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How To Live Frugally On One Income 

Need ideas to help you live frugally on one income?

Whatever the reason you have one person earning to cover all of your household bills, living on one income can feel daunting. 

Living frugally paying money into piggy bank

However by following a few simple steps it’s possible to balance your budget and live well. 

Living frugally on one income

The key to living frugally is to set a budget that is reasonable for your income and the essentials you must pay for – ie mortgage/rent, food and household bills. 

Making these two things balance may involve some cutbacks to your spending on non-essentials and this is where frugal living tips can help you. 

And you must also take into account the need to save for your future so you can cover emergency expenses and meet your goals – such as buying a home or going on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. 

This article is going to take you through all the best tips to help you balance your tight budget. 

Essential steps to take when living on one income 

Review your budget 

A good starting point when you need to save money, make ends meet or ensure you aren’t sinking into debt is to review your budget. 

This involves going over how you spend every penny of your income, enabling you to see the essential expenditure and seek out ways you could cut back. 

Let’s say you bring in £2,000 a month after tax. Your mortgage is £800, other essential bills are £200 a month and you also spend £250 a month on food. 

You would then allocate the remaining £750 to savings and other spending. 

If you have a big savings goal then this is where you need to cut back on your other spending, allocating yourself a small portion of that remaining money to spend on stuff you want. 

Set a savings goal 

It can help to have a specific savings goal in mind, calculating how much you need to save to meet that goal and what is a reasonable or necessary timeframe. 

For example, I have two children who may wish to attend university when they are 18. I know this will result in some additional costs to us, and so I have a goal to ensure we have £15,000 set aside for each child by this point. 

That’s £30,000 total. We are almost halfway there to that goal. 

You can help yourself meet your savings goals by ensuring your money is put in the best place – under your mattress earning zero interest probably isn’t it! 

Research savings accounts and ISAs and decide which works best for your family’s needs and offers the best deal. 

Pay off your debts 

When making your budget include a plan for how you will pay off your debt. 

It can help to pay off the debt with the highest interest rates – if you owe money on multiple credit cards and loans. 

Forge a plan right now and stick to it – ensuring your debt payoff is part of your monthly essentials spending. 

Have an emergency fund 

An emergency fund is crucial to keeping your budget on track. 

Your emergency fund should preferably have enough money to cover your essential expenses for between three and six months. 

The emergency fund is used for things like unexpected car repairs, loss of income, dental treatment, and unexpected household repairs. 

Create a sinking fund 

Another essential savings fund to have is a sinking fund. 

This is where you put money for expected expenses that come up annually. 

For example this would cover your home insurance, car insurance, MOT, holiday, Christmas and birthday gifts and kids birthday parties. 

There are huge benefits to having a sinking fund, including that paying certain bills all in one go annually can save you money compared to paying monthly. 

Being prepared for those annual expenses also means you’re less likely to go into debt. 

Plan for retirement 

It’s important not to overlook your pension pot even if money is tight. 

Whether you’re self-employed or have access to a company pension, try to put regular money into a pension every single month. 

It can help to review your pension annually – many pensions have a calculator that will tell you how much you’re on track to have by the time you hit retirement age. 

Best frugal living tips for single income  

Try these tips to help you stick with your budget. 

Avoid relying on credit cards and stop using Klarna 

Buy now pay later or credit can be a slippery slope to debt and place increasingly high pressure on your budget as interest piles on the amount you owe. 

This isn’t a call to cut up all your credit cards and never consider using one. There can be great rewards and incentives involved in using a credit card, such as cashback, reward points and more.

The answer is to only use your credit card when you know you can immediately pay it off. 

So have the same mindset when using it as you would when using a debit card connected to your current account – you spend what you have. 

Follow the 50/30/20 rule 

Some people choose to follow the 50/30/20 rule – where you allocate 50% of your income to needs (such as rent or mortgage and food), 30% for wants and 20% for savings. 

Whether this specific proportion of allocating your funds works for you very much depends on your income vs what your big expenses are every month. 

You could always adapt it to fit with your own personal finances. It’s a good general rule to always allocate a percentage of your income to savings. 

The point of having an allocation rule like this is to make clear how much money you have each month for non-essential, fun spending. 

Save money on energy bills 

You can cut back on your energy usage and save money on your bills in a number of ways. 

Let’s be honest, it isn’t massively easy to do this right now given the cost of energy. But there are always things you can do. 

Check what help you’re entitled to. Whether you’re struggling to afford your energy bills or not, it’s worth checking what funding you may be entitled to to help you pay. There are various methods for energy bills help here.  

  • Turn down the temperature on your combi boiler. 
  • Turn down your thermostat one or two degrees. 
  • Take shorter showers. 
  • Use a water-saving showerhead. 
  • Switch off devices when not in use. 
  • Airdry laundry instead of using a tumble dryer. 
  • Wash clothes at a lower temperature. 

Try a cash envelope system 

Many people find it much easier to stick with a budget by using a cash envelope system. 

How does this work? You create categories for your spending – such as petrol, food, days out and clothes – and write these down on separate envelopes. 

Then you take cash out of your bank account and place the money you have budgeted for each category into the corresponding envelope. 

You can write on the envelope when you spend in order to keep track of what you spent and when. 

If physically handling the cash doesn’t appeal then you could try a digital cash envelope system instead. 

Many banking apps offer this function – where you set a budget by category of spend – so it’s worth seeing if your bank does this. 

Switch your phone provider 

If you’re out of contract with your mobile provider then now might be a good time to switch and save cash. 

Getting locked into a deal can mean you are paying more over time – especially if your provider increases the price mid contract. And the lesser known mobile providers are often cheaper. 

Pay as you go can also work out cheaper than a rolling Sim deal. 

Make use of cashback apps and sites 

If you don’t already have one of the cashback apps listed below then you’re missing out on easy money.

Cashback sites work by tracking the purchases you make via their links. When you buy something, the cashback site gives you a percentage of your cash back to you. 

I have a whole article about the best cashback apps here. 

The best cashback apps are: 

Buy used not new 

Shopping second hand is a great way to save money on the stuff that you need. 

For clothes and shoes, look to apps like Vinted to find hardly worn clothes instead of shopping full price from brands direct. 

Facebook Marketplace is also full of stuff that is sometimes offered for free as long as you’re prepared to collect it. 

STOP buying these things 

  • There are a few items that are luxuries rather than essentials, such as:

    Bottled water 
  • Takeout coffee 
  • Lunch during the week – pack a sandwich instead. 
  • Stuff on sale that you don’t actually need – don’t be fooled by money off, if you weren’t going to buy it anyway you’re not saving you’re spending 
  • Stuff with a reusable alternative – some great examples include menstrual cups instead of tampons and washable face wipes instead of face pads. Check out more sustainable swaps that can save you cash here 

Earn extra cash with surveys 

As well as saving money it can be useful to make a little money on top of your regular income. 

Survey sites and apps are an easy way to do this in your own time. 

Some of the best survey websites include: 

Read more about survey sites here. 

Start a side hustle 

Another way to boost your income is with a side hustle. 

There are so many different side hustles to try, from starting your own little business to becoming a delivery driver for a company such as Deliveroo or Amazon. 

Blogging started out as a side hustle for myself but has gone on to provide a full-time income, so you never know where it can lead. 

Check out this guide to the best side hustles in the UK

Fix it yourself 

Instead of buying something brand new or paying someone to fix broken items, try fixing it yourself. 

The same goes with decorating, most projects such as painting and decorating can be done by you, even if it does take you a little time. 

There’s a YouTube tutorial for pretty much every household issue you can think of, so there are many things you can solve for yourself. 

When it comes to clothes, learning how to sew and mending ripped clothes will save money rather than ditching them in favour of buying something new. 

You can also repurpose kids’ jeans when they outgrow them by cutting them off and turning them into denim shorts for the summer. 

Declutter and sell your stuff 

There’s actual money stuck in your loft and garage among the stuff you’ve saved but no longer use. 

Have a clear out of your old stuff, going through clothes, toys, gadgets, pushchairs, garden furniture and kitchen equipment, and sell your stuff online. 

Vinted is a super easy app to use to sell your clothes, and the buyer pays for the postage not you! You can also use Facebook Marketplace to sell pretty much anything. 

Seek out free fun 

Fun doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Look for free stuff to do in your area. Libraries are often a great place to find free clubs and events that your kids will enjoy. 

If you have National Trust membership then the organisation often puts on seasonal events. 

Some venues such as London Zoo also occasionally offer heavily discounted tickets for people on certain benefits so its worth looking out for that. 

Know your spending triggers 

We all have triggers that will lead us to spend money we don’t actually have or would be much better off being diverted to our savings account. 

For me it’s Instagram and email marketing. Once you know what makes you spend you can take steps to avoid the triggers, for example unsubscribe from your favourite brands to avoid the temptation. 

Take advantage of bank account switch deals 

A quick way of making a couple of hundred pounds can be to switch your current account. 

Incentives are around all of the time that mean banks will pay you just to move your account to them. 

Cut back on your food shop

By focusing on seasonal produce and switching meat for grains, beans and pulses you can save a lot on your weekly grocery shop. 

Meal planning is essential to keeping your food shop costs low. It means you visit the supermarket less, plan how to use everything you buy through the week and take regular stock of what’s leftover in your kitchen. 

Use my cheap meal ideas to find recipe ideas. 

It’s also crucial to take advantage of reward points if the supermarket you use regularly offers them. 

For example Tesco will give you Clubcard prices at the checkout, but only if you scan your Clubcard, so don’t forget to take it with you. 

Find more tips for saving money on food here.

Grow your own food 

Another great way to save money on your food shop is to grow your own. 

With food prices soaring, becoming more self-sufficient is a great way to cut back on your dependence on supermarket prices. 

You can grow herbs, veg and, if you have the space, keep chickens for eggs. 

Find amazing fakeaway recipes 

We went from having takeaways on a weekly basis to just once a month because we’ve found recipes that satisfy the weekend craving for a treat. 

Having a pizza oven has definitely helped us to perfect our pizza recipe. For curry fans I recommend this chicken jalfrezi recipe.

If you’re a Nando’s fan then why not try their Nando’s recipes and recreate the peri peri magic for yourself at home.  

Final thoughts

You should have some great ideas for how to cut back on your budget and manage on just the one income!

Other articles you may find useful: Having a baby with no money

What to do when you have no money for food

How to live frugally on one income