When my family dropped down to one income, we had to pick 3 'fun' categories where we'd continue spending — and ditch the rest

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  • I never expected to become a stay-at-home mom, but my mind changed when I had my first daughter.
  • To adapt to living on one income, my husband and I turned to some advice we'd once heard: "Pick three categories that are really important to you and spend your money there, and with everything else try to cut out or reduce your expenditures as much as possible."
  • We decided to continue using our discretionary funds on food, travel, and entertainment, and cut or reduce our spending on technology and home improvement.
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Being a stay-at-home mom was not something that was ever in my "plan." I have a degree in business economics and management as well as a graduate teaching license, and loved working as a teacher and a financial adviser.

Before our oldest was born, I assumed I would take a few months off with her and then go back to work as usual. After she was born and I returned to work, though, I found that was not the case. My motivation for working outside the home was extremely low, and I was pining to do my own thing so that I could spend more time at home with my daughter. My husband and I were both used to making full-time incomes and really had to determine how to make living on less income work for us.

We reflected back on some advice we'd heard when we were planning our wedding years earlier: "Pick three categories that are really important to you and spend your money there, and with everything else try to cut out or reduce your expenditures as much as possible."

This advice helped us to have a dream wedding that was in our budget, and when it came time to live on one income, we decided to try a similar approach.

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In addition, we knew that we didn't want to have to completely cut eating out from our budget once we went down to one income, so we kept that as a high-priority item so we could plan accordingly. 


Travel has always been super important to my husband and me. My grandmother came to the US from Ireland, and our family spent time visiting our relatives in the UK when I was young. Like me, my husband grew up traveling to visit family friends in Mexico City and Jamaica, and also loves to travel.

We knew we wanted to continue traveling and exposing our children to new places, people, and cultures, but also knew we were going to have to figure out a way to financially make it work. Luckily I discovered the amazing world of credit card travel rewards, and we've used reward points to travel to Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington, DC within the past year.


Entertainment was the final category that we agreed held the most importance to us. My husband and I both love live music and attending outdoor concerts, as well as golfing and other activities that get us outside and active. Although having a child meant we had less time to do these types of things, we still wanted to budget in enjoying our time together when we were able to get away.

What we cut out of our budget

Once we had our three categories outlined, we had to discuss what we were cutting down/out and how our budget was going to look moving forward on one income. These were a few of the areas where we decided we wouldn't be spending money: 


My husband and I had one TV at our old home, and only kept cable because his company was acquired by Comcast and we got a great deal. He has had the same cell phone since I've known him (a whopping 10 years!) and I kept my iPhone 6s until just a few months ago (and only upgraded to an iPhone 8 that I bought on Amazon for a discount). 

Home improvements

When I left my job, we lived in a modest home that had a small split entry and a closed-off kitchen. I hated that I couldn't see our child play while I prepared lunch or made dinner, and we were running out of space with another child on the way. We discussed opening up the kitchen, but after running the numbers decided it just wasn't feasible. There were other home projects that deserved attention too, such as our deck, but we knew that on one income we would just have to postpone the projects. 

There were other areas we knew we would cut back on including our lunches and coffees out, but we were up for the challenge. By outlining three areas that were important to us and that we wanted to still include in our budget, it wasn't nearly as painful forgoing spending on other areas. We were able to plan for the spending that was most aligned with our values, and it made sticking to our budget easier.

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