Part Three–How to Live on One Paycheck–1950’s style!

Part Three–How to Live on One Paycheck–1950’s style!

Here in Part Three–How to live on one paycheck–1950’s style!, we are going to get into the beginnings of the nitty gritty.  When you choose to be the stay-at-home spouse, saving money and figuring out how to keep the family living within its means becomes part of your new job.  Rather than working outside of the home to earn more, you are working inside of the home to save more.   In the long-term taking the step to stay home can actually increase the quality of living for all members of your family.

In part 1 and part 2 of this series we talked about the practical steps to preparing to live on one income and how to get your mind right.  Today we begin what will be a series of posts–one every few weeks– showing different ways to cut spending and save money. (Update: These are coming in February 2018!)

One of the biggest concepts you can internalize is this:  There are literally thousands of ways to save a dollar.   Most are ignored because it’s “just a dollar.”  But when you condition yourself to do many of these things, you can reduce your annual spending by thousands–sometimes by many thousands–of dollars.  That’s about the same as an average part time job.


There are really just a few core ways to save money.

  1. Do without a product or service
  2. Use less of a product or service
  3. Extend the life of a product or service
  4. Find a less expensive replacement for a product or service

Every form of savings begins with these concepts.  As you go throughout your day working with products and services, ask yourself these questions.  Could I do without this item or service?  Could I use it less or use less of it and still have satisfactory results?   Is there some way I can extend its life or usefulness?    Is there a cheaper alternative?     Then share your ideas on our page!  We’ll take the best ones and include them in our monthly “Dollar Savers Blog.”

“There are literally thousands of ways to save a dollar.   Most are ignored because it’s “just a dollar.”  But when you condition yourself to do many of these things, you can reduce your annual spending by thousands–sometimes by many thousands–of dollars.”  –

Here are 20 ideas to get you started:

1.  Disposable Razors.

One of the new trending services is the Dollar Shave Club.  Not only can you save money on razors, but you get free razors for referring friends.   Check it out.  You can save even more money by googling to see if there is a current discount code before you sign up!

budgeting live on one paycheck

2.  Baby Formula.

This one always peeves me.  Did you know that generic baby formula, by law, has to meet the same standards as name brand formula.  In fact, many are exactly the same formula as the expensive brands without the fancy label.   Experts agree that you can safely and sanely save a small fortune by making the switch!

“All generic formulas must meet the same strict safety, nutrition, and manufacturing guidelines as the priciest products on the market. So, no, they’re not less nutritious.”


3.  Cell Phone Service.

There are many, many options available to save money on your cell phone.   Rather than jump right into the big named carriers, check out lesser known services like Republic Wireless, Consumer Celluar, and Metro PCS, or Go Smart Mobile.  Many of these plans start as low as $5 a month!

reduce expenses live on one paycheck

4.  Ditch the 2nd Vehicle.

Yes you can live with just one family vehicle.  You have been conditioned to “keep up with the Joneses.”  You have been conditioned to think that you must have a second vehicle by commercial ads.  You have been brain-washed.  Sell your second car and use the money to pay down debt or invest in building your emergency fund.

Then get continued savings on reduced insurance costs, fuel costs, repair costs, registration costs, maintenance costs, and car payments (if applicable.)   Your savings will actually extend further because you will also find yourself going back to good, old-fashioned home entertainment for the kids, like playing under the garden hose rather than trekking to the local beach (saving you from using fuel, buying concessions, etc.)

Life will immediately become simpler and I promise that you will adjust to planning for the occasional “drive your spouse to work” so you can have the vehicle for the once per quarter (or year) doctor visit, or other rare daytime vehicle need.  An added benefit, you will walk more–keeping yourself and your kids fit.

one car one paycheck

5.  Quilters take note!  

Years ago when I was preparing to wed, my mother told me it was time to make my marriage quilt.  We planned out all the colors, pieces and design and then it was time to buy the materials.  HOLY COW I was shocked at how expensive fabric, thread, and a batting (the filler between the fabric layers) was.    I have never since paid full price for any of those items.

If you are preparing to quilt, ask your friends if they have an old, stained, faded, factory-made quilt that they are looking to dispose of.   Use it for your batting.  They are simple to re-cover.  Use a sheet for the backing (purchased on sale or at a discount store, of course!)  And save clothes that in a bag in the attic or basement.   You can usually cut pieces out of them that are big enough for your quilting needs!

inexpensive fabric live on one paycheck

6.  Coffee.   

This is one of those examples on how to save money by combining methods–use less/extend the life.   If you make more than one pot of coffee in the morning, try this.   Don’t throw the grinds away after the first pot.   Simply add 1/2 the usual amount of grinds on top of the once-used grinds and continue as normal for a full pot.  There’s enough flavor remaining in those first batch to replace half the grinds in the 2nd batch.

7.  Dryer Sheets/ Softener.

You can get the same results that you get from dryer sheets or softener by simply applying one to two tablespoons of softener on a washcloth and throwing it in your dryer with the freshly-washed clothes.  Reuse that washcloth for a few loads then switch for a new one.   OR, if you love your dryer sheets, cut them in half.   They work just as well!

8.  Shoes, luggage, purses, and broken zippers.  

Find and use your local cobbler.  They can repair and make old shoes look shiny new.  They can fix and clean luggage and leather purses.  They can even repair broken zippers on your boots, purses, backpacks, and bags.   Often times this alone can save 90% of the cost of replacing with new.

9.  Fuel for your Vehicle.

Download any of the smartphone apps that can tell you instantly where the cheapest gas is in your area.  (You can also look these up on line.)

10. Groceries.

Always, Always check the damaged goods rack first.   Any time a box is accidentally slashed with a box razor, that perfectly good merchandise is often available for less than half AND you can still use a coupon.  I’ve gotten lots of free merchandise this way.

damaged goods, live on one paycheck

11. Bank fees.

Many banks charge fees for checking, ATM use, check-cashing, and more.   Switch to a credit union or co-op. Many of these institutions have no fees and even pay you a small amount for using your ATM card!   Additionally, credit Unions are usually networked together so that you can use any credit union ATM machine without paying a fee.

12.  Clothes Drying.

Electricity charges are skyrocketing.  Electric dryers use an enormous amount of power.   Get back to basics with the old-fashioned clothes line.   You can install one outside and install one in your walk-up attic for rainy days.  (It’s usually hot up there so clothes dry quickly.)

13. Popcorn.

Don’t buy microwave bags of popcorn.   Buy the jugs of kernels.   Cover the bottom of a large glass bowl with a single layer of popcorn then cover with a plate.  Microwave until pops are 2-3 seconds apart.   You can make about 75 cups of popcorn for the same price as 6 cups of bagged popcorn, and there’s no preservatives, fats, or oils added.

14.  Bar Soap.

When your bar of soap gets too small to use comfortably, open a new bar.   Use both and while still wet and lathery, stick them together.  When they dry they will stick together. Never throw away those soap bits again!

penny pincher, live on one paycheck

15.  Anything in a tube.

When you think it’s empty, cut off the end of the tube.  There is often another 5-10 (or more!) uses in there.   Seal with a clip between uses until completely empty.

16.  New Car.

Try not to ever wait until your old car dies and you are desperate to buy a new one.  You need time to shop around.   Then never ever buy a car brand new.  Ever.  Both frugal and wealthy people agree that you should buy cars that are about two years old.  This is your best value age.   You can also look into buying Repos and you can contact car rental companies and ask if they are looking to sell any of their vehicles.  (They replace them every year or two and sell them for low, low prices!)

17.  Liquid Dish Soap.

When the bottle is approximately half empty, remove cover and fill with VERY COLD water.   It will immediately gel into the original consistency.  You now have a full bottle of dish soap.

live on one paycheck

18.  Active Dry Yeast.

When making breads or other recipes that call for Active Dry Yeast, do not buy those small 3-serving packs of yeast.   For about $2- $5 you can buy two POUNDS of active dry yeast at any Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club.  Store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.

19.  Baby Wipes.

Make your own by cutting a roll of paper towels in half and then removing the cardboard core.   Put 2 1/4 cups water, 2 Tablespoons baby shampoo, and 1 Tablespoon of baby oil in the old, empty baby wipe container and mix well.  Put paper towels in and allow them to completely soak up the liquid.   Keep covered between uses.

20.  Cleaning Products:

We often blindly use enormous amounts of cleaning products.  Try using much less in your next bucket.  Pour half what you usually do in the dishwasher.   Cut the amount you use in the washing machine in half.   You will find that your cleaning does not suffer in the least.

Watch for our Dollar Savers Blog every few weeks for more tips and tricks!   Don’t miss a single post by liking us here:

And don’t forget to send your ideas over as well!

Go to Part 4 now—15 Ways to Earn Money from Home  


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  1. Two ideas here. First about boots purses and luggage (and especially backpacks) try buying from some place lik LL Bean that guarantees their products for life. They fix their products for free when they break. Second, on the dish soap wouldn’t it just be easier to use less. Maybe you could decant to a pump dispenser so you use less?

  2. In my grandmother’s time, quilts were made from scraps, each piece sewn on as it become available in some instances. Old, worn out quilts and blankets were used in place of batting. The scraps could be from anything – old clothes, etc. As long as they were the same approximate weight/material.

    I think the no-cost quilts came as a result of living through the depression era, though that’s just my theory.

    Re coffee, I’m afraid I couldn’t live on half-strength. I like really strong java.

    Cleaning? Use vinegar and water, in a bucket or spray bottle. Great for most surfaces and cleans the air, too. Note: I would not use this on wood.

    Bar soap bits and ends, if you’re going hardcore frugal, can be melted down or compressed into a new bar. Regal used to sell a gadget just for that. You saved up the soap leftovers and put them into this little round thingy. When full, add a bit of water and let them sit until hardened into one round bar.

    Just my personal opinion but I think popcorn made on the stove, with melted butter added, tastes way better than the microwave equivalent.

    I enjoyed this post very much.

  3. I know I’m a bit late to the party but to add to washing clothes, a few splashes of white vinegar works just as well as fabric softener, gets rid of any smells, is a mild disinfectant and is also good for strip washing cloth nappies

  4. Would like to suggest Enjo cleaning products as well. For an initial investment, you get an amazing cleaning product that replaces all the chemical cleaners in your home (No, I don’t sell it, lol). Google it to find out more. The products use microfibers and cold water, and were initially invented to clean up commercial oil spills! I am replacing my cleaners with Enjo one piece at a time as my budget allows….

  5. Just found your blog and want to thank you for your thoughtful posts.

    When I was in college my lab instructor for organic chemistry was a former chemist for Proctor & Gamble who told lots of stories from his work experience. It was his contention that P&G made more money from housewives who would double the amount of cleaner thinking it would do a better job. He assured us that following the directions for dosage would give the absolute best results because they really did carefully calculate these things, plus using too much could result in residue that would actually make things dirtier. I’ve also noticed that particularly for liquid laundry detergent, the measure line is way down inside the cap. One bottle would go much further and the clothes would be cleaner by double checking to make sure you know how much product should be used.

  6. For the extra bits of bar soap, I place them in an old nylon stocking and tie a knot at the end. Makes an instant bubbly loofah effect and your not constantly dropping those little pieces.

  7. I make my own castile soap to clean all the house and wash clothes. I make it with used olive oil from my kitchen, water and sosa. Then I turn the bars of soap into laundry detergent. It works so fine! I don’t buy detergent, or product to clean the floor. I use vinegar like cleaner and like softener.
    If you don’t like to kake soap, you can use soap like zote.
    I make my own soap for my bath, with clean olive oil. It is so moistourizing!
    I save so much money with this, and it is good for the enviroment.

  8. It strikes me as kind of odd that you mention using paper towels for baby wipes…yes, it’s somewhat cheaper than buying wipes, but you’re just substituting one unnecessary disposable paper product with another. Cut up a couple receiving blankets to the right size, stick them in an old wipes box or Tupperware container and add water with a drop of baby soap (or any non-irritating soap) and a drop of tea tree oil, squeeze till no more water comes out. Voila, reusable wipes, for free. (You can wash them with underwear or towels…or with the cloth diapers that are an obvious way to save significant money with a baby, and if you’re reusing coffee grounds, the thousand or more dollars per child that cloth diapering saves you is not something you can afford to ignore!). We’ve been doing this over four babies and I still kind of giggle about not buying anything when I take the two minutes to make wipes once or twice a week 😉 They also work a lot better! I rarely need more than one flannel wipe per poop, but 3-4 disposable ones.

    And for paper towels, you can use *towels.* Basic thin cotton, like flour sack towels or those single-layer flat Gerber diapers you can get at Target or Wal-Mart (which are terrible as diapers but very useful in the kitchen!) does everything a paper towel does, for about $1.25 apiece and lasts for years. Keep a little bin or bucket under your kitchen sink for dirty ones, dump them in the washing machine at the end of the day and wash them with your next load of laundry.

  9. I repurpose all my small face cloths and old dish rags that are either torn tattered stained or bleached. I either use them for mopping with a Swiffer mop stick or I store another stack under the kitchen sink for wiping the counters, excellent for cleaning the stove, wiping up spills, drying hands after dishes. Just store in a bucket under the sink and wash with the rest of your wash. Just remember if you use a cleaning product with bleach to rinse the cloth before chucking it in the bucket. The bleach eats at the fabric of the cloth and could bleach any clothes washed with them. Lots of $ saved in paper towels.

  10. And In My Parents House…

    When my parents passed away my siblings and I cleaned their house out in April, 2011.. We found a box of soap slivers – each one wrapped in aluminum foil. The box bore a date of February 10th 1987. We also found a jar of watermelon seeds with the same date. I remember my mother cutting open tubes of toothpaste as suggested above to use every last speck of toothpaste from each tube. I even found myself doing that very same thing to a tube of foundation makeup when I was in a desperate situation. LOL

    We also found a JAR of freshwater fishing tackle that I know for a fact came from my great aunt’s fishing tackle box (aka cigar box). My great aunt had taught me how to fish on her pier when I was very young and we used that old “tackle box” many a day. She also taught me how to sew my own clothes when I was just 8 years old. I could sew so well I fashioned all of my formal gowns for all the dances I attended in high school. They were all beautiful and no one ever had a dress like mine. 😉 and my parents never had to spend more than $30 for my fabric and supplies for any one of my dresses. Today i see girls buying $400 to attend a prom. Of course the don’t ever want to be seen in that dress again so they sell it for pennies on the dollar or let it rot in their closet. I am so THANKFUL I have a son!

    In my parents house was also a drawer full of used pantyhose that had been washed. We found a cardboard tube that held the lids of mayo jars, a coin purse with the pour spouts of seasoning shakers and 3 fuzzy mice.

    My boss at the time was experiencing the same kind of purging from her family home. She too found a drawer of used, clean pantyhose. She located a craft group of some sort that recycled the old pantyhose into rugs and donated them.

    My boss told me our parents held on to such things as they had lived through the great depression of 1929 and really knew first hand what hard times were. She suggested the eclectic items were to be “re-purposed” to use today’s chic term. For example, the plastic shaker pieces had holes in them so if need be they could be used as buttons on coats in the depression days. I kept those crazy items as a reminder of the laughter my sisters and I shared when going through our parents house.

    Although part of my parents assets was through inheritances they were strong believers in saving. They held a net worth of more than 3/4 of $1 million when they passed away. They lived on the high side of humble and all 4 of us attended private schools. The caboose of the family, I graduated in 1978 – not even in the 50’s. And they did all this…on ONE modest INCOME!

    On a side note and a little off topic…My SUPER GREEDY brother-in-law knew that old folks (usually) keep money in strange places and that sometimes the money was never found. He had a major fit when he found out my husband and I had stopped by in our spare time to start cleaning out my own old bedroom. He was so sure we would find money that he would miss out on. I knew my parents well. They never left money anywhere like that – it was all in the bank or their wallets. In fact, the only money we found in the house at all was a single nickle. It was found in a bedroom my two sisters (one of which he was married to) shared before they went off to college. The last of them left home when she got married in 1974. That was a lonely old nickle. The joke was on you Brother-in-Law! God doesn’t like greedy! LOLOLOLOL

  11. Cloth diapers and cloth wipes!! Clean with rainbow cleaning system and Norwex. Batch cook often. Mimic recipes from your favorite restaraunts.

  12. i recycle seeds after eating a fruit or vegatable and replant it i also wash all containers like tuna cans and soup cans etc for planters or art work like tin man i also have a compost with rabbit poop and household scraps saves on soil buying and the vegatables and fruit love ir my garden saves alot on the groceries plus the family love participating in saving if you make it fun

  13. I am a quilter and I never pay full price for materials. Joann’s always has sales and coupons, plus you can pick up some great fabrics out of the bargain bin. As for using old quilts for batting – sure, if you plan on tying it instead of hand or machine quilting. Otherwise you are going to invest a lot of time into a quilt that isn’t going to look or feel very nice. Time is much more valuable than money.

  14. To get the kids to use less shampoo and soap in the bath, we purchased one of the three compartment dispensers. It’s much easier for them to measure “two pumps” than it is a “dime sized drop.” I also find that for myself, using smaller bottles of pretty much anything, then refilling it from the economy size when it gets low is much more economical. It’s a psychological thing. When it’s a small bottle, I use as little as possible to make it last. When it’s a great big bottle, oops, I poured too much, oh well. With my small bottle, I’ll sit there and suck it up back into the bottle because every drop is important!

  15. I LOVE this series! I recently decided to let my cell phone go, and just use the home phone that comes with our internet service. Our family has one vehicle, but we live only a few miles from the local grocery store, library, etc. My son and I have backpacks, and we easily walk the distances to take care of errands that don’t require a vehicle. We save money and get exercise. I reuse everything possible,and extend the use of products. I am a whiz at finding things we need for little or no money, and if I do purchase a new item, I make sure I get the best value for my cash. I cook from scratch, using many Depression era recipes and tricks. Right now I’m saving up for a new clothesline to decrease my dryer usage. And of course, I scour the web, looking for blogs like this to inspire me to keep going. Thank you, and I look forward to reading more.

  16. Don’t buy trash/garbage bags. Get a smaller waste basket and use store bags as liners. You may have to take it out more often, but that’s exercise.

  17. I recently found your blog and I just love it so much! We recently went down to one car after my minivan died (11 years later). I have found it to be a really easy transition.

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  3. Part 2–How to Survive on One Paycheck–1950’s Style
  4. How to Survive on One Income (Updated) - The Modern Day 50s Housewife

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