given me more mental energy to focus on my career. Now that my wife is at home with our daughter and taking care of everything on the home-front I can focus all of my energy on growing my income.
    My recent post What I Learned From My First Day on the Job

  27. We're a two-income family because both of us want to work. My girls mean the world to me, but I'm a better mom because I doing the work that is my passion. Regardless of whether you want to live on one income or not – you have listed a lot of great tips. As a financial advisor, I find a lot of people get into trouble trying to keep up with the Joneses. They buy homes they can't afford (and often don't even want!) buy the fanciest cars and so forth. "Live for what makes you happy, not what you think makes other happy" – this is key. Those who figure out what they want in life and work towards achieving it are not only my happiest clients but also more likely financially secure because they're not spending on the things that don't matter. Great post!
    My recent post Valentine’s Day Love Box

  28. We are a 1 income household. My boyfriend lost his cooking job after the restaurant he worked for went under. This was 6 months ago. We are really struggling.
    My recent post and then my life turned to shit.

  29. brickbybrickinvesting2012

    We live on a single income and are still able to save 35% of our take home pay.

  30. kimateyesonthedollar

    We aren't at 50% but if you count what is going into real estate investments, we would be. My office building that I have a commercial rental will be paid off in less than 2 years, and then I think we should be at or less than living off 50%. I think every couple should at least try to do this in case one of you loses a job.

  31. Canadianbudgetbinder

    We are almost living on one wage and once we pay the month in April we can live off one no problem at all. We over pay our mortgage every month as well so likely that would have brought us to 50%. We bought our house based on one wage just in case something happened. We only took out half of our limit in mortgage because we didn't want to potentially be a slave to the mortgage until we retired.
    My recent post Becoming a Single Homeowner – Part 1 “The Plan”

  32. @PolishandSugar

    I don't understand couples who both work who still live paycheck to paycheck. I'm a single 28 year old, who has purchased a condo, owns a car, contributes to short and long term (RRSP) savings, and can still go out to dinner with friends when I want or take a vacation every year! And I live in Canada which has a much higher cost of living then the US…

    1. We only lived paycheck to paycheck because we were 18 and didn't make much money. I think there are a lot of factors to think about: whether someone has kids, how big their debt is, how much there expenses are and so on. Yes, certain areas have high cost of living, but usually they make up for that with higher wages. When I was 18, minimum wage where I lived was only $5.15 I believe. We both made more than that, but it was still hard!

  33. Ironic that you Tweeted this today. I'm currently trying to figure out if I can afford to take a stress leave from work and live off of 55% of my income for a couple months or not. Although it'd only be temporary, these are some great points to consider!
    My recent post Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out?

    1. I'm glad you found this post helpful! I hope everything goes well for you.
      My recent post Pursuing What I Love or What Brings in the (Stable) Money

  34. Danielle

    My husband and I currently live off of less than one income. We were lucky enough to be aware of finances as soon as we graduated college and decided try to keep living on our original income that we had right out of school (and we didn’t get jobs right away so I was a waitress and he worked part-time in a clerical position). Once we got full time careers, our income increased about 3-fold but we kept living like we were working the original jobs, putting the rest toward student loans and building up a comfortable financial safety net. Within 3 years of graduating, we were able to pay for a wedding, buy a house, and will be debt free in a few months (after about $50k of school loans and $11k in car loans). We are currently only 2 years post college. I think living well below our means was the best decision we ever made.

    1. Wow great job Danielle!

  35. When I first quit my job to be a SAHM, we were living at 50% of our income. Three kids later, and we’ve allowed our budget to go out the window some months. Sometimes it’s hard to keep on top of things when everyone is going in so many directions at once. One goal I have in the next few months is to get back on track.

  36. I have been a SAHM with a military husband so for a long time, we were pretty hand-to-mouth. Lately, I have been taking on work especially as my husband was just retired. We are still managing some debt but outside of that, I have gotten us down to about 60-70%. I would love to see us get under the 50% point and finish off the debt.
    Good advice.
    ๐Ÿ™‚
    Traci

  37. Ashley

    We currently live on 90% my income because my husband is a full time student and only works 10-15 hours a week to help supplement. We’re expecting our first child, which means that as of mid-December, we’ll be living on his 10-15 hours of work and our savings (essentially no income at all) for 2 months while I’m on maternity leave. Yikes.

  38. Jessica Miller

    Hi, if you dont mind me asking….how do you make that amount by blogging? I didnt know you could make that much.

  39. As I sit here and read all this, my eyes are misting up. I just recently quit my full time job to blog full time. My husband just informed me that if I don’t go back to work we will be in the negative in a month. This breaks my heart as for the last month I have never been happier. The worst part is that the majority of spending is his. Does anyone have any ideas or posts that can help me point out what changes need to be made without starting world war III?

  40. Kaitlynn Marie

    Honestly if I saw an ad for an apartment that was $350 I’d think it was a scam, or it was a 100 sqft studio with nothing. In the worst part of town. But that’s because living in Connecticut is expensive. My mom just recently moved from her 2 bedroom apartment that was probably about 600 sqft and she paid $550 for it a month. It was tiny. And the entire building is falling apart, and it’s in one of the worst parts of town. But we have Fairfield County and two casinos within a 20 mile radius of our town so everything here is expensive. I’m working two jobs and still having trouble saving (that’s more my fault than anything else though because I have a hard time saying “no” tbh). I’m really thinking about getting a car, and moving out of the state. It’s just too expensive here and not worth it at all. I’ll miss my family but I think my quality of life will vastly improve if I’m not stuck in a dead-end state.

  41. We just had our first child 4 months ago and officially started living on one income as my wife is now a stay at home mom.

    Since we planned for this, we not only live comfortably, but we are thriving on one income. We’ll buy our second rental property at the end of next year and nearly replace all the income that my wife was bringing home before we had kids.

    Plan for one income and it’ll be no big deal when the time comes for you to ditch an income source.

  42. Christian Brad

    I have a question:
    How is it that you’re barely/roughly living off of 50% of your income when you say you make $100,000 a month. That means you’re spending upwards of $50,000 a month with sailboat costs. Which one troubles me: whether you’re making up to $100,000 a month, or you’re struggling with raising your monthly savings above 50%, or are you simply sharing accordingly to increase credibility.

    Not trying to scrutinize in that affect, rather to better understand the said situation so we can trust your advice and tips.

    Aloha.

    1. This post is from 2013 – not sure if you noticed that. I was not making $100,000 a month back in 2013.

      Currently, we save around 95% of our income after business expenses and taxes.

  43. Jay

    This post really hits home for me. My wife and I have been living off one income for 5 years now due to my job and my wife’s full-time job of raising our girls. We have used many of these tips to not only stay afloat but save money and buy a vacation home. All on a teacher’s salary!