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12 Ways to Raise Your Family on One Income

May 23, 2008
I love being able to be at home with my family. It's tough having one person earning the bulk of the income but it can be done. Here are some tips I've found that really help.

1. Remember what you're saving.

Two incomes are not always significantly better than one. Depending on the number of children who would need to be in childcare, the cost of commuting, meals out, wardrobe, taxes and so forth, the second income may be more easily replaced than you expect. Some families even discover that having both parents work means they have less money. It doesn't always happen that way, but it is quite worthwhile to figure out what the actual amount being brought in is.

2. Think about which parent stays at home.

It's not always the mother who is most suited, either in personality or in earning potential. Both should be considerations. The person who will do best as a stay at home parent will generally do better with all the things that need to be done to keep a single income household running. Just make sure that the emotional support is there for both parents.

3. Check your housing expenses.

Housing is by far most families' largest monthly expense. If it's going to be tight going to a single income, look at ways to cut that expense. If you're renting, consider a smaller place or one that is in a more affordable place... so long as you're comfortable living in the area. You should not sacrifice your peace of mind.

If you own, look at what it's costing you. If your current home is stretching your budget too hard, think about if it would be worthwhile to move. Sometimes the expenses of selling and moving are worth it, other times definitely not!

4. Look at your other monthly bills.

Telephone, electricity, gas, water, cable, internet... they all add up. Often times they can be controlled.

You can decide to simplify the plans you have on your phones. Cell phones are extremely common now, and some people choose to drop their land line telephone in favor of just using cell phones. Others simply drop features from the land line, such as caller ID, call waiting and any excessive long distance calling plans.

And of course you should be working on cutting down your water use, turning off excess lights, resetting the thermostat so you use less power, things like that. You can adapt and be comfortable with these.

You will have to decide for yourself what level, if any, of cable and internet services you need. These days the internet is used quite a bit by students, of course, and for quite a bit of regular communication through email for many people. But you can consider which speed of service you really need to pay for.

5. Pay down your debts.

Most especially pay down credit card debts. If you're going to be earning less money as a family, you need fewer worries about your finances. Any debts you can get rid of or pay way down first will save you a lot of worry later on and provide you with greater financial flexibility.

6. Pay your bills on time.

Paying a late fee is a sign of not paying enough attention to when bills are due. They're utterly unnecessary, especially since these days you can have many bills paid automatically. Just be sure any accounts you use for automatic payments always have enough money in them.

7. Make a budget - and stick to it.

Living on a budget isn't fun. However it's one of the most practical ways to be sure that you can afford to have one parent stay at home. Stick to it as best you can.

8. Have an emergency fund.

Stuff happens. A car breaks down. Someone gets sick. Have some money set aside so these problems aren't added to with a financial crisis.

9. Use coupons and follow sales.

The more attention you pay to the many ways you can get lower prices, the less you're going to pay in all your shopping. You can often get coupons for your favorite products by contacting the manufacturer. Plan your meals around what's on sale and know which stores it makes sense to go to.

10. Plan for holiday and birthday expenses.

You know when these are coming. If you plan ahead they won't be a big drain on your budget.

11. See if the parent working outside the home can use public transportation or carpool.

As gas prices rise, either of these becomes a better and better idea. The practicality depends on your area, but when it works you can save a significant amount each month. There's some loss of convenience, of course, but if the car is needed on a particular day that can be arranged.

You may be able to cut down to one vehicle for your family, a huge savings! My family has done this, and while it's hard at times it is quite doable.

12. Get books and movies from the library.

Sure it's not the same selection as if you're buying them, and you may have to wait a while. But you can't beat the price.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster runs http://www.homewiththekids.com/ as a resource for stay at home parents. Get more tips on raising a family on one income at her site.
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