Choosing to Live Life on a Single Income

Ever since my wife and I have been together, we have only lived on a single income. We didn’t actually choose to go this route, it has always just been the default; either I would be in school and Laura would work to pay the bills & save money, or she would be in school and I’d be working. Basically, we did this until Ayla was born, and now Laura is a stay-at-home momma. So here we are, still living on a single income.

We’ve never actually had the chance to consider ourselves a “D.I.N.K.” couple — “Double Income No Kids”.

In reality, this has actually worked very much to our advantage.

While at times it would have been nice to have two income sources, learning to live on a single income for our entire relationship has taught us to be very smart with our finances. However, living on a single income doesn’t mean we’re poor and can’t do anything other than live on a shoestring budget. In fact, the opposite is true! We travel every year, sometimes multiple times, we dine out on a regular basis, we recently purchased a new (to us) vehicle, and we manage to put money into savings & investments each month. However, we don’t have a mortgage, we share our meals when we eat out, we meal plan, we look for deals, and we budget.

We’re used to living this way. Should Laura take on a photography project, or book a wedding, it’s just extra money in the bank. The same goes for when I have a particularly outstanding month in business. We’re not reliant on a second income to sustain our lifestyle, or to pay our bills. This also means that when we had our baby, we didn’t have to sacrifice a second income — we didn’t have it in the first place! 🙂

If you build a lifestyle that requires a double income in order to sustain itself, what happens when one of those income sources are cut off? This can happen for a number of reasons:

  • Being laid off
  • Quitting your job
  • Going to school
  • Becoming ill
  • Getting pregnant
  • Being a stay-at-home parent
  • etc.

It’s not a crazy thought that you might end up going to school at some point, or that you might be laid off from your job. What if you have a baby?

The (awesome) benefits of living on a single income

There are some great benefits to living on a single income, some of which I’ve already mentioned:

  • You’re more aware of your finances
  • Your lifestyle will cost less
  • Any additional income is a bonus

If you’re a double income family, or if you’re a D.I.N.K. couple, the benefits can be even greater when choosing to live on a single income:

  • One income source can go directly into savings / investments
  • You’ll still be able to pay your bills if one income source is cut off (job loss, becoming ill, having a baby, etc.)
  • If you don’t have a mortgage and are looking to buy a house, one income source can go directly to paying the mortgage, and the savings you’ve amassed with one income can serve as a healthy down payment.

Of course, this won’t happen overnight, and you’re going to have to sacrifice a number of things in order to minimize your expenses.

Some questions to consider:

  • Can you manage having a single vehicle?
  • Is there superfluous spending you can cut? (i.e. Gym membership, magazine subscriptions, massage appointments, hair cuts, etc.)
  • Can you share meals when dining out? (I already know this answer: Yes you can. Not only is it easier on your wallet, but it’s usually the healthier option.)
  • If you’re renting: move into a smaller place, or try negotiating with your landlord for lower rent (I did this and saved us $150 per month.)
  • How can you minimize your monthly utilities? (Put on a sweater in the winter instead of bumping up the heat a couple degrees.)

A look at the numbers

When it comes to finances, I love looking at the numbers, because it gives you a good idea of what’s coming in and what’s going out. The numbers don’t lie!


Let’s say you’re a D.I.N.K couple living in Alberta, Canada.

Income (the following example is before taxes, but this is still entirely manageable on a smaller income)

In 2011, the median family income in Alberta was $89,830.

So, let’s say one person makes $40,000 / year.

And the other person makes $49,830 / year.

We’ll put away the former income, and use the latter to take care of our bills & expenses.

That leaves us with $4152.50 / month.

Rent

The average monthly rent in Calgary, Alberta for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1576 (crazy, I know).

That leaves you with $2576.50 for the rest of your expenses.

Groceries

Let’s say your grocery bill for 2 people is $500 / month (can easily be less).

That leaves you with $2076.50.

Fuel

Let’s say you’ve sold one vehicle and are using only one for transportation. I’d say $180 / month for gas is reasonable.

Left over: $1896.50

Additional expenses

There are a whole bunch of other things that can come into play here: cell phone, insurance, education, shopping, vehicle maintenance, dining out, entertainment — most of which is variable and can be minimized, or cut out completely. In this scenario, we have roughly $1900 left over to pay for these expenses.

A total budget of $4152.50 / month is entirely manageable. Of course, if you needed to dip into the other income for certain (necessary) expenses, that’s obviously OK.

Savings

Now let’s say you’ve managed to live on your $4152.50 budget, and put away the other income of $3333.33 / month.

That’s $40,000 of savings in one year!

In two years, you’ll have saved nearly $80,000 and can put that towards a down payment, or investments, etc.


There are many things you can do to greatly minimize your expenses. Here are a few resources worth checking out, if you’re serious about it:

Living on a single income has worked very well for Laura and I, and I bet it can work well for you and your family. Why not try to minimize your expenses and live entirely on a single income? I think you’ll be quite happy with the results (and the savings)!

I’d love to hear from you

Are you a D.I.N.K. couple? Do you have kids? Have you tried living on a single income? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. Feel free to share in the comment section below!

Thanks for reading,

Brad

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  • Seza

    Hey Brad,

    That is so interesting. I am in Berlin and I’ve lived in San Diego (you’ve been there recently, right?) for 6 years! It was a truly amazing time! Seriously, what a nice laid back culture! But my wife and I decided to move to Berlin, Germany. I am a German born Turk and my wife lived in San Diego almost her entire life. She moved from Poland when she was 4. So when it comes to financial stuff, Germany is so different then what I have seen is the US. People spend only what they have and credit cards are the exception. Our situation is similar to yours. I am working from home (not as a freelancer) and my wife had to go back to school to become a teacher here. We love the one-income life style. We don’t need a car and we feel that life is so much more enjoyable with putting more purpose into things, no matter how small they are……Well, just wanted to say clearly that the way you do things is amazing. You deserve every penny you earn, becouse you have the right spirit. You share, you care and you work hard. A truely good example. Keep up the good work Brad and all the best to you and your nice family!

    Schöne Grüße aus Berlin,
    Seza

    • Hey Seza! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share your story with me. Glad to have you here 🙂

      Danke,
      Brad

  • G

    Hey Brad, This piece is powerful. So many times people take on more than they truly need and end up burying themselves in debt with an empty savings account. I personally know of people who earn good money yet they fail to implement a good personal financial strategy.

    On the flip side I know of others who earn less and are not scrounging for dollars and have more in savings than the former…and they don’t starve themselves or have any less fun.

    Your blog post has strengthened my resolve about my pecuniary objectives…keep em coming!

    Warmest Regards

    • Totally, right? When you spend more than you earn, you can be making $500k a year and it won’t matter! I prefer living well below our means, which allows us to really save for the future, while learning to enjoy what we have. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Minimalism… Have less. Be more. This is my philosophy in life. Great blog by the way. Excellent wares.

  • Libo

    Thanks for sharing…

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • What kind of Landlord has the nerve to even concern themselves with whether your wife is working or not? Secondly what is a D.I.N.K? Thirdly, I have never been able to make a real living building websites in Dayton, Ohio. When the Internet first came out all the hillbillies here didn’t own computers and did’t want no dang website–as they put it. Many would even get mad saying, “if one more person calls trying to sell me a website I will…” They hated the idea.

    Then the bigger companies would do it in-house or somebody else would get to them first. Doctors were about worthless and wouldn’t talk to you about a new website. I had most of my luck with computer troubleshooting for companies and then they would get to know me and find out I built websites and maybe then would get one. Most business I did websites for (just before and during the crash of 2008) were small and I went through about 30 to 40 small business customers that either went out of business or were bought out by bigger companies and no longer needed my services.

    Then many of the companies would not pay on time–just $59.95 per month to build, manage and host their small business website and you couldn’t get paid. I kind of stopped the web building thing maintaining only one loyal customer. Oh and yes my website is seriously old now and way–way out of date. Hey great tutorial on Bootstrap. I am rebuilding a website now for my one loyal customer and trying to do it mobile first or responsive.

    • Hi John — thanks for reading & commenting!

      Oh, believe me — I’m always confused why it matters. Some people think it’s simply not possible to afford rent on a single income. Oh well.

      D.I.N.K. is an acronym that stands for “Double Income, No Kids”. It’s typically regarded as a privileged position to be in where a couple make a large collective household income, and have no child-related expenses 🙂

      Very surprised to hear about your problems getting work in Dayton! I certainly understand what it’s like to live in a town where people just don’t see the point in a website. The great thing about web design / development is that you don’t have to try and get work in your town / city. Because we’re online, we can work anywhere! I suggest checking out the online classifieds in the biggest city near you, and look for web related jobs. For example, the Columbos, Ohio Craigslist jobs page have some options for contract web design work: http://columbus.craigslist.org/search/web?query=+&is_contract=1

      In fact, I’ve got myself clients this way as far as Honolulu, Hawaii!

      Thanks for sharing your story!

      Cheers,
      Brad

  • BM

    Hey Brad,

    Have you ever had a hard time getting an apartment on one income? Did landlords have doubts or look at you strange because you were one Self employed income?

    • Hey there,

      Absolutely! In my experience, landlords simply don’t understand (or feel comfortable with) the idea of renting out to a self-employed, single-income family. They always want to know why my wife isn’t currently working and when she is “going back to work”. Apparently being a stay-at-home mother is only supposed to be temporary situation. Also, the difficulty of trying to rent and being self-employed is that you need to provide proof of income in the form of the previous year’s Notice of Assessment — however, when you’re just starting out, your previous year’s NOA is non-indicative of how well your business is currently doing.

      Regardless of how much I assure a landlord we can pay our rent, they always seem very hesitant. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve always been able to secure a lease 🙂

      Great question, btw!
      Brad

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  • Danielle

    Shouldn’t you learn this in college? lol

    • Haha! Actually, I believe in college you learn how to live on no income 🙂

    • @Danielle – No, you should learn this in high school. 😛

  • Awesome article brad. It really is the little things like sharing a meal or not having that extra drink that add up. And just being conscious of your spending of course.

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  • How to charge higer rates
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