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10 Tips On How To Live Well Even With Only One Income

10 Tips On How To Live Well Even With Only One Income

In an age of so many dual-income families, is it really possible to live well on just one income?

Absolutely! Trust me, I know. We are a family of six, living on one income–a military income. After I enlisted in the military, we decided it would be best for my wife to stay home with the kids; that’s when we made the transition. Now we are happily a single-income family. I’m going to show you how we do it, and how you can too.

Why one income?

Families go to one income for all kinds of reasons. You may want one of you to stay home with the kids. You may have calculated the cost and realized it cost almost as much as one of your incomes in daycare and travel expenses for both of you to work. You may want to live a more minimalist lifestyle and focus less on earning more money. Or you may not be a single-income family by choice. One of you could have been laid off, but the good news is that you can live well on one income–it could have been a blessing in disguise.

No matter your reason, here’s how to make it work:

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1. Stick to the plan

Planning is everything. You can live on almost any income if you budget and make a plan for every dollar. And it can become fun to see how far you can stretch it. So what does this mean?

  • Set a budget. Yes, you need a budget. If you have one, stick to it. If you don’t have one, it starts simply by tracking your purchases for a month, then setting each category. See where you can cut back. If you’ve recently became a single-income household, you may notice that you’re spending much less.
  • Plan your meals. Meal planning is huge. You should know exactly what you’re going to buy when you walk into the grocery store, and you should know exactly what you’re going to make out of it. It’s surprising how much food we all have in our homes that we don’t eat because we don’t have a plan for it.
  • Plan your vacations. If you go on an annual vacation, you have an entire year to save for it. Figure out how much you’ll need ahead of time, and divide it by 12 months to get a monthly amount to save. Vacations don’t have to cost a lot; our family usually spends less than $500 on each vacation we take.

You’ve heard “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and this couldn’t be more true in your finances. You’ll be amazed at what you can afford if you plan. Joshua Becker says, when it comes to purchases, “ask when and why, not if”. Even on one income there doesn’t have to be trade-offs, but it is all about timing and planning.

2. Spend based on priorities

Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? You shouldn’t be, because the Joneses are broke. Don’t make purchases to impress others, make purchases based on your priorities.

If you truly value family above materialism, do your purchases reflect that?

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This is an important question for all of us to ask occasionally. It’s easy to get caught up in the consumerist mindset of earning more and spending more to be happy, but that’s a lie. Rich people aren’t any happier than the rest of us. There’s nothing wrong with having more money, but make sure your spending is lining up with your priorities. Just spend an extra few seconds thinking about each purchase to decide if you really need it. You’ll be surprised how often you don’t.

3. Cut the cable

Speaking of priorities, where is TV on that list? We cut the cable over five years ago and haven’t looked back since. We spend more quality time together as a family. We spend more time reading, which has led to much financial success (finance books are my favorite). There are a thousand reasons to cut the cable, and I have yet to find one good reason to keep it. If you must watch TV, consider Netflix or keep some DVDs around.

4. Move…or don’t

If you’re new to the single-income life, you may be ready for a downsize. We usually don’t need as much house as we think we do; however, you’ll want to calculate the cost first.  Moving isn’t cheap, so it needs to be financially worth it to really make the leap. That being said, if you’re living above your means, consider moving into a more affordable house. It doesn’t have to be permanent.

5. Learn to barter

What are you good at? Landscaping? Cleaning? Home repairs? That’s as good as cash. Reach out to your friends and neighbors, and figure out where you can trade your services. Bartering is the ultimate win-win scenario. This works especially well for babysitting, whether you need a babysitter for a date night or for running errands–find someone to swap with. You both get free childcare, and you both get more done.

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6. Use your resources

There are resources in your city, you just have to find them. It could be a local food bank that is looking for volunteers, and, in exchange, you take some food home. Or you could be in a place where you just need to go to the food bank and get some food. There’s no shame in that; that’s what they’re for. From food banks to food co-ops to clipping coupons, know your resources and use them. The more resourceful you become, the more you will be able to live well on one income.

7. Dump your debt

If you’re new to the single-income lifestyle, you may be wondering how you can get debt-free on less money than you were making before. Dumping your debt doesn’t have to cost more money. That’s right, there are ways to make an impact without spending more. For starters, you can call and negotiate with your credit card companies to lower your interest rates and possibly even your balance.

If you’re serious about paying off your debt, and you don’t plan on going further into debt, consider a balance transfer to lower your interest rate. You must be serious about not incurring anymore debt or this just provides a way for you to go into more debt. But if you really are done with being in debt, a balance transfer can help. For example, if you can pay off your debt in 15 months, the Chase Slate offers 0% interest rate for balance transfers for the first 15 months, with no transfer fee. But you need to be sure you can pay it off in 15 months or the interest rate will go back up to the standard rate.

8. Prepare for emergencies

Emergency funds are a better option than a credit card when disaster strikes. Even if you can only save $50 each month, start putting something away in a savings or money-market account for unexpected expenses. Ideally you’ll want three to six months of living expenses, but $1,000 is a good starting place. Of course, $500 is better than nothing. The idea is to have some funds to dip into in the event of an emergency so that you don’t get into a worse financial spot by taking out a loan or using a card.

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9. Sell a car

Do you have more than one car? Do you need more than one car? Maybe you do, but maybe you haven’t really thought about it. You may have needed two vehicles when both of you worked, but it could make sense to sell one now, especially if you have a car payment. Dave Ramsey always jokes that his show should be called the “Sell the Car Show”, because of how often that’s the most appropriate solution.

10. Save for big purchases

If you have to finance it, you can’t afford it. Instead of taking out a loan for a car or other big purchase, why not make interest-free payments into a savings account right now? Think of it like a layaway plan; you’re saving until you have the full amount. Then you can make the debt-free purchase. If this doesn’t seem possible for some things, you may be living above your means. The bottom line is that credit card and loan interest will destroy your finances. Anything you can do to avoid interest will set you up for success.

Featured photo credit: Crowd of People Crossing an Old Prague Road/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Kalen Bruce

Military, Writer

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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