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How We Survive (and Thrive) on Just One Income (and How You Can Too!!)

I knew we lived simply, but how in the heck do we survive on just 1/3 of our income with my wife being a stay-at-home mom?

Do I earn a six-figure salary at my day job?


Well then we must be living in an RV in my parents’ driveway, right?

Ummm, not even close.

How We Survive (and Thrive) on Just One Income

Liz and I live in a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath home in a fantastic area of town. We go out to eat almost every weekend and give 10% of our income away to our favorite charities. For the most part we’re pretty normal, so how is it that we only need 33% of our one income to survive?

There are FOUR main reasons.

Just One Income1) We Paid Off Our Mortgage

My last relationship failed and like most, the majority of our fights circled around the topic of money – mainly the lack of it due to the shackles of debt we placed on ourselves. After the paperwork was final, I vowed to get out of debt for good – ALL debt…even the house.

It took only a year and a half – needless to say, I was pretty motivated.

Fast forward two years.

I met a wonderful woman, we got married, and we’re living in the same paid-for house….still with absolutely no debt. Think of how much money you’d have if you didn’t have a payment in the world! You’d probably have an extra $2,500 go into your pocket every single month!

…well that’s exactly what we’re experiencing today.

(Want to pay off your mortgage debt fast? Stay tuned this upcoming week. There’s a post in the works as we speak. ;))

2) We Created More Than One Income

Just because only one person in the family has a day job DOES NOT mean you need to survive on just one income.

“…wait, come again?”…you say with a puzzled look on your face. “If there’s only one job, then there’s only one income…..right?”


The typical millionaire has seven sources of income. Does this mean that they have 7 jobs? Of course not! They’ve developed businesses and have invested wisely to create multiple sources of passive income. They don’t need to spend all of their time working, and they still earn a healthy sum in the process.

Liz and I have four sources of income:

  1. My day job as a financial analyst
  2. This personal finance blog
  3. A single family rental house we bought last year (with cash of course)
  4. Liz’s photography business (it’s still new, but growing!)

How did we do this?

Well, step one was to pay off all debts including the mortgage (if you missed this, you may want to start reading this article from the beginning one more time…;)). Then, while Liz and I were both still working, we stock-piled cash to buy a rental property. Even while Liz stays at home with our daughter these days, we’re still making it a priority to save up for rental house #2 by the end of this year.

The website is so cheap it can be started at any time. And, if you’re passionate about what you do and want to help others, chances are that there’s some pretty good money to be made here as well (Learn how to start your own blog here).

Finally, starting your own business doesn’t need to be expensive either. Liz bought a camera for $350 and started taking peoples’ pictures for free. Today (just 6 months later), she has paying clients that willingly give her $150+ per session.

Your business could be even cheaper than this. Start a car detailing business for just $100. Start walking dogs for $50 or less. Heck, if you already have a lawn mower, you could start a landscaping company for zero dollars!

There’s no excuse to have just one income these days…even if you’ve got only one day job.

3) We’re Content

This is a biggie.

You can earn tens of thousands of dollars every month, but if you want to be the envy of all your friends during every waking moment then you’ll never become wealthy….and you’ll certainly never be able to live off of just one income.

Liz and I live in a 1,400 square foot house – small by most people’s standards – but neither of us could imagine owning anything much bigger.

Could we afford the upgrade?


Do we want all the extra hassles that come with a huge house?

For sure not.

We don’t want to to pay the maintenance, we don’t want to waste our time cleaning it, and we certainly don’t want to pay the tax bill.

By staying content, we’re increasing our options for both the present and future. One of us can enjoy the stay-at-home life with our child today, and tomorrow we can choose to do what we enjoy rather than working jobs that we hate like the rest of the world.

4) It’s Necessary for Our Future Goals

Unlike 95% of the population, Liz and I actually have goals for our future.

Here’s what we want to achieve financially:

  • Put our three kids through private schooling (we have one kid so far, but hopefully three in the future!)
  • Save up 50% of their college education (just 50% because we want them to have some skin in the game)
  • Be in a position where my day job is optional (for me) by age 40

These goals are pretty serious. You can’t just wander around through life and magically achieve the ambitions above. We live on 1/3 of just one income because we have to. If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t ever fulfill our financial goals!

How Would You Like to Live on Just One Income?

“Alright Derek, so you were young, you paid off your debts early and then paid off your house early too. With no bills in your mailbox, of course you can pull this off. But what about me? I want to be a stay-at-home parent today, but still have debts up the waz. What can we do to make this happen fast?”

1) Attack your consumer debt with a vengeance – your credit cards, car loans, and student loans – and use the debt snowball method (this free tool can help you). Avoid the part-time jobs that pay $9 an hour. Instead, create multiple sources of income with the methods mentioned earlier in this article.

Related: 14 Cheap Business Ideas You Can Start Today

2) Reduce your lifestyle – remind yourself what’s truly important. Is it going out to eat with your friends every night? Or is it becoming work optional so that you can you and your family can enjoy each others’ company for decades instead of in your old unproductive years.

Cut down your lifestyle by targeting the top three expense drivers: your house, your cars, and your eating habits. In other words, sell your house and find a smaller, cheaper one. Sell your car to get rid of the payment and buy a solid $3,000 car. And, stop going out to eat and learn to cook for yourself.

Related: How to Feed a Family for Less Than $400 a Month

At this point (when you’re out of debt and low monthly expenses), either you or your spouse could begin staying at home with the children. But then, you should still move onto the next step to accomplish your future financial goals.

3) Once you’re out of debt, think invest, invest, invest. Do you realize how quickly you could build a rental empire by purchasing properties with cash? I know it seems like it would take forever, but if you can muster up an extra $30,000 a year (by getting out of debt and reducing your lifestyle), it would only take you 11 years to purchase 10 rental properties that would then yield over $100,000 a year and be worth over $1.1 million dollars (don’t believe me? I did the math and even built a tool for it).

If you desperately want to be a stay-at-home parent and live off just one income, then stop listening to your Eeyore friends. Go out and actually make it happen. The only person stopping you is you.

When will you start living off of just one income?

Battle of the Mind Make Money Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Back when my wife left her job before we had kids, we took the opportunity to live completely on my income for a few months just so we had everything down and the transition then became non-existent. We also had the added benefit of getting to throw 100% of her income during that period toward debt, which helped pay off a student loan in full.

    • Yup, sounds like you’ve got the one-income thing down pat. Have you been able to save quite a bit even though you’re down to a single income?

  2. We’ve lived on 1 income for months back when we’ve just moved in together and I was having a hard time finding a job (economic crisis just hit us).

    The way we survived was by prioritizing and budgeting like crazy. We were also both in debt, so that was “fun” too.. but in the end nothing’s impossible, there’s always a way to make things work if you’re inventive enough 🙂

    • For sure! Do you ever think you’ll go down to one income again? Either for kids, or maybe to try to bring a side business up to a full-time income?

  3. I currently live off just my income (though I am single :))… I’m trying to set up things on my own so when I finally do meet my wife, I can be in a great spot financially.

    I just purchased property #2! I will be renting out #1 come Fall!

    • Very cool Erik. Sounds like you’re really thinking ahead – a lot like me a few years back! I was very cautious about debt 5 years ago because I knew that I’d want to give my wife the option to stay at home with our future kids. And now we’re doing it because of what we chose to do back then!

  4. Great article! My husband and I both work but we only live off his income and bank everything I make. We did this the first month we were married and didn’t stop even when we had kids. All that extra saving adds up over the years!

    • That’s awesome that you never stopped banking your income. I bet that’s growing into quite the nest egg! Great job Julie!

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