Did you know that finances are one of the most reported causes of arguments among married couples today? In many couples, one spouse is the “spender” and one is the “saver.” I am particularly blessed to be a saver married to a saver, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t gotten a little tense when financial issues arise. As a single-income household, we have to constantly communicate in order to keep our budget balanced. We have been married for 5 years and budgeting together even longer! Here are a few insights we have learned along the way.

Get on the Same Page

First, you need to be completely honest and open about your personal financial situation BEFORE you even become engaged. When my husband and I were first dating, he was student teaching and working, and I was in school and working. In order to student teach, you have to be at your assigned school the same hours as your mentor teacher, plus take a college portfolio class. It is super intense (Basically, you work a full time job for which you don’t get paid.) Since he was teaching all day, he had to cut back on his hours at work in addition to working late nights. Most nights he would get off work at 10:30 and be at my apartment at 10:45 hungry for whatever I had cooked up (it was usually spaghetti). After he ate, he would go home and finish studying and grading. Money was tight, but both our parents were helping us financially as well. It was a fairly tiring, but stable time.

However, when I started student teaching, I had to quit my job. I wanted to take out as little student loans as possible and had succeeded in having no prior debt. I was blessed to have my parents offer to pay rent on my teeny apartment (and insurance), but other than that, I had about $2000 for the semester; bills, car payment, food, gas, clothes – EVERYTHING. I remember being so broke that I could only afford one hot-and-ready pizza for the week. I would have one slice for breakfast and pack one slice for lunch every day. My dinners consisted of “burrito bowls” (white rice with black beans and salsa on top). Unless my boyfriend, who was making grown-up pay (holla’!!!), took me on a date, or I went home for the weekend, I ate the same thing every single day.

At that time in our lives we were pretty much living on our love, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We learned valuable budgeting skills and started out our marriage debt free! We weren’t nervous, but rather excited to open a joint account because we had nothing to hide.

Find a Budget Plan that Works for You

When we were first married and both teaching full-time, we didn’t even bother budgeting. We were both frugal and drove used cars, so it wasn’t a big deal. We went out to eat a lot, but otherwise lived modestly. About halfway through my first year of teaching, I had to resign for health reasons – which is when we had to start tightening the reins. Our church has an amazing group of “young marrieds,” and many of them recommended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace plan. It is a zero-based budgeting system which accounts for every single dollar going in and out each month. It is extremely time consuming, but well worth it. Many churches offer classes, but you can download the free budgeting printables off of his website, or via the Every Dollar app!

For us, the thing that helped most was the way it broke every category down into an ideal percentage of your budget. For example, it tells you that you should not spend more that 35% of your monthly take-home income on housing. So, if you bring in $3,000 a month you should be spending, at most, $1,050 on rent. It really is pretty foolproof!

Meal Plan

Ugh! This one is tough. I am a busy mom. Planning and shopping and cooking is a hassle! Not to mention all the dirty dishes and kitchen mess. When we knuckled down on our budget, the amount we spent on food was staggering. We knew we needed to make a change. Meal planning has saved us SO much money. Typically, I plan for 5 dinners to be cooked at home plus supplies for everyone’s breakfast and lunches during the week. According to our budget, we should spend about $150 on food a week (that’s groceries, and eating out y’all!). Simply, there is no other way to do it than to meticulously plan and choose budget friendly meals. Pinterest, a crock-pot, and Aldi are my best friends.

“If it’s Free, it’s for Me!”

This advice came from my sweet Papa Chuck (who, in all honesty may be a bit of a hoarder) – BUT his words of wisdom have served us well. Our house is filled with nearly all used items that have been handed down to us. It’s awesome! My son is a toddler so I don’t want to shell out a bunch of money on something I am going to have to worry about getting *ahem* “well-loved.” From furniture, to clothes, to bedding, to toys and books, it can almost all be found second-hand or from someone in your family who is buying a newer version. We were even able to buy a car for my husband from one of his brothers. We are so fortunate that he gave us a great deal and a flexible payment plan, as we had just moved back to Oklahoma City and my husband needed something more reliable for his commute. Don’t worry about not having the latest trends – financial security is much more important in the long run.

Compare Prices on your Biggest Bills, and Ask the Experts

You would never buy a car or a house without checking around to see what was going to give you the best bang for your buck, so why would you treat your other monthly expenses any differently? Not everyone is trying to up-sell you, but you have to be careful who you ask. Asking a friend where they buy auto insurance is a great place to start, but you shouldn’t rely on others to do all the research for you.

Don’t be afraid to take a bit of an unconventional route. My husband has great health insurance from his employer, but the rates were outrageous for my son and I to be added to the policy. After getting super frustrated and seemingly exhausting every venue, my mom mentioned that I look into becoming a member of a medical co-op. I was skeptical to say the least, but then my primary care doctor became a practitioner for one in my hometown. We have had zero regrets about joining. All of our office visits are covered, and our medications are supplied in-office at wholesale prices – all for one low monthly membership fee! It has saved us big time!

Another exciting advance in the world of affordable insurance is BriteBee! BriteBee is an online platform that connects local insurance agents to consumers via a private and secure network. In order to get connected with agents, the user fills out a confidential profile listing basic information and the type of insurance they are looking for (auto, home, renters’, or life). Once the profile is complete, it is shared with local agents who can then send you quotes. It’s a one stop shop! BriteBee’s services are free and there is NO SPAM. They don’t even share your phone number or email with the agents you request quotes from – you are in control of all of your information! How many companies can you say that about?

I hope that this article has given you some good ideas about budgeting on one-income. I am so blessed to get to be a stay-at-home mom, and I want to show people that, with some effort, it is possible to live well within you means and still enjoy life. Happy budgeting!


“Hello, I’m Emily Kelley! I am a wife to a high school teacher and soccer coach, and mommy to a rambunctious 2 1/2 year old little boy. I am certified to teach Art and English in the state of Oklahoma, but I’m taking a break to raise my little and work at my church’s Mother’s Day Out program. I love kids and all the messy, chaotic, creativity that they bring to the table. I love to teach and learn!”