How to survive on one income and be a SAHM

Do you want to be a stay-at-home mama (SAHM) but are worried about how you’re going to afford to live on just one income?

If your other half earns enough to support your entire family without making any budget changes, then you’re probably in the minority. 

Most families need two incomes to cover mortgage payments and bills these days. However with some cuts to your budget, changes to your habits and maybe work from home, it is totally possible to be a SAHM if that’s what you want!

Many families actually find that having one parent stay at home works out better value for them, due to the extortionate cost of childcare. Some people barely cover the monthly bill with their income!

So if you’re interested in being a SAHM but wondering how to make it work, read on to find some top tips for balancing your household budget every month. 

1. Set a realistic budget 

Figure out how much money you have coming in and look at what you really need to spend that money on. 

Rent or mortgage payments are the most important area, closely followed by your monthly energy bills and food. 

After that, things become expendable. 

You don’t have to spend money on new clothes every month. You don’t have to have a daily Starbucks coffee. You don’t have to take your kids to expensive places to entertain them every weekend. 

Think about what you can cut back on as a family, but be realistic about it. This needs to be a budget you can actually live with in the long-term. Don’t ditch things that you will reintroduce in a matter of weeks because you miss them so much. Instead, can you set a monthly cap on your little luxuries so that you can still afford them. 

2. Allow for unexpected expenses

Just when you think you have your budget balanced, Bam! The car breaks down, the roof starts leaking and you’re invited to a wedding that involves an overnight stay in a hotel. 

Unexpected expenses happen, and bizarrely they often seem to clump together in threes! How weird is that?

You need to try to build up an emergency fund for household expenses. Aim to save £1,500 at least in this account and never touch it unless it’s to pay for unexpected home or car repairs. 

It’s also important to have a “red alert” fund which you only touch if your other half loses their job. 

Many financial experts recommend that this fund has enough money for you to live on for six months. It’s worth noting however that very very few people actually manage to have this much in their bank account. 

Aim to have enough for at least three months living. 

This cash should be able to carry you if your other half should suddenly lose their job and gives them time to find another one. 

3. Plan for the annual expenses

Don’t let things like your annual car insurance renewal or boiler breakdown cover fee take you by surprise. 

Write down every annual expense and the date it’s due in your diary and put money away every month to fund it. 

It’s often cheaper to pay for services such as car insurance in one annual lump sum rather than monthly, so try to save enough to cover it in one go. 

4. Start saving for Christmas in January 

If you have a big family then Christmas is probably your biggest one-off expense of the year, behind your holiday. 

Start saving for Christmas as soon as possible and shop year-round. Think about what your loved ones may like early, and look for the best price possible over the course of the year. 

You can also try making simple gifts for your loved ones, especially the adults in your family, rather than spending hundreds of pounds on stuff. 


Try making a Christmas chutney or your own jam. 

Grocery bills

5. Meal plan

You’ve probably seen meal planning on a million different lists on saving money. You’ve probably even tried it. 

But have you stuck to it?

The trick to meal planning is to make your list of meals for the week and stick religiously to it. 

Don’t let your desire for a takeaway interrupt the plan, as hard as it can be. 

It’s also key to plan for how you’re going to use the full quantity of the things you buy, so that no fruit or vegetables go off while in the fridge. 

Try to make larger batches of meals, so that you can freeze some for another week. Most things like meat can be purchased for less money in larger packs, so go for a big batch of mince and make extra lasagne so that you can freeze it for another meal. 

6. Cut back on waste

How often do you drop by the supermarket for a top-up shop, or to get something on a whim because you feel like it?

If you visit the supermarket multiple times a week, chances are you’re going to end up spending way more money than you had budgeted for. 

Cut back on the food you waste, and only visit the supermarket once a week to get all of your essentials. Don’t give in to the temptation of supplementing your shop with extra treats. 

7. Switch supermarkets

You can spend hundreds of pounds a year extra if you shop at higher end supermarkets. 

Go for budget stores that offer better value with their own brand products such as cereals, rice and pasta. 

8. Shop after 5pm

Most supermarkets need to get rid of produce that’s going to go off soon at the end of the day. This is where you can pick up some amazing bargains. 

It may go against your weekly meal plan, so try to be flexible or pick things up you can take home and freeze right away. 

Monthly bills

9. Switch energy providers

It feels like a real hassle changing your electricity and gas providers, but you can save hundreds a year by doing this!

Go online and research if you could be saving money and do the switch!

10. Cancel your TV package 

Do you really need cable TV? Packages like Sky can cost you more than £20 month, but are you really watching enough programmes on there to justify the cost. 

Netflix and Amazon are, by comparison to Sky and Virgin TV, way cheaper and offer loads of entertainment for all ages. 

11. Switch your insurer

Your car insurance bill will creep up every year, whether you have had an accident or not. 

Always shop around for the best deal when it comes to renewal time. 

12. Cancel daycare

The cost of sending a child to nursery even for just two mornings a week can be more than £300 a month. That’s some serious cash!

If you’re going to be a SAHM then do you need your child to be in nursery?

In the UK, kids receive 15 hours of free childcare after they turn three. Once you hit this stage, you could take advantage of the government funding. 

Until that, can you find alternative ways to get the odd break from your kids? If you have relatives locally, see if they will take them occasionally. 

If you have no alternative childcare, then you’ll need to come up with a way to cope with having the kids all day. Now, maybe you don’t mind having them around all day. 

But sometimes you want peace, quiet and some space to get chores and other tasks done. 

If your kids are a little older, then an hour of TV here and there in the day isn’t going to hurt and it will distract them so you can get things done. 


You could also try creating a safe play space for them in their room where they can happily entertain themselves for a while. 

Try switching around sets of toys every day to keep it interesting for them. 

13. Do your own hair 

Getting your hair cut and coloured can cost hundreds every year. Ditch the hairdressers and instead do your own hair colour and trimming. 

Colouring at home is actually really easy, and so much cheaper. It’s probably around one 10th of the price!

Get some proper hair scissors for the home and trim your own hair. There are lots of YouTube videos that show you how to keep your fringe and longer ends in shape. 


You can also cut your kids’ hair. 

Shopping

14. Stop visiting your high street

If you struggle to resist buying stuff when you visit your local town, then stop going there. 

Find other things to do and places to walk so that you do not keep falling into the trap of spending money you really need to save. 

15. Buy a flask and ditch the takeout coffee

You’ll be surprised how the cost of your daily take-out drink adds up over the course of a year. 

Make your coffee at home instead and have a flask to keep it warm when you’re out and about. 

16. Block websites that are too tempting

Online shopping is even more of a temptation than hitting the high street in person. 


When you make an online purchase, it’s so easy to get carried away and buy the item on impulse. Usually your card details are saved in your iPad or phone so you can make the purchase with one push of a button. 

Try blocking websites that you find too tempting when it comes to impulse buying (you can do this in your Safari settings). You could also wipe your bank details from your phone so you can’t make one-touch purchases. 

17. Think about “want” vs “need”

Do you actually need the item that you are looking at buying, or do you just want it. 

For example, if you have no winter coat and its sub-zero outside, then you do need a new winter coat. 

If you’re eyeing up a posh dress with no plans for any fancy dinner dates in sight, then you just want it and you’re better off saving your cash. 

18. Don’t buy lunch out

This applies to you and your other half while they are at work. Make sure they take a packed lunch rather than spending cash on buying something close to the office. 

If you’re taking your baby out somewhere with you, be sure to pack sandwiches and snacks so that you don’t have to buy anything. 

19. Use cashback sites

You can earn cash back on purchases at huge retailers and services by shopping through cash back sites. These sites offer you a slice of the referral fee they make for having you purchase via their links. 

20. Keep all of your baby clothes

If you’re planning on having more children, then keep all of the baby clothes and toys. These can be handed down to younger siblings. 

You can make storing them easier by using vacuum sealed bags, which save a lot of space. 

Entertainment 

21. Look for free groups in your area

Most local libraries will offer a timetable of events to entertain children. Look yours up and see if there are any sessions your child would enjoy. 

22. Organise play dates at your friends’ homes

Don’t want to spend a fortune in coffee shops? Arrange a rota with friends where you have a play date at each other’s homes each week. 

23. Find fun things to do at home

There are plenty of fun crafts and activities you can do with babies and toddlers at home. 

Making your own fun is both cheap and you’ll stay cosy in your house. 

If you are struggling for space, consider a rethink of the layout of your house. Can you create a corner just for play and crafts? You may need to declutter to make it happen, but it will be worth it to make a good play space for entertaining everyone on days at home. 

24. Ask for annual membership to local attractions as gifts

If your loved ones ask what you would like for Christmas, tell them a membership to local theme parks or similar attractions would be perfect. 

Most big theme parks and kids places will offer an annual membership that lets you get in for free all year, or at least during off-peak days. 

This gives you somewhere to go with the kids every single week without splurging on expensive entrance fees. 

25. Stop going to the cinema 

Taking your whole family to the cinema and buying them popcorn and drinks now costs the same as a full day out!

Rent movies at home at a fraction of the cost, or use your Netflix membership instead. 

26. Rethink your holidays

Having two holidays abroad a year sounds like heaven, but can you afford it?

A staycation in an off-peak time of year is more affordable and if you plan your time away will be just as fun. 

Shop around for trips away during school term times, when holiday companies charge as much as 150 per cent less compared to the school holidays. 

Can you go and stay with friends who live somewhere you’ve never visited before? If you share the cost of a holiday villa with friends, does it make the trip cheaper?

Try thinking of alternative ways so that you can still have your holiday, but you’re reducing the cost. 

Toys

27. Use your local library

Taking books out the library is totally free, plus you’ll save space in your home by not having such a large collection of your own books. 

28. Arrange a toy swap with friends 

If your kids are getting bored with their toys, see if any of your friends would like to swap a box of toys for a week or two. 

This way the kids get to play with something new, but they still get their old stuff back at the end. 

29. Don’t give in to the guilts 

When you’re in a shop and your child is begging for the new Paw Patrol toy, it can be really hard to resist when you know it will make them happy. 

Try to remind yourself that you’re teaching your kids an important lesson about money, and they don’t need stuff to be happy and loved. 

Tell them to add things they see to their Christmas or birthday list and then see about getting them for a special occasion. 

30. Keep an eye on flash sales

Amazon offers daily deals on a huge range of toys, so keep an eye on the latest ones in case something from your child’s Christmas wishlist drops into the sale. 

Replacing your full-time income

31. Start a blog

Having your own blog is hard work, and it will not make money overnight. But you can make decent money with a blog within 12 months, with the right focus and the right niche. 

To start a blog you will need to choose a niche to focus on, such as: 

  • Babies
  • Crafts for toddlers
  • DIY home decor
  • Money saving
  • Baking 
  • Budget cooking
  • Party planning

Once you have a niche you will need to come up with a name, then check that name is available to purchase as a domain. 

Next you need hosting (I use Siteground) and then you can get yourself set up on WordPress and get started!

A good blog will be updated at least once a week (in the early days you’ll want to be getting as much content up as possible). Your blog posts should be long and genuinely helpful for the audience. 


You can find out more about setting up your own blog here, plus do check out these SEO tips for getting your blog to rank on Google. 

32. Find a side hustle 

Is there any way you can use your skills to work for yourself from home?

Does your current employer need you to do any part-time work as a consultant for them, which you can do in your own hours from home?

You may need to really think outside of the box with this one, but do think big and don’t let a lack of confidence stop you. 

It can be scary stepping out and starting a business of your own, but you can totally do it! You just need to think of something you are good at or can offer to others, then figure out how to make money from it. 

33. Try online surveys 

You will need to complete a LOT of surveys in order to make any money from it, but many people make enough cash from online surveys to at least contribute a little money to the weekly household bills. 

Plus you can do the surveys any time you want from your smartphone. 

34. Matched betting

Matched betting has become increasingly popular as a way of earning money in your spare time. 

Do read up on it and figure out if it’s for you before you try it. The big downside of matched betting is it can be incredibly time-consuming and boring, so you’ll need to be very patient to earn real money from it. 

35. Declutter and sell your stuff

Raid your loft and shelves for stuff that you don’t use any more and get selling! Decluttering is such a great thing to do anyway to free up space, but you’ll also be surprised how lucrative it can be.

You can either use eBay or Facebook to sell items. Facebook is great, as most towns have their own buy and sell group where you can connect with buyers in your area, which saves you on postage costs!

I hope these tips have given you some great ideas for how you can save money and afford to be a SAHM! Wishing you lots of luck in whatever you choose to do!

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35 genius ways to save money and be a SAHM
How to afford to be a stay at home mama

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