14 Easy Ways to Live On A Tight Budget With A Family

Sharing is caring!

Living On One Income

Think you can’t stay home with your kids and live on one income? Think again. For the last 15 years, my family has been living on one income and doing better than fine. Want to know my tips for how to live on a tight budget with a family? Check them out below.

pink piggy bank pin for how to live on a tight budget

There are sponsored links on this page from which I may get a commission at no added cost to you.  For more information, please read my Privacy Statement.

Living On A Tight Budget

16 years ago, my husband and I had it all. Two decently paying jobs that added up to us being able to pretty much live whatever lifestyle we wanted. Like a great house, two cars and any kind of trip we felt like going on. We were loving life.

Now, I am not going to say we stopped loving life after kids, but for anyone who has kids…you know they change your life A LOT! It isn’t better or worse…just different.

So you guessed it, we went from 2 people living on 2 incomes to 3 people (and eventually 4 people) living on 1 income.

All of a sudden, things were a little scary. We had to start making grown up choices about where our money was going and figure out how to live on a tight budget.

I have learned a lot in the last 15 years that I am going to share with you. And I promise, it won’t be as painful as you think.

Living Within Your Means

One of the first lessons we had to learn after starting a family was how to live within our means. That meant that we needed to reassess what was really important and what wasn’t.

Did we really need a mansion on the hill? (not that we had one, but everyone dreams) No. We just needed a house with enough room for our kids to grow up.

Did we need the most expensive cars. No. We needed something reliable and that would last a long time.

Did we need all the latest baby gadgets and designer clothes? No. Most of what we had for our kids were hand-me-downs from cousins and friends.

start here in white with a yellow starting line and a pair of blue shoes

Prioritizing Your Money On A Tight Budget

So we also had to do some re-prioritizing of our money. Before kids, we had a dual income and what I would call now a surplus of money that we could spend on going out with friends for dinner and movies.

But when we had our kids and we went down to one income and 4 mouths to feed, we needed to make sure our money was going to the most important things first.

That meant making sure we paid our mortgage and house bills to keep a roof over our heads first.

Second, we budgeted for car insurance and gas money. And third, we allocated a budget for food and household spending.

Paying Part Vs. Paying It All

When it came to paying for things, we rarely chose to make payments on anything. Instead, we would save up the money we needed and then pay it in full. Whether it was a car, a refrigerator, or a pair of shoes, we always paid in full when we bought it.


So we never paid any interest. You would be amazed at how much money Americans lose paying interest each year.

For a new car loan, you can expect to pay around $4,356 in interest over the life of your loan. Around $855 per year in interest for credit card debt, and around $6,405 in interest on a 10 year student loan. [Source]

But even paying interest on that new couch or refrigerator can add up. So before you buy, make sure you have the money in the bank to pay for what you want to purchase.

Otherwise, you are just wasting a lot of money you could have been using for something better.

Paying Off Your Credit Cards

Now, just because my husband and I liked to pay for things in full, that didn’t mean we never used credit cards. On the contrary, we chose credit cards with a great rewards program so we would get cash back.

But we always, always, always paid off our credit cards every single month. So we never carried any debt or had to pay any interest on them.

And it was tricky. It was super easy to spend way outside of our budget by accident when using a credit card.

So my advice to you is… be careful here.

If you are constantly finding you cannot pay off your credit cards each month, then stop using them and use cash instead.

How To Save Money On A Tight Budget

Believe it or not, even on one income and a tight budget, you can still save money

The trick is to get creative, shop around, not make impulse buys, and learn to push for the best possible deal.

Check out some of the ways I have found to save money while living on one income below.

These are ways to save money as a stay at home mom so you can both live one one income and still save money for the things you want in your life.

1// Find Free Places To Play On A Tight Budget

teeter totter image

When finances are tight, it may seem like you can’t go anywhere or do anything. But that is simply not true.  There are so many things to do inside and outside for little to no money.

Try going to the park, feeding the ducks, taking a nature walk, playing with chalk, collecting leaves, drawing pictures, visiting a friend, talking to grandparents on the phone…the ideas are endless. You just have to get a little creative.

Here are some great Free Activities you can do with your kids.

2// Use Passes

team work image

When you purchase a pass to a place, you automatically save money. But if buying a pass for all the places you want to go with your kids is too expensive, then try this trick.

Go places with people who already have passes or memberships to the places you want to go. 

Establishments that require memberships or passes may also have dates that allow their members to bring a guest. Possibly for a cheaper price or no price at all. 

These places can include Swim and Tennis Clubs, Amusement Parks, Nature Centers, and many more. 

Another idea is to split the cost of passes with another family.  If they buy a pass to the amusement park and take your family for the discount price, then you will buy the passes to the nature center and take their family for the discounted price. 

When we all work together, we can save money!

3// Ask For Passes As Gifts

card with heart image

As a mom on a budget, you need to start asking for gifts that help you do the fun things with the kids that you want to do. 

Around Christmas when your parents or your in-laws are asking what everyone in your family wants. Try asking for one big gift, like a children’s museum pass or amusement park passes.

The beauty of this is that it is free for you whenever you use it, but provides loads of things for you to do all year!

These passes may also get you discounts on other things such as food or gift shop purchases while you are in that membership’s location.

PRO MOM TIP: Better yet, add everything you need and want for Christmas and birthdays to your Amazon Wish List like I did here. And then send your Wish List to your family when they ask for gift ideas.

4// Don’t Look Down On Hand-Me-Downs

blue donate heart image

Hand-Me-Downs.  I realize when you have your first child that the thought of putting them in handed down clothing and using previously used baby equipment may not be what you wanted for them. 

But you will soon come to find that babies and toddlers grow so fast that they wear their clothing for little to no time at all.  So most of the used clothing is still in great condition. 

My daughter and I used to “shop” the handed down clothes from her cousins and she loved every minute of it. 

And as for baby equipment. It is designed to be safe and hold up really well. So you may not have the latest colors and designs, but you will still have the stuff you need.

If you don’t have family that can give you clothing and other baby products, you can always set up swaps with friends or neighbors or shop garage sales. 

And if you really want, you can use sites like eBay, Rehashed Clothes, and Swap.com where you can get baby items that others post online for a great low price.


grey painted table image
Buy the dark grey and the light grey chalk paint to get this look.

Furniture Hand Me Downs.  Many of the pieces I have in my house have been handed down to me from family or friends. 

So my suggestion to you is, if you are in the market for new furniture, first make sure to ask around if anyone is getting rid of any furniture before you decide to pay the big bucks for something new. 

A piece of furniture that you disliked at your mother’s house could turn out to be your favorite furniture piece in your own house after a little paint makeover.  

This chalk paint is the most user-friendly way I have found to change up handed down furniture for cheap. 

But if you are up for it you could always try your hand at re-staining or even re-upholstering if that is what you want. 

The picture of the grey table (above) is a table I got from a neighbor and repainted with chalk paint.  I think it turned out great and really matches my decor.


girl looking at clothes racks image

Thrift stores can be great for things like the perfect costume for a school play or Halloween party, which is what I use them for a lot of the time.

But I know many people who find more there.  They find furniture to make over and even picture frames that just need a new picture. 

The sky is the limit if you can use your imagination, so visit your local thrift store and see what treasures you can find.


cart in parking lot image

Choose Your Stores Wisely.  Department stores and specialty stores are great when you have the money! 

But when you are trying to live on a TIGHT budget, those prices may get in the way of your financial goals. 

Don’t fret!  There is no reason to give up your dreams of redoing your house or buying some new clothes.  You just have to get creative. 

There are always stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls if you really like name brands. 

But if you don’t care about that, then Walmart and the Dollar Tree could be your best bets.  If you want to do a picture collage wall in your family room, you can find these great black picture frames in any size at either one of those stores. 

They may not be wood, but nobody will know but you, I promise.  Do you need a new cami?  Walmart sells these camis for under $4.  If you are just wearing it under things, that could be a perfectly great buy!


man painting wall image

I have already mentioned a few DIY’s for furniture and decorating, but this DIY is for home improvement. 

If you have a faucet that needs to be changed out, a bathroom that needs tile, a drain that needs to be unclogged, then get online and look up how to do it. 

There are so many videos on YouTube that teach you how to do anything you need done. 

You will save hundreds of dollars by doing the labor yourself, so try it out before you call someone to do it for you.


Do you love tomato sauce, salsa, or just vegetables in general? Why not grow your own veggies instead of buying them?  Canning or freezing vegetables you grow or sauces that you have made from your garden is a great way to save money.


summer sale image

Shop Clearance and Off Season Sales.  When my son was little I went to Target and found that they had shorts on sale for a little over a dollar.  It was the end of summer and they were clearing inventory. 

I was so excited that I stocked up on shorts of every size!  There are plenty of times when I find great deals on items that are being clearanced out at the end of the season. 

Just be sure that you are only buying what you need and not everything you want!  Or you could defeat the purpose of shopping clearance in the first place!  Which is to save $$$.


woman at window with phone image

There are quite a few websites and apps out there that can help you find good deals and save money. 

Whether they do cash back, price comparison, or upload receipts, there is a program to help you save money when you are trying to live on one income. 

Some examples are BradsDeals, DOSH, Rakuten (formerly ebates), SwagBucks, and ShopSavvy but there are many more out there.  A quick internet or app store search will help you find the ones that work best for you.

Related Post: Best Money Making and Saving Apps


office pic

Finding ways to decrease the amount you pay on your monthly bills is where you will save the most money. 

There are ways to save on energy and water bills such as turning off the lights and water when you are not using them. 

But to make a bigger dent in your bills, you need to call people. 

  • Call around to insurance companies to see if you can get a lower rate. 
  • Contact energy providers to get lower rates. 
  • Talk to hospitals and doctors offices about how you can lower your bills. 
  • Find alternatives to cable that are cheaper, like Netflix or Hulu. 

Calling about these bills can make a huge impact on your savings from month to month.


yummy cheesebuger pic

Stop eating all of your meals out! 

This will fatten your wallet and maybe even whittle your middle! 

But all joking aside, eating out can be a real drain on your finances. 

The meal that you just paid $30 for at a restaurant can easily be made at home for $15 or less. 

I realize that part of that restaurant price goes toward the fact that you don't have to make the food and you are getting out of the house.  So if you insist on eating out then try these tricks: 

  • When you go out to a fancy dinner, don't take the kids. 
    • Make it a special night for you and your husband where you are not having to pay for child meals that are overpriced and probably won't be eaten. 
  • On days that you do go to eat with the whole family, make sure that it is at a restaurant that is affordable for the whole family to eat and you know your kids will actually eat the food. 
  • Another great tip is to check out which restaurants in your area have a "kids eat free night".  I know O'Charley's has that promotion now and again.
  • Make sure you have a coupon. Many times you can find a Groupon or coupon online to a restaurant that will at least help you save some money.


woman shopping pic

This is the one that is hardest for me!  Most women like to shop or get there hair and nails done. Maybe even get a massage after a long hard week with the kids. 

But on a tight budget budget due to one income, these extra pamperings are hard to come by.

Although, with a little creativity, you can still get the things you love. 

Instead of paying your favorite masseuse to massage you, you may find out that your significant other gives an excellent massage. 

You also may find that you are great at giving yourself a mani/pedi. 

When you look in the mirror and see your natural hair color and non-facialed skin, just remember that you are doing it all to realize your dream of staying home with your kids and live on one income comfortably.

PRO MOM TIP: This is my favorite nail polish for at-home Mani / Pedi's because it stays on WAY longer than many of the 'more popular, more expensive' brands.

You Can Save Money Without Being a 'Tight Mom'

Overall, the main goal is to realize that you can still get out of the house and do things with your kids or your husband, you just have to get creative about how to spend and where.  Then you can feel a little more like yourself while you are working your dream job of being a Stay At Home Mom!

iF Living On A Tight Budget Just Isn't Your Thing

If you find that you just can't stand to live on one income, the you could always try blogging. Check out my step by step guide for starting your own blog here.

Thanks for reading and I hope you got some great tips!