How to survive on one income

by Erika Torres

It’s not easy, but this is how we’ve been managing.

$20 Allowance. We each get a $20 allowance every two weeks. And even this is pushing our budget, seriously. We can use our allowance any way we want but that’s all we get for 2 weeks (essentially, every time I get paid). Eric likes to use his on energy drinks or when he goes out for a beer with the guys. I typically use mine for happy hours with friends (1 drink + tip= $7).

Pack lunch and plan meals. I’ve been doing all the food preparation, for both our lunches and our dinners. (Breakfast is oatmeal for Eric, and an egg white, bacon, spinach wrap for me). Last month, I spent $220 on groceries–which is the lowest out of this entire year. And I packed all our lunches and made all our meals at home (we only ate out once the entire month).  And trust me, we’re eating well. I made homemade pizza, a roast in the crockpot, lemon chicken, enchiladas…we’re not eating like paupers and I’ve enjoyed finding my inner chef!

Cheap entertainment. I’m lucky that Eric and I enjoy spending time at home. We usually stay in Friday nights and make a frozen pizza and catch up on Jersey Shore and The Real Wold. For dessert, we make baked cookie dough with vanilla ice cream (which I bought for free thanks to a Facebook coupon). On Saturday nights, we either have dinner at one of our parents’ house, or we invite friends over or vice versa. Even if it’s our turn to host friends, it’s still so much cheaper to make dinner for 4 people than it is to go out. Dinner and some cheap bottles of Trader Joe’s wine and we’re set for the evening.

No clothes, no mani-pedis, no extras. Except for a $2 red leather purse and a $10 leather Arden B jacket (both bought at a garage sale), I haven’t bought any clothes. I also haven’t gotten my nails done and essentially, anything “extra” has been eliminated from our budget.

Extra sources of income. I’ve started mystery shopping (a post to come on that), I’ve also made money with the blog thanks to sponsored posts, and we’re doing a garage sale at my in-laws this weekend. I hope to do some babysitting again. We’ll see.

Basically, if it hasn’t been a necessity we haven’t bought it. I would say that in September, we probably spent about $100 on non-essential items (and that included a $60 dinner–the one time we went out to eat with friends). That is a huge difference from the rest of the year where we were consistently dropping hundreds of dollars on non-essentials. I mean, obviously we don’t want to live like this for-ev-er, but knowing that there is so much that has been eliminated from our budget–and look we’re still alive!–kind of makes it seem like wow, we can really live like this.

Obviously, we don’t have kids (just our pup), so it’s a lot easier to live off my income when there’s only 2 of us. But we’re doing it! and we’re not wearing rags or eating rice and beans every day…


Cassie December 4, 2015 - 9:36 am

This is such an inspiring post. I love it. Especially as I work to pay down $200,000 in student and credit card debt (UGH) thank you for sharing!

Mrs.B December 20, 2012 - 12:32 pm

GREAT post and great encouragement for other young couples. It sounds like you and Eric are doing very well @ cutting out wasteful spending. Thumbs up on the $250 grocery budget. I feed our family of 5 on $400 / mo. and we eat VERY well. It’s all about shopping the sales, meal planning and using / recycling any leftovers.


Tips4savingmoney April 4, 2012 - 9:35 am

We are now on one income in our family and its working great than when we were both working. We are even saving more money than we used to do.

Hannah October 17, 2011 - 3:32 pm

You are such an inspiration! My husband got laid off a few months ago and we’ve been cutting our personal spending money down – you’re giving me inspiration to talk about cutting it down even more seeing how well you two have done it!

City Girl October 17, 2011 - 8:37 am

I admire your commitment to this! You’ve given me some great ideas into how I can reduce my expenses. And, I love how you’re preparing the meals. That’s more budget friendly and healthier! xoxo

Lindy Mint October 12, 2011 - 6:59 pm

It’s so exciting to see how you’ve both buckled down and committed to this. I love all of your tips, and how you’re still living a real life regardless.

We lived on one income when we were first married. We failed pretty miserably at it.

Sonya October 12, 2011 - 5:44 pm

You make me feel so much better! We are on 1 income right now (my teacher’s salary) while my husband goes back to school. We have done ok, but I’ll be happy to be saving more when he’s done with school!

Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run October 12, 2011 - 1:06 pm

I do the no mani/pedis all the time. I love them but for some reason, I can’t justify spending $25 on something like that. Seems so expensive just to get some polish on your toes!
So, with the exception of my wedding and maybe 2 other times in my life, I always do my own toes and nails. With that said, I do have like, 75 bottles of nailpolish. hee

Teacher Girl October 11, 2011 - 6:15 pm

I think if anything, it is comforting to know that you CAN survive off of this income. Makes you feel secure ya know? I sort of wish I had that, but all in due time I guess. The tutoring income I have started getting is really helping thank goodness!

Betsy @ Romance on a Dime October 11, 2011 - 7:55 am

LOVE your website!! My husband and I got married Oct. 2010 and it sounds like we are in a very similar situation to you guys.

Our budget sounds similar. We allow ourselves each $40/month of ‘personal money’ – do whatever we want with that money. I like your idea of $20 every two weeks – it would make us spend it slower. Sometimes I have no personal money the last two weeks of the month cause I spent it all in the first two weeks!

We additionally give ourselves $20/month for clothing. Sometimes we don’t buy anything for the month and save up for a bigger item.

Our grocery budget is $250/month. I’ve been learning to use coupons and only buy items when they are their lower prices (when the price matches my buy-price list).

I also pack lunches and plan meals. We choose cheap entertainment – free Redbox codes, etc.

I’m looking forward to exploring your blog more!!

jobo October 11, 2011 - 7:45 am

mystery shopping?! That is freaking awesome, can’t wait to hear about it tonight! And again, you are amazing at how good you are doing with this!

The Coach's Wife October 11, 2011 - 7:02 am

I can’t wait to read your post about being a mystery shopper! I really want to do that, but I’m not sure how to get started. Some of those companies seem like scams, you know? So advice please on that!!!

britt@knewlywifed October 11, 2011 - 6:50 am

Girl! Thanks for posting this! We’re about to be a 1-income family for at least 6 months. I’m panicking! But it’s nice to see how you guys are doing it and still living well!

Michelle October 11, 2011 - 6:47 am

I recently started mystery shopping also (around 2-3 months). It’s nice!


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