How to Live Frugally On One Income: 50 Guaranteed Ways

how to live frugally on one income

Being frugal is simply being intentional about money and your spending. It means making priorities, choosing to spend money on that which you have deemed necessary and cutting back on your expenditure for items that, upon review, cost too much and does not do you much good.

Living on one income for a family may seem impossible, and while it is not an easy task, it is certainly doable. With careful planning, short term sacrifices, and some cutbacks, it is feasible to give up the security of a second paycheck and make the best decision for the family and become a one-income family.

Whether as a low-income earner or a one-income family, there are several tips on frugal living that will take the load off your back.

Living Frugally and Simply, but Why?

With the current turn of the economy and the sudden rise in the cost of living, it has become rather difficult for people to make ends meet. This issue is especially true for low-income families or one-income households.

When suddenly confronted with the loss of a job or even in cases of prolonged unemployment, stretch the family’s purse. There are also families who, upon careful consideration, choose to become a one-income family because they concluded it to be the best decision for the family despite the financial difficulties this may present. That’s when you might need a proper plan..

Remember, being frugal is not being cheap, and living simply means living happily. As a frugal person, you are making sure that you are getting the best possible price on the items you need while buying the best quality you can afford. A cheap person, however, would just buy the cheapest version of whatever they need, not considering the fact that it would cost them much more in the future.

Yes, while living a frugal life means a change in lifestyle, it is ultimately for the best. While practicing a few frugal lifestyle tips, you will find yourself happier and healthier, living a well-rounded and satisfying life.

Frugal living also helps to create and tighten bonds between family members, especially for one-income households. Those who practice a frugal lifestyle have more time to commune with nature and their fellow human being and not be too engrossed with the blue screen like many people are today.

Frugal Living On One Income: Best Practices

            Here are a few of the best frugal living tips which are very helpful in living simply and frugally. It will also be of great help to those in one-income households. All of these tips may not work for you, but the few that do will help you live simply and happily.

After what we’ve been going through now, we all learnt navigating uncertainty is never easy! So, before I lay down some of the best ways of frugal living on one income, here’s a quick strategy, I employ myself:

Strategic Saving SchemeThe nomenclature is purely arbitrary;)

I highly recommend you to Invest whatever you’ve save, even if it’s just a dollar. I know it sounds un-real. But, all this money accumulates. Investing can feel complicated, but thankfully, Acorns makes it easy for you to invest for the long-run starting with just your spare change. 

For example, if you spent $32.48 for groceries, Acorns will round up to $33.00 and automatically invest $.52 once the Round-Up balance reaches $5. That’s investing without stress!

With over 7-million people, Acorns is one of the best micro-investing app for smart money management- Join Acorns Now!

1. Make a budget

The very first thing to do, either as a family or a single person trying to live a frugal life, is to make a budget.

This goes a long way in controlling and maintaining the books. A budget will help you understand what you spend most of your money on and help you adjust accordingly.

Write down your budget with specific categories to spending and STICK TO IT. There are various budgeting tools online which can help you keep track of your expenditure.

2. Save money on food

To live on one income is to cut back on eating out, takeout meals and restaurants. One of the biggest daily expense of anyone is eating out. If you go out to eat every workday and spend, on average, $10 per meal, it comes out to $2,500 a year, CNBC’s Jonathan Blumberg reports.

This means you are going to have start cooking your own meals, that’ll cost you half that. Cooking at home helps you save a lot of money and may even leave you with a little extra cash on your monthly budget.

Getting a membership at a warehouse retailer and buying food in bulk is a wonderful way to save money. You can also cook in advance, about a week’s worth, and freeze them. When it is time for dinner, simply warm it up in the microwave or oven. This is a terrific way to save time and money.

Who says you must go to a restaurant to eat healthy food?

One VISA survey found you only spend on average $6.30 when you bring something you prepared at home. With this meal subscription plan you can cut cost on you feeding budget besides eating clean.

3. Cut down on expenses

There are always unnecessary spending that can be cut down on. Why pay so much for cable when you are hardly around to watch television? Why subscribe for premium membership when regular will do just fine? Why the continued subscription to that fancy club? Critically study your budget and be ruthless when cutting down. This simple and frugal living will help strengthen the purse.

Trim helps you cut down unnecessary expenses, plan and save extra cash.

4. Use coupons and Cashback Offers

Using coupons is a great idea when it comes to managing money. Extreme couponing will help you save money on so many items, especially when using free discount grocery coupons. This tip is beneficial for one-income families with a large household or people who are new to living frugally. Just make sure you watch out for them.

This app gives out millions in cash rewards every day. Set it and forget it, that’s how easy it is to start saving with iBotta.

Shop with Ibotta in-store and online get up to $20 in Welcome Bonuses!

5. Downsize Your Needs

Everybody likes new stuff, but do you really need it all? Before buying that new mug or heeding to the siren’s call of the strategically placed coffeemaker, ask yourself, ‘what is wrong with the one I have? Do

I really need this?’ these thoughts should help you stay within your budget and buying stuff you do not need. Also, you can free up space in your house by downsizing.

Selling the extra things that you do not need in your house will free up space and help you earn a little extra money. There are numerous benefits to downsizing your house that will save you a lot of money.

6. Do Simple Tasks

Living on a single income can be really tough, these come handy when you are in urgent need of money. Depending on your schedule, you get paid for doing simple tasks – surfing the web, watching TV, playing games, and taking short paid surveys.

While, taking surveys is definitely not going to make a lot, it’s still one of the best ways to make extra cash in your spare time. Survey Junkie and Lifepoints are few websites that offer a welcome bonus and also reward your time.

7. Take a Worthy Side Job

Learning how to market your passion will help you live happy and frugal. By freelance writing, web designing, even babysitting, you can earn a few extra bucks, which will help foot certain bills. Here are three top ways to make $20 or more per hour:

For example, you can: 

  • Proofread – If you are new to this, the best place to start is this free 76-minute workshop by Caitlin Pyle, owner of Proofread Anywhere.
  • Join freelance writing companies and get paid – here’s 1-hour writing video prep that shares tips and tricks so you can make a six-figure income from home.
  • Start Virtual Online Bookkeeping –  get instant access to the 3 free classes that show you how to succeed as a bookkeeping business owner.
  • Become a Virtual Assistant – Here are 150+ services you can offer as a VA, see what you can offer and promote your self. 

8. Become self-sufficient

Self-sufficiency is not an overnight transformation. It begins with deep thought and acknowledgment and not only does it help you save money; it will also help you be happy because you do not need to depend on anyone for anything. You can do it by yourself.

Some ways to become self-sufficient is by growing your own vegetables in your home-made garden, making your own recipes, doing your own car maintenance, fixing some electrical appliances yourself rather than calling the electrician all the time. Doing things, yourself fills you with a sense of independence and save you money thus helping you live simply and happily.

9. Always Shop around

There are many people who do not like to shop around. These people have the tendency to but whatever they are looking for at the first shop or store that provides it. When living on a budget, it is impossible not to shop around and who knows, you might even get whatever you are looking for at a cheaper price than you planned for.

There are places you can check out like eBay, Amazon, thrift stores even dollar stores to find great items. You might even get lucky and find never-been-used items for a fraction of the original price.

10. Learn to Say No!!

There are days those living on one income are going to have to sacrifice. There are things, necessities even, that you may have to do without. There are days you are going to have to say no to a night out with friends or decline a fun activity simply because you simply cannot afford it. 

Always keep in mind that it’s okay to say “no”. Here’s a quick guide on how can work on avoiding guilt after saying “No.” 

11. Pay off debt first

Living on one income with big debt payments is very difficult. It is therefore wise to pay off any outstanding loans, especially those that require a monthly payment like student loans and car payments. This advice is particularly useful for one income households or families that are thinking about becoming a one income household.

Quick tip:

Pay Off the most expensive debt first (the one with highest interest rate)! This reduces the overhead burden thereby easing out the rest of your payments. Repeat this method until you’re debt-free!

12. Get an affordable mortgage

Living frugally and on one income means affordable housing. The house is the most expensive thing on the budget. For families living on one income, it is prudent to downsize the house or perhaps move to a lower cost neighborhood. This will help in managing the budget and living frugally and happily.

13. Try to get by with one car

Living frugally means getting by with as little extra load as possible. Many families have two cars but it is sensible that a one income household try to make do with one car. Besides your house, your car is probably the next most expensive item. There are certainly other options available like public transport, carpooling, ride-sharing apps that will help plug the hole of the second car. To live a frugal and happy life, especially on a single income, it is best to try to get by with one car.

14. Getting a smaller car

Why not get a smaller can even if you can afford bigger?

Getting a smaller, easily maintainable car will help you save a lot of money as well as performing its function, which is taking you from one place to another.

15. Carry your own lunch to work

As every penny count, brown bagging it to work will help you save a lot of money. Not just that but there also health benefits to carrying your own lunch to  work rather than eating at a restaurant.

Eating at your desk also increase productivity and last but definitely not least, carrying your own lunch to work will help you save, at least, approximately $3,000 a year.

16. Cut back on Entertainment

Cutting back on entertainment options may seem impossible (what will I do with my downtime?) but instead of spending so much money on going to the movies or going to the bar or any other live entertainment establishment, why not look for other free forms of entertainment?

The average person spends roughly about $1,800 a year on entertainment. This figure does not include eating out. There are other ways to have a pleasant time like spending time at public parks, beaches, river walks and other public places can be just as fun as spending so much to be entertained.

For one income households, especially those with kids, there are also various ways to have fun and keep the little ones entered without spending much. You can play soccer, paint or draw together, have a reading marathon, even go on a hike. These and various forms of entertainment would not cost you a pretty penny.

17. Rent, do not own

This is a rather controversial statement but buying is not always smarter than renting.

A lot of people often assume than buying is the financially smarter thing to do but when you calculate the interest on mortgage, the cost of insurance and of course maintenance, it is smarter to just rent rather buy. You can then save the money on the difference and put it towards your investments.

This sentiment is not true for all cases so it best to do an in-depth comparative analysis factoring in all expenses before making a decision.

18. Live within your means

Understanding the difference between wants and needs will help you discern in cases where something is needed.

Living within your means, brutal and total honesty with yourself.

Even though you think a BMW is cooler, if you can’t afford it, do not stretch yourself or take a loan to get it. Live within your means and drive the Corolla that will do your wallets no harm with pride. Plan to pat for everything with cash and not credit. 

19. Look around for used first

There are many things that our family and friends are no longer using and is gathering dust in their garages. Before spending money buying new, perhaps you ask around from relatives and friends, you might be surprised.

Imagine how you would feel if after spending a lot of money on an item, say a printer, your friend comes to visit the next day and says, “oh, it’s too bad you didn’t tell me before buying the printer. I have an old one in the garage.”

Even if no one you know owns what you want, you can try sites like or you can also buy it used at bargain prices at thrift shops and garage sales.

20. Adopt a simple wardrobe

Take a look at your wardrobe, do you really need that shirt in three different colors? Why buy a shirt that is very selective and difficult to pair with? Why are you still holding on to a shoe that you only wear twice a year?

In order to maintain a frugal lifestyle especially in a one income household, it is smarter to declutter your wardrobe and make sure everything matches everything. This will not only save you money, it will also save you the stress of picking out clothes thus living frugally and happily.

You can also buy bargain clothing’s either at thrift stores or but those in the store that are 50% off.

Try out the Rakuten, formerly known as ebates, for economical options. This app helps you save money every time you shop online. Their browser extension gives you the applicable coupons for whatever site you are browsing on. 

21. Stop online impulse buying

Buying online is so easy, so addictive and so financially draining.

To live frugally and happily, especially in a one income household, it is very important to resist the impulsive urge to buy rather unnecessary things online. There are those who simply canceled their credit cards in order to stop that habit.

In cases where online buying cannot be avoided, they simply use PayPal or someone else’s credit card. Earn savings at any grocery store every time using the fetch rewards app.

22. Do not shop

In line with impulse buying, window shopping is also not advisable. It is best to make a beeline for whatever you came to the store to buy and get out. Know exactly what you want and do not deviate. Those who shop having a vague idea what they want usually end up spending more than planned. Going shopping, just for fun, will end up hurting your financial budget. Instead, it is best to just stay away from the stores.

23. Follow the 30-day rule

With the exception of true necessities, any other item you wish to buy goes on the 30-day list. The 30-day list is a list designed to curb impulse buying. Here is how it works; whenever you want to buy something, you put it on the list with the date and wait 30 days.

If there is still a need for that item, you can then go ahead and buy it. This list helps to curb impulse buying. Stick to the list and you will find yourself buying a lot less than you used to.

24. Cut out cable

Without cable, you will be saving at least $60 a month and roughly $700 a year, depending on your area.

No cable also means little or no television and that will also reduce your electricity bills.

What will you do without cable, you ask?

Well, lack of television will force you to engage with your family, go out and meet new people as well as enjoy a pleasant day outdoors rather than being stuck inside all day.

This is a way to live frugally and happily, especially in a one income household.

25. Use the library

Rather than buy the books, why not check them out?

Depending on the library in your area, you can also check out their great selection of DVDs and this will also save you a lot of money. The public library is a treasure chest containing not just books but also magazines, e-books, newspapers, online courses and so much more.

With the library, it is as free as it gets and this will allow you to cut back on a lot of things. There are also toy libraries which is of great help to one income families with little kids. Being a member allows you to own fewer toys, thus reducing the toy clutter, but still provide you with the ability to provide your kids with a lot of toy options at very low cost.

26. Stay healthy

It sucks to be sick, we all know that. It is financially draining and sudden illnesses can throw a wrench in the frugal and tight financial planning especially in a one income household. Therefore, it is important to stay healthy!

This is, unfortunately easier said than done. Save yourself from the stress and financial burden of the doctor’s visit, hospitals and medicine by taking all the necessary precautions.

Remember to eat healthy and exercise in moderation as well –  Sweetcoins and Healthywage will keep you on track.

27. Commute by bike

Yes, you have a car. You were even very frugal in its purchase. It doesn’t matter. You should still commute by bike occasionally. This is because commuting by bike will save you gas money and it will also serve as a form of exercise, thus negating the need for gym membership. Two birds, one bike.

28. Carpool or public transport

There are going to be days you do not want to bike it, you can then either make use of the public transportation like the bus or the train or you carpool. For that one income families with children, carpooling is a good idea on days when the car is not available.

29. Declutter

Selling your clutter is not so much as saving money, as it is getting rid of unwanted stuff and since you make a few extra bucks that way, good for you!

You can either hold a garage sale or sell them on eBay. They may seem like junks to you but remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

30. Be frugal with your gifts

Gifts can cost a lot of money, especially if you know a lot of people, especially during Christmas. However, just because you are being frugal does not mean you should be a cheapskate. Be creative in your gift giving and look for ways to do it cheaply. Make a gift, give a consumable. Rather than buying some factory made, generic trinket, why not give a gift that is personal and touching and thoughtful?

31. Quit smoking

Kicking the habit is not exactly the easiest thing to do but it is possible as many people have testified. Not only will quitting smoking help you save the cost on cigarettes, it will also save you all of its associated costs like a drink, snacks and so on. it will also save you huge medical fees in the future and help you stay healthy.

32. Alcohol in moderation

Drinking can be a very expensive habit if not done in moderation. A couple of beers a day will tally to a pretty significant amount at the end of the month. To save money and your liver, why not cut back on your drinking to the occasional party?

33. Sweets in moderation

Everything in moderation also includes sweets. Desserts and sweet snacks have a lot of calories with little or no nutritional value but still we plunk tons of our hard-earned money on them compromising our health in the process. If you cannot eliminate it completely, at least to the occasional one or two, then cut back on them significantly to save money that can be diverted to other uses, especially in a one income household. There is the added benefit of cutting back on calories.

34. Drink lots of water

Not only is the carbonated, caffeine laden drinks like coffee, alcohol, juices, teas, etc. affect our health negatively, they also seem to have a terrible effect on our pockets. Why not drink water instead to save your health and also calories? Develop the water drinking habit and your body, not to mention your wallet, will thank you for it.

35. Group your errands

Rather than running your errands haphazardly, why not create an efficient list and group them, creating a well-organized route to save yourself some time and money. Also, as much as possible, try to pay all bills online. This will help reduce the errand running and reduce the amount spent on gas.

36. Stay at home

Everyone tries to make it sound like you have to go out to have fun but that cannot be further from the truth. Once you make your house fun, you will not need to waste tons of money looking for cheap thrills. For one income households, you can relax and watch movies or play games or simply take a restful nap. Staying at home saves lots of money in gas, eating out, ticket fees, shopping, incidentals and so on.

37. Limit the usage of credit cards

The average American has over $8,500 credit card debt. Do not become one of them.

Like all things, credit cards can be a good thing or a very bad thing. When used for the purpose for which they are intended it can be quite good, there are those, though, that the existence of credit cards have made buying very easy for them.

For those trying to live frugally on one income household, credit cards are not always a good thing as they make you buy too much. Not just that, if you do not pay your bill promptly and completely at the end of each month, they accumulate a hefty interest rate.

If you have not fully matured the art of resisting impulse buying then it is safer to just go without credit cards. 

38. Cancel Unwanted subscriptions

We are living in the age of the internet with the wealth of information and entertainment at out fingertips, what are you learning form that magazine that you cannot learn online? Why not simply cancel all the magazine and newspaper subscription? With the availability of DVDs for free or at cheap prices, why are you still subscribing for Netflix? Are these things really essential to you?

Remember that you are trying to live a frugal lifestyle now or that you are now a one income household and there has to be some cut backs. Calculate the amount you spend on those subscription and think carefully if it is worth it. There are probably a few you can cut back on.

39. Make it yourself

There are so many things that we spend so much money on that we can easily make for ourselves. Not just that, there are various DIY tips on the internet today and life hacks that can teach you how to recycle old and broken house items to create something new and exciting.

One income households and frugal spenders cannot just have great fun doing it, if you are really good, you can sell them and earn yourself a little extra cash. Remember, you never really know if you can do it until you try. Just remember to follow the instruction and you may surprise yourself.

40. Do it yourself

Rather than hire someone to do something, why not give it a try?

It may be difficult and seemingly frustrating but it is also satisfying and cheaper. It also teaches you a lot especially about your household. There are various helpful DIY tips on the internet and videos on YouTube that provides step by step instructions. This is truly helpful for one income households and helps you live simply and frugally.

41. Stop paying interest

When living a frugal lifestyle as well as in one income households, every penny counts. It is therefore important to cut back any payment or services that requires you paying interest like credit cards, auto loans or mortgages. Always consider accounts or loans that require interests and see as many of those as you can eliminate.

42. Reduce convenience foods

Packaged foods, frozen foods, junk foods, microwaveable meals are, without a doubt, more expensive than anything you cook yourself. Not only is it more expensive, it is also less healthy. Why live on frozen foods when you can make them fresh and cheaper? As much as possible to live a simple and frugal lifestyle by cutting back on convenience foods.

43. Travel frugally

When living in a one income household, you cannot get up one morning and decide you want to just travel. Living a frugal lifestyle means you plan well in advance as airfare is very expensive. Look to buy your tickets in advance and look for deals. Consider other means of travel like train. Shop around for the cheap car rentals or look to see if public transportation would suit your needs. Look for cheaper accommodations or if there are friends or relatives you can stay with for the duration of your stay.

Luckily for you, with the travel freely app you can get incentives in form of rewards to travel to your dream location with little or no cost.

44. Maintain stuff

It is basic knowledge that if you take care of what you have, it will last long, however we do not think of it often. Rather than spending money buying or repairing, why not take care of what you have? When you buy something new, take the time to read the instructions and maintenance manual. Create a maintenance checklist to attach to said item to ensure it is running well. For important items like your car, remember to the regular tune-ups and oil changes. You can also set a reminder by putting them on your calendar.

45. Plan ahead

Planning important foreseeable expenses help in saving a lot of money. It may be difficult to implement at first but practice makes perfect. Foreseeable expenses like groceries, lunches, dinner will help you calculate how much to spend on groceries, what to cut back, what to substitute and so on if you can plan your movements for the week, you can know the size of lunch to pack rather than packing a small lunch and be hungry before the end of the day forcing you to spend on convenience food.

If you are going to spend a lot of time in the sun, you can take a bottle of water along with you so you do not need to buy expensive bottled water. If you know the number of birthdays coming up that month, you can buy the gifts in bulk instead of spending more at the last minute. For one income households, especially for families, planning ahead is imperative so as not to lose money for different angles.

46. Cook ahead

On your free day, try to cook as much food as you can, either for the week or even the month, and freeze in the right portions for dinner. This will save you a lot of time and money especially for one income households. It requires strategic planning to buy the exact amount of groceries needed and planning out the menu. When done, it not only saves you the stress of cooking every night, it also eliminates the laziness that may make you go out of your budget and buy a convenience dinner when you are too tired. All you have to do is take out of the fridge and into the oven.

47. Eat less meat

No one is saying you must become a vegetarian in a bid to become frugal but every once in a while, eat meatless meals. There are various meals that are tasty without meat like pasta, vegetarian chili, Thai dishes, vegetarian Indian, falafels with hummus, pitas and tomatoes and lettuce and so on.

Fresh meat is expensive so unless you want the canned version, it may be prudent to simply eat meatless dishes every once in a while, to save yourself some money especially in a one income household.

48. Celebrate Frugal Christmas

Christmas is probably the biggest gift giving holiday ever. For one income households, it is a huge strain on the family strings to buy factory made products not just family members but for relatives and friends as well.

While the crazy Christmas shopping spirit brings tears of joy to the eyes of the manufacturers and retailers, it does not do the same to the pockets of the frugal and one income households. That doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the Christmas spirit. Break the cycle and give meaningful gifts at Christmas with cost effective prices so as not to break the bank.

49. Telecommuting

Telecommuting is a great opportunity to save tons of money off gas, transport, lunch, getting expensive work clothes and incidentals that may arise out there in the world. While it may not be the dream job of some people, it offers a great deal of possibilities when it comes to saving money especially in a one income household. Telecommuting is a great way to live simply and frugally.

50. Wash less and sun dry clothes

There are people who wash and wear that is, they wash their clothes after wearing it just once. Unless stained, you can wear your clothes two or three more times before washing. Just air dry it when you get home and make sure it is not smelling and you can definitely wear it again comfortably.

This will save you the money to the laundromat or in a one income household with a washing machine, reduce your electric bill. You can also sundry your clothes rather than using a dryer which will also jack up your electric bill. Just wash and spread outside on a cloth liner. This is especially helpful if you do not have a lot of cloths. It will take you only a few minutes to hang them up.


Frugal living is a matter of principle and might be an unfashionable style of living in today’s flashy society.

To live on one income, especially for families, there must be a change in mindset. This is because living on one income means a lot of things will have to change.

To live frugally and happily, you need to accept the new reality and brace up for the changes.

Being reluctant and hesitant will not make the transition easy. Living happily and frugally on one income requires creative thinking and an accommodative mind.

However, it is the best way to consistently improve your life and a form of living financially smart people opt in for, regardless of their economic background. A frugal lifestyle is practical, affordable and saves you from stress. Most importantly, it saves you a lot of money.

Why not opt in and begin practicing a frugal lifestyle today?