Our family consists of working dad, stay-at-home mom, 3 sons – 16, 14, 11 plus a daughter 13, two beagle hounds, a cat and a fish. If we stop and think about it, most of us do know how to live on one income. Here are some tips to get you started:
Remember those College Days. Bet funds were limited then. If you don't remember, look up some campus newspapers on the internet and see what the poor crowd are doing for entertainment.
Think about those lazy, hazy summer days of tenting and cottaging. If you simplify your life drastically, people will say your lifestyle reminds them of being at the cottage.
Visit your grandmother or great grandmother and her friends. Many people who lived through the depression know lots and lots about household economy. They also know how to put a good face on poverty and present an elegant lifestyle to the world.
Go to the Library. There are all kinds of books on decorating, learning to cook, learning to clean, making things, etc.
Search the Web. Set a goal to find enough money-saving ideas monthly to at least pay for your internet access.
If you can't afford something, ask yourself what it is you really want and perhaps you can arrive at a better solution that is more economical. I need new nightgowns. I don't want to spend $20. I've been given a pile of printed cotton sheets. I have a sewing machine I'd like to learn how to use. Why not use an old nightgown as a pattern and learn to sew using the free sheets? If it works great. If it doesn't work – you're not out more than the cost of a spool of thread.
Talk to your kids. Find out what is and is not essential to them. I raised my kids in hand-me-downs. When I asked them if that was a damaging thing to do, they said they liked being able to play without having to worry about what was happening to their clothes. They thought the freedom was more important than having the latest styles.
Experiment with cooking. If you don't have the proper ingredients, consider trying a substitution rather than blowing the budget by going to the store midweek. My cooking can get pretty bizarre but the kids say they eat a lot better than their friends who always get take-out food.
Don't forget to have fun. Staying at home doesn't mean being indoors all the time. Go outside and smell the flowers.
Talk the family into pooling their possessions. I don't sort out T-shirts by who owns what. They are all put in the same closet and everyone grabs what they like in the morning. Everyone in our family goes to school looking like they have an incredibly large wardrobe but that's because they have 6 peoples' clothing to choose from.
Invest in things that have long-term play value – sports equipment, musical instruments, camping gear, carpentry tools. If you bought the camping equipment during a good year, the kids won't notice that things are tighter another year if they can go on the same camping trip. Last month, my son asked for a Titanic boat. I told him to go make one. He disappeared for days and when he finished he had made a wonderful boat from things he had found around the house and yard.
Remember those long, leisurely romantic afternoons from your youth. Recreate them and I guarantee you won't care what's happening at the mall.