How we 5 live on 1 paycheck

10 Ways that I live (realistically)

My husband makes about $36,000 a year before taxes.  After our health benefits and taxes are taken out, that means $1,000 per pay period.  $2000 a month.  Our rent is
based on his income and is 1/3 of anything he makes – before taxes.  So right
now, we're paying $797 a month in rent.  Our credit card bills total about $200
a month, as does our grocery bill (or more).  We have  a car payment of $150/mo.
Heat is included where we live (thankfully), however we do go through about $75
every two weeks for gas for the car.  Our electric bill is normally around

It doesn't leave a lot left over.

But since we've always been a 1 income family, we've learned to live on it.
We only have 1 car.  We have only in the last 9 months even HAD credit cards,
and they're currently carrying balances to build up our credit so that we can
qualify for a decent mortgage rate next year.   Before last Fall, we had no car
payment and no credit cards.  We still didn't have any extra money. 

However, here are the ways in which we are seemingly able to live on 1
paycheck, allowing me to be at home with our children. I DO supplement our
income from time to time by designing blogs & graphics, freelancing
photography & web work. However, that’s neither reliable nor regular


  • We do not subscribe to cable television.  Now granted, not everyone has a
    friend like us who lets us use his slingbox to watch tv, but before that friend had it, we just
    simply didn't watch much tv.  Where we live, there are NO local stations
    available to non-cable people.  So if we didn't have that friend's slingbox?
    We'd just watch tv online.  This saves us at least $70 a month or $840 a year.
    And that is just for the BASIC of basic packages.  Just look at their rates!

Nothing on tv? We have tons of stuff on dvd :)


  • We do not have a regular land-line telephone.  We have voice-over-IP phone
    which provides unlimited long distance phone service.  This in itself is worth
    it's weight in gold because we live away from all other family.  Before that, we
    were paying at least $100 a month in phone charges, in addition to internet
    service.  Now we pay $35 a month for the telephone bill and $45 a month for high
    speed internet (which is necessary in order to have VOIP), and NO long distance
    charges.  So at the very least, we're saving $50 a month, or $600 a year, by
    using VOIP and high speed internet.


  • We do not buy "name brand" things that don't make a difference.  I stopped
    buying "name brand" canned vegetables years ago.  The difference is minimal most
    of the time, and can always be made up with a little seasoning if necessary.  My
    kids never noticed the difference at all.  But I save $.70 a can x 6-7 cans a
    week x 52 weeks.  That's $250 a year.  I just recently came to realize that this Dollar Tree brand of OxiClean does a BETTER job of
    cleaning my white clothes than any bleach can, and it's MUCH
    easier on the clothes themselves.  I cannot stand gray "whites" like my
    underwear or Jimmy's socks, etc. and this off-brand oxiclean truly does get them
    just as white, without the harmful effects of the bleach eating away the
    fabric.  I can't even imagine what THAT saves us, but just the bleach alone at
    $2 a gallon for the NAME BRAND, times 12 a year, is $24.  Yeah, it's not a lot
    but that $24 is much better in my pocket than over at Clorox's :)


  • Buy in bulk.  Of course, it's on everyone's frugality lists, but it's true. 
    When we go to the discount grocery store (Save-a-Lot) every few months, we stock
    up on things like those canned vegetables, pastas, frozen fish - things like
    that.  The canned veggies go for $.38/can there - they're twice that even when
    they're on "sale" at the local stores.  I’ll buy a few cases of them!  When you
    figure out the savings in bulk, you’ll see it really makes sense to do it this
    way.  Also, I buy toilet paper, paper towel in bulk.  When there's a sale on
    things like boneless chicken breast or steak, I buy a bunch and throw it in the
    freezer.  I'd much rather pay $1.88/lb for boneless chicken breast than $2.99 -
    wouldn't you?  But you know what's even BETTER?  The bone-IN chicken breasts
    that they put on sale in the summer for $.88 a lb!  You get even MORE meat for
    more than HALF the price.  Plus, they're better for cooking with - especially
    the recipes on my recipe
    !   We also buy things like frozen french fries in the bulk size bags
    for the same reason. I can get 3-4 meals out of one bag, rather than one meal
    out of the smaller bags.  It's better for us, better for the environment!


  • Invest in a faucet water filter.  We live in an area where the tap water is
    just gross.  It stinks, it tastes bad - it's just BAD.  So we were buying gallon
    jugs of water at Walmart.  6-7 a week x $.69 a week - nearly $5 a week x 52!  
    That's $250 for water!  Plus, all those wasted water jugs.  They don't have that
    refill program at our Walmart that I've seen in other parts of the country,
    either.  So they went in the trash.  Then I looked into buying a water filter. 
    It attaches to your faucet in less than 5 minutes.  The filters themselves last
    for 100-200 gallons of water, depending on which one you buy.  So the water
    filter unit itself is around $15-$20 - then you buy the filters probably 2-3
    times a year or more, depending on your usage.  The filters are typically $15
    each.  Even 4 times a year, plus the one the unit comes with - that comes up to
    about $80.  That's a savings of $170!  We just fill up a water dispenser thing
    in our refrigerator and we're good to go.  It encourages our kids to drink more
    water, because it's so readily available!  Now our kids prefer water over just
    about anything else.


  • We do not buy soda - almost EVER.  Once in a blue moon will my son convince
    me to buy a 2 liter bottle of root beer.  Not only is it better for their teeth
    and their overall health, it's way better for our wallets! If he does talk me
    into it, I make sure he knows the SERVING size and sticks to it. :)


  • WIC!  Did you know that for a family of 5, you can make up to $43,000 a year
    and still qualify for WIC services?  WIC provides you with milk, cheese, cereal
    and more – FREE.  The amount of money we’ve saved in the last 5 years alone just
    on MILK! Wow.   WIC services provide these things for pregnant women and their
    children up to the age of 5.  Seriously, with milk being $4 a gallon, I don’t
    know how people survive without WIC. Do a google search for your location + wic
    services to find out if you qualify.


  • Cook your own food!  Don’t buy those pre-packaged meals. They’re so full of
    preservatives, and the price is normally at least double what it would cost you
    to make it yourself.  I know, so many women have to work, then come home and
    don’t feel like cooking – but the money you’re wasting far exceeds the hassle of
    cooking home-made meals.  I cook 99% of the time – for the amount of money it
    would cost me to buy a package of Stouffer’s family-size lasagna, I could make 2
    or 3 of them!  Again, check out my recipe blog for lots of low-cost, easy to prepare recipes –
    and of course, there’s tons more on the internet.  When I DO use premade items, I use jarred sauces such as Prego, etc. 1 jar of sauce and a lb of pasta will feed the 5 of us, with leftovers for lunch for about $2.50 total. I can live with that!


  • Reduce– reuse – recycle.  It’s a mantra that everyone’s used to now. 
    Utilize sites like
    Honestly, who can afford to spend $30 on a book??? is more than paperbacks, too.  It’s FREE –
    that’s the best part. Also, find your local Freecycle group.   Freecycle is a wonderful way to get rid of
    your still good stuff, and also, find still good stuff.  I’ve gotten a computer
    desk, a fabulous set of educational books for my kids, etc. I’ve also gotten RID
    of lots of clutter in my house, helping others who needed my stuff :)

Shop around

  • I have several blogs. I have several websites. I host several websites as
    well, for various people.  I was paying pretty crazy prices for hosting all of
    these sites, and worrying about going over my “limits”.  Then I found THIS webhost,
    and have been kicking myself ever since – all that time & money wasted
    because I didn’t know about these guys!  [In the interest of full disclosure, I
    DO receive a commission if you sign up with them through me. But believe me when
    I say, it’s HUGELY appreciated, too.]  But seriously, the money I save each
    month because I switched is definitely worth the possible hassle of switching.

Do you have any other suggestions for living on 1 paycheck? It’s certainly
appreciated if you’d share them in the comments section!

Dawn, or Dawniemom as she’s known around the ‘net, blogs at a number of
different blogs including Coming to a Nursery Near You, My Tasty Space, Reality…Really? and  Reflections of
.  She is always looking for ways to save money or make money – money
money money! LOL


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