Are you a one-income military family, struggling to make ends meet or just looking for ways to save? Whether it’s due to a decision to be a stay-at-home parent, frequent moves, or a job loss, your family may now be figuring out life with just one income.
You are not alone. This is a reality for many military families. The transitional phase of adjusting to being a one-income family isn’t always easy. But with a little bit of wit, and these frugal life hacks, you will do more than just good enough!
The best frugal hacks we’ve found for single income families
1) INTERNET – One of the biggest luxuries we enjoy is the Internet. Half of the time, we are literally doing nothing except casually browsing social media feeds. This is an area that you can easily cut back on. Forget cut back. With options like Freedom Pop, EVERYONEON.ORG, and NetZero, you can get the cheapest internet, or maybe even free internet, depending on how much data you use! Seems pretty easy, right?
2) PUT YOUR SPARE CHANGE IN ACORNS – Acorns is an app designed to help you save money. You can automatically save and invest your spare change in Acorns.
3) GROCERIES – Grocery shopping is another area that takes up a huge part of your budget. This is one area where if you are frugal and use tools like meal planning and money saving apps like Rakuten, you can truly save the most here. Rakuten helps you save money on various purchases from Amazon, as well as on Lyft if you use it for rides. Ibotta is also a good option, similar to Rakuten. It not just helps you save money, but rewards you with cashback! Ask around for where the cheapest places are to shop. It might mean making more than one stop – commissary for meat and veggies, Aldi for packaged goods, etc.
4) DIY – We often have the luxury to just call someone to do a job for us, be it washing our car or cutting our hair. However, now you have to cut back on the help and try doing it on your own. Don’t worry, YouTube will guide you every step of the way, plus, it’s super fun!
5) MEAL PLANNING – Now that you are a little low on budget, you will have to plan family meals carefully, saving money every step of the way. The best way to be frugal when shopping for items you’ve planned is to look for alternative ingredients for the really expensive ones. Once you get used to doing it, it will be a habit.
Other ways you can live frugally:
6) USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT – If you are stationed in an area where there is pubic transportation use it! It hurts, but sell your car, and use public transport.
7) SIGN UP FOR AMAZON PRIME – Amazon Prime can potentially save you money in various ways, depending on your shopping and entertainment habits. Here are some ways in which Amazon Prime can be cost-effective:
- Free Shipping: One of the primary benefits of Amazon Prime is free two-day shipping on eligible items. If you frequently shop on Amazon, this can save you money on shipping fees, especially if you order products regularly.
- Prime Day Deals: Amazon Prime members get exclusive access to Prime Day deals, which can offer significant discounts on a wide range of products. Prime Day usually occurs annually, and it’s an opportunity to score great deals on everything from electronics to household items.
- Amazon Family: Prime members can sign up for Amazon Family, which offers exclusive family-oriented offers and discounts. This includes 20% off diaper subscriptions and baby registry benefits.
It’s important to note that while Amazon Prime offers many frugal benefits, the overall cost-effectiveness depends on your individual usage patterns. If you frequently take advantage of the shipping benefits, streaming services, and exclusive deals, the membership fee may be well worth it.
8) USE ENERGY EFFICIENT APPLIANCES – Energy-efficient appliances are typically designed to be more efficient than standard models. The Energy Star program, for example, certifies appliances that meet or exceed certain efficiency standards. Energy Star appliances can be up to 50% more energy-efficient than standard models. The higher the efficiency, the more you can potentially save on your energy bills.
While purchasing energy-efficient appliances may not seem more frugal initially, they can save you money in the long run by reducing your energy consumption and, consequently, your utility bills.
9) DON’T GO FOR CABLE – Instead, opt for OTT platforms like Netflix and Hulu; they are both cheaper and better as far as content is concerned. (Even better – ask your cell phone provider if they provide free access to a platform! With TMobile we currently get Apple TV and Netflix free!)
10) CUT BACK ON VACATIONS This one hurts me as I love a good vacation, but when we were transitioning from two incomes to one, this was key. And when we start going on vacations again we have always utilized military discounts and free or reduced tickets through military promotions. Be sure to check rates through your local ITT!
11) CONSIDER CHANGING HOUSES FOR A PLACE THAT IS CHEAPER IN RENT Look at base housing vs out in town. Depending on what duty station you are located, one option may be far more frugal than the other.
12) GO ORGANIC – Growing your own fruits and vegetables would be a very frugal way to go! This will help you immensely in cutting back on grocery shopping. Every summer we kids love to plant a potted salsa garden. While it makes great salsa, the ingredients are also a great way to cut back on other things we purchase from the store.
13) CUT BACK ON NON-VEG – Try to have more vegetarian meals because meat costs more. Adding more recipes that using beans and eggs for the protein is a great way to beef up your meal plan while pairing down the cost.
14) DO YOUR SHOPPING AT THRIFT STORES – Thrift shopping can be both frugal and enjoyable when approached with a clear plan and an open mind. Just remember that while thrift stores can offer significant savings, it’s essential to be mindful of your needs and avoid unnecessary purchases.
15) USE COUPONS WHEREVER YOU CAN – If you are new to using coupons, you will want to start by collecting coupons from various sources. These can be found in newspapers, magazines, online coupon websites, and even through mobile apps. Keep your coupons organized so you can easily find and use them when needed. You can use a coupon organizer, envelope system, or a digital app to manage them.
Some stores allow you to use multiple coupons for a single purchase. Look for opportunities to stack manufacturer’s coupons with store coupons and store sales for even more savings!
When shopping online, always search for coupon codes before checking out. One of my favorite places to search for additional savings and to even earn cash back from my online purchases is through Rakuten. If you haven’t used Rakuten before, sign up today and get an additional cash back bonus!
While coupons can help you save, they can also tempt you to buy things you don’t really need. So if you’re wanting to be frugal, be sure to stick to your shopping list and buy only what you would normally purchase.
16) TRACK EACH AND EVERY PENNY YOU SPEND – Tracking each and every penny you spend is a fundamental practice for anyone seeking to manage their finances effectively. This meticulous approach to budgeting allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of your financial habits and patterns. By recording every expenditure, whether it’s a small daily coffee or a larger monthly bill, you can identify areas where you might be overspending and make informed decisions to cut back or allocate resources more efficiently. It also provides a sense of control and awareness over your financial situation, helping you save for future goals, avoid unnecessary debt, and ensure that your money is directed towards what truly matters to you.
17) USE APPS LIKE SWAGBUCKS – Utilizing apps like Swagbucks is an ingenious way to enjoy your favorite Starbucks coffee at little to no cost. These reward-based apps offer various opportunities to earn points or cashback for completing surveys, shopping online, watching videos, or performing other simple tasks. By consistently accumulating these rewards, you can redeem them for Starbucks gift cards or, in some cases, direct cash payments. This creative approach not only satisfies your coffee cravings but also showcases the power of leveraging technology to turn everyday activities into valuable savings. So, while your coffee might come with a price tag at first, with the help of apps like Swagbucks, you can turn those earned rewards into delightful, practically free Starbucks treats.
18) USE GROUPON FOR DAYS YOU EAT OUT – Groupon is a fantastic resource for those looking to save money on dining out – sometimes up to 50% off! It provides access to a wide range of restaurants and eateries with substantial discounts and deals. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual meal at a local diner, a fine dining experience, or trying out a new cuisine, Groupon offers a diverse selection of dining options. Using Groupon for days you eat out allows you to savor the culinary delights you love without straining your budget. It’s a win-win situation; you get to explore new dining experiences and save money at the same time. Groupon’s user-friendly platform and variety of restaurant choices make it an excellent tool for anyone who wants to enjoy meals out without breaking the bank.
19) IBOTTA WILL HELP YOU SAVE MONEY WHEN IT COMES TO PHARMACY – Even if you are on Tricare Prime, you likely visit drugstores like CVS and Walgreens for items you need. Every time you make a purchase from the drugstore, be sure to scan your receipt on the Ibotta app and be rewarded with cashback.
20) USE THE DROP APP TO GET GIFT CARDS ON YOUR REGULAR PURCHASES – The Drop app is a savvy way to earn gift cards without any additional out-of-pocket expenses during your regular shopping. By linking your credit or debit cards to the Drop app and selecting your favorite retailers from their list, you can automatically earn points, or “Drops,” when you make purchases at those stores. These points can then be redeemed for gift cards of your choice, effectively reducing the overall cost of your shopping. This innovative approach to cashback rewards allows you to effortlessly accumulate value while spending on everyday purchases, ensuring you get more out of your regular expenses without spending any extra money.
21) PARIBUS IS AN APP THAT WILL ALWAYS KEEP YOU UP TO DATE ON SALES AND PRICE DROPS – Paribus is a helpful app that aims to keep consumers informed about sales and price drops. By monitoring your email for receipts from online purchases, Paribus automatically tracks the prices of items you’ve bought and alerts you when there are price reductions or if you’re eligible for a refund due to a price drop. This valuable service not only ensures that you stay updated on potential savings but also simplifies the process of price matching or requesting refunds, making it a valuable tool for frugal shoppers who want to maximize their savings on online purchases.
22) PURCHASE USED ITEMS THAT ARE IN GOOD CONDITION – Purchasing used items that are in good condition is a cornerstone of frugal living. It’s a sustainable and cost-effective way to acquire the things you need without breaking the bank. Whether it’s clothing, furniture, electronics, or household appliances, the secondhand market offers a treasure trove of high-quality items at a fraction of the cost of new ones. This approach not only stretches your budget but also reduces waste and minimizes the environmental impact associated with the production of new goods. Plus, buying used often means you can afford better-quality items than you would if you were restricted to a tight budget for new purchases. Embracing pre-owned items can be a smart and eco-conscious choice for anyone seeking to lead a frugal, yet fulfilling, lifestyle.
Joining Facebook Marketplace groups at your base or surrounding areas can be a great way to save on used items in good condition – especially around PCS season!
23) INVEST MORE ON SEASONAL PRODUCE – Investing more in seasonal produce is a wise and health-conscious choice for various reasons. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are typically fresher, more flavorful, and nutritionally richer compared to out-of-season counterparts. Moreover, they tend to be more affordable, as local abundance often drives prices down. By prioritizing seasonal produce, you can not only enhance the quality of your meals but also reduce your grocery bills. Additionally, supporting local farmers and markets when produce is in season contributes to sustainable agricultural practices and helps strengthen your community’s economy. This investment in seasonal, fresh produce not only benefits your health and wallet but also promotes a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to food consumption.
24) COOK ONCE FOR TWO MEALS – Cooking once for two meals is a time and cost-saving strategy that many military families find incredibly beneficial. By preparing a larger batch of a meal, you not only save time on cooking and cleaning but also ensure that you have a second meal ready to go for another day. This practice encourages efficient meal planning and reduces food waste, as you can use leftover ingredients from the first meal in creative ways to make the second one. Whether it’s a hearty stew, a versatile pasta sauce, or a batch of grilled chicken, cooking once for two meals allows you to enjoy the convenience of homemade food without the hassle of daily cooking, making it a smart and practical approach for busy individuals and families looking to balance their schedules and budgets.
25) LEARN A NEW SKILL ON YOUTUBE AND SEE IF YOU CAN MAKE ANY EXTRA MONEY FROM IT – Learning a new skill through YouTube can be a fantastic way to expand your knowledge and potentially generate extra income. YouTube offers a vast library of tutorial videos on various subjects, making it an accessible platform for acquiring new skills. Whether it’s learning a musical instrument, mastering a craft, improving your cooking abilities, or delving into digital marketing, the possibilities are virtually endless. As you refine your skills and gain expertise, you may explore opportunities to monetize your newfound talents. This could involve creating your own YouTube channel, offering online courses, freelancing, or providing services related to your skill. The key is to be persistent and dedicated, as success often takes time, but acquiring a new skill can not only enrich your life but also open doors to potential income streams.
These are some of the best frugal hacks we have used to save money. Maybe they will help you save in areas you might not have thought you could. The important thing is to stay strong, and plan a budget each month to track your spending. It can be hard for a one-income family, having to cut back on a lot of luxuries, but you will lead a better life without all the extravaganza.