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It is possible to live on one income and still have fun with a few simple frugal living tips. Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom but finances are so tight that discussions of going back to work have come up. Or you are a two income household and want to save more money by living on one person’s income. These 35 tips have helped us successfully live on one income while paying off debt and saving money for almost nine years.
Eight and a half years ago I unexpectedly became a stay-at-home mom. I was two weeks away from going back to work after maternity leave, and my husband got a job offer in another state. After looking at our budget and the cost of childcare, we decided that I would stay home with our new baby.
It hasn’t always been the easiest financially, but there are some key ways that we’ve been able to live frugally, save money and make money from home so I could be a stay-at-home mom for good.
35 Ways to Live Frugally, Save Money, and Make Money from Home
1. Start a Blog
I’m sure you already guessed that this would be on the list since I think blogging is THE BEST way to earn an income from home as a mom. Your blog can be the primary platform for a business or your blog can BE your business. A blog allows you to build multiple income streams by talking about the things you love.
A few of the ways you can make money through a blog include:
- Placing ads on your site
- Offering a service (ie. virtual assistant, pinterest manager, copyrighting, etc.)
- Selling a product (ie. a course, an ebook, apparel, etc.)
- Affiliate marketing
It’s such an amazing opportunity for stay-at-home moms, because you can take your time learning how to blog while your baby naps or in the evenings. You can take it at your own pace. It’s also an amazing creative outlet when we spend most of the day thinking about nap schedules, feeding schedules, and school pick-ups!
Other Extra Income Posts:
- 7 Best Work from Home Jobs for Moms
- How to Start a Subscription Box Business and Work from Home
- Make Money as a Photographer: How One Mom Built Her Photography Side Hustle
2. Create a Meal Plan and Stick to It
Groceries are many families’ second largest expense each month outside of rent or mortgage. I typically lump all food together in our budget to include groceries, restaurants, work lunches, and coffee.
When we became serious about paying off debt several years ago, I began tracking how much we were spending on food each month. I found that we were spending around $1600 per month on food! That’s insane!
By creating and following a meal plan, I was able to cut our monthly food budget in half.
I found that quick stops at the grocery store for things we forgot, work lunches, and $2 coffees added up to a pretty crazy number.
Read through some of my posts on how I drastically cut our food expenses.
- Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning for Families
- Why Meal Planning Weekly Doesn’t Work and What I Do Instead
- 11 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Download theMeal Planning Guide
Free monthly calendar, weekly meal planner, freezer + pantry inventory, family favorites meal list, and shopping list.
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3. Downsize Your Home
This may seem a little bit drastic, but it can have a huge impact on your monthly expenses. Obviously this is more challenging if you are a homeowner as opposed to a renter, but it’s something anyone should consider when trying to live off of one income.
4. Find Free Activities for Your Family
It may be tempting to go to the zoo or out for frozen yogurt every week, but these expenses add up quickly.
Become a tourist in your own town, and start looking for free activities and events.
We have always enjoyed things like the botanical gardens, picnics in the park, and the library. One of our absolute favorite free family activities is geocaching. It’s a must-try!
5. Buy Second Hand
There was a time when our kids were babies that we literally thought we should write a book on how to find the best deals on Craigslist. Almost everything in our house at one point was a Craigslist purchase.
There is absolutely no reason you should be ashamed of buying things second hand, and you can often find quality brands at very reasonable prices.
Just a few of the items we have purchased second hand include:
- Nursing chair
- Uppababy stroller with all of the accessories
- Jogging stroller
- High chair
- Bumbo seat
- All of our kids’ bikes
- Baby/Toddler Hiking Backpack (where you can wear your child on your back)
And so much more I can’t even think of. I have also done quite a bit of shopping for seasonal clothing items at second hand stores. Kids grow out of things so quickly that there’s no need to spend top dollar.
6. Build Capsule Wardrobes for the Whole Family
Have you heard of a capsule wardrobe before?
It’s essentially building a wardrobe full of basic items that are easily interchangeable and never go out of style. For adults, this could mean:
- white t-shirt
- neutral colored cardigans
- tank tops
- black leggings
I also create capsule wardrobes for my kids so that they have an easier time getting dressed in the morning independently. For my kids, this looks like:
- light and dark jeans
- tan, blue, and gray shorts
- neutral leggings (for my daughter)
- 1 jacket per season
- neutral colored sweatshirts (or pink and purple for my daughter)
They are definitely allowed to choose a few shirts or dresses that they love, but I try to keep the bulk of their wardrobes neutral. I wrote an entire post on my best tips and tricks for saving money on kids’ clothes!
7. Trade Your Car in For a Less Expensive Option
It may be tempting to purchase a new car, but those monthly car payments are going to stick with you for a while.
Buying a car that you can afford in cash or with a lower monthly payment will give you so much more freedom within your monthly budget.
It may even mean trading in your existing car with an expensive monthly payment to get something more affordable.
8. Start an Etsy Shop or Shopify Store
If you are creative and able to make things, why not sell them online? If you scroll around Etsy for a while, you’ll see that the options are endless for what you can sell.
- Essential oil accessories
- Knitted hats
- Graphic t-shirts
- Hair bows
- Wall Art
9. Sell Your Things
I know it’s tempting to toss things in the trash or bring them over to Goodwill when you’re done with them, but why not take the opportunity to make some cash on the items you’re done with?!
Don’t let items your family has outgrown take up precious space in your house.
- Sites like Poshmark allow you to sell clothing items online
- Set up a simple garage sale on a weekend
- Use Facebook buy and sell groups
- Check if Craigslist is active in your area
We have even resold things that we purchased second hand, saving us even more on those items.
10. Budget for Your Business
You might want to start a business, but you’re afraid of spending money before you ever make a dime. Starting and running a business does NOT have to cost a ton of money.
Most of the tools that I used to start my blog were completely free or very inexpensive. A few of the key free tools are:
- MailerLite– Email marketing
- Canva- Graphics
- Planoly- Planning and scheduling Instagram posts
11. Get Paid to Shop
I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s a real way to get money back on things that you would already purchase.
Ibotta is my favorite app for grocery shopping. You ‘unlock’ rebates on commonly purchased items like chips, milk, eggs, canned items, etc. You make your purchases as usual at the store and scan your reciept into the Ibotta app once you get home. Ibotta gives you cash back directly to your PayPal account.
My other favorite cash back site is Rakuten (formerly Ebates). Joining Rakuten is basically a no-brainer, because you get cash back on a variety of online purchases. There are 2,500+ stores including Walmart, Amazon, Old Navy, and so many more. All you do is go to the Rakuten site, click on the store you want to shop at and make your purchases as usual. You then receive cash back on your purchases.
12. Set Up a Sinking Fund
Sinking funds are basically a strategy for saving up gradually for large future purchases. Unlike an emergency fund that is set up for unknown expenses, sinking funds are saving up small amounts towards a known future expense.
This could include things like:
- tires for your car
- a new car
- holiday gifts
- annual HOA fees
- annual or quarterly membership fees
You know a large expense is coming that could derail your budget, so you choose to save smaller chunks over time so you don’t feel the impact of the expense all at once.
13. Build an Emergency Fund
Life has a special way of surprising us with unexpected expenses. I think we’ve all experienced a time when we thought things were going well and all of a sudden an expensive surprise strikes:
- the water heater bursts
- the air conditioner goes out
- an unexpected dental expense
The list truly goes on and on.
You’ll see a lot of people recommend that you should create an emergency fund with a minimum of $1,000. The amount is really up to you based on the level of risk you’re willing to deal with.
Our first emergency fund goal was to save one month’s worth of expenses. I wrote a post on 10 simple ways to build an emergency fund fast.
14. DIY Everything You Can
Stop roaming the aisles of Target and walking out with everything except what you actually walked in for. There are so many every day items that you can make on your own.
My husband has made several of our furniture pieces from plans on Ana White’s site. If you or your spouse are crafty, she makes it really easy to DIY for your home.
I make the vast majority of our cleaning products so I don’t have to buy them at the store. It’s not only cheaper, I can also make things that are non-toxic and safe for our family.
- Build Your DIY Cleaning Toolkit
- DIY Household Cleaner
- DIY Window and Glass Cleaner
- Homemade Sink and Bath Scrub (like Soft Scrub)
- Homemade Produce Wash
I also like to make many of our body care and beauty products with inexpensive and natural ingredients.
- Build Your DIY Body Care and Beauty Toolkit
- Homemade Natural Deodorant
- Homemade Face Wash Pads (great as a makeup remover)
- DIY Foaming Hand Soap
- Customize Your Own Beauty Serum
- Under Eye Serum (great for fine lines and dark circles)
- DIY Charcoal Mask
15. Create a Livable Budget
One of the most important things you can do is to sit down and create an honest family budget. Write down your anticipated income as a single income family along with all of your expenses.
Have an honest conversation about what you are willing to give up and what is non-negotiable. You may say that you will cut out 100% of your trips to Starbucks, but is that actually realistic?
It’s my personal opinion that a budget has to be simple, easy to track, and allow you a little bit of wiggle room so that you don’t panic from feeling overly restricted.
Here are my best budgeting posts for getting started:
- Budgeting Basics: How to Create a Family Budget
- The Budget Binder that Transformed Our Finances [Free 25-page Budget Binder download]
- Paycheck Budgeting: The Budgeting Method that Changed My Family’s Life
16. Track Your Spending
Creating your budget is only the first step since it’s just a way to outline your plan. The real work starts when it’s time to actually follow that plan and take action on a daily basis.
I recommend spending time every day tracking your spending to ensure you’re staying within your budget. This could be a pen and paper system (which is what I prefer) or a budgeting app. If you choose a budgeting app, I prefer one that syncs to your account since manual entries can be time consuming.
Read more about the methods I use:
- What I Do Instead of a Cash Envelope System
- A Visual Method for Tracking Your Spending
- 10 Commonly Forgotten Items to Include in Your Budget
17. Barter Skills or Trade Babysitting with a Neighbor
This is one that I used to do a lot when my kids were little and I was part of a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers group). We would always babysit each other’s kids for doctor appointments or even an hour of alone time at Target.
One of the moms in our MOPS group gave haircuts to our kids in return for babysitting.
Utilize the skills and talents of friends and neighbors and trade your own. It’s an amazing way to save money (and possibly get a bit of alone time!).
18. Cut and Color Your Hair
This is definitely easiest when you have boys, but cutting hair at home is a huge money saver depending on the size of your family and their chosen hairstyles.
I haven’t colored my hair in years, but I used to color my hair at home occasionally when I was in college. It was the only way I could afford to do it.
19. Bring Lunches to Work
Lunch is something that often slips under the radar when it comes to budgeting. That $6 sandwich doesn’t feel like a big deal when you’re buying it, but watch that $6 add up when you’re eating lunch out every day of the month. You quickly rack up $180 per month in lunches alone, and I know that I’m being EXTREMELY conservative with $6 on lunch.
For those working in your household, start preparing lunches at night to make mornings easier. Skip the Chick-fil-a line as a stay-at-home mom and eat leftovers or make a sandwich at home.
You would be shocked at the impact this one change would have on your monthly budget. Believe me, we’ve done it!
20. Quit the Coffee Shops
I have mentioned before that I’m not a big spender by nature, but coffee shops have always been my kryptonite! My first job out of college I was only making about $24,000, so my budget was pretty tight. I kept wondering where the leak was in my budget, so I sat down to analyze my spending over the previous three months. I had spent an average of $100-150 per month on coffee! What?!
I decided that day that I would start making coffee at home. I would find myself pulling into coffee shops from muscle memory, but I would pull right back out of the parking lot.
I’ve had some coffee spending relapses over the years, but these days I generally only find myself at a coffee shop one time per week.
The best thing I did was invest in a great coffee maker at home. I LOVE my Ninja Coffee Maker with all of the settings and options. Now I make a coffee BEFORE I leave for errands so I’m not tempted while out.
21. Go on Free or Inexpensive Dates with Your Spouse
My husband and I truly value our one-on-one time without the kids, but it’s not always possible to get out of the house. A good babysitter can cost anywhere from $10-18 per hour plus the activities while you’re out. That’s not possible on every budget.
Barter babysitting or find a family member who will baby sit for free. If those aren’t options (they’re not for us!), then create date night at home after the kids go to bed.
Make your favorite meal, buy a bottle of wine, and watch a good movie for a fraction of the cost of going out.
22. Find the Cheapest Gas
I’m personally a huge fan of Costco gas, because it’s always cheaper than surrounding gas stations. I make up for my Costco membership on my gas savings alone.
If you don’t have a Costco nearby or don’t want a membership, I recommend using GasBuddy.com. Gas Buddy is an app that allows you to search nearby gas stations for the cheapest price.
23. Try a Spending Freeze
Have you heard of a spending freeze before?
In a spending freeze, you choose a specific amount of time that you absolutely will not spend any money outside of your fixed expenses (ie. mortgage, debt payments, utility bills, etc). You take all of the money that you would have spent during that week and allocate it towards savings or extra debt payments.
I recommend starting off with a short spending freeze to get the hang of it. Pick a weekend and then work your way up. I’ve seen people do month long spending freezes. Imagine the benefit on your budget!
24. Become a Tutor
Consider becoming a tutor in your spare time if you have a particular skill set or educational background. There are a variety of different subjects that you can tutor on. Go to Tutor.com to view all of the subjects for children through adult learners.
Another amazing opportunity if you have a bachelors degree or above is to be a tutor for VIPKID. VIPKID is an online tutoring platform that provides one-on-one tutoring to kids in China. You can set your own hours and make a great income from home.
Tutoring is a great way to make money while your kids nap or in the evenings when they are sleeping.
25. Do Staycations
One of the things that we gave up completely after committing to paying off our debt was vacations. The closest thing to a vacation we’ve ever been on in our almost ten years of marriage was a 2-night stay two hours from our apartment for our honeymoon.
Become a tourist in your area rather than going on bigger, more luxurious vacations. Search for free or inexpensive activities that get you out of the house but don’t break the bank.
We have also gotten amazing last minute hotel deals and spent one night at a hotel to give our kids the chance to play in the pool and just have a change of scenery.
26. Eat at Home
This was one of the biggest challenges for me as we went through our debt journey, because I absolutely LOVE eating out. It’s so easy to call for a pizza or do carry-out on busy nights, especially when it means you also get to skip dishes.
However, eating at home can have a huge impact on your family budget. It doesn’t mean that you have to slave away in the kitchen every night eating the same boring meals. They key to success on this one is meal planning. Grab my FREE Meal Planning Guide to help you cut back on eating out and start eating at home.
Download theMeal Planning Guide
Free monthly calendar, weekly meal planner, freezer + pantry inventory, family favorites meal list, and shopping list.
Success! Check your inbox!
27. Cut Grocery Spending
Grocery spending is typically the highest expense after rent/mortgage for most families. When someone tells me that they are struggling in their finances, grocery spending is one of the first places I tell them to look at.
I also include household items like cleaning products in our grocery budget. One way that you can save big is to make your own household cleaners instead of buying them at the store. Read about how to build a DIY household cleaning toolkit that includes everything you need to make all of your cleaning products at home. Not only is it cheaper, you can skip the toxic store-bought products for something natural and safe for the whole family.
28. Use Money Saving Hacks When Eating Out
The reality is that you’re going to want to eat out once in a while. I have a few hacks that I’ve used to save money while eating out:
- Get water instead of fountain drinks- fountain drinks can be as high as $2.50-3 per person
- Skip the appetizers and dessert
- Share an entree with your significant other- the portion sizes at most restaurants are huge
- Have your kids share entrees- my biggest pet peeve is my kids not finishing their food after we spend $6 on their meal
- Go on a kids eat free night- Get to know which restaurants in the area have kids eat free nights
- Eat places where you don’t have a waiter or waitress you need to tip- the tip at a traditional restaurant can be as much or more than an entire meal
29. Drop the Gym Membership
Stop spending money every single month at a gym and start working out at home. There are so many amazing free programs on YouTube or from various bloggers that you don’t need to spend money on a gym membership.
Invest in a few workout bands and free weights and save yourself money every single month.
30. Find Budget-Friendly Beauty Options
Have you ever thought about making your own beauty products? Not only do beauty DIYs save you money, you can also create natural, non-toxic beauty products that are safer than conventional, store-bought options.
Outside of my makeup, I make a lot of my own skincare and personal care products, especially when our budget is tight. I wrote a post about building your own DIY beauty and body care toolkit HERE.
In addition to making your own beauty products, skip the nail salon and paint your own nails. It’s not quite the relaxing process, but it will save you a ton of money. When you do want to splurge a little and buy versus DIY, I built a budget-friendly, minimalist safer skincare routine for a little bit of self-care!
31. Cut Extracurriculars
This one can be a sore subject for many moms, because we feel like we are depriving our kids of social and educational experiences by not putting them in numerous extracurricular activities. I am of the personal opinion that our kids’ extracurricular activities should not put us in debt or keep us in debt. That may even mean cutting out all extracurricular activities for a period of time.
During your kids’ early years, spend time doing play dates with friends, attend your library’s kids story hour, get out to the park.
If you have older children, commit to one extracurricular activity rather than several. This will save money and time in the car taxiing your children around.
32. Put All Extra Money Towards Debt or Savings
It’s really exciting to get a little bit of money outside of your typical budget. You may be tempted to take that and use it for something fun like a family vacation or a big purchase. I recommend putting ALL extra money towards debt or savings. This is something that we were really committed to and helped us reduce our debt and grow an emergency savings quicker.
33. Price Shop and Negotiate Bills at End of Contracts
Don’t settle for the prices you are paying on many of your fixed expenses. Price shopping and negotiating bills can bring down your monthly expenses significantly.
I highly recommend price shopping your auto, home/renters insurance, because the price variations can be huge. Several years ago I decided to price shop after being with the same insurance company for a decade, and I ended up finding a new company that cut our cost by $75 per month! That was huge for us.
When you are under contract with a company (ie cable) and your contract comes to an end, contact that company and let them know that you are planning to leave for a competitor. Companies will almost always give you a promotion to stay.
34. At-Home Preschool
This is another tough one for moms, because many feel that they are doing a disservice to their kids by not sending them to preschool. Two of our three kids have only attended one year of preschool rather than two since it didn’t fit into our budget to send them the first year they were able to go.
Preschool can cost hundreds of dollars per month depending which school you choose, and I firmly believe you should not suffer financially for preschool. There are so many other amazing ways to provide your kids with guided or free play, social interactions, and a bit of academics without sending them to preschool.
In the years we did not send our kids to preschool I would do things like:
- Find activities and worksheets on Pinterest
- Get friends together and rotate who teaches or leads an activity with our kids once per week
- ABC Mouse
- Cook or bake together
- Activity books and puzzles at home
35. Start a Direct Sales Side Hustle
Direct sales (AKA MLM or network marketing) isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great way to earn income from home while sharing about a product you use or love.
I have seen several close friends have a huge impact on their family’s monthly budget with a direct sales business. After becoming familiar with it, there are some key differences between those who are successful at it and those who are not. I wrote about it in this post: How to be Successful in Direct Sales Business: Top Dos and Don’ts.
What are some ways that you have been able to reduce expenses or increase your household income to make living at home possible?
Other Posts You Might Like:
- 10 Frugal Tips for Saving Money on Household Items
- 20 Money Saving Tips for Preparing for a New Baby on a Budget
- How to Find the Best Budget-Friendly Travel Deals
Resources I Love
Rakuten: Rakuten (formerly )Ebates is a total no-brainer for saving money when shopping online. Every time you shop online, click on a store through Ebates to receive cash back on all of your purchases. Get $10 after your first $25 purchase when you use my link.
Ibotta: Ibotta is my favorite app for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons. Get cash back on your groceries just by uploading your receipts. Get $5 just for signing up when you click on my link.
$5 Dollar Dinners: If you love the idea of a meal plan but hate actually creating one, I highly recommend $5 Dollar Dinners. Erin outlines amazing meal plans on a budget.
MyFreezEasy: If you love freezer cooking or are interested in using it as part of your meal planning system, the MyFreezEasy shop is the place to start. Erin lists out all of her favorite tools, freezer meals plans, and more for making it as simple and budget-friendly as possible.
Real Plans: Real plans is an amazing meal planning resource, particularly for families with special diets. Real Plans helps you quickly create a meal plan based on the types of foods your family likes to eat and/or dietary restrictions.
Thrive Market: I order most of my pantry staples from Thrive Market. Think Costco meets Whole Foods with thousands of healthy food and personal care items. Get 1 month free PLUS 25% off your first order when you go through my link.