Tips for Living on one Income

I am a self professed expert at living on one income, having been a single parent of three young children for 14 years on and off, and at the same time being the only provider even when our family unit expanded for 7 of those 14 years to include a partner and his 2 children as well on the same single income. For 7 years I waited for the second income to materialize but it seems it was unnecessary.

Single parenthood and single income families are no mean feat at the best of times, but when additional children have an appetite for air travel and jet setting from one end of the country to the other between parents to play one parent off against the other it becomes a feat to be reckoned with.

Things in the money department were pretty tight all the time with that many mouths to feed on one income, and one day the penny dropped – We were both smoking whatever was left over when the money ran out before the month did.

I dropped the habit cold turkey after 22 years, he didn’t. I decided our single income couldn’t continue to pay for cigarettes and so we sacrificed our marriage rather than his cigarettes. I suddenly had an instant second income, no partner and two less children to support. Suddenly our single parent 3 children family unit could afford to have vacations, the odd night out at the movies or skating for the kids. And there was room for savings and rainy day money to be put aside as well as education funds!

Three years will have passed on 5 January 2008 and we have not looked back – no cigarettes eat into our single parent family income, the kids get pocket money and are encouraged to save a percentage of it. I believe that kids need to develop a healthy respect for money. I wish someone would have given me that insight when I was still in primary school.

Internet accounts like ING where your funds are 24 hours away are a god send to my single income family. My experience is that if your savings or rainy day cash is put into an account that is accessible but not readily accessible, by the time you get access to the cash you have usually decided that you didn’t need the thing that you took money out of your savings for and you can put it back in the account again usually easier than you can withdraw it.

Credit cards are counter productive unless they are used correctly – this means that the entire balance has to be paid off by the due date to avoid paying any interest on the credit card.

Never ever take a cash advance off the credit card as interest accrues daily from the day the cash is withdrawn until the day that the whole cash advance plus the interest and any fees are repaid. The interest rate on most credit cards is around 18% and those rates are equivalent to getting an advance from a loan shark – why would you do it? There is no emergency big enough to warrant a cash advance from a credit card.

The banks have now introduced Visa debit cards which use your cash instead of a line of credit. These cards are invaluable for making purchases by mail order or on the Internet. Also by using the visa nature of the card you can almost eliminate bank transaction fees on your account altogether as these transactions generally don’t attract fees or are not usually included in the transaction count for the month on your transaction account with an attached visa debit card.

Make a budget – Set your priorities and stick to them when it comes to savings and budgets. Recognize that entertainment is important and set a weekly budget for entertainment then make sure that you stick to it. Make sure you use the entertainment budget so that you don’t feel like you don’t spend money on yourself. Be a bit hard on yourself though and make sure you don’t overspend on entertainment.
There are plenty of free activities that can be attended on any given weekend the only cost of attending them is the fuel or public transport fares to get there.

Make sure that your budget includes a percentage of your income(minimum 10%!) for savings and set up an automatic deduction to ensure that the savings are regular and certain.