How to make a tighter budget on one income when it’s already pretty tight.


I’m a happy housewife and mother of two humans and three other children that bark and cough up fur balls.  I enjoy my work most of the time and never, ever do I want to return to the mainstream workforce.  Well, sometimes I wouldn’t mind a little part-time work outside the home.  For the most part, this is a great job.

Recently, due to years of scrimping and saving, we purchased a little fixer upper and have now settled into a new town.  I ask my husband to start taking two days off a week now that we have accomplished our biggest goal of buying a home for our family.  This worker bee of a man has worked 70 hour weeks with one day off for as long as we have been married and before our marriage, he worked every day.   It’s cultural, my husband is Punjabi Indian and they work!  I’m grateful for a hard working spouse but it’s time he enjoyed his family before the boys go off to college. Not to mention that I was starting to feel like a single mother with the good fortune of a couple paychecks a month but not the companion that goes with them.

Much to my surprise, he began to take weekends off immediately.  The boys and I are thrilled!  And I’m working with $700 less in the monthly budget.  This is fine, of course, and I’ve been working the frugal treadmill for years now so I know exactly what to do with a shoestring budget.  We have lived in times of no income and living off savings and we have lived off not much more than minimum wage and had rent that was $400 more than our current mortgage.

Back to the drawing board.  I start with writing up a budget.  I am a simple gal and I don’t do all the fancy stuff like print out computer logs and budget sheets.  I use a ringed notebook, pen, highlighters, and a calculator.  I write out every bill and mortgage, total it up and subtract from the monthly income.  I then see what I can get rid off and reduce.

This round I got rid of Netflix, Pureflix, and a reduced the amount on some of my donations.  I will never cut off my donations because I feel it’s so important to help in any way that we can and these organizations are really important ones that are making huge changes locally and globally to improve life for people, animals, and Mother Earth.  I do have to trim the amount at times so I can keep donating to all of them.  My phones and internet and cable are as low as can be and I’m in a contract with cable or I’d go to the antenna.  I loved the channels from the antenna.  All the old westerns and classic movies and none of the infomercials and reality shows.  As soon as the contract is up I will go back to my antenna happily.

The biggest place to save money is in groceries and then utilities.  I’ve gotten the shopping down to a science so we don’t waste anything.  It does require a couple days of fruit for every meal or chicken 5 days in a row at times but there is no waste and I’ve learned the best foods for left overs.  That would be stews, sauces, beans, and basically anything that taste better the next day with some extra marinating and simmering.  There are foods that don’t cut it the next day and there are foods that actually taste better the next day.

Scratch cooking saves a lot more money than you would think.  If I bake my own bread and make my own yogurt I save at least $60 a month.  We are growing food now and we planted all sorts of fruit trees but that will take some time before we are actually growing enough to sustain us through a season or two.  The trees will take years.  I have strawberry patch because organic strawberries can cost $11 a carton off season.  In the meantime I’m hitting the Saturday Farmers Market and Winco.  Organics, free range eggs, and antibiotic/hormone free meat is everywhere now.  I buy as much of this clean food as possible to support our health, the environment, local farmers that are loving the earth, and to keep this movement growing.  Organic food in season and grass fed meat taste amazing and is worth the extra money, fortunately, it’s becoming more affordable all the time.    We don’t over buy, don’t buy off season, don’t buy premade, and we use brown rice, beans, lentils, and potatoes and salads to fill up the dinner plate.

Sometimes, when I need to get really tight with the grocery money I will follow the “dirty dozen and clean fifteen” list of organics vs non-organics.  This is a list of foods you can get non-organic and they are fairly clean.

With meat, I just buy a double pack of whole chicken at Sam’s Club that is organic and free from antibiotics and hormones.  They are sometimes as little as $18 for two and we only eat one a week.  I will bake it up and shred it for all sorts of meals such as burritoes, casserols, on salads, in soups.

Utilities are simple.  I never use lights until night time.  I am using a clothes line and never the dryer during this time of year.  I try to keep the house cool with ceiling fans and the cool night and morning air and open windows until it gets too warm and then I close up the house and when that gets stuffy, then and only then do I turn on the air conditioner.  Now, when it’s really hot and windless it is wise to just set that cooler on 79 for the day.  That way it doesn’t work hard and non stop to try and bring a home down from 89 degrees.  You have to play with that.

If garbage is expensive we recycle and compost everything we can, buy in bulk and bins so we don’t have all the packaged food and then we just have a little garbage that we throw in Bali’s big bin at work.  You can even make money off the recycling.  We make a lot of free and rich soil with our compost.  You can compost egg shells, produce, coffee grounds.

I make my own cleaners out of vinegar and dish soap.  A gallon of vinegar is a couple bucks and I buy the huge jugs of dish soap cheap at Sam’s or Costco and water it down because it’s so concentrated.  It will last forever.

We fill up the kiddy pool on hot days and then I use the dirty water to water the garden and trees and lawn.  I never leave water running and our showers are short.  The children bath nightly because they get filthy playing outside all day.  I have made their baths much smaller or more shallow these days.  With laundry I always have a full load but the real trick to saving on water is not having as much laundry.  We hang the bath towels up immediatley after a shower and there fore they dry fast and we can use them at least 4 or 5 times.  Think about it, we are scrubbed clean when we use a towel, it’s just not hanging it properly to dry that makes them go bad.  We wear pajamas a few nights since we are bathed when we put them on.  Pants can be worn a few days, shirts a couple days and in the summer the kids go almost naked.  I change the sheets on Saturday morning once a week.  This cuts way down on laundry.

We don’t go out to eat or shop for anything outside mortgage, food, bills.  Zero spending.  I make do with what I have and have found that when I challenge myself to not spend I  have everything I need and more.

For more great tips I have a fabulous book The Homemade Housewife on Amazon for a meager .99 cents.  I could charge more for this gem but I want everyone to live debt free and sustainable for their sanity and the Earth’s sake.

5 thoughts on “How to make a tighter budget on one income when it’s already pretty tight.

  1. I read your book and I loved all the tips you shared! I’m going to try the method you shared of making compost. I started a new garden plot this year so I bought compost. Hopefully next year I won’t have to.


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