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Live Well on Only One Income

  • Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
  • 2003 5 Sep
Live Well on Only One Income

Surviving in today’s world on just one income is tough enough, and thriving on a limited income can seem even more difficult.  But it’s entirely possible not just to live on a single income, but to live well on it.  With God’s help, you can use any amount of income to live a life that will bring you contentment and reasons to celebrate.

Here are ways you can live well on one income in a two-income world:

  • Check your attitude, and make the necessary adjustments.  Acknowledge that God is the ultimate source of all you have – your money, your hope – everything.  So take stock of all your blessings, and take the time to thank Him for all He has given you.  Then commit to honor and obey Him with how you use all He has entrusted to you.
  • Understand the real meaning of being frugal.  Know that being frugal doesn’t mean being fanatical or a miser.  Instead, it means being smart.  Realize that you can enjoy life if you’re frugal even more than you can when you’re spending money unwisely.
  • Live within your means.  Ask God to give you self-control (a fruit of the Spirit), so your outgo is always less than your income.  Create and stick to a budget.  List your fixed monthly expenses (such as your mortgage payment, utility bills, taxes, and charitable contributions) and variable expenses (such as food, clothing, car maintenance, and entertainment).  Then summarize your income from every source.  Study your lists and prioritize your spending according to the values God is leading you to live out.  Pay down your debt, and avoid taking on any new debt.  Use one credit card only, and pay its balance off in full every month.  Get creative as you consider ways you can cut your expenses, such as by drinking water instead of costly flavored drinks or opting for free entertainment instead of going to the movies.  Don’t buy on impulse; ask yourself first whether you truly need or will truly use an item. 
  • Organize your possessions and time.  Realize that God designed the world with order and harmony, and it’s naturally more peaceful and effective for you to have order and harmony in your home and your schedule.  Know that when you’re well organized, you save money by not having to replace things you’ve lost in clutter.  Find a spot for everything, and after you use it, put it back in its designated spot.  Give away or throw away anything you don’t need.  Make lists of what you need to buy before going shopping so you don’t duplicate items or run out of something and need to pay full price in an emergency.
  • Become a savvy consumer.  Take the time to do research to learn the regular and sale prices of items you purchase often so you’ll know a good buy when you see it.  Watch cashiers to make sure they scan your purchases correctly, and study your receipts for accuracy.  Return damaged items.  Ask salespeople to let you know about any special deals they may currently be offering.  Pay attention to an item’s quality, since an item that will not serve its function properly isn’t a bargain even if it’s cheap.  Don’t buy more of anything than what you reasonably expect to use.  Shop for groceries when the food you want is in season, and look for sales on retail items once the peak season for the items (like summer clothes or Christmas decorations) is over and stores want to get rid of their inventories.  Look for used items (like furniture) that can serve you just as well as new ones, but that you can acquire at much better prices.
  • Whenever you can, do things yourself.  Try to do as much as you reasonably can by yourself, to eliminate the high cost of hiring others to do tasks for you.  Consider whether you can do your own housecleaning, cooking, gardening, household repair, car maintenance, mending, and more.  Know that most chores can be accomplished fairly quickly, and even big ones can be broken up into small bits of time if you just decide to focus on them.
  • Use things you already have before buying new things.  Check out your household inventory so you know what you have, and monitor your inventory regularly.  Don’t invest money on refills or replacements until you are close to running out of something.  Eat the food you have stored in your freezer and pantry sooner rather than later; you may find that you can skip a week’s worth of grocery shopping.
  • Don’t waste.  Eat food before it goes bad, recycle, and conserve natural resources like water and electricity by not using them when it’s not necessary.  Take good care of your belongings, and repair them when you can instead of throwing them out and buying replacements. Your wallet will thank you.
  • Use your creativity to discover the path of least expenditure.  Figure out whether you can accomplish your goal at no cost, or at least at a discount.  Don’t be afraid to politely negotiate with people about the price of everything from home repairs to a hotel room.  Put lots of thought into your gifts rather than just buying something expensive to impress the recipient.  Remember that people appreciate thoughtful, personal gifts given with love more than simply flashy ones.  Decide to keep your holiday season simple and holy.
  • Celebrate beauty.  Realize that there are many ways you can beautify your surroundings and be a gracious host or hostess without spending much money.  Don’t sacrifice presentation just to save money.  Remember that God delights in beauty – think of all the beauty He created in nature.  Be joyful as you strive to also be a good steward.

Adapted from "Living Well on One Income in a Two-Income World," copyright 2003 by Cynthia Yates.  Published by Harvest House Publishers,

Cynthia Yates’ previous titles include "1001 Bright Ideas to Stretch Your Dollars", "The Complete Guide to Creative Gift Giving", "Money & Me", and "Brenda’s Gift" (a novel).  An award-winning humor columnist, Cynthia spreads her message of stewardship with style through books, seminars, TV appearances, and radio shows.