Do you have that burning desire to stay at home with your kids, but the money simply isn’t there? Once you figure out the frugal living on one income secrets I’m going to share with you here, you’ll be able to put your plan into motion to make it happen!
When I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I still had a ton of credit card debt and I had just graduated college to the tune of $70,000 in student loan debt.
It felt like the worst possible time for us to start a family, but ready or not, our little Nugget was on his way.
I knew being a stay at home mom would be difficult with our finances, if not impossible.
It has always been my dream to be a stay at home, homeschooling mama.
I know that not everyone is willing to give up a career in order to stay home with their kids and I certainly don’t fault anyone for making a different choice than I did, but this is what I always knew would work for me.
I just never imagined it would be so financially difficult.
In my fantasies, everything would just work out. Actually, I’m pretty sure we were millionaires somehow by the time we decided to have kids.
Unfortunately, life (and finances) had other plans.
When I first looked at our finances, I couldn’t imagine what we could cut out that would make a big enough difference that it would offset the $2,000 I brought in monthly.
Looking back, I could kick myself for the financial stupidity my husband and I were both participating in every day.
How to Live Frugally On One Income
First let’s talk about the more obvious changes and then we’ll dig into the nitty gritty choices that will push you over the edge to being able to afford to stay home.
Sacrifice #1 – Cut Back on Going Out to Eat
While we didn’t eat out every single day, we went out to eat often enough that it took a huge toll on our bank account. We really should have been pinching our pennies and fighting our way out of debt, but instead, I dealt with the stress in our lives by insisting we go out to dinner.
I would make tons of excuses.
One of us had a hard day, we’d had a fight and deserved some time alone together to reconnect, we were traveling and had to eat somewhere…
The list goes on and on.
The truth is, even when traveling or on vacation, there are tons of frugal ways to fill our bellies without sending our bank accounts into the red.
One of the easiest ways to stop going out to eat is to peruse the internet (looking at you, Pinterest!) for copycat recipes for your favorite restaurant meals.
Then recreate them at home in your Instant Pot. It saves time, money, and you’ll have a big enough portion to last a few meals!
Instead of going to places like TGI Fridays and Olive Garden or local restaurants where we easily spent $30 per meal, we could have stopped somewhere much cheaper and eaten healthier.
Even a quick stop at McDonald’s for a salad off of the dollar menu would have packed less of a caloric punch than unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks! (Even though just typing that gives me a craving for Olive Garden!)
Credit Card Points
Another option is to use credit card points to earn gift cards to offset the cost of eating out at popular restaurant chains.
Our Discover card gives us cash back on all of our purchases which we typically use to get free gift cards. Most recently, we ordered a $50 Cheesecake Factory gift card and used it to take my best friend out to dinner when he came to town for a visit.
Swagbucks is another amazing option. If you’ve never heard of Swagbucks, you have to get on board! By just watching sponsored videos and taking surveys, you can quickly accumulate enough points to get a free gift card.
The best value is a $4 Amazon gift card, but if you’re addicted to going out to eat like I am, a restaurant gift card is much more practical!
Keep in mind, I’m not telling you it’s a good idea to keep up your going out to eat addiction if you’re anything like I am.
It’s almost impossible for us now that I’m a stay at home mom and our income has been cut in half.
However, there are ways to make eating out more affordable when necessary.
Sacrifice #2 – How to Do Your Hair at Home
Before I had my son, I spent $100 every 6 weeks on getting my hair cut and highlighted.
Now, my husband highlights my hair for me.
We bleach my roots every 4-6 weeks and it saves us a TON compared to what we used to spend every 6 weeks.
Those things will last us for years to come.
We just have to replace the developer and powder when we eventually run out.
Now, we save at least $78 every month just on my highlights alone!
My husband even cuts my hair for me and I angle it in the front for a little dimension.
I get compliments on my hair all the time – maybe people are just being nice or making excuses because they’re staring at how bad it actually is (seriously hoping this isn’t the case) but I actually like the way my hair looks and that’s what matters to me.
I can definitely live with his beauty treatments until our financial situation turns around.
Sacrifice #3 – Rethink Your Makeup Brand
Before getting married, I used Bare Escentuals make-up exclusively.
If you’re familiar with the brand, you know a container of their mineral foundation goes for $26. Bare Minerals bronzers cost around $18. Their eyeshadows cost $14. These expenses really add up!
As you can imagine, this just wasn’t in our budget anymore.
My new favorite foundation is this one for less than $7.
Maybelline is my favorite drug store makeup brand, but E.L.F. is a close second. Their deals simply can’t be beat.
I started researching cheaper make-up alternatives and found E.L.F. I’m now completely hooked on E.L.F. makeup and can’t imagine ever spending what I used to on makeup, no matter how our financial situation may ever change.
E.L.F. foundation is $6 at Walmart.
Most of their brushes are between $1 and $3, their eyeshadows range from $1 to $6. The bronzer I use is $3. This is a huge savings!
Sacrifice #4 – Give Up Cable
This probably should be first on the list.
I decided to include this even though my husband and I did this years ago, long before we were trying to find a way to afford for me to be a stay at home mom.
We were paying around $200 a month for internet and cable. It was absolutely crazy to me that we were watching that much money go out of our bank account every month when we were hardly ever home to watch the TV!
Finally, I put my foot down.
I told my husband if we didn’t watch cable in the next 2 weeks, I was going to cancel it. He agreed.
Now, I understand two weeks without watching TV must sound crazy to most families, but we had two young puppies and I had two jobs.
There wasn’t a lot of extra time to watch TV. Even now that I’m home seemingly 24/7, I still don’t miss cable television.
Yes, there are days that I just want to binge watch HGTV, but Netflix helps me get my fix!
Here are some ways to keep up with your favorite shows without paying a premium price for all of your favorite channels.
Buy an Amazon Fire Stick! We absolutely LOVE ours. We even bring it with us when we travel and are staying in hotel rooms (for my husband’s job…totally free for us!) that have cable.
With a Fire Stick you can watch Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access…whatever you want, and take advantage of Amazon Prime movies if you have a membership.
We subscribe to Netflix for both streaming and DVDs. We pay around $17 a month for both services.
That’s a HUGE savings from what we used to pay!
In addition, we have an Amazon Prime account and can watch the Amazon streaming service as well.
Most networks now offer full episodes of their shows on their websites.
Sacrifice #5 – Find the Cheapest Way to Get What You Want
A little research goes a long way in saving a lot of money.
We shop around for every single thing we need before we buy it.
Sometimes, we end up deciding we don’t even need the thing after all.
An expensive example of this is when we really want to make the two hour drive to go to the beach for the weekend, but realize that includes hundreds in food and hotels.
We picked up a tent on clearance a couple of years ago and it’s still going strong somehow despite our kids trying desperately to destroy it.
This is the one we have and swear by.
We’ll look for local campgrounds and book the cheapest one that also has a bath house.
Then, we make food at our campsite.
We’re pretty ridiculous about this, but we often travel with a small toaster oven and hot plate.
It’s seriously so much cheaper to whip together three fast meals a day than to even go to the drive-thru.
You just have to be dedicated enough to put the 20 minutes in to making the food instead of giving in and spending it at a restaurant.
Sacrifice #6 – Stay Away from the Grocery Store
Use services like Walmart Grocery or AmazonFresh to have your food ready for pick up or delivered right to your door.
It’s hard to get suckered in to making impulse buys when you’re literally not even in the store.
Every time we would go to Walmart or Target for a gallon of milk, we would leave with a $100 receipt in hand.
Finally we decided to try out not going shopping for an entire month.
We saved HUNDREDS of dollars that month.
It would have been reckless for us to decide that one month experiment was fun, let’s go back to going to Walmart and Target when we just need to get out of the house and happen to also need one ingredient for a meal.
Instead, we substitute it with something we already have or one of us runs to the store, keeps theoretical blinders on, and gets the ingredient, then gets right back home.
Sacrifice #7 – Find Cheap or Free Things to Do
For us, this has to also include “child-friendly.”
Luckily, we live in an area where there are tons of parks, playgrounds, trails, and free museums close by.
We have zero excuse to pay to entertain our kids.
Unless it rains.
You have to learn to be resourceful with your entertainment needs instead of giving in and paying for someone else to entertain you.
Don’t go to the movies or somewhere to shop just because the weather sucks.
Pop some popcorn and have a movie day.
If you have kids, let them play in the rain on your porch if you have one or set up an obstacle course inside.
I bought a huge roll of paper like this and some cheap stickers.
I use painters tape to secure a big piece of paper to the wall, give each of the kids some stickers, and have them decorate their names for me.
This simple (and cheap!) activity keeps them occupied for a while, involves no screen time, and forces them to use their creativity.
Get creative and see how you can save money the next time you’re tempted to give in and just spend it on something out of convenience.
Listen, I am a firm believer that where there is a will, there is a way.
If you really want to stay home with your kids, be as ridiculous as you have to be with money in order to make it happen.
Move to a cheaper place, get rid of your car and buy a beater, start a blog and refuse failure as an option.
I’ve always wanted to be a stay at home mom, so failure was simply not an option for me. Becoming a stay at home has actually saved us a ton of money in childcare, plus now this blog earns more each month than my full time job ever did.
It’s a small price to pay to give up some luxuries and conveniences to be able to raise our kids myself.
What is keeping you from staying home with your kids? What one thing would help make it possible for you to leave your job? Join me in the comments on Instagram and let’s figure it out together!