Start Living on One Income!

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I strongly urge you to do everything in your power to start living on one income, however and whenever possible.  If you are single, concentrate on living well below your means, paying off any debt you have, saving money, and giving generously.  If you are a two income family, please read on with a hopeful and open mind.  🙂

Why live on one income?

Living on one income does not necessarily mean you’re only earning one income.  Whether both spouses work, or only one works and the other stays home… there are many benefits to living on one income only.

When both spouses work

As it sits right now, me and Betsy have no children and are self-employed, but it wasn’t long ago that we were both working full-time jobs. There are benefits to having both spouses work, but if you do I still encourage you to live on only one income while you save the other.

Here are a few noteworthy benefits of a two income family living on one income:

  • A hedge against job loss. If both spouses work, yet they only require one income for their living expenses, then the other spouses job can be lost without an enormous family crisis taking place.
  • Pay off debt faster. Use the second income to get you out of debt in record time.
  • Save more money. Once you are out of debt, start packing away boatloads of cash.
  • Give more. Because you can, because it will make you happy, and because “…God loveth a cheerful giver.”  II Cor 9:7
  • Retire earlier. Once your emergency fund is established, begin fully funding your IRAs, 401(k)s, and other investments so you can retire earlier and spend more time doing what you love.

When only one spouse works

If you have been blessed with children then most of you will likely be forced to decide between having one spouse stay home and putting the children in some sort of day care.  Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of being able to skip the day care and enable mom or dad to stay home with the children while the other spouse brings home the bacon.

  • No day care. You raise your own kids… full-time.  You do not have to pay for day care, and no longer have to worry about whether or not your children are being properly raised 8-10 hours of the day.
  • Less stress and more quality time. When the working spouse comes home, many of the household duties, cares, and concerns can already be taken care of by the homemaker.  This affords the couple much more quality time with much less stress.
  • Enable one spouse to take care of the home, and everything in it. One spouse goes to work for pay, while the other stays home and works as the support system.  A homemaker taking seriously the job of caring for home and family may just be the most honorable and rewarding position there is – and I think we, as a society, are in dire need of more of this type of thing.

I hold to the belief that a woman will feel more fulfilled in the role of staying home and caring for the home and family while the man goes outside the home to earn.  I am not a chauvinist, and I do not think “stay-at-home-moms/wives” have it “easy,” that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  What I do believe in are the gender differences ordained and given us by God Almighty.  Don’t get me wrong… either spouse can provide, and either can stay home… but we are most interested in how intrinsically fulfilled each of us feel in either given role.

In conclusion…

Living on one income while both spouses earn gives you increased security, speedier debt repayment, more capability to save, give, and retire early.  Living on one income and raising a family will afford you less costs and outsourcing in regard to raising children, lowered levels of household stress, and more time together as a family!

Whichever route suits your family best… don’t the benefits of living on one income sound appealing?  So what are we waiting for?  Let’s start tweaking our budget so we can live on one income and start reaping some of these benefits!

Do you (or can you) live on one income?

We want to be there as soon as possible… so we’re working to get rid of all our debt (and a lot of our possessions.)  We cut costs drastically, are living far below our means, and would probably be fine if we were forced to trim down and live on one income only.

What about you?  🙂

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1 Arthur Sido

Ten people.

One Income.

Zero regrets.

2 Peter

We’ve been living on one income (while making two) for quite some time now, and now that my wife is expecting our first child, it makes it a lot easier to make the transition to where it will be just one income.

My wife has been talking to a lot of her friends lately who have stayed at home with their children, and they really do feel more fulfilled in raising their children. There is something special about raising kids that makes it very fulfilling. Maybe in a year or two i can go full time blogging and be at home more as well!

3 Elle

Great post Matt. My husband and I have decided to live on one income to pay down our debt faster and to build savings. It started when we got married and I was still in college.
Even though I had a good paying internship, we decided not to depend on that income when budgeting. Living on one income helps us to live simply and focus on things we really enjoy.

4 Amy

My husband and I live on one income and plan on continuing to do so when I have a child in the future. I think that living on just one income now will help prepare us for when those major changes happen. My husband is certainly no slacker when it comes to staying home and I’m amazed by how much he gets done.

He’s built a deck on the back of our house and really done a TON of landscaping. He’s built furniture, worked on our electrical, and plumbing (replacing large portions of it). He’s also much more of a clean freak than I am and has an excellent eye for design and color coordination so he takes care of all the decorating and a good portion of the cleaning. He’s an amazing cook who is attentive to making sure we eat healthy food. I could go on and on. I find it hard to think of how we got along back when we were both working a year ago.

5 Lisa

In many ways families living on one income can actually be more secure than families with two incomes.Living on one income while both spouses earn gives you increased security, speedier debt repayment, more capability to save, and early retirement. Living on one income and raising a family will afford you less costs and outsourcing in regard to raising children, lowered levels of household stress, and more time together as a family.

6 Mrs. White

This is such a good idea. Many homeschooling families already do this. I know it can get scary during hard financial times. I wrote a post about our “Living on Faith Marriage” that might encourage someone:

Mrs. White

7 Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black

We have been living on one income since I became a SAHM ten years ago. Before then, I worked full-time and actually made more money than my husband. He got a promotion (and raise) (he’s military) and we moved away from the DC area and I stopped working. We could have never done it cold-turkey like we did had we stayed in the DC area, but moving to a lower cost of living, combined with his pay raise and no longer paying for childcare, it about evened out.

I lost my “budding” career, we’ve had two more kids since, and I have no regrets. In fact, I shudder sometimes to think what I would have missed out on with my oldest, who’s now 14. Financially speaking, I don’t have access to an IRA through an employer, but I did open up an individual IRA account about nine years ago that we contributed to separately. We may have missed out on more retirement contributions over the years b/c I haven’t “worked”, but I’m not convinced that wasn’t due more to poor money management rather than simply not having enough money. We are attempting to make up for lost time now, hence the blogging!

Again – no regrets.

8 Olivia

The “helper suitable” motif covers alot of ground. And it’s amazing what one person at home can save the family in real dollars by not working outside. I’m the fix it person (except for oil changes), the one who handles the books, researches products, and does the traditional “mom” and “housekeeping” things. When responsibilities are clearly defined it’s easier to get things done. I have to time to plant a garden, freeze and can, shop the thrifts, rewire lamps, clip coupons, cook from scratch, mend, sew, build a tree fort, do small appliance repair, fix a leaky faucet, repair furniture. All these impact our finances directly. Besides I’m there when the kids come home from school.

9 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

My husband and I live on one income even though we both work, but it is sadly the bigger income of the two. He makes $43k and I make $35k before taxes…we pretty much live on his and save mine. We’d like to live on the lowest salary, but we have decided that we are okay where we are now as well.

If he loses his job (unlikely since he’s a teacher in an area that needs teachers), we could live on my salary plus $500 a month. Our emergency fund would last for 20 months. If I lose my job, we could live on his salary and not touch our emergency fund at all.

After our mortgage is paid off in 2017, we’ll be able to live on either income, so I’ll feel extra safe.

Anyway, we chose to live like this since we do want to retire early. We are on track to be able to retire at 52. Living on one income is a big key to that! Good post!

10 FB @

Great post.

Even if you don’t combine incomes, it’s still good to go through the practice of reducing combined household expenses as much as possible, so that each person (if need be) can contribute.

The only part of your post I strongly disagree with is the “intrinsic need or fulfillment given to us” to have either gender want to stay at home more.

My father was a better stay at home father, and now grandfather than my mom ever was or wanted to be.

My mom hates being at home with the kids/grandkids all day long, and goes stir crazy. My father has the personality for it, and is not the perfect parent, but he is the best parent out of the two available, and would rather be at home with the kids than at work.

But he isn’t the “woman” in the relationship, and neither is my mother the “man” in the relationship, but she does bring home the bacon.

11 Kim

Great article! One of your best.

I feel the same way about a (Mom) staying home. I have always wanted to with my children. I feel the whole family has really missed out.

Matt: I hold to the belief that a woman will feel more fulfilled in the role of staying home and caring for the home and family while the man goes outside the home to earn. I am not a chauvinist, and I do not think “stay-at-home-moms/wives” have it “easy,” that couldn’t be farther from the truth. What I do believe in are the gender differences ordained and given us by God Almighty. Don’t get me wrong… either spouse can provide, and either can stay home… but we are most interested in how intrinsically fulfilled each of us feel in either given role.

So true!

12 H Lee D

Sadly, our house costs too much for us reasonably to live on one income. I’m starting a side business and am hoping that it will be lucrative enough that it can become my day job, which will allow me to work from home which will have many many benefits.

We have three debts aside from the mortgage. Car loan we’re ahead of schedule on; 0% loan we’re on schedule for; student loan is regular payments for now but will be the next target after the car is taken care of.

Once all of those are gone, we should be able to live on one income despite the mortgage.

13 Ronnie

While I whole-heartedly agree with your overall premise, I must make one point of note. I’m not a SAHM, never will be (that gene skipped me and I abhor the thought), and honey and I are fine with that. It is IMPERATIVE, however, that both parties are and CONTINUE to be okay with the concept of a parent staying at home. As a family law attorney, I cannot begin to tell you how many times parents are initially okay with one parent staying at home, but as the children begin to grow up, the working spouse wants the non-working one to go back to work, at least part-time while the kids are in school. This can create an enormous amount of resentment, which is often what I see. Don’t make the decision once and for all time; it, like every other aspect of marriage, needs to be periodicially revisited.

Great to have you back!

14 Mama Koala

I enjoyed this article. We should be credit card debt free in August, and at that time we should be able to live on one income (or very close to it). While I don’t plan to quit my job at that time, the living on one income will allow us to quickly fund a large emergency fund-and pay off the mortgage quickly. We hope to eventually work part time and homeschool the kiddos when they get older. Good for the 2 of you to have realized this smart idea much sooner in life than we did:-)

15 David H.

We do not operate on one income, yet. After the wedding this fall, we may take a serious look at this. I know that when the economic criss hit at end of 2008, Suze Orman was a big proponent for living on a single income. Once the reality of student loans sets in and I’m no longer deferring, I have a feeling we will be moving to this sort of system.

16 Rainy-Day Saver

We were living on one salary while we were renting, but now that we have a home, one salary would just cover our mortgage and utility expenses. We wouldn’t have anything left over for the car payment, car insurance, savings and groceries (plus incidentals like entertainment and wardrobes).

It’s not that we’re living above our means; it’s just that the cost of living and property taxes are out of control in NJ, especially if you want to live in a town with a good school system.

17 Jesse

My stance is that a household should have one working and one stay at home parent. If both parents word, that is a disservice to the kids. But I also think that if the non-working spouse wants to work freelance or from home, that is great too, but definitely should not be depended on for the family income.

18 JollyRancher342

We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and own a home and it’s pretty impossible to live on one income with our house expenditure taking such a big part of our overall budget. I wish we should make this work but just doesn’t seem feasible in our case. But we do try to save some each month.

19 jerky

I am a husband who worked online and my wife resigned from office, because we have two children. We’re thinking though his wife still works, we will still cost money for a babysitter or babyschooling. And we have not yet talk about growth and mental development of our children. Money can still be pursued, but how about a child problem like health, psychological or mental of our child? How much should we pay for it? So, I let my wife resign, but she still get to concentration in guiding children at home … is this good in your opinion? thanks

20 Matt Jabs

If your income can cover the budget, which of course should include some type of health insurance (at least for the children,) along with the expectation of unexpected expenses, then sure… she should be able to resign with confidence.

21 Forest

Really cool idea, if you could funnel the larger income straight into savings that would be outstanding!

22 Ryan @ Planting Dollars

I grew up in a one income family and through that experience would like to do the same one day as well. I think it’s very doable and the benefits outweigh the small amount of income you’re losing anyways.

23 2million

My wife and I started living off of 1 income back in 2008 after my wife became pregnant. We are still fine tuning our spending these days to get it right. My advice would be to significantly bump up your emergency fund before you transition to 1 income – you just won’t be able to recover from unexpected expenses like you can with 2 incomes.

24 Donna

If we had not committed early in our marriage to live mostly on one income we would now be in serious trouble as I am now unable to work because of my health. Never put yourself in a situation where you both must work, you may not be able to!

25 jackie

My husband and I have been living on his income for nearly 12 years now. We have 4 kids and I have stayed home with them. We have had to cut almost all expenses that we have had since our children have been born. But, one of the MAJOR advantages to being a money smart, frugal family is what it teaches your kids. One of the major things….problem solving. Because we don’t have a lot of gadgets (we don’t even own a dishwasher) my kids know how to do a chore, in a moderate amount of time and do the job right. They know if they want to buy something, they have to figure out how to get it and decide, themselves, if it is worth the price/work to them. And in building these problem solving skills, my kids are also building their confidence. so, even though we don’t have a double income, the advantages of one parent staying at home is priceless.

26 Matt Jabs

Thank you Jackie… you laid out beautifully so many other benefits that I left out. Congratulations, cheers, and Godspeed.

27 Moneymonk

We live on one income. It so easy when you both have no debt and savings. When one of our cars died, it was not a panic. We know we have the cash to get another one. We also can handle a job loss

28 crunchycon

We’ve been doing this for nearly 10 years now, which has enabled us to pay off our house very early using the other income. As other posters have said, living on one income is much simpler when you’re debt-free. This has been especially true lately as a serious and unexpected health issue involving major surgery and hospitalization has entered our lives. We’re able to pay our medical bills without heartburn, and we’re most grateful to be able to do so.

29 Karen604

We have lived on one income for almost 20 years. Yes I have worked part-time/occasionally. Not any great income.
Now the problem is how to make sure that you are saving enough to do it. A lot of money and not just for retirement.
What if the secure well paying job goes poof? It can happen at any time. How do you make sure that everybody hits the ground running? How Much do you need in savings so that your house does not go poof? So that the kids go to college?
Living on one income is one thing. Making the ends meet as the kids are growing is one thing. Building a BIG security blanket is another.

30 The Single Gal

Great article Matt and I couldn’t agree more! I’ve begun my own “debt free adventure” recently, and as a single person have found that we have our own unique situations to contend with sometimes. I’m hoping to begin representing that population with my own blog – Hopefully we can bounce ideas off from each other in the future from our own unique vantage points!

31 Josh

Great article! Well I sure would like to live on one income. As it is my wife and I are both working, and we are paying down our debts but it is so easy to spend. We live in an apartment which costs more than the median house costs in the states and where a house here costs minimum 400k plus for something that is not a shack 🙁 Its very depressing living in such a rich country but having such a high cost for housing that a young married couple could put off having kids for ten years and maybe just maybe think about having kids and a house. But God will provide if you put your faith in Him.

32 Richard @ Debt Assistance Guru

I actually managed to do this a year or two ago but with a slight twist – I was single at the time but had two income sources – my job and my small business.

I used to live on the income from my job and use my business income as “bonus money” for reinvesting, saving and paying off debt. Living on far less than your total income is a great feeling and really makes you feel like you’re in control of your financial destiny.

33 Jessica Bosari

A friend of mine has five kids and is barely surviving on one income. It might be different if the work wasn’t seasonal and they could depend on the money from week to week. They depend on summer to get through winter. Last summer was bad and this summer not great so far. I worry about them every day. She has three kids daycare age, so going back to work would be futile and there is no family that can help with caring for the kids. Now they are taking in another struggling family member. It boggles the mind how anyone can survive on one income today. Even my husband and I, with only two kids, one daycare age, and no car payments can’t do it on one income.

34 Matt Jabs

The ability is predicated on lifestyle, and is a continual choice we have to make each day. We would all be surprised by what we can do when we have to! 🙂

35 Brenda

I 100% agree with the idea of living on one income even if you are earning two. Too many people are living outside of their means and not planning for the future.

I 100% disagree with everything else you say. The gender differences “ordained and given by God” are limited to the matter of procreation. To suggest that having a vagina means a woman would be more fulfilled at home is just ignorant and offensive to all women.

36 Matt Jabs

Thanks for the input Brenda, and for stopping by. At least we agree on one point right? 🙂 Cheers.

37 Jennifer Miller

We are living on one salary right now, as I resigned from my job a year ago. It is SO hard though…we live in NJ and my husband’s salary covers our expenses, but we have almost no savings, other than what he puts into his work 401 (I think the minimum). What are we doing wrong? 🙁 Our taxes are out of control and increase every year…we live in a modest home…have one car payment (which in a year should be payed off).

38 Thomas

My wife and I received some very good money advice before we got married: If your goal is to live on one income later on, start living on one income right now. Taking heed of that advice, we did just that. We took any money my wife made from her nanny job and used it to pay off many of the outstanding debts we had. We took the debt snowball approach and wiped out all of our debt in just a year and a half. Shortly after we became debt free, my wife’s job ended with the family she was working for, which made for a sweet transition into her full-time role as COO of our household. My wife has been home since then and we haven’t regretted it for a second. Living on one income definitely requires sacrafice. We have several married friends who live on two incomes, drive nice cars, have big (expensive) homes and pursue all the hobbies and fun in life they want to. We live in a tiny, rented home that shares the property with two other dwellings, we drive older cars (even only had one car for a long time) and we have to save up for things we need and the things we want. Honestly though, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Fewer assets to manage makes for a simpler life, which makes for less distraction and more time for the things that matter most. It also makes us realize just how much God has already blessed us.

39 Matt Jabs

Thomas, it sounds like you were speaking for me. Your words echo my feelings. Congrats and God bless!

40 Kristen

Great article Matt! My boyfriend and I have been discussing this very thing when the topic of marriage and moving in together comes up. Such a great idea to use one income all towards saving, giving, or paying down debt.

41 Matt Jabs

Awesome Kristen, let us know what you decide and how it feels to implement the plan!

42 Michelle

My husband and I are both Christians, but I don’t think the stay at home mom thing is for me. We could live off of my husband’s income, but we wouldn’t be able to save much in general or for retirement and we definitely couldn’t afford to travel the way we both want to.
Plus, I make almost as much as my husband and we figured out that even with reduced clothing, food and transportation costs from not working, we would have to have 3 kids in daycare to make it “worth it.”
I also consider my own mother. She stayed at home with when I was little because that was what she wanted to and that was what fulfilled her. However, I barely remember this time in my life, leading me to conclude that I would have turned out fine either way, whether in her care or another’s care (provided they were responsible and loving).
In addition, this dramatically impacted her and my father’s finances. Though she has been back in the workforce full-time for 11 years now, she is just getting back to what she was making before (she resigned from a supervisor position to be a stay at home) and think of all those years of social security contributions and retirement savings she missed out on.
My husband and I are hoping to start our family in the next year or so, and while I would never say never, something pretty drastic would have to change for me to want to stay at home. A mom without regret or resentment is the best mom–so each person should make their own choices after fully considering all of the options and gathering the necessary information.

43 Matt Jabs

Thanks for sharing Michelle, all the best to you and your family.

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