Living on one income - part 2

21 October 2015
There are many ways of living simply, this is one of them.

Making the move from being a two income family to one income can create stress because of the uncertainty but when you settle into it, those feelings peel away, you start organising yourself in your new job and life on one income becomes your new normal. The key to this - in the early days and in the longer term - is organisation and team work.

The partner who goes out to work needs to understand the budget so creating one is a job for both of you. Ideally, this should be done before your change.  Sit down together, discuss your goals, know what your income will be and start tracking your expenses. Write up the budget, or do one online, it needs to be something you can both see, not just an idea in your head. You should both know what amounts can be spent on food, fuel, transport, entertainment, clothing, etc. so you can work as a team. Then one partner goes out to work to bring in the money and the other partner works at home saving as much of that income as possible. There are many ways of doing that but in those early days it will probably involve food shopping,  cooking from scratch and home production of common things such as yoghurt, bread, sauces, jams and cleaning products.

One of the early things I did that was very helpful was to make up a normal week's shopping list, then go through that list and make a second list of the things I could make at home. My second list contained bread, yoghurt, cheese, crackers, biscuits, cakes, jams, sauces, dressings, spice mixes, drinks, cleaners, laundry liquid etc. All these years later I reckon I've saved a lot of money doing those things and we're healthier because of it. We consume few preservatives here and we live with fewer chemicals than we used to.

When I first started living this way I did a lot of research about how to do many things. If you're like me you'll have a lot of printouts, various notes, spreadsheets, flyers, even pages from magazines. You'll need to organise these too. Enter the household manual. It contains everything that you need to keep the home - recipes, information about your rubbish collection, seed catalogues, vaccination dates, your pet's flea and tick treatments, handy ideas about sewing, planting, cleaning etc.  If you haven't started one of these, I encourage to towards it and to edit it every few months to keep it current and relevant.

Here is a short list of some of the things you might want to do in your first year:
  • Budget and save an emergency fund.
  • Change your home to better suit you and the way you work there.
  • Monitor your water, electricity and gas usage.
  • Get better deals on your regular bills such as insurances, internet, phone.
  • Set up a pantry and stockpile.
  • Declutter and sell the excess - money made goes towards the emergency fund or savings.
  • Learn to bake and preserve.
  • Grow some food.
  • Start composting.
  • Make an effort to reduce the amount of waste you generate.
There are so many things to do when you live a more simple life, you'll never get through all of them in one life time. But the most important thing to remember from this post and the previous one is to live your life, not mine, not your best friend's or your parents', live your life. We're all so different, we're different ages, we have different types of families, different aspirations, values, incomes, needs and desires. So go slowly, work hard, identify what you want and how to get it. By taking the small steps methods over many years, you'll build yourself a mighty fine life and I hope that on your dying day, you'll be proud of what you managed to achieve.

The paid worker no doubt will work hard for their money and when they come home, dinner will probably be cooked, there will be clean sheets on the beds and clothes ready to wear. The partner who works at home will do the majority of that work. However, that doesn't mean the home worker does eveything in the home. When the paid worker is at home, they should help with whatever needs doing. Going out to work doesn't make you the king or queen, it just means your doing different types of work and if you're really working as a team, you'll do your fair share when it's needed, without being asked.  

If you have children, teach them as much as you can while they're growing up.  One of the biggest gifts you can give your children is to love them and your partner, and show them how happy your family and the way you've chosen to live makes you. As you get older you'll go through a lot of life stages so don't be afraid to change as you need to. Just keep in mind your simple values and work out ways to remain productive for as long as you can. This is an enriching and significant way to live and it will change you like nothing else can.  Good luck. ♥︎


  1. I just wanted to say thank you for this- and for the blog in general! I feel like there is a lot of information out there about each individual skill that can be applied to a more simple lifestyle but most of us are grappling with the bigger picture - the question of why and how to make the fundamental shift that allows us to pursue those skills. I am grateful to find that kind of inspiration here.

  2. Loving your collection of things on the top two shelves of that lovely bookcase Rhonda. Yep, the more I simplify the more things I realise I could be doing (or not doing) an 'achiever' I initially found this frustrating until I backed away from that reaction and now just accept this as a journey of realisation and unfolding paradigm shifts. Being naturally impatient has made the simplifying journey difficult sometimes as I want it all done yesterday....let's just say I am learning lots about myself and beginning to choose different reactions. Thanks fo rthis post today - again foundational and motivating (and settling).

  3. Oh Rhonda, I can't tell you how apt your last two posts you have written and how much the resonate with me at the moment. It is almost certain that (due to cuts in local government over here in the UK) I will be leaving my job in April and we'll be going down to one wage. Thankfully I started reading your blog about 6 years ago and as a result we have been living off one wage and making loads of stuff at home for several years now. It's been great; it's enabled us to boost our deposit when we bought our house; we've been able to save a sizeable amount to pay off another chunk as well as setting up for the future with a green house, veggie beds and a store room/ pantry. We feel in charge of our finances, we know what we can cut back on and where we can make savings; we know what we buy and what we can make at home and where we can try new things or make improvements. Thanks Rhonda because your writing has been hugely inspirational and helpful and all this means our future isn't as scary as it might have been and I can view it as an adventure and enjoy some time off making some of the changes we want to try out.

  4. This is so encouraging and inspiring...thank you:) from Washington State

  5. I was always at home so we just started out that way and went from there. But, neighbors of ours decided to bring Mom home after their first two children were born and they worked for 2 years to pay off debt and get everything in order for her to stay home. They even had to get her a vehicle since hers was a company car. Once she was home I became her mentor and after two more years she was doing very well. She had to learn everything. I am still so proud of her 15 years later!

  6. Everything you say is true Ronda.......I retired early (60) and hubby was already retired. We don't have much in the way if money but our simple life on the road is's hard to describe liberating.

    The thing that makes it work for us is that we are a team, we keep our small space neat and tidy ....together, we cook ....together, we go for walks ....together and we sit quietly in each other's company, content with the way things are. There is no stress in our lives, our motto is "it is what it is".

    But, you know, our lives might not be this wonderful if I hadn't stumbled upon your blog 5 years ago. You made me think about a lot of things, one of which was getting a handle on our finances. Spreadsheets are too hard for me to maintain but I downloaded the app you recommended, SmartMoney, put in an annual budget, linked our phones to it so we could both enter what we spent and see how we are tracking. It was not difficult and now all these years later, we still use it.

    So, thank you doesn't seem enough somehow. But if we ever met, you would get the biggest hug from me for caring so much to share your knowledge with complete strangers who are now net-friends :)

  7. I just want to tell you that these last two posts have been perfect for me! My husband and I have been retired for the last five years, and I feel like sometimes we start to slip, and forget about budgeting and living frugally. I so appreciate you writing these two articles, it has put me back on track. The best advise in the articles was to pay off your mortgage, that alone will give you peace of mind. Thank you for your thoughts and wisdom!

  8. Oh Rhonda, you're just a gem! I love the way you have respect for individual differences - it's always hard to fit oneself into someone else's box, and we shouldn't have to.


  9. Thank You for sharing, I really enjoy your blog. Your post are always very interesting, encouraging and inspiring.

  10. " live your life, not mine, not your best friend's or your parents', live your life." The best advice, thankyou. My mm has been dead for 20 years, I still find myself doing things to please her, so much so that I'm not sure what MY life looks like, It's the aspect of myself I like the least.
    cheers Kate

  11. Thank you for writing about this again, Rhonda. This is our life at the moment, and it helps a lot to be reminded that we aren't alone in the daily struggles.

  12. Thank you Rhonda for this article. My husband and I retired two years ago and live very strictly to a budget and keeping within our means. I love your pages.

  13. Great series, thankyou!
    My partner and I are lucky as our public service jobs allow us to both work part-time, meaning that we share income work, home work and child rearing. Our kids are little and I am very glad they get to spend significant time with both parents, I know that not everyone has this opportunity.
    I like the idea of a household manual. I keep so little information in paper form though, doing most of my reading and information saving on my iPad. My 'household manual' is probably spread out between Evernote, Pinterest, iBooks, and my Favourites bookmarks. I would be lost without access to the internet though!

    1. I have part of mine online too, Peach. I don't think it matters how you store information as long as you do it and have it on hand when it's needed. It sounds like life is working well for you and your family. I wish you the very best. xx

  14. Rhonda, You are truly inspiring. I discovered your blog a few years ago when my husband and I were trying to live a more simple life. It was easier back then when we didn't have a child. Now more than ever do I need to switch my state of mind and really try to make our home a warm and inviting place to live. Our now family of three,has now moved away from our families and we are trying to survive on my husbands teacher salary. I've been pretty sad lately and am in need of encouragement. Your blog has brought comfort in my difficult time and I thank you.

    1. It's more important now that you have a child to live simply and to lead by example. I'm sorry you've been sad. Rest today and when you get up tomorrow, write out a plan. xx

  15. Hi Rhona, great post. There's one thing that immediately sprang to mind while reading. It's a bit boring, but having watched the fall out first hand in my family I get quite hot on mentioning it whenever possible. Pensions. When one partner stays at home for any length of time, they run the risk of not having enough pension to provide for them if anything ever happened to the main wage earner when they both retire.

    My mother-in-law was a SAHM for many, many years, only going back into the workforce for the last 10 years before retirement. This meant when she did retire she had very little income besides a much reduced state pension, but her husband had a private pension and state pension and that kept them. When he died, he believed that all of his pension income would cease and she would be left with nothing except her greatly reduced state pension and whatever hubby and I could provide. His last few days were very fraught and upsetting as he considered that he had failed to provide for her after he had gone.

    It was only after he died and we helped her with the paperwork that a clause was found in the private pension's T&Cs that meant it would be paid across to her in full for the rest of her life. He did not know it was there. So please ladies and gents who are/will be stay at home parents, spouses, and partners, sit down with your other half and have a chat about it.


  16. Thank you, Rhonda! A good reminder :)



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