1. Use Cash. This is probably one of the simplest and easiest things that we changed that really made a difference. My husband and I were the type of people who just swiped cards. We kept "mental" track. Now it's all cash, all the time. We always know how much money we have. For us, being able to see how much cash we have makes us spend less money.
2. Budget. It's so, so important to budget! I really believe everyone should have a budget of some type they follow, and most people probably do have one. We didn't. We just blindlessly spent. Now it's written in ink! There are tons of ways to budget, from Dave Ramsey's envelope system, to mint.com. Look around and find what works for you.
3. Prioritize. This is something that works for us, and may not work for you. The FIRST thing we buy when we get paid is groceries. That way if there is something unexpected that happens, we will at least have groceries. This also means we won't buy frivolous things because we've already spent the money on food!
4. Aldis. I literally cringe every time I think of the fact we used to shop at a name brand grocery store. We live right next to two huge name brand grocery stores, and it was so convenient to just go there for groceries. Now the majority of our shopping is done at Aldis which is a grocery store that has it's own store brands. The amount of money we save overall is dramatic. We do still buy meat and other things we cannot find at big grocery stores. (To see the difference between Aldis and a name brand grocery store, click here)
5. One Car. July of 2010 we sold my husband's Ford Explorer. Now we only have to fill one gas tank, worry about the maintience on one car, and insure one car. This was hard to get used to at first. I went from bee bopping all over, whenever I wanted, to being stuck at home unless my husband is here. I get stir crazy, but it's worth it. 12/28/2012 UPDATE: Having one vehicle has been great for us, but times are changing here. With the approach of 2013 I will be needing a car to travel to and from my parents farm daily. I have to admit this is bittersweet! Although the adventures ahead are exciting, I will miss the simplicity one car had to offer!
6. Garden/Real Food/From Scratch. If you eat a diet devoid of a lot of processed foods, it can be very cost effective to make your own bread, soap, cakes, etc. Also, if you are spending a lot of money on organic fruits and veggies, you can totally grow them yourself and preserve them at home. This is a lost art, but can immensely important and cost effective!
7. Cell phone provider. Once upon a time ago my husband and I paid a mint a month for cell phone services. We wanted every new phone and thought there was no big deal to pay out the nose for the best plan avaliable. Well, when times got tough, we had to rethink those fancy cell phones and plan. We looked for the cheapest cell phone provider and stumbled upon Virgin Mobile. We have had services with them now for over two years and absolutely love them! Just to give you a visual this is what we could be paying if we had plans else where...
ATT-unlimited text, data, and 700 minutes-189.99
Verizon-unlimited text, data and 700 minutes-159.99
T-Mobile-unlimited text, data, and 750 minutes-139.00
Sprint-unlimited text, data, and 1500 minutes-129.00
Virgin Mobile-unlimited text, data, and 600 minutes-50.00
Before Virgin Mobile we had ATT, which means we've saved 139.99 per month. In one year we've saved 1679.88! That is incredible! These days we could switch to another provider, and have been tempted at times due to various bells and whistles. In the end though we've stuck with Virgin Mobile. I'd much rather save those extra dollars than pay for nothing.
8. Buy Used/On Sale. It helps a ton to buy used items from, ebay, amazon, craigslist, or thrift stores. You get things at a fraction of what they would normally cost. Another thing that has helped us is buying items we want only if they are on sale.
9. Coupons. This kind of ties in with number 8 and number 4. Clipping and using coupons can be a great help with saving money. We don't do a lot of coupons because Aldis doesn't accept them. However anytime I go to buy something that is more expensive, I do a ton of research first. I look at amazon, and ebay, check craigslist, and look for online coupons. It can help make a difference in the end!
10. Needs VS. Wants. This is probably one of he hardest of thins to learn and follow. it's something I think I will always struggle with in some ways. Weighing what you need versus what you want need to be ever present in your mind. I very much want many things right now. I'd love to get a manicure, go to the movies, buy a new car, or go on vacation. But I need new clothes, gas in the tank, and a vet trip for my dogs. It also helps to realize that you may not have the newest gadget/item, etc. Learn to be content with what you have.
These are the things we have implemented here to live on one income. I can't say they are easy, but they are effective. What do you think? If you live on one income, what tips do you have to share? Feel free to share in the comments!