The Top 10 Rules For Living On One Income & Thriving On a Shoe String Budget

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the old house Karen Lynn and the Viking saved money by flipping
“This was the house that made it all happen!” – Karen Lynn

I know times are a lot tougher now than they were when we were living on one income only however some things don’t change.  We were committed to having me stay at home with the kids,  we had tried the route where we both worked when they were little wee ones and it didn’t work so well.  On top of this though I struggled with my health I didn’t know that my body was battling thyroid cancer at the time so I did all of this with much less energy than I have now.

However if you try these steps and this is something you absolutely want to do then go for it!  Just know you may have to rely on faith sometimes to get you through.

Rule No. 1You have to think outside the box!  We did not have the best credit at the time and we were able to buy not just a “fixer upper” but a complete dump with good bones and we were able to get it owner financed with a balloon payment at the time.   This house had holes in the floors, the paint was chipping everywhere, we had lead paint issues, the water heater was going bad, the plumbing was a mess,  no central heat and air and really no appliances to speak of.   This was scary this meant we had to get our credit to a place and our house to a place where we could get this refinanced within three years of our purchase and we did it but it was touch and go there for a little bit.   Do I recommend this approach?  Absolutely not…..keep your credit score in good standing is what I recommend but if you have made some mistakes a long the way then you have to think outside the box.

Example of An Out Of The Box Project : Our Chicken Yurt

Rule No. 2You don’t get to eat what you want anymore!  You heard me!  You no longer get to choose what you eat because what you eat is determined by what is on sale at the grocery store, what you catch when you go fishing, what is growing in the garden etc…. You no longer get to just say I want steak Saturday night.

Example of Eating Out Of The Garden:  Kale Is The New Spinach

Rule No. 3You always accept whatever gifts come your way –  You absolutely never refuse a gift!  Even if you feel like you don’t want to accept charity you will not survive with that mentality.  I absolutely felt that if someone offered me something even if it felt like someone I was not close to I would think this is God personally blessing me and my family.  My Mom and Step Dad one time offered us a healthy amount of venison that lasted us about two years…….did I get tired of vension?  Absolutely!  Was I grateful for the venison?  Absolutely!

Rule No. 4 You have to be a Hard Worker!  You can survive on one income and be lazy but you won’t live in style.  Little things like making homemade laundry soap and doing the DIY projects have to become second nature.  We actually re-did my daughter’s entire bedroom and outfitted her room with lighting and bedding from Ikea my favorite store and it was all done very inexpensively and she thought she had the most amazing room!  Our raised bed gardens at the time were all built with reclaimed brick my husband “The Viking” in my life scavenged.

Our Raised Bed Colonial Gardens – These were a lot of work but worth it!

Rule No. 5 – You have to be a life long learner!  You have to be willing to learn new skills like gardening and making homemade laundry soap.  You may even have to learn how to sew if you don’t know how already.  This includes learning about raising possible food sources.  My husband and I are both Certified Bee Keepers although the bees are his baby and I am all about my chickens!

Oh How I love My Chickens & The Viking Splits The Hives

Rule No. 6 – You have to become Self Sufficient! – What do I mean by that?  I mean grow your own food and can it, dry it and freeze it.  If I can do all this then you absolutely can because I was not raised in a household that taught me to can food but I was raised in a household that taught me to be independent and a life long learner.  You do really have to get into a survival mentality so if you see something on the side of the road be thinking “How Can We Use This On Our Homestead?”.

Stop Looking For Fast Food and Start Looking For Long Food

Rule No. 7 Learn About Your Community! – If I had not connected with others in our community I would never have learned about the local gleaning program once I did I would go to the sweet potato fields and glean for sweet potatoes.  I think that was the year we ate a lot of venison and a lot of sweet potatoes.

The Thrifty Abundant Household Is That Possible?

Rule No. 8 – The word FREE rules your world!  – Free movies on the lawn this weekend in downtown wherever doesn’t matter.  This is your opportunity to pack up the picnic basket and go have a night on the lawn whether you are a single, couple, or family!  Keep a look out for free opportunities!

Free – Money Saving Tools From Canadian Budget Binder.Com

Rule No. 9 – You Do Not Need A Dryer!  – Yes a dryer is a luxury item and I have had times without one and did I like it NO!  We had a rule that all clothes had to be air-dried and unless it was raining and unless it was an emergency that’s what we did……(By the way this also falls under the Hard Worker Rule)

How To Get The Most From Your Clothesline From The Morris Tribe

Rule No. 10 All Luxury Items Go Away – Yes the cable is cancelled (this one was the one I struggled with the most I am not going to lie)….we would turn it on and then turn it off but it was off more than it was on just saying.    Our vacations were mainly spent camping and this is funny to me because our vacations still our mainly spent camping I guess it just grew on me.   The luxury items at least go away until you know your budget and what you can get away with in terms of spending.

Frugal, Sustainable Beauty Is It Possible?

I know we were super committed to making this work and I am just sharing how we did it with all of you.  If this is something you truly want then you will find your own way your own journey but  I hope you learned something from our story.


Karen Lynn


This post was linked to the following amazing Blog Hops:

The Homestead Barn Hop

The Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop

38 thoughts on “The Top 10 Rules For Living On One Income & Thriving On a Shoe String Budget

  1. I absolutely love this post Karen. I’m going to share it with my Facebook fans. Budgeting is not easy for some and for others it’s a simple concept. No means just that, no and we all have to learn to say that word. One income families can be done but only if the budget allows for it as we can’t spend more than we earn. Change has to happen and I agree with everything you said, even cutting the cable if necessary. I don’t even own a cell phone! I can’t have chickens in the city but I can grow a garden which we do. We don’t dry clothes in the dryer we hang them all year long. We get second hand items, free stuff from freecycle and love garage sales. It’s a mindset, you have to gear yourself in that direction in order for it all to work, like second nature like you mention. Cheers Karen!

    1. So glad you are going to share this post! I could have written so much more I have actually been pondering an e-book of those years because I have so many specific items to share they are too numerous for one post! I am glad you enjoyed it and so appreciate the comment!

  2. Really great post! Good ideas for everyone, no matter what their income! I chose to work half time when my youngest was little and had to do many of the things you suggested in order to make it work. Friends would say, “I wish I could do that” but they really didn’t want to give things up in order to do it. It’s definitely a sacrifice, but one I will never regret. The time I got to spend with Cooper when he was little was so precious and we’ll always have those memories. Thanks again for posting this!

  3. What a great job you did! A lot of people think that they just can’t save money, but don’t realize that doing things yourself and identifying what is a luxury and what is a necessity make a big difference. We adjusted too, when my husband was laid off and then took work that paid less than half of his previous salary (granted, it was a good salary at the old job). Not only was the readjustment relatively easy (though it is a bit of work being more self sufficient in a “convenience” world), but we prefer the way we live now.

    1. Heidi we are having to get back to basics ourselves and this post was a great reminder for me. We are now having to adjust ourselves to higher energy bills and gas prices it does sneak up on you unless you prepare for it. Thanks for your comment!

  4. This is a wonderful post!
    We’ve lived on 1 steady income now for near onto 12 years. My Hubby works 10-12 hour days, while I’m home with The Kid. I shuttle her back and forth to school-we’re close enough that she comes home for lunch, saving us from paying lunch program fees-keep the house, tend the garden, cook everything from scratch, can and preserve everything I can get my hands on, and every now and then, take in a bit of sewing jobs for extra money. I also make most The Kid’s clothes, whether from pattern, or refashioning thrifted finds-I actually started that because of the poor state of new clothing available for pre-teen girls. Yikes! If the quality isn’t shoddy, the clothes themselves tend towards showing way too much skin.
    Now, we don’t have all the new toys…my computer is old, we have the cheapest, most basic cellphones(for emergencies), and we certainly don’t have one of those new, huge tvs. We read tons of books from the library, and borrow movies from there too. People tend to think we’re poor and broke. Nope. House is less than 5 years from being paid off, bills are all paid, got money in the bank. And now I’m looking towards buying an acreage out of town…but I couldn’t do any of that without being aware of my money and spending wisely.
    Living well on one income can be done. πŸ™‚

  5. We lived the same lifestyle for many years — because although we dreamt of a self-sufficient life, we were tossed there unprepared when DH became disabled. We fell through any government help groups and programs and learned not to depend on what others think the government will do for them — no safety net there. Now we have expanded our little place because we believe everyone will be faced with no other choice before long — I see folks we know who are suddenly realizing the money is drying up and I see their fear — I hope to be able to counsel many of them to avoid losing all hope!

    1. It’s a wonderful thing you are doing teaching others to use the resources at their finger tips again! Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  6. Great post! We live by these rules. Except No.2. It IS possible to eat what you want on a tiny budget. What it takes is good budgeting and meal planning. I wasn’t aware of this until recently too. Then I started to micro budget my grocery budget. It is important to budget expenses within a category, simply making a tent budget like grocery=200 and leave at it won’t cut it. When I started to micro budget this category I realized I have been spending more money to curb my retail therapy needs leaving me with less money for real food items. One day we ran out of grocery budget before the end of the month and it was a wake up call. Now thanks to micro budgeting we can purchase milk and fresh eggs and have a grill day once a week…

    1. Nihal……that is a great point for most people probably for me not true…..I would have eaten steaks every night of the week if I could have at the time LOL! At this point in my life I have so much more balance thank goodness for me and my children. So for me stir fry was not my favorite meal then and now I adore stir fry! I will share with you more on my background sometime…Thank you for commenting please leave your blog url here so my readers can come check out your blog too! You have some wonderful posts πŸ™‚

    1. Rebecca I am so glad it resonated with you! I really poured my heart into this post so I love when a fellow blogger such as yourself enjoyed it I so appreciate you letting me know!

  7. Great tips Karen! This could not have come to me on a better day. Today is the first day home after leaving my full-time job to take care of my family. We will now be living on one income and many of your tips we already put in place but a few I had not thought of so thank you so much!

    1. Tracy I am so glad this post encouraged you this was a tough season and the best season in my life in many ways. Now you are in your season when you can encourage others to be brave and do what you need to do that is best for your family or situation. I so appreciate your comment πŸ™‚

  8. Karen, it’s incredible how similar our blog posts are regarding a one income lifestyle. As I recently shared on Thrive on One Income, the entire mindset must be reevaluated to be successful. We simply have too many habits that come naturally which oppose a modest financial outlook! Great post.

    1. Thanks that one is an old post but I think a fave of my readers but I appreciate you sharing. I will have to check out your post and maybe link it to mine since you have a blog that supports thriving on one income! I appreciate your positive comment …thanks πŸ™‚

  9. I love this article. I’m single, not by choice, but that is life. I live on one income. October 1, 2013 I had a stroke while teaching 7th grade science students. Like another poster said, there is zero safety net in our USA economy for people like me. I don’t have any small children so I don’t qualify for a lot, and I’m not old enough for social security. Anyway, the thing here I think you are right about is that you can’t eat what you want. I usually have some kind of soup going made from either leftovers or beans, and even though I don’t like it, that’s what’s for dinner because I can fix six meals or more for about $1.50. And I don’t turn down anything that is free. Doesn’t matter what it is. My house temp is currently on 62. Half the house is not being heated at all. If I have company, I’ll turn up the heat, but that’s all. For me, I’ll put sweaters on me and the dog. Breakfast is usually oatmeal or eggs with toast. I allow myself 1 mug of good coffee, I decided I’d rather have one cup of something good than a whole pot of generic coffee. I have a folding indoor clothes rack which I sometimes use, but right now, with the cold, the house is not warm enough to dry the clothes before they sour. Live and learn.

    1. Dodie first of all I so thank you for taking your valuable time to leave a comment. I commend you on creating a quality lifestyle for yourself on a fixed budget. I think so many people think you have to have this or that to be content when in reality those of us who live on tighter budgets or with less means are often quite content but it does make the expenses going up around us a lot more stressful. Currently my husband and I both work full time but we still live pay check to pay check. We heat the house with a wood stove and we can our own food, garden, raise chickens, and bees and work real hard to stretch every dollar. I work for the school system as a tech person but it’s not lucrative at all and my husband thank goodness my husband has a trade. Blessings and hugs to you…and I agree a good cup of coffee makes life look a lot grander!

  10. I just found your website and blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and ideas! I lost my husband a year and a half ago, and have not had any luck with finding a suitable “housemate” to share expenses, so am limping along on my one income. I appreciate any ideas regarding how to survive and maybe one day even “thrive” going it alone. I really like your comment #3 regarding accepting gifts that come to me. I struggle with that one… thinking that I don’t “deserve” it, or haven’t “earned” it. As you said, they are often God sending aid when it is needed. Keep up the great work… and thank you!

    1. Kathy I am so sorry for your loss I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for you and I am just talking about your emotional loss. Thanks for being transparent and sharing your experience with others. Yes definitely accept gifts you do deserve it! I also recently learned that it is just as important to be a generous receiver as a giver! I just had a friend gift me with a bag of sweet potatoes and I was so excited and I have let her know in no uncertain terms how grateful we are because these sweet potatoes not only are they delicious but they come straight from a farm that they just taste better than the grocery store ones. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and definitely try to share more “one income” posts even though currently we are living on 2 incomes. I tend to write about what is going on at the moment. I so appreciate you taking the time to comment and your kind words I so appreciate and I know how valuable your time is so I treasure it!

    1. Kristen we had some what I call “very tight budget” years but some of them were my absolute favorites….hope they help in any way for you or someone you love!

I Love Hearing From All Of You! Thanks for sharing!

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