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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 August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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