How I Support My Family On One Income

how i support my family on one income



This is a Guest Post written by Tanya a CBB fan sharing her story about how she supports her family on one income in hopes to inspire others.

Tanya’s Story:

I live in Prince Edward Island with my two young children. Money wasn’t always streaming in to my bank account, but we were able to get by. The bills were being paid, we had just bought a house and we were comfortable.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I ended up being put on sick leave. With my pay gone and my sick benefits nowhere in site yet, things started to get tight. With only my husband’s salary to go on, one child in full-time day care (I was on bed rest) and another child on the way, the bills started to add up.

We started using my credit cards to cover the extra expenses, always saying we would pay them off as soon as possible, but the balances started to add up. It didn’t help that my husband refused to even try a budget – if he wanted to eat out, he did; if there was a movie he wanted to rent, he rented it.

By the time I went back to work (I work by contract), all of our bills were late, credit cards were maxed and we had one consolidation loan under our belts. Over the next few years, I tried to cut corners when possible, but with two of us having access to the bank accounts it was hard. I’m not saying it was all on my husband, but I do think I tried harder.

This past year, my husband and I separated; as soon as he realized it was over, he opened his own bank account and I was left with all of our bills (minus his car payment), the mortgage and our kids to support.

With my job, I sometimes only work 3-6 months a year. Even when I’m not employed, our son (who has special needs) has to be in day care full-time for his benefit. Now, I am back to one income and still have all of our debts without any financial support from my ex.

When my husband and I separated a few months ago, my household dropped to a one pay cheque home. With two young children (one with special needs) to care for, it was important that I quickly learn how to cut corners.

Working full-time, I used to be guilty of throwing together a lot of quick meals made from canned goods and bringing home take-out meals. Although canned goods can be inexpensive, most times they run at least $1 apiece, which can quickly add up.

woman cutting vegetables on one income

Saving Money and Time In The Grocery Budget

I had the idea of cooking large meals and freezing them in portion sizes. In the mornings, I will take enough for myself and my children out.

By the time supper time arrives, I simply need to pop them into the microwave. This is so easy for me, and a big money saver.

This method also helps with lunches while at work. I just pack one freezer meal in my lunch bag, and when noon hits, microwave and enjoy. I have found that by taking hot meals with me, I have cut way back on using the cafeteria where most of my co-workers spend a bit of money.

I often wonder how much it costs my co-workers who eat out of the cafeteria all week-long. It was certainly not something I was prepared to be doing especially when we didn’t have the money in our budget to do so.


Ways That Helps Me Raise My Family On One Income


  • If you have a cell phone contract, you can still lower your package to the absolute minimum. I save $20/month doing this.
  • With your home phone, try using one that has an answering machine; between dropping voice mail and call waiting, I am saving approximately $15/month.
  • If you absolutely can’t do without your satellite/cable, try getting the cheapest pkg – you can get so many programs online now for free
  • Instead of buying my daughter milk at school for 50 cents/day, I recently started sending a container of milk with her
  • My kids like cereal, but I find it can go stale fast – take a trip to your local Dollarama and pick up some plastic containers – keeps the food fresh and the critters out!  I use mine not only for cereal, but for things like noodles, flour and pancake mix
  • I always wash our clothes in cold water and hang them out on the line for as long as possible during the year – saves on hot water and electricity big time!
  • I buy all of my spices at a bulk store…why pay $5 for a little jar when you can get the same amount for 50 cents?
  • I check local thrift stores a couple of times a month; when my desk chair broke, I managed to find one at a Salvation Army store for only $5!  You can also find great deals on clothing and other necessities.
  • To save on haircuts, I purchased a trimmer set for $20 and use it for my son.
  • When possible, I use u-picks for fruits and vegetables – you can save so much over buying prepackaged in stores
  • When grocery shopping, check the pricing labels carefully.  A lot of stores now have the price/unit on the tags to help you compare items.

This helps a lot when you have two similar items that are different sizes/prices let’s you know the better deal! (Ex: buying two small containers of margarine vs one large).

I am going to start a budget soon since I am back to work again. I have limited eating out to special occasions, have taken a firm stand with my daughter over “treats” and am looking to downsize from a van to a compact car to save on gas.

I have switched my bank account to unlimited transactions; for only $4 more/month in fees, I went from only having 20 free transactions/month ($1/transaction after that)to not having to worry about getting a huge fee.

I’m hoping to start getting back on track financially while supporting my family on one income because my kids deserve a stable environment.

Discussion: What other tips can you add to the list above to help others who must survive on one income ?


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  1. I hope I never have to even imagine what it is like to raise kids on my own and with one income. I think in these situations, every little tip you can take helps out a lot! Good advice.

  2. We’re a two income family now, but I’m hoping for us to be able to live on one income for a while when we start to have kids. We’re pretty good a budgeting and I’d want to work at least part-time if/when we have kids.

  3. Hi Tanya, sorry to hear about your situation in this troubled time. The great thing is that you are doing something about it and I’m sure you will be able to spoil your kids in no time!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Tanya. It looks like you have made some fine decisions and on track financially.

    We have been a one income family for the last 8 months. I have been going through all our expenses with a magnifying glass to figure out where all we can cut the expenses.

  5. The u-pick idea is great advice because it becomes family entertainment while you’re adding to your family’s food supply.

  6. I too have been the sole income earner for a number of years. My husband was laid off during the last recession and has a number of health issues. He will begin collecting CPP and get meds covered as of his B’day in August (can’t wait as his meds are $277/monthly OOP). We went through mortgage refinancing etc. because I couldn’t make ends meet but I have finally got that sorted and am paying off our debts and hope to be debt free apart from the mtg by Jan 1 2014.

    Take heart, your are stronger and more resourceful than you know. Put your mind to it and focus 100% and YOU WILL FIGURE IT OUT.

  7. Great story Tanya. It took me a few years to get my finances together after becoming single but you seem to have it straightened out much earlier than I did.

    Emergency savings is the most important weapon in my financial arsenal. Not having to use the credit cards and getting in to more debt. Cash in the bank helps me sleep at night.

  8. Wow thanks for your story. I find that tracking my expenses whether it’s on paper or excel ss or whatever really helps me see where money is being wasted. Good luck though, sounds like you’re well on your way to financial freedom 🙂

  9. This a great story. When I worked I was purchasing 3 coffees a day at the vending machine. They were only 65c each, but they didn’t taste very good. I decided one day to bring my thermos, and never went back to buying. I then started taking my lunch, and the savings were immense…and tasted much better too.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story……. I hope things work out there. PEI is such a beautiful place!!! I know it will be difficult but remember your kids will know what’s what with all that’s going on and they know who is there for them and who isn’t. Good Luck…..

  11. Tanya I wish you luck with in your financial journey.
    One way my wife and I reduced our budget was to stop buying non reusable items. We bought plastic cups to replace the little bathroom ones and used microfiber cloths instead of the disposable swiffers. It may not seem like much money, but overtime you can save hundreds. Good luck.

  12. Glad to hear that you have been able to get some things back on track for yourself. Here’s hoping you have a good long contract coming up that helps you get everything under control and paid off! Best of luck 🙂

  13. Thanks so much for sharing your story Tanya! I wish the best for you as you work to get things on track financially. I find that often times, people just don’t want to make the choices to start living more frugally or are completely unwilling to. I know it takes a little work, but finding those savings really does add up in the long run.

  14. First of all. living where you do, your options may be few, and that breaks my heart. Move, go where there is opportunity, if at all possible. Second, you have slipped into survival ‘mode’; while an immediate necessity, it may doom you to poverty. You work 3-6 month a year? Look for ways to start your own business: can you open a daycare, clean offices, start a bookkeeping service?

    i encourage you to think outside the box, your present circumstances could create new opportunities

  15. Thank you for sharing your story Tanya and good luck getting back on track financially, it looks like you are on your way and nothing will stop you! There are so many ways to cut daily expenses, it looks like you found a lot of tricks to keep living well on less, without compromising you kid’s comfort.

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