Have you made the bold decision to live on one income, been unexpectedly thrust into life on one income or do you simply want to know you could live on less if you had to?
The prospect of living on one income may seem daunting, even if its a decision you’re making and in control of. It can also be empowering too, giving yourself more freedom and flexibility to get what you want from life.
The first step is to understand your situation…
If you were in a position where you had to live on one income, due to health or job loss, it may be more acceptable for you to cut certain luxuries completely, such as Christmas gifts or eating out. It feels much easier to explain to people why you don’t have the money, if you’re in this situation, and easier to make the decision not to spend in these areas.
If you’re deciding you want to live on one income, you’ll probably want to still splash out a little at Christmas or occasionally eat out or travel, even if this is much less than you currently do.
Whilst it may sound more difficult to live on one income out of choice, in reality its likely to be easier. That’s because you’ll have time to adapt and redesign your finances around the life you want to lead. You’ll be able to cancel existing contracts, switch to better deals without being unduly penalised by fees, and get more practice at spending less. You’ll also have more time to build up a savings cushion.
Based on your situation, have a go at an initial annual budget. This should include:
– monthly bills, including debt repayments and monthly costs such as food shopping, mobile phone contracts, etc.
– annual costs, including insurance, car related costs, dental and other health costs, gifts, and anything else you spend on annually.
– Ad hoc costs. For example, you may decide it’s important to budget for a holiday every 2 years or replace the car in 5 years.
– Emergency savings. Try to have a small amount of wriggle room to put some cash to one side each month for rainy day savings. Even if you already have an emergency fund, this will need to be replenished as it is used, and this will be slower than if you had 2 incomes available.
Take a look at the single income you’ll be living off against your total annual expenses. It’s likely that the income will be less than your expenses.
The next step is to reduce costs as far as possible. You might already have trimmed some costs down from your current budget, by tweaking your grocery budget or spending less money on travel or entertainment, so if you have, that’s a great way to have started.
Remember, the more time to plan the move to one income, the more you’ll be able to control the transition. If it looks impossible, don’t be disheartened. Small changes can add up, and the longer you plan and manage your finances, the more savings you’ll find.
Other savings to find:
Debt, in whatever form, will put strain on your income and make it difficult (maybe even impossible) to live on one income. If you can avoid taking any more out, do so. If you can repay debt to eliminate it, this will reduce you monthly outgoings. Similarly, reducing the mortgage will allow you to either reduce your monthly payments or pay it off sooner, thereby completely freeing up the amount of the monthly payment. It makes sense to focus on paying off the most expensive debts. Eradicating or reducing debt payments means more is available for other necessary expenses when living on one income.
Note: If you’ve suddenly found yourself in a position of only earning one income, maintaining payments to the highest cost of debt isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. In this case, you need to pay priority debts first, including your mortgage or rent, to ensure you don’t find yourself homeless.
Insurance costs more if paid monthly (at least, the vast majority of the time it does). If you don’t already pay interest premiums annually, one of the best things you can do is to break this cycle by saving up a year’s worth of premiums alongside current payments so that you can break free from monthly insurance payments. After that, by putting the monthly amount into a savings account, you’ll not only benefit from the interest earned (hey, it might not be much but better than paying interest out!) and as long as you’ve not made a claim, you’ll normally be able to find a cheaper premium, meaning you get a budget surplus- woo hoo!
Cancel unnecessary contracts, as long as the cancellation fees don’t outweigh the cost of the keeping the contract until it expires naturally, and cut out or reduce unnecessary expenses- expensive mobile phone contracts, tv subscriptions, eating out, magazine or gym subscriptions… you get the picture.
Reduce your food costs– This is the main category you may feel like you have control over. However, its easy to see the grocery budget in this way and more difficult to live with, especially if your new budget will be drastically below what you currently spend. Start monitoring what you spend, how much food you waste, and what you’re spending your money on so that you can begin reducing your monthly spend (and put any money you save into a rainy day account, investment, or somewhere else where it won’t get swallowed up).
Go from 2 cars to 1. If moving from 2 incomes to 1 seemed daunting, this may seem like an even bigger challenge. Of course, if you’re only temporarily on one income whilst seeking work, this might not be the best option, as owning your own car will give you more options. However, calculate what your car costs you on average per month, and you may be surprised. For example, I own a little 05 plate Fiesta, which costs an average of £81 per month. This takes account of insurance, tax, MOT, service, plus a buffer of £300 per year just in case anything goes wrong. On top of that, there is of course fuel. Getting rid of this would save nearly £1,000 (excl fuel), so even if I had to pay bus fares or even occasional taxi fares, it would still save a considerable amount.
Now, try living on the new budget! There may be some elements of your one income budget you can’t do whilst you’re both working; selling a second car, for example. But there should be lots of things you will be able to try out.
It may seem more difficult when you are working full time, but the more you try out living on one income, the easier it is when you make the transition, one- because you’ve done it already, and two- because you’ve been able to stash away a bit more cash too!
Unless you have a strong earner and low living costs already, these steps probably won’t get you all the way to living on one income. However, they’re good steps to start with and continually revisit.
You’ll make spending choices you make, day in, day out, and it is these that, over time, will lead to your success. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant”.
What seeds have you planted to help you live on one income or are you already reaping the harvest?