If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are single or your household only has one income. Moreover, I’m willing to bet that it’s a low income as well. This begs the question: can you get out of debt with only one income?
I’m happy to tell you that the answer is yes! Indeed, you can get out of debt with only one income.
However, it’s not an easy path. But if you’re willing to work hard and make some sacrifices, you’ll find yourself financially free!
Now, you won’t find much new information below. In fact, I’ve written about a lot of this before. That’s because making a plan to get out of debt doesn’t really change based on whether or not you’re single.
Even so, it’s fair to say that married couples have an advantage. After all, having two incomes is far better than just one.
Still, you can knuckle down and kick your debt in the teeth even on one income. For those who are single, I salute you!
Before I begin, let’s talk about a couple of great resources.
No guide on how to get out of debt is complete without Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. This is one of the BEST personal finance books out there. It changed the way I do finances, and I bet Dave’s methodology will work for you too!
Also, I’ve written a simple, step-by-step guide on how to get out of debt. Just enter your email below and I’ll send it to you FOR FREE! Seriously, there’s no catch.
Now, let’s take a look at how to get out of debt with only one income!
How to Get Out of Debt with Only One Income
Believe it or not, eliminating your debt on only one or a low income is within your reach. But you’ll need to prepare yourself to work hard because this won’t be easy.
Also, know that I’m also going to suggest some ways you can increase your income. After all, if you have just one income, it’s better if we can find ways to add to it.
1. Know Why You Want to Get Out of Debt
Before you do anything else, you need to know why you want to get out of debt.
I once coached a young man who was desperate to get out of debt. As he went on, I stopped him and asked him a simple question: Why do you want to get out of debt?
He said, “Well, that’s easy. I just don’t want to end up broke and homeless.”
Okay. So you want to spend your whole life running away from something? Why not try running towards something?
That’s what knowing your “why” will do for you. Perhaps you want to set your children up for success. Or maybe you want to spend time on the mission field. You could even set up a foundation to give to ministries that make a profound impact on the world.
However you look at it, you’ll need something to run towards. Therefore, I encourage you to sit down and continue to ask yourself why.
Once you find the thing that will motivate you to tears, you’ve found it.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”Proverbs 29:18a
2. Make a Budget
You won’t be able to skip this step. If you have a low or single income, making a budget is an essential step. And yes, you can budget even if you have an irregular income. I’ll even take it a step further and say you can budget even in a crisis!
So, why do I always put so much emphasis on budgeting?
Because if you want to win with your money, you need to know where it goes.
Otherwise, your money pulls a Houdini and escapes from your bank account every month.
A monthly budget creates an inescapable trap for your money. In other words, it gives you power over it. This means you have the ability to tell it where to go, rather than your money wandering away.
This is especially true if you only have one income, or if you have a low income.
I’m going to tell you this right now: you cannot get out of debt without a plan. And you cannot have a plan if you don’t know where your money goes. And you don’t know where your money goes without a budget.
There’s no way out of this. Start budgeting today!
There are a few FREE tools to help you start budgeting. My personal favorite is EveryDollar. They have a free and a premium version, but the free one should be enough for you right now.
Or if you’re a wiz with spreadsheets, you can use Excel or Google Sheets.
I don’t care what tool you use, just start budgeting now!
3. Start Making Some Cuts to Your Budget
Now that you have your budget, you should know where your money goes! That’s a good feeling, right? Well, it’s a good start, anyway.
However, if you want to get out of debt, you’ll need to start making some sacrifices. The reason for this is simple: no one accidentally gets out of debt.
The only way you get out of debt is if you decide to. And deciding to get out of debt involves some sacrifices for a time.
Here are a few things you might want to cut out of your budget:
- Subscriptions (e.g. Cable, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Alexa trivia, etc.)
- Coffee shops
- Anything not necessary for life!
Of course, I don’t want you to be a total stick in the mud. It’s okay to have a little fun money in the budget while getting out of debt. However, right now it should just be enough to keep you sane.
Once you get out of debt, you can have all the fun you want! Just sacrifice for a little while, and you’ll reap greater benefits later.
Also, you can make some serious cuts at the grocery store. I’ve made a list of 60+ foods and ingredients you can buy cheap. Just enter your email below and I’ll send it right to you!
4. Consider Finding Extra Income
Wait, I thought this article was about how to get out of debt with only one income? What’s this about?
Well, to tell the truth, you’ll get out of debt A LOT quicker if you have some extra income. I’m talking about something you can do on the side while trying to get out of debt.
Truthfully, in today’s world, there are TONS of ways to earn extra money. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ways to earn extra money!
But do you remember how I said that getting out of debt requires some sacrifice? I’m not just talking about sacrificing money. You may need to sacrifice some of your time as well.
Before you get upset, I’m not advocating that you spend the rest of your life working 80 hours a week. That would totally stink. But I think you could do it for a couple of years.
Afterward, you can quit any of those side hustles. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find a side hustle that you love and could produce a full-time income!
A Note for Single Parents
Now, I know the last thing you want to do is spend more time away from your kids. It’s hard enough to get any time with them at all.
Also, some of you may face the challenge of child care. In those instances, it’s understandable why you couldn’t get a second job.
However, I know many single parents who also have family in town. More often than not, those family members are willing to watch your kids.
If you’re in that situation, I encourage you to take advantage of it. After all, you’re trying to make a better life for you and your children. Try to help them understand this.
You can even sweeten the pot. Get them involved and let them help you count down your debt! And tell them about all the cold stuff you’ll do together once you get out of debt!
Plus, this turns into an opportunity to completely change your family tree! Your children will watch and learn how to handle money from you. This is your chance to teach them!
5. Save $1,000 as a Starter Emergency Fund
If there’s one thing that’s certain in life, it’s that something will eventually go wrong. That’s why you need a buffer between you and the nastiness of the world. We call that buffer an emergency fund.
And before you say anything, I’m well aware that $1,000 is not enough in the long run. But considering that 69% of Americans don’t have $1,000 in savings, I’d say it’s a pretty good start.
The point here is that you’ll use your income to knock out your debt as quickly as possible. Once you do that, you can then save up 3-6 months of expenses.
Either way, you need some cash stored in a savings or money market account for emergencies.
Just as an example, here are some of the emergencies I’ve personally experience in the past two years:
- Sprained ankle: $600 (Basketball can be rough on the ankles…)
- Injured eyes: $400 (Don’t ask…)
- Furnace repair: $365 (My wife really didn’t want to freeze to death in the middle of the night…)
- Fuel pump replacement and towing: $1,000 (The car ran fine just hours before the fuel pump went out…)
You see? $1,000 for most minor emergencies pretty much covers it.
Of course, if you have the opportunity to cash flow from your budget, do it. In other words, try to use your emergency fund only as a last resort.
In all of the instances above, we were able to make cuts to our budget and cash flow the payments. We didn’t even have to use our emergency fund. This was comforting because it meant we could use our emergency fund for REAL emergencies.
6. Use the Debt Snowball Method to Pay Off Your Debt
Do you know the best way to pay off your debt? It’s to use the Debt Snowball Method.
The debt snowball method is a simple, highly motivating way to pay down your debt quickly. Here’s how it works.
First, order your debts from smallest to largest by balance, regardless of the interest rate. After that, you attack the smallest with everything you have and pay the minimum payments on everything else. Once you pay off the first debt, you move on to the next. Rinse, wash, and repeat until you’re debt-free!
Here’s an example of what it might look like. Let’s say you have the following debts:
|Debt||Balance||Minimum Payment||Interest Rate|
|Credit Card 1||$1,000||$50/month||19%|
|Credit Card 2||$2,000||$75/month||25%|
|Student Loan 1||$3,000||$100/month||4%|
|Student Loan 2||$4,000||$125/month||5%|
That’s a total of $15,000 in debt. First, I just want you to imagine life with an extra $550 a month. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Now, let’s say through sacrifices, budget cuts, and extra work, you found an extra $500 a month to apply towards your debt.
Guess what? in just two months, that first credit card goes away! Now you have the extra $50 from that payment, which gives you $550 to put towards your next credit card!
Then, in just four months, you pay off your second credit card! Now you have an extra $625 to add to your $100/month for your student loan!
I think you get the picture. You could find yourself debt free in just a year-and-a-half!
A Note on the Debt Avalanche Method
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Wouldn’t it make more mathematical sense to pay off the highest interest rate first?
Indeed, it mathematically you save more money by paying off the highest interest rates. However, if you were doing math, you wouldn’t be in debt.
In case you were wondering, the method of paying off debt by interest rate is known as the debt avalanche method.
But I choose not to endorse this method for one simple reason: human behavior.
We don’t do things based off what is most mathematically correct. Math doesn’t motivate people. On the contrary, results motivate people.
In other words, as you start to see debt disappear, you’ll become more motivated to eliminate it.
Even Harvard Business Review agrees with me on this one. Their study shows that people are more likely to stick to the debt snowball method than any other method.
So, let’s just stick to what works best here. Snowball your debts instead of avalanching them.
If you want a worksheet to help you keep track of your debt, I’ve made one! And you can have it for FREE! Just enter your email below and I’ll send it to you!
7. Celebrate the Debt-Free Life and Pursue Other Financial Goals
Congratulations! You’ve powered your way through! Now you’re living proof that you can get out of debt with only one income! (Or maybe two if you picked up an extra job)
But now what?! What’s life like after debt?!
First, you’ll need to up your emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses. This will help to further protect you in case of a big emergency.
Next, you’ll want to start investing 15% of your income into retirement. This is where real wealth building begins! Now that you’ve freed up your income, you have the opportunity to invest!
After that, you may want to take a look at how you can set your children up for financial success. After all, who doesn’t want their kids to do better than them?
You can also start to tackle the big dog! No, I’m not talking about Clifford the Big Red Dog. I mean your mortgage. You can take this one a little slower. Just apply whatever is leftover in your budget at the end of the month towards the principle, and you’ll pay it off quicker!
Furthermore, you’ll have even more opportunities to be outrageously generous! Our God is a generous giver. He demonstrated this most when he sent his Son for us.
Remember, God made us in His image. Therefore, we reflect God’s image more fully when we’re generous, too! Isn’t that awesome?!
And that, my friends, is the ultimate why! No one likes someone who is stingy with their money. Generous people are some of the most attractive and well-liked people on the planet.
Ultimately, it’s not your money anyway. Everything belongs to God. So ask Him, what would He have you do with it?
Live, Give, and Enjoy
Is getting out of debt on only one income difficult? You bet. Is the result worth it? Yes, yes, and yes.
Getting out of debt just for the sake of getting out of debt doesn’t work. You need a reason. You need a why.
For me, I don’t believe God made us to continually owe people money for the rest of our lives. In fact, the Bible never says anything positive about debt.
Instead, we are to steward our possessions well for His glory. And, as a bonus, God allows us to enjoy some of it!
And this is also your opportunity to completely change the direction of your family!
So whether you’re a single parent or a single young adult, you have what it takes to eliminate your debt!
And this starts now!
If you need some help, just remember that I have a FREE resource for you! Check out my 23-page guide on how to get out of debt!
Of course, if you want to go even more in-depth, check out Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover!