'We're a family of five. Here's how we raise three children on one income.'

Editor’s note: This is one family’s experience and should not be taken as professional financial advice.

Everyone harps on about how expensive kids are, that they literally cost you millions over their first 18 years, etc, but no one explains just how to survive it!

They basically just say “off you go, enjoy” without even as much as a “good luck”. And somehow we’re meant to know how to navigate the huge financial pressure and commitment that comes with raising a child. Like, they literally rely on you to be able to have money to fund their entire existence.

That’s massive. And bloody hard sometimes, but (I think) it’s a lifestyle that you choose as a parent.

I personally feel that as parents, we are constantly having to sacrifice for our kids, and one of the big ones is our finances. I know that James and I could have a certain lifestyle if we chose to not have our kids so close together, or maybe less kids altogether, but this is something we have chosen, and it’s definitely worth it.

It doesn’t mean that we completely go without, because we’ve been able to buy our first house and car, and go on the occasional holiday here and there… it just means you have to be smart about the decisions you make.

DEFINITELY not something I learnt as a teenager!

I’ll never forget when I lived on the Gold Coast in a share house. I was working at the local Maccas and studying full time at university. One day I was so broke, I had to call in sick for work because I legit had no money to put fuel in my car to get there. So bad! But so true!


And it wasn’t just a one off. Between trying to pay rent, car rego, uni text books and every other bloody expense that comes with living out of home, I was completely struggling. I laugh about it now, but at the time it was so depressing. At least the beach was free.

When James and I got married, we were fresh off Centrelink, and only three months into the full time work world. It was a hard adjustment and we struggled for a long time.

What do you mean I don’t get a startup scholarship and relocation scholarship for starting a new job? How will I afford a new TV without this handy $5K? Ah, I mean….uniforms?


Although just because we were working full time, and went on to become parents soon after, it didn’t mean we suddenly became money savvy.

In actual fact, it got a lot worse before it got better.

There were times when we drove our car around for months unregistered because we couldn’t afford rego…or we would be like, “hmm, do we get Maccas for dinner, or put fuel in the car?…. Definitely Maccas!”

I even remember eating two minute noodles everyday for a week because that’s all we had in the pantry. It was either that, or we’d just ask James’ mum to make us a big pot of soup to fill our tummies until pay day.

It was hard some days.

One thing that completely turned our lives around, was The Barefoot Investor. This guy is an absolute ledge. I came across his stuff in the Herald Sun newspaper one Sunday morning, and before I knew it, I couldn’t wait for the next weekend so I could read his column.

Basically, the Barefoot Investor is a guy named Scott Pape who talks all things finance. It’s just straight up, no BS, money advice.

LISTEN: Scott Pape: “At some stage you’re going to face your own financial fire.” (post continues after audio…)

Nothing fancy, and no crazy budgets, just how to do it properly and not mess up your financial future. From there, I bought his book, and I honestly think he’s the reason why we could afford to buy our block of land, and then build our first home, all on one income and (almost) three kids.


People often ask us how we do it all on one wage (and some government benefits).

Well, we still go through periods of only just being able to buy nappies for the week, and I still get anxious when the car rego comes in the mail, but we get by because we have gone through 10 years of struggling, going without, and sacrificing, that it starts to come naturally.

But seriously, it actually does. We don’t really budget, but more so just make sure all the bills are paid, every body is clean, fed and dry… then whatever is left over is a bonus.

James and I definitely made an active choice when we decided I would be a stay at home mum, and not work, and with that comes massive challenges that we face.

But to be honest, I don’t think they are any more than the challenges that two-income families face. It can be so hard to juggle everything, regardless of if one or two parents are earning money.

This world is expensive to live in. Thinking about one day putting all our kids through school, sport, and the inevitable braces (because they will absolutely inherit our terrible teeth), is a little daunting.

I think that’s why the Barefoot way of life appeals to me so much… because it’s just simply learning skills that we should have leant in school, but never did.

This post originally appeared on This Fruitful Life and was republished here with full permission. You can find more from Ema-lee on Instagram.

You can listen to Mia Freedman’s full episode of No Filter with Scott Pape below…