Living abroad or in a foreign land requires some adjustment especially financially. Even more so when the family has to depend on a single income. Whether its a unanimous decision to live on one income or life forced you to, is very doable. We are a family of three and we’ve been living on a single income for approximately 2 years since we moved to Malaysia. It was not easy at first but with the passage of time, we’ve learned to live within a limited budget.
Here are some practical tips which have helped us survive on a single income since I resigned from my job to become a stay at home mom (SAHM).
1. Set your priorities straight and cut unnecessary expenses
Focusing on your expenses is a must-do when your trying to live on a limited budget. When you pay attention to your expenses, you’ll discover some unnecessary items you’ve been spending a lot on which you live without or find cheaper alternatives. I’ve been trying to loose weight for a while now, while in the gym one day, I met a dope fitness trainer and was really tempted to pay for classes with her. Fortunately I didn’t fall into the trap of paying for something I can achieve on my own with just the right amount of discipline.
- Hair and Nails: With several tutorials on YouTube, you can learn to do your hair and nails on your own. If you can’t, ask a friend or family member who can to help you out.
- Gym membership: There should be cheaper alternatives to this. How about finding a way to exercise on your own by jogging in your neighborhood or joining a boot camp.
- Shopping Sprees: When you’re on a budget, you just cannot shop because you feel like it even if they are on sale. Or you buy an item because you feel you’ll need it in the future. The chances are you may never really have need for that item which would just become a waste of money at the end of the day. Before you buy ask yourself do I really NEED this?
- Expensive coffee brands: Instead of going for the big coffee brands, making your own coffee at home will save you lots.
- Going on expensive Vacations : You can save a lot with careful planning and buying tickets in advance to secure discounts for trips abroad. However, if its going to put a huge strain on you financially which i’m sure it would, you can go on holidays with the national territory. There may be attractive places within your country of residence just waiting for you to explore.
- Non-urgent request for assistance from back home: You might agree with me that when you’re living abroad, everyone back home thinks you are ‘living your best life’ and expect a lot of financial assistance. Most times, when we receive a request from home, we have to budget for that which is requested. Except in cases of emergency for which funds will have to be pulled out of the ’emergency fund’ which I will talk about later in this post.
2. Live within your means and avoid competition
Do not fall into the trap of competing with that one friend who is always wearing the latest designers clothes and bags, using the latest phones, driving the latest car or has the best house on the block. There will always be someone who has it better. And they probably may be acquiring all they have on credit. social media has even come to make the competition worse. On social media, everyone is ‘living their best life’ which may be true in some cases but fake in most. When you’re on a budget, its important to turn your gaze away from anything which will tempt you. There’s nothing wrong with not wearing a designer bag/shoes. Live on what you earn and learn to pay in cash. Like the saying goes “its more painful to pay today for the bread you consumed yesterday.”
So many people fall into this credit trap and become so deep in debt that it will take only a miracle to get those cleared off. Be wise with spending on credit. If you can’t afford something now, wait and save up for it then you buy later. It will save you all the interest you will be charged by buying with your credit card.
3. Explore other avenues for multiple Income Streams
I think this is a great time to be alive and being young is an added advantage. The internet has made life and access to information extremely easy. Nowadays, millennials want to be free and live the life of working on their own terms from the comfort of their homes and you are no exception to enjoy such a life if you so desire it. There are so many work from home opportunities that it requires you to invest some time in looking for which opportunity suits you irrespective of geographical location. This is especially for parents who feel the need to be full time in the lives of their kids. In this article where Emma Johnson details the best highly paid and work from home jobs and careers for (single) moms , she recommends moms to always start looking on Flexjobs for those in the US.
Focus on your inner abilities to help guide you in making such decisions. For example, If you are good in photography, you can become a freelance photographer. These days photographers, Bloggers, Freelance writers are very sought after skills. You can find more side hustle jobs here
4. Keep your money in a ‘Safe’ at home
Sometimes desperate measures call for desperate actions. Get a safe for your home if you are the type who likes to spend any cash in sight. These funds in the safe at home is what we call ’emergency funds’. No one wants an emergency however, you have to be prepared in case it happens. Experts advice, “you should have at least 3 – 6 months worth of expenses in an emergency fund” in case you loose your job or sickness or one of those things that life just throws at you.
A home safe must not be anything sophisticated as long as its lockable then you’re good to go. If you are they type who cannot hold yourself from spending cash in sight, I’ll recommend you get a safe for your home to stow cash away. Get your partner who is more financially disciplined to handle the keys to the safe.
5. Take Some time Out and Have Fun
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While trying to stick to managing your money wisely, its always important to take some time out to reward yourself for all your hard work. This is a very important step for your mental health. Pamper yourself. If it means treating yourself to lunch or a new dress or just having some time out. Living on a budget doesn’t mean deprivation from the good stuff you love. Its just about finding cheaper alternatives to your needs.
For us, popcorn over a movie is our happy place and brings all the satisfaction going to a movie theater would bring.
The above tips are just the few simple ways we’ve been able to manage on a single income in foreign land.