Financial help! Living as a family of 5 on only one wage…

This was written by Anonomous Imperfect Mum wishing to share her story. "Ive been reading a lot about how people are struggling financially at the moment (not just on here in life in general)  I thought I should share how and why my husband and I live debt free". 

How we do it:

This isn’t to preach, or to tell people how things should be done, but more of an enlightenment as to how we, a family of 5, live and survive on one income of approx $45,000 a year (plus family tax benefit), with no debt, and the way it changed our lives.

The thing to remember is to prioritise what is important to you and your family. Some people may think that having nice cars and brand new shiny things are their priority and make them happy. So be it. I’m not here to judge or tell you that you are wrong or right. Every family runs differently.

My husband and I are happy to forgo the expensive shiny things, for the luxury of me being able to stay at home and look after our 3 kids, and him having a fairly flexible job that allows him to be home whenever we need him.

Firstly, let’s start off with debt. We have none. We have no credit cards, no personal loans, no car loans, no mortgage. None.

“What about an emergency?”
That is what we have savings for. We have a high interest bank account that we put money into, as much as we can as often as we can. Our motto is that we prefer to gain interest rather than pay interest.

Our other little thing we do is, at the end of each day, I balance out my bank account to an even amount by transferring a small amount into the savings account. For example, my balance at the end of the night is $339.57, then I transfer $9.57 . Every night. Sometimes the amounts maybe less than a dollar, but you would be very surprised at how quickly they add up.

“What about a car?”
This is one we get from our friends all the time, who make fun of us driving a 13 year old car. The fact is, we paid $5000 for it 18 months ago. In that time, we’ve spent $110.00 on new thermo fans for it (well, second hand from the wreckers), which we installed ourselves, after being quoted $400 by a mechanic. My husband is religious about checking the oil and all that jazz. We are due for a new set of tyres soon though.

Our previous vehicle, which we also paid $5000 for, lasted us 3 years, and in that time we probably spent around the $700 mark on it.

Do you know that some brand new cars can depreciate in value as much as 75% in the first 3 years?

So let’s take a $40,000 car for example. According to Commonwealth bank, a secured car loan of $40K over 5 years would be $210 a week. So let’s do a little maths. 52 (weeks in a year) x 5 (years of the loan) x 210 (amount of loan). So after 5 years, you’ve paid $54 600, for something that is now worth *maybe* $10,000 if you’ve kept up the services on it, it’s still in great condition cosmetically, and has lowish km’s on it.

Now let’s look at how we do it. $5000 cash for a car. 3 years later, my lovely husband wrote our vehicle off, we got $4100 as our payout. In the time we had the car, we spent approx $700 extra $$ on it (not including general service stuff, rego, fuel etc). We invest another $900, buying another car for $5000, and in the 18 months we have had it, spent $110 extra on it. Red book says my car is now worth $3900, but I have 3 kids in it, and a little incident with a parking meter that has left a pretty nice yellow pin stripe around half my front bar, so let’s say, $3000.

5000 (initial out lay) + 700 (extra money spent) + 900 (extra $$ invested for new car) + 110 (extra money spent). So in 4.5 years, we’ve spent $6710, and we could get approx half of that back if we sold it.

Buying a second hand vehicle has the potential to save you 10’s of thousands of dollars.

So many people say “I would never been seen in a car that old”, “New cars are safer” etc. That’s all well and good. And I fully respect people’s decision to do whatever they choose. This is just an example of one of the ways we choose to simplify our lives.

What about Grocery Shopping?
I have a budget of $200 a week for groceries. Rarely do I ever use the entire amount. Generally I come in around the $140 – $160 mark. We eat very little processed food, and all of our fruit and vegies are fresh. So I’ll do a little break down for you of our general grocery bill.

$50-$70 on fresh fruit and vegetables, from our local market
$20-$30 on meat (a kg of whatever cut of chicken is cheapest, a kg of chuck steak, 1 kg of bacon)
$40-$70 on everything else, including nappies.

Breakfast: 3 days a week we have cereal. Generally weet bix, topped with fruit (my son likes tinned peaches, one daughter likes strawberries and blueberries, and the other always has banana). The other 3 days maybe something like, scrambled eggs on toast (with bacon and tomato chopped through it), fruit smoothie and toast (always multigrain bread), pancakes.

Lunch: This week, for my daughters school lunches, I made 10 servings on spaghetti bol with garlic bread, for approx $1.20 a serve. I used a tin of lentils, and a pile of vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, broccoli, onion, zucchini), I put that in the food processor, and then cooked it off with the mince and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Mixed it with the pasta, put it into containers in the freezer, main lunches for the week done, and they are healthy and nutritious. Jatz and a block of cheese sliced up, cheerios (the cereal) or popcorn in individual packets, and at least 1.5 serves of fruit. That’s lunch done for the kids. And it works out so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged biscuits and muesli bars.

Dinner: We do not traditionally sit down to a piece of meat and 3 veg every night. In fact, I’m all about the all in one meals, because they can always be bulked up. Pasta bakes, stir fry’s, Sheppard’s pie. One of my families favourite cheap meals is oven baked risotto. I put in as many vegies as I can (zucchini, sweet potato, carrot, capsicum, onion, broccoli, corn, peas) with bacon and chicken, and it’s a hit! 1 chicken breast does enough to feed the 5 of us.

I have heard many many times comments like “my husband would never eat that” “he only likes t-bone steak”. That’s fine. Again, it’s about working out your priorities. This is an area we choose to save on. We’ve managed to bring our grocery bill down as much as $100+ a week.

Other ways we save money?

Layby: I laybyed my daughters birthday present in March, for August, because I knew I could only afford to pay it off at $10 a week. So long as you make regular payments, most places won’t mind “extending” their 8 week policy.

School uniforms: OMG how crazy expensive are they? Start buying new uniforms in term 3 for the next year. One item a week. The benefit of doing it that way too is that instead of being able to only afford 3 shirts each, I got 5, one for every day! Also items like school bags and shoes etc. I got my daughters school shoes for next year for $30 each, reduce from $90.

Bills: It really is less stressful paying the weekly or fortnightly. And it’s incredibly rewarding to get an $800 electricity bill that is $150 in credit.

Eating Out: Everyone likes to eat out. It’s so much easier. And so much cleaner. However, it can get expensive! We generally eat out at our local pub, kids eat free with each paying adult. We’ve never paid more than $50 for our meals, and always walked away stuffed and full.

This compared to, the other week when we decided some good old KFC would be nice. $43 it cost us, for chips that tasted like cardboard and a burger that was less then filling. We actually came home and I made scrambled eggs on toast. Was disappointing.

Luxuries: This is where I get super annoyed with a lot of my friends on my facebook page. They post pictures of their new nails, new hair cut and colour, kids eating donuts and drinking milkshakes, and then post the following day about how they can’t afford to do the grocery shopping, can’t make ends meet, the electricity just got cut off etc etc. I have a single friend who justifies getting her nails done every week by saying it’s the only money she spends on herself. That’s all well and good, but when you can’t afford to put fuel in your car to take your children to school you forgo these.

My husband and I get $30 a week to ourselves. He spends his on iced coffee and junk. So do I. I buy a 2L iced coffee twice a week. And I also have a takeaway lunch on Wednesdays. But there have been MANY times where we go without “our” money each week. It’s just what you do.

So, how has this changed our lives?
You would be amazed. We have very little stress in our lives.

Most of our problems and fights we had were centered around our finances, where was the money coming from for this, how where we going to pay that? What were we going to eat that week etc.

Once we eliminated that stress, our marriage, our relationship, our family unit (and our sex life) improved dramatically. My husband works in a job he loves, and the great thing is, he only has to work 30 hours a week for us to make ‘ends meet’. Anything over that is a bonus. He comes home happy from work, he’s not tired or stressed, he plays with the kids etc.

I’m home, where I want to be, doing what I want to be. I love having dinner on the table ready for him, kids bathed, and I am genuinely happy and thrilled to see him.

We talk now, rather than yell or just ignore one another. We know what our goals are for the future and how we are going to achieve them. I am seeing my children grow up. I hear their stories in the car each afternoon, I know all their problems and fears, but I know their dreams and goals too. I kiss them goodbye every morning, I yell out the window not to kiss boys because they have germs. Every morning.

We now live so much better on one income of $45,000 with 3 kids, then we ever did with two incomes of $150,000 with 2 kids.


Any other tips you could add onto how you and your family save money? How do you live more simply to live more freely?  

Posted in:  Kids, Money

13 Replies


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Love the idea of balancing your savings account every night! I'm going to do that into my credit account every night!!

Annie Fay

I'm sorry, but I don't see it as cut and dry as all that...esp for single parents on income much much lower than $45,000 per year...although she does make some interesting points that I will definitely employ from now on!

Katie Tolhurst

They don't have a mortgage so i'm interested to know if they pay rent or have paid a house off, that in itself makes a huge difference. As for bills, paying it off weekly isn't doing anything about making it cheaper... I agree that you need to sit down and look at what's important to you, a good way of doing that is to write a financial diary and put in it literally every cent you spend. As for a car, I think alot of families wouldn't spend 40k on a new one however 25k for a new one sounds more reasonable with alot of places offering 0 or 1% interest on loans. That 25k new car (if looked after) will last at least 15yrs. Whilst I praise this mums for doing everything that she's doing I don't think there are many actual money saving tips in here.

kirri white

This is incredibly valuable. I'm not the best with budgeting and literally found myself taking notes! Thanks girls.


Great tips, but I am also interested in if you own your own home for if you pay rent - if so how much? We are paying a mortgage and thats by far the biggest debt we have, would be just under 50% of our weekly income (we are currently paying off credit cards, one down and only $3700 owing on the other) and have a car loan with only 2 years to go (which i plan on paying extra on once the credit cards paid off) - I'm trying to get these little debts down so I may be able to consider staying home rather than working part time when we have our third child. I'm also like you with the luxuries - would love to have my nails and hair done all the time, but just cant justify the cost! Thanks again for your story :)

Katie Tolhurst

If you turn all power points off at night, especially chargers you can save upto $100 off your electricity bill. I like to but fruit and veg and meat in bulk to save money. If you can consolidate your car loan to your mortgage you will have extra money to out on the credit card or save. Hope this helps a bit :-)


Thanks Katie :) I already am a power point/light nazi lol - annoys the hell out of hubby but as i say to him, i'd rather spend that $$ than give it to ergon! I even turn off potatos/veggies im cooking on the gas stove top half way through to save gas - the heat in there finishes them off (now how cheapskate dose that sound lol!)

Christine Cockburn

i think these tips are inspiring, just in their organizational value. I totally see how you are simplifying and making the cents count.


I want to say. Thank you for being honest about the real cost of living. I look at these sites that tell families of 4 you can live on $25 groceries a week etc and tell you to walk your children 3km to school to save petrol!
Best of luck to your family, you really have your priorities straight.


Thank you for your insight. Will definitely be taking some advice from this.


This is great! I am going to get my husband to read through it as well.

Sarah Fallon

YES YES YES. Thank you for reminding people what's important in a world that is increasingly materialistic. 10 out of 10 for this post!