Homeschooling on One Income
For many families, choosing to homeschool means making the transition from two incomes to one income. While this can be challenging, it is doable for a lot of families. The transition from two full-time incomes to homeschooling on one income will likely require some changes to your family’s lifestyle, but it’s worth it.
Homeschooling on One Income
Homeschooling on one income usually requires eliminating unnecessary expenses and saving money wherever possible. Here are some ways our family has been able to do this:
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Budget, budget, budget!
I can’t stress this enough! When there’s not any extra money to spare, you need to budget where every dollar goes. You can purchase budgeting software, or do it on your own with anything from an Excel spreadsheet to a piece of notebook paper. Record every monthly expense your family has (mortgage, utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.). If the total is more than your income, you need to make reductions. Don’t forget occasional expenses, like car repairs. For example, if you usually spend approximately $600 per year on car repairs and maintenance, set aside $50 of each month’s budget to save for these expenses. Small occasional expenses can add up, too, so don’t forget things like that annual Amazon Prime subscription fee when preparing your budget. For more on budgeting, saving, and paying off debt, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover.
Don’t let food eat a hole in your budget!
The occasional fast food meal, coffee run, or convince store snack may not seem like very much money at the time, but if you track how much your family spends on these things over the course of a month, you’ll find that these “small” purchases can quickly add up to a lot of money. Prepare freezer meals ahead of time instead of relying on takeout. When you cook a meal that freezes well, prepare a double recipe so that you can freeze half for when you don’t have time to cook. Also, your spouse and other employed members of the household should pack a lunch to take to work, rather than go out to eat daily.
Reducing what your family spends at the grocery store is another way to save money. Cook food from scratch, rather than relying on prepared food. Not only is this healthier, but it’s also much cheaper. I also recommend staying away from subscription services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. These services are convenient, but that convenience comes at a premium price. You can choose your own recipes and shop at the grocery store for significantly less. Also avoid grocery delivery services, as these can take a serious bite out of your grocery budget.
There are so many ways to save on groceries. Often, if you stack a coupon with a sale price, you can get an item for a fraction of the cost, sometimes even free. If couponing isn’t your thing, I’d recommend shopping at a discount grocery store like Aldi or a similar store in your area. Also, buy generic or store brands whenever possible. If your family eats organic food, I recommend Misfits Market. They deliver fresh, organic produce to your door for much less than it would cost in the grocery store. For more information and a 25% off coupon to Misfits Market, see this post. I was pleasantly surprised to find that unlike most other subscription box services out there, this one is actually budget-friendly.
Cut the cable!
Cable and satellite television are a completely unnecessary expense. We haven’t had them for years and have never missed it. Instead, consider a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus or Amazon Prime Video. These services range from about $6 to $13 per month each. Look at which programs and movies each service provides and choose the one that best fits your family’s needs. Don’t sign up for too many streaming services though, or you could end up spending as much as you were spending on cable. I like Amazon Prime because it also includes free two-day shipping from Amazon, which saves us a lot of money on our online shopping.
Phone in more savings!
Phones can be quite costly and something most people don’t feel comfortable doing without. However, more affordable options are available. Shop around for the lowest priced phone service that meets your family’s needs. For us, that is currently Cricket Wireless. They have plans starting at only $30 per month. And if you sign up with our referral link, Cricket will give you a $25 credit. After you choose a phone plan, I recommend revaluating your choice at least once a year. A better deal may have become available, and it’s super easy to port your number from one service provider to another. Also, if your phone still works, keep using it! Constantly upgrading to the latest model is costly and unnecessary. Beware of plans that offer a “free” phone. Often these plans cost significantly more per month than plans where you provide your own (low to mid-tier) phone.
Disconnecting your landline, if you still have one, is another way to save money. However, if you’re like us and prefer to have a home phone, you can still eliminate that monthly cost with the use of ObiTALK. Purchase an OBiTalk device, connect it to a Google Voice number, and you’ll have a home phone with no monthly bill. ObiTALK works through your high-speed internet, rather than a telephone line. The only drawback to this is that if your internet service or electricity goes down, you will also be without a home phone until they are restored.
Drive it till the wheels fall off!
Well, maybe not till the wheels fall off, but do drive your car as long as possible. Monthly car payments can be a significant strain on a single income family’s budget. If you have a car loan, focus on paying it off as quickly as possible. Once you’ve paid it off, continue to drive your car until it’s no longer worth repairing. Meanwhile, deposit what you were spending on your car payment into your savings account each month. Then, when your car finally bites the dust you can pay cash for a “new to you” used car. Driving older cars also allows you to save money on car insurance, as it’s often only necessary to carry liability insurance, rather than a pricey fill coverage policy.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Thrift stores, yard sales, and Facebook resale groups will be your friends. Not only does buying used save your family money, but it also reduces waste. And when you need some extra cash for an unexpected expense, look around your home for things you can sell. This will help you stay within your budget while decluttering your home. Trading hand-me-down clothing with friends is another way to save money. When something breaks, repair it instead of replacing it. Also, consider new uses for items you already have. Maybe those pants that have become too short for your child could be hemmed into shorts. Or perhaps that bookcase your neighbor discarded at the curb just needs a good cleaning or a fresh coat of paint.
Don’t overspend on homeschooling!
Some homeschool programs out there can be quite costly, but homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive. There’s a curriculum available for every budget. It’s even possible to homeschool for free. On the main page of FreedomHomeschooling.com, you’ll find free curriculum for every grade and all subjects.
If you aren’t able to find something that meets your needs for free, I recommend purchasing used curriculum. I also like to buy pdf curriculum. If you have multiple children, you can reprint the pdf for younger siblings, rather than having to repurchase the curriculum each time. If you have middle school or high school-aged students, I recommend 7Sisters Homeschool. They offer very reasonably priced pdf curriculum for literature, writing, health, social sciences, consumer math, financial literacy, speech, drama, career exploration, and more.
What if this isn’t enough?
Perhaps you have already made all of the above changes, and then some, but are still coming up short. Sometimes it just isn’t possible for a family to get by on one income. If this is the case for your family, it doesn’t mean that you can’t homeschool. In many homeschool families, both parents work. It’s a misconception that the parent who homeschools can’t or shouldn’t work. Working and homeschooling will be hard, but it can be done. This could involve continuing traditional full or part-time employment or working from home. In the past I have worked nights while my husband worked during the day. For a while, I cleaned homes and businesses a couple of days a week. Currently, I work from home on this website. Two places to look for legitimate work at home jobs are Rate Race Rebellion and Flex Jobs.
Hopefully, by making some of the changes described in this post you can make the transition to being a single income family, but it likely won’t happen overnight. It can take time to get that point. In the meantime, don’t let that discourage you from homeschooling.