Family Finance

by Crown Financial Ministries

Preparing to live on one income

Adjusting to a single income is possible through careful planning and preparation.

First, calculate how much each income actually contributes. Subtract taxes, transportation, child care costs, and clothing expenses, along with lunches, office gift purchases, and dinners out (because you have neither the time nor the energy to cook). Try our free online calculator,

Secondly, establish your motivation for living on one income. It may be to stay home with your young children or to start a new business with little initial profit. Perhaps it happens through job loss.

Deciding to live on one income requires an agreement and commitment from both spouses and communication about this commitment to children, especially older children. Everyone in the family must see the value of sacrificing a few things now for long-lasting benefits to the whole family.

Plan a transition period over 6 months to one year:


Create a spending plan based on one salary only. This salary must be able to pay all of the bills and other expenses, such as the gifts, holidays, retirement, and education savings.


Begin using the secondary salary to pay off debt and build up savings. If you can be out of debt before you quit your job, it will help the transition tremendously. Make a list of your debts and begin systematically paying them off (by paying off the highest interest debts first). Build up your savings account to cover things like car repairs, broken appliances, and medical emergencies. Try to have at least six months' living expenses saved up in case the employed spouse loses their job.


Change your lifestyle if one salary cannot cover expenses. Small changes include eating out less, cancel media subscriptions or TV/Internet/phone accounts. Major changes include moving to a smaller home, buy an older car or have one vehicle. Your desire to live on one income is great and these changes will be worth it in the long run.

Be willing to sacrifice eating out often and just go out for special occasions. Shop only for needs, not wants or indulgences (and try thrift stores first). When buying gifts, look for bargains or choose to buy fewer gifts. Take holidays during off seasons or share expenses with another family.

If the family still struggles to make ends meet, try creating extra income by working from home.

Before one spouse quits their job, ask the employer about working part-time at home (ie. telecommuting). Look into doing freelance or contract work for a variety of companies.

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