I have learned a lot during my short three years of marriage. I had started my married life with no concept of money, Jesus, or the existence of a credit score. We also started out our marriage with no savings and no higher help to get into a place of our own. So, getting into our first apartment was a real struggle. I’m sure you can imagine!
We have encountered many high’s and many low’s through our financial journey as a married couple with one income. Most of what I am about to tell you is the result of hitting rock bottom — or so we hope. It’s also about learning from mistakes that we have made. However, my goal for sharing this is so that at least ONE of you will be informed about what it truly takes to budget one income. And, my hope is that it will encourage you to follow God’s lead; whatever that may be.
My husband and I started out our marriage with one income at $9 an hour and $850 in rent. Let me be the first to tell you, it was HARD. In fact, it was so hard that only by the grace of God we were able to thrive during those first three months. My mom provided us with groceries and taught me how to save money shopping for food while another person had helped us with getting on our feet.
So, I guess the main question we receive is, “why stay one income?” My answer is this: if I had not listened to God, I would not be sitting here right now blogging and playing with my little girl.
It wouldn’t make me a bad mom if I had taken a job… if that is what God asked of me. BUT, it does make me a less than fantastic mom when I teach my children to not listen to God’s lead. So, despite the challenges of having only one income, we have made it work.
In March 2014 my husband “scored” a laborer job that paid $32 an hour. We moved into a bigger place, got pregnant, and found ourselves in even more debt than when we started. How could that have even happened? Even though our income had tripled, we still had to ask for help!
Anyways, after discovering that we had no understanding of what we were doing and determining that we needed help within our finances; we sought wisdom from my grandpa. My grandpa (papa), has always been the steady male rock in my life. As a very gifted pastor for an Alliance church, he’s always been great at helping me to see the bigger picture God has painted.
Here’s what we learned and how we thrive on one income.
STEP ONE: BE A GOOD STEWARD
God does not have to give you “such and such” amount of money each month. In fact, He doesn’t have to give any of us anything! But, because of His love for us and His promise to provide, He will always take care of us.
With that said, it’s important to spend our money wisely and seek guidance when we need it. My husband and I were NOT good stewards for the first two years of our marriage. And, it’s not that we didn’t… try. It was more that we lacked the knowledge and wisdom to be good stewards.
How to be a good steward?
- Tithe: giving back to God what is rightfully His will result in your happiness; I promise! There are times when I say to myself, “there’s no way we can afford to give this money away”, and somehow I do it anyways and we are always taken care of.
- Budget: Pay attention to where your money is going. This shows that you care about what God has given you.
- Give: Saving a small portion of your money each month to help God’s people. This could be through meal tithing, opening your home for groups, give to a good cause, etc.
- Debt: Taking care of debt. This is a big one and a very hard one to accomplish if you are young and went to college. But, I believe that even the smallest of payments (such as the snowball effect) will get you started in the right direction. We always pay a little more on our loans than what is asked so that the extra money will go straight to the principle.
STEP TWO: BUDGET
In the past year my husband and I have moved to a different city to be closer to family while he finished up his Fire Fighter training. Because of this, he also started a new job the beginning of the year which pays $15 an hour. So, our average biweekly checks are estimated at $1,200 without taxes taken out. With taxes taken, we are left with $2,100 monthly to pay all bills and survive which is not a lot — but it’s doable!
Figure out your average monthly income and create a small spending graph in Excel.
Here’s what ours looks like…
We break our bills into two weeks because we get two paychecks. Instead of taking out a huge lump of $300 for our car payment at the end of the month, I take out $150 each pay check to cover this larger bill. Because our paycheck tends to fluctuate, there are times when categories are left blank (such as tithe and health). We add money to these categories when we can and take money out when we need to. However, we DO still tithe. This just means our tithe amount often changes.
So, what I do with this is print out each month and add to a folder. In the “actual” column is where I keep track of what we spent in each category. Sometimes I have money left over and other times I have to “borrow” from other categories. This system is kind of like balancing your checkbook — I’m just keeping an extra tab on our spending.
With this system we have divided our paycheck into every single category. There is no money leftover from the paycheck. But, the trick is adding EXTRA funds into each category.
For example: my car payment is actually ONLY $280 but I am putting away $300. So, each month I am saving $20 extra in case of an emergency. The same goes for the rest of our categories in which most of them are higher than the bill.
I also do this system for our yearly bills.
These bills are in the Dave Ramsey Deluxe Envelope System which means I will fill the envelopes when I have the money. My husband often does side job so when he brings home the check, I will put the money in the envelope and cross it off on my list.
If you have never tried or even heard of Dave Ramsey’s system, you need to stop what you’re doing — right now — and check it out! As a Christian millionaire, he has a lot of great tactics for getting out of debt with the snowball method and how to budget. His book was gifted to us last year and I read it all in two days! It’s a quick, easy read because he adds personal stories in there to explain the money talk.
Here’s the most popular book: The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
I also put the numbers in our checkbook every day and use a program called Quicken! This means I triple check wherever our money is going.
Quicken? What’s Quicken?
Quicken is a fantastic problem that does many, many things for your budgeting.
- It links to your bank accounts and provides detailed graphs based off of your spending.
- You can create spending categories (much like the paper one that I do).
- Great customer service for any problem that you may have. I have already contacted them late one night and they were great!
- They also have savings plans and debt reducing plans.
This program has been a great way of really keeping track of what I have. It’s like having access to a financial helper every hour of the day!
As you probably noticed, our bills do go over our check amount. Which is what I will talk about in step 3!
STEP THREE: SIDE JOBS
You might say this is an “unnecessary” step considering I am putting away money in each category. However, my goal is to pay off debt and save money. Therefore, we do not want to already be dipping into money we are just trying to save!
Like I stated previously, the side jobs we do are what fill our annual envelopes such as Christmas, birthday, new tires, etc.
- Every Sunday my husband tries to work at the Fire Station for extra money. On average we make around $200 extra a month from the station.
- Right now I am making a little over $300 a month from blogging. Crazy right? Between my husband’s fire fighting and my blogging, we are making ends meet — ever so slowly.
(Some of the biggest contributors to my profit has been my Farmhouse Amazon findsand also
- I also make about $35 profit per month from my Etsy shop. It’s not a lot but that certainly helps with extra odds and ends.
- Some other job ideas that we have done are: piano lessons, home painting, babysitting, logging, surveys, low voltage electrical, and house cleaning.
EXTRA WAYS TO SAVE
- Smart shopping: This is the number one thing I exercise daily. I look for deals and I pounce on them WHEN I have the money. If I don’t have the money, I don’t buy. How to Buy High-Quality Family Clothes on a Budget explains exactly how I practice this philosophy!
- Minimize credit cards: Luckily, ever since I was little I was taught that credit cards are not your friend. We have spent three married years without charging anything on a credit card and somehow we are still alive. I recently have applied to ONE credit card which is simply designated for credit improvement. This is the only credit card we have. Whenever I use this credit card, right away I will take the money out of my budget categories. Rule of thumb is to NEVER, EVER spend what you don’t already have.
- Lean on God: The best way to thrive with a low-income is by trusting in God. He will provide for you IF you allow Him and ask Him. For example: this week my husband will be taking his big Fire Fighting test which will cost us — upfront — $203. Not fun… But, we prayed about this problem because we knew it was coming. And you know what? My husband when on a transport the next week which was the exact amount we needed to make this test possible. God is GOOD, am I right?
And that’s how we make it on one income — well, kind of! It’s more about being faithful with tithing and continuously relying on God for security. So, even though I wish our circumstances were different, I am grateful for the lessons God has put in front of me.
God has taught me to be humble. To accept help when it’s offered and to love what I am given — even if it doesn’t meet the “American” standard.
He’s also taught me (and my husband) how to be financially responsible with our one income, which is huge! Just like in Luke 16:10, if I cannot be trusted with little, how in the world can God trust me with much? I am grateful for this opportunity to learn about handling God’s money and being put in a place where I actively need to seek God.
It’s not always easy to live off one income but I am grateful. So, I guess what I am trying to say is the way to thrive and be happy on one income is by changing your attitude and focusing on God.
What are your favorite ways to budget or save money?
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