8 tips for living on a single income

There are a range of household scenarios that can spur a need to move from living on two incomes to just one. And whether your family’s change in income is the result of one breadwinner’s return to school, a divorce, a layoff, a choice to homeschool the kids or anything else, the financial prospect of going from a dual-income family to a single-income family can be a daunting one.

But when you think through the lifestyle changes you’ll need to make and plan ahead accordingly, the shift from two paychecks to one is an adjustment that most families can manage. And while the switch is certain to present some challenges, here are eight financial strategies that can help get you through the leaner times:

  1. Reduce your living expenses: In many cases, adding flexibility to your household budget is more about taming your spending than bringing home bigger paychecks. To explore where you can cut costs, take a close look at your household spending over the last few months, and identify the non-essentials. Do you have any streaming services that you rarely (if ever) use? Did you add any luxuries such as a house-cleaning service or meal delivery as a result of “lifestyle creep” when you were living on dual incomes? Do you really need that expensive, no-limit mobile phone plan, or will a less-expensive option cover your needs? Look for relatively easy ways to cut your expenses, and take the steps needed to start saving.
  2. Build a new budget: For dual-income households, there may be enough cash coming in to get by without a budget. (Though for those looking to responsibly save for future and unexpected expenses, creating a budget is never a bad idea.) But for single-income households, creating a budget can be much more critical — and even essential to making ends meet. Now that you’re moving from two incomes to one, creating a household budget can go a long way toward making sure you can cover all the vital expenses and have the necessary funds available when you need them. For helpful tips on building your household budget, check out Arthur State Bank’s blog article on the topic.
  3. Seek out special payment plans and lowered costs: With just one household income, your family may now qualify for lower rates on/different payment plans for certain expenses than it did with multiple incomes. A couple examples here include insurance costs and student loan repayment schedules, each of which can sometimes vary based on household income. Further, in response to the COVID pandemic, some benefits programs such as Medicaid lowered the income thresholds at which households may qualify for help, so it may be worth looking into what is available in your area. In addition, certain businesses often allow for payment-plan restructuring upon request. For example, many medical offices will work with patients and their families to set up monthly payment that the household can afford.
  4. Consider refinancing your debts: Depending on where the interest rates you’re currently paying stand versus the current interest rates offered, refinancing loans such as those for your car or your home may be one way to save money on the interest you pay. And even if you can’t achieve a lower interest rate, sometimes loans can be restructured so that you’re paying off the same amount over a longer period of time, thereby lowering your monthly expenses. While this could result in more interest paid over the long haul — which may not be something you’d normally be interested in — the tradeoff may be worth entertaining in your current situation.
  5. … and consolidating them: When households carry a substantial number of credit card debts, the interest alone can add up to significant sums — especially if only the minimum payments are being made each month. But by paying off all of these credit card debts via a personal loan, HELOC, or refinance, the higher-interest debts typically seen with credit cards can be eliminated in exchange for a single debt with a much lower interest rate and a fixed monthly payment.
  6. Shop around for the lowest prices: Paying full price may be a convenient way to get what you need or want quickly and without much hassle, but shopping around for deals can deliver serious savings. If you have certain go-to brands for regular needs such as clothing and shoes, consider signing up for their email newsletters. This can often lead to instant savings via a promo code when you sign up, and it will keep you in the know regarding the brands’ sales. The same tactic applies to your favorite grocery stores and restaurants, which often offer special deals to subscribers, in addition to keeping them informed on sales. For larger, more expensive items, consider buying used, refurbished or “open box” to seize big savings.
  7. Build an emergency fund: You may not feel like you can spare the money to build an emergency fund on one income. But every little bit you can save counts — and you’ll be glad you did when unexpected expenses arise. For the best results, set the money for your emergency fund aside in a different place than your other savings, such as in a separate savings account. For more helpful tips on building an emergency fund, check out Arthur State Bank’s blog article on the topic.
  8. Leverage community resources: For households that lost their second income to an injury or disability, resources may be available to help with finances. For example, many workers pay into state disability insurance and/or unemployment insurance without even realizing it. And now that you’re in a new situation following a loss of income, you may be eligible to collect on one of these. Further, community groups to which you belong — such as churches, unions and nonprofits — may offer help such as free or subsidized child care to those in need. By tapping into them during this stage of your life, you may be able to free up funds that you need to use elsewhere.

Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

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AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.