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Balancing Bills On One Salary

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If I want to begin living on one salary and I have 2 car payments, insurance and rent, how do I do so?

Terry from Tulsa, OK

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By PENNY K [15]05/06/2008

Terry: I will tell you how to figure out your current situation. I don't think it will add up, and then you have to decide what has to go. How far do you live from work? Can you manage with one car, if you shop once a week; everyone is going to be doing that soon because of gas.
Common in 1950's. Can kids walk to school. Can the working person take a lunch? You have to be willing to do stuff like that.Have you read Tightwad Gazette. Figure out actual expenses now. Make another sheet for absolute amounts which cannot be changed .
Ask yourself how much for food. You can't cheat yourself healthwise, but you can save by cooking from scratch....that doesn't mean boxes of mixes. Cut out anything not healthy; make cookies yourself,etc. If your kids are young, great. Lots of clothes can be bought at garage sales. Read up on how to get out stains etc. Have play clothes and school clothes. You can't make all these changes overnight. Never pay a higher price because you are too undisciplined to wait for a sale, too lazy to wash something ..The real discipline starts with you and a shift in perspective. It's mostly in our head. About those two cars. And their payments.......Can you get along with one? Can you sell one or get it paid off..CAN YOU GET RID OF THOSE PAYMENTS? Which make your insurance higher too.
There is great advice from the other posters above, but as a 64 year old grandmother, I've noticed people must have been hypnotized by advertizing, honestly. They can see their income and see their expenses and they don't get that means, they can't afford something when they don't add up. You say no to yourself, and then you say no to that charming salesman, who just has an outgoing personality; they aren't going to pay it for you!! Always add up all payments, and any down payment, plus fees, taxes, etc to see what you are really paying. Dave Ramsay is a great guy to listen to re debt thinking. It's really our thinking, and conditioning by culture the last 50 years that muddles us up. Try finding him on radio or cable (Fox I think).

Ask yourself for everything you see you can't afford; am I willing to give up this to stay home. If it meets
needs x, y, z, can I meet those need some other way?
Can I live without those things less often?

Basically you will be trading your own labor for freedom from the restraints of a job and the peace of mind
that goes with knowing what's happening with your kids, etc, and the pleasure of using your own creativity to solve problems. It is not easy, it requires constant honing of thinking skills to say nothing of other skills.
If you can't take your kids a lot of places, that's great. I am one of the most creative people I know, and a lot of it came from 1)permission to create--common sense included 2)down time to daydream 3) not too many resources handed to me, if any... 4)exposure to nature.

If you live in a house with a yard, you have more possibilities than in an apartment. Depends on how old kids are, if any. It would help to know more details of your situation. But I highly recommend a trip to library for the tightwad gazette, all 3 editions in one is available. Invaluable.

If this economy goes the way I think it's going to go, we are all going to be doing this thinking about everything, so may as well get started.

By Jana (Guest Post)04/24/2008

I work three jobs to pay the bills (phone, car, insurance, etc) and to save a little extra money because I also take online college classes. My boyfriend and I both work, but both our wages put together, pretty much adds up to about the same of 1 lower class salary. We raise a garden and we can a lot of our veggies or blanch and freeze them so we don't have to buy veggies a whole lot. We almost never go out to eat unless we have to go and pick up his daughter. Then we only eat at the cheaper fast food resteraunts like McDonald's and eat of the dollar menu. Since we live on a farm, we raise our own beef and that's basically the only meet we live on. His brother raises pigs so we just trade a half a cow for a half a pig. Then there is a variety. I go to second hand store, garage sales, and hit all the sales for clothing and the extra we absolutely need. And since we can't drink our well water, only wash clothes and dishes, I take as many jugs as I can find and when I go to my grandparents I fill the jugs up instead of buying bottled water. We don't have cable or satellite, just the 3 channels that the antenea picks up.

As far as bills go, I take the biggest check from each 2 week payperiod and apply that one to my bills, usually around 350 dollars, then take the other two checks and put them in the savings acount. All my tips from my waitressing goes into the emergency fund I keep in the house. It isn't much, only 10-15 dollars 3 days a week, but it makes me feel better knowing there is something there.

By Diana (Guest Post)04/22/2008

DaveRamsey.com Read his books. It is a changed my lifestyle and it works!

By Paula Jo Carr Mebane, NC (Guest Post)04/22/2008

1. Get the total amount of all of your monthly expenses and bills down on paper.
2. Divide that number by 2 or 4 (depending on how many times a month you are paid).

NOW you know at least what you must bring home weekly/biweekly to "pay all of your bills that are due in a month AND what ever is left over is your extra spending money for fun and outings.

I have lived for years on a monthly fixed income and have always figured my expenses by this method (dividing everything's cost into 12 for 12 months or 52 weeks out of a year). Doing it this way I have always been able to pay all of my bills on time plus pay myself (in savings) along with all of the other bills.

FYI I figured $10 a week ($1.43 a day) goes into my savings and that little bit adds up to $520 a year. OR that same small amount saved for 5 years (60 months) and it equals $3120.00...all for $1.43 saved a day! Try it you too will be amazed.

By joeseven04/20/2008

Regarding Food, skip Costco & such! 2/3 of the food they sell in bulk is large quantities of processed CRAP. One spouse (or partner!) at home can take the time, at least some of the time, to create many more healthy "scratch" meals and snacks. Scratch cooking ingredients can be found in bulk (the north west) at stores like WinCo's and Fred Meyer in their Bin sections. Even shopping bins of health food stores is very affordable when buying staple items needed for scratch cooking.

Hey, don't get me wrong, I still buy and like the taste of processed foods,but even a box of wheat thins on sale for 1.50 could be made at home for 50c by someone who learned how. Maybe not worth it for a single person, but for a family yes!

By Cyinda [214]04/20/2008

I wanted to add an extra bit of advice to the already long note I wrote previously:

When I remarried, we needed a larger house (because we had 4 children crammed into a 2 bedroom home) & decided to buy rather than rent. Since both my husband & I worked, we qualified for a fairly decent sized house, but even though I was working at the time, I decided to find a MUCH smaller house that we could eventually afford on one income. So, even though we qualified for a $125,000 house, we instead found one for only $61,000 (this was in the 1980's) That way, I knew I'd have more of a chance of keeping up the payments when & if I eventually quit my job. This house wasn't the least bit fancy, just the bare essentials with no garage, no family room & the 2 girls had to share a bedroom. It was what you'd call a "starter home" (one of those mass-produced prefab homes built in the 50's) but I fixed it up & we enjoyed living there.

There were other things that helped me quit my job: My husband wanted to buy me a nice wedding & engagement ring & but I decided the money we'd spend on a diamond would be better spent elsewhere, so instead we bought just a small gold band. This way the "diamond money" could then help with the down-payment on a house or at least we'd have no extra payments to pay off by financing the rings.

We also thought "long term" & decided to go to a hotel locally instead of taking a fancy vacation for our honeymoon. I figured, "Why pay the big bucks for a short vacation, when I could instead use that money for a down payment on a home?" You can always take a nice vacation or buy a fancy diamond later on when you can better afford them.

It's all about what expenses you WANT & what expenses you really NEED... You don't NEED a fancy engagement ring, a big house, a honeymoon to a far away island or even a newer car. You just need the basics: A roof over your head, healthy food in your tummy & a car that gets you from point A to point B safely (and isn't so bad looking that it draws the attention of the cops!) ... *grin*

By Marty Dick [133]04/20/2008

You can also check with Angel Food Ministries... You don't have to give accounting for your finances and you don''t have to be getting assistance from the govt. You pay about half what the food would cost at the super market.

By Pat (Guest Post)04/19/2008

If you don't know how learn to sew. Check portions of the food you eat. Many families are eating way too much. Either sell the second car or really cut down on trips. Second hand, garage sales should become a way of life. Grow a garden.Wash clothes less.Choose a simple hairstyle and let it grow,less haircuts. When vacationing take sandwiches,snacks and homemade drinks. If you eat out drink tap water with lemon. Spend weekends doing low cost projects to improve your home. Visit the library for books,tapes DVDs, and books on crafts projects and saving money.

By tracey [15]04/19/2008

Be frugal! The other posts list great ways to start adjusting to one income. The grocery part of your budget is the easiest place to cut back on just by meal planning, utilizing leftovers, and shopping sales. Thrift stores and garage sales are a great place to find clothes, furniture, books, gifts, whatever. Also check out free cycle. Don't forget about free ways to have fun like going to the park, walking, and getting books and movies at the library. If you have a yard or even a balcony, start growing your own fruits and veggies if you can.

By Cyinda [214]04/19/2008

I went through the exact same thing when I was younger & I wanted to quit my great job at Boeing to stay at home to raise my 4 kids (16, 13, 10 & 2). First, I paid off all of our credit cards & depts, & made sure we didn't have ANY payments before I actually quit. That means NO car payments. We drove older "beaters" cars & station wagons. They ran okay, but didn't always look great. We had one older VW vangon that held 7 so we could all ride to church in the same car with room to bring one friend along.

We also had one small older hatchback for good gas mileage to run errands with & for my husband to drive to work. All of our cars were at least 10 years old, so we could afford to buy them with no payments. Why make car payments when you can find a good little beater for under $1500. And believe me you CAN! In fact I found my daughter a great little Civic for $800 & she drove it for 3 years with it only needing one minor repair (a radiator). And, just last month she sold it & upgraded to nicer Honda for $2,200. Nice running, CHEAP cars (with good gas mileage) are out there everywhere! (I always buy on Craig's list) You just need to bring someone with you who knows about cars.

I sewed all of my girls (8 & 13) clothes & only dressed my 2 year old in matching low cost sweat-suits or hand-me-downs. I also bought all of my clothes at a thrift store or I sewed them from discount fabrics. And believe me we always looked GOOD. Just because you buy second-hand, doesn't mean you have to look bad! If I needed make-up I bought it on sale or only the least expensive brands. If it weren't for thrift stores, garage sales, surplus stores & Costco we never would have made it.

I was SUPER careful with the food budget & we ate very little meat. I went to Costco for groceries once a month & (besides costco) only bought groceries at discount stores, on sale or with coupons. One of my kids qualified for & wanted reduced lunches, I totaled it out & it was worth spending the money it took to buy her lunches this way, but it's usually cheaper to send bag lunches to school. My kids either rode the bus or walked to school. I didn't feel it was necessary to drive them everyday when transportation was already provided for them with my tax dollars.

I made a lot of Christmas gifts, but we were lucky enough to get a bonus check from my husbands work to buy the kids Christmas gifts with. We Never went out to dinner unless it was a very special occasion (like our anniversary) & the only vacations we took were a once a year 3 day camping & fishing trip which we drove to. This was back when gas was fairly affordable. As I said earlier absolutely NO credit cards were ever used!

We took all of our electric space heaters out so we could legally burn wood as our only source of heat. We saved all of our cereal boxes & "burn garbage" to start fires with. Our washer & dryer were old, but worked. We had NO cable TV, only the 5 free channels that we could pick up with an antenna. We bought our lawn mower used but it worked just fine. My oldest son made a little money mowing our lawn.

My husband & I had a deal we made about what to do with any overtime money he made. Half of it went to household expenses, 1/4 went to me (I usually bought something nice for the home, like a book case or I may use my money to find something wonderful for the family at a garage sale or buy fabric, or get my hair cut, and 1/4 of his overtime went to him so he could buy whatever he wanted because he deserved a treat once in a while for working so hard. We always tithed to our church. If we could afford 10%, I would sew bible covers & donate these to the church to sell, & lots of kids & adults bought them & the money was donated to the church.

The good news was, we didn't have to pay a baby-sitter for the kids & the kids were home with me! Many say this is especially important when your kids are young but I think it's JUST as important to be at home & not work when you have teenagers. Just think about it, they' are to old to be "babysat" & definitely shouldn't be home by themselves all day! My kids were never, ever just given money, they had to work for it. Either with a paper route, a job, mowing lawns or allowance. We gave them 10 TV credits per week each "credit" was good for half an hour of TV & if they didn't use some of them, I paid them 50 cents for each credit that was NOT used. This way they could earn money by NOT watching TV. I also paid them a penny a page to read books. These days you might need to raise that to 2 or 3 cents a page?

Unless you either have a husband that makes "big bucks" or you are totally committed to REALLY living with less, you might as well just stay at your job. Do yourself a favor & really plan out (on paper) how your budget will change & see if you can quit. I highly recommend staying at home with your children. Not only because YOU want to raise them, but also because they grow up so quickly. But before you decide to quit, I would either pay off your cars or sell them & buy older, cheaper ones. Also pay off all your debts & credit cards. The only payment (besides your monthly household bills) should be your mortgage. It may take a BIG commitment to pay down your debts, but it'll be worth it in the long run when you can quit your job! Good Luck!

By shannon04/18/2008

The grocery game! http://www.grocerygame.com It really works. We've cut our grocery spending by nearly half and get name brand items. Just takes a little time to organize. Check it out!

By Dave [1]04/18/2008

Unlike the others, I don't think you can go with one car. But you could do as my wife and I have for the past 18 years as we've raised 3 children on one income, don't buy cars that require a payment. Sell what you have and buy somethingf cheap but dependable. You lose the payments and unless you live in a no-fault state you can get by with just liability insurance. My wife enrolled our kids in city sponsored sport and craft programs where the kids were exposed to many great things that they wouldn't have gotten to if we didn't have a second car to get the three kids there.
While some generics are as good as name brands, not all are. We get the sunday paper for the coupons and usually get back more in coupon value than we pay for the paper.
To save gas, we always incorporated our shopping trips with trips to activities or I would stop on my way home from work.
I wish you good luck on this venture. It is possible to do this and I think many more would if we just wouldn't believe the media that it can't be done. It can be done. We just need to learn to live with less.

By Paula [14]04/18/2008

Terry, you should get a piece of paper and all of your monthly bills out. Write down each bill: rent, car payment, car insurance (if you pay every six months divide it by six to find out what it will be each month), electric, heat, water, sewer, cable, cell phones, ect. Is one salary enough to cover all of this? What is a necessity, and what is a luxury? What can you cut from your expenses? If only one person is going to work, then you don't need two cars, so I agree with the other posts, to sell one car. What is the deductible on the car insurance, can that be increased to help lower your payment? How large is your grocery allowance? Look at where you can cut back there. Maybe a few less meals with meat in them? Homemade snacks instead of store bought will save you some money. Do you menu plan for the week using the grocery store sale flyers to plan your meals around? If it's not on sale, don't buy it! Shop at thrift stores for clothes and furniture, let someone else pay top dollar for that stuff! I love shopping at garage and yard sales and buying used furniture and then fixing it up. Even if you don't think you have the talent to do that, go to the library and check out some books! While you are there check out the book: The Tightwad Gazette, it will get you started on ways to being frugal. Good luck to you, and keep us posted on how things go for you!

By DEBRADJ. (Guest Post)04/18/2008

GET RID OF ONE CAR STOPPING CAR PAYMENT AND INSURANCE. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT IS A LUXURY AND WHAT IS A NECESSITY. A LUXURY IS A MOVIE OUT WITH DINNER FOR FOUR. A NECESSITY IS GROCERIES. SPEAKING OF WHICH; START RIGHT NOW BUYING BULK. IF YOU HAVE A COSTCO OR SAM'S CLUB GET A MEMBERSHIP AND START BUYING BULK. ALSO DO SOME HOMEWORK AND FIND OUT WHERE THE CHEAPEST PLACES TO SHOP. ALSO, YOU DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BUY NAME BRANDS. GENERIC IS JUST AS GOOD. WHEN BUYING PRESCRIPTIONS ASK YOUR DOCTOR IF GENERICS ARE AVAILABLE. THE WHOLE IDEA IS TO BE FRUGAL FRUGAL FRUGAL. WHEN YOU CAN AFFORD IT A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES FOR THE FAMILY IS OK FOR A REWARD. ALSO BE AWARY OF GAS PRICES. IF YOU HAVE TO GO SOMEWHERE MAKE IT COUNT. DON'T JUST GO OUT AND DO ONE THING DO IT ALL . AND PLOT WHERE YOU ARE GOING. DON'T BACKTRACK. HERE'S ANOTHER ONE. NEED CLOTHES? TRY THE GOODWILL STORES FIRST. I HAVE LIVED IN A ONE SALARY FAMILY WITH KIDS FOR THE LAST 12 YEARS AND I HAVE MADE IT WORK. YOU JUST HAVE TO PLOT PLAN AND BE FRUGAL AND YOU CAN DO IT.

By Ima. (Guest Post)04/18/2008

Get rid of one of the cars? That would cut
insurance bill by half plus the car payment.
Good luck

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