If you’d love to stay home with your kids but find yourself asking “how can I afford to be a stay at home with the kids”? Don’t worry! With a bit of financial preparation and thoughtful budgeting, being a stay-at-home parent is possible.
How to Know if You Can Afford to Stay At Home with the Kids
Just when you thought the decision to start a family was hard, now you’re thinking about making the change from working mom to stay-at-home mom. There are so many thoughts and ideas to consider. Being a working parent or one that stays at home does not need to be a lifetime commitment, but it has to be a choice that the family can support.
You question your current budget and think, “can I do this? The quick answer is “Yes, you can”. I know this because I have been there and didn’t think it possible. It is a hard spot to be in. Fortunately, you are not out of options.
First, I do want to say that moms that work outside of the home are AMAZING! This post is in no way meant to belittle or offend any of my working mama friends. We all have choices to make that are in the best interest of our families.
Giving up an income can be a frightening and overwhelming thought, but for some, it is the only option. I made the choice to move from working full time 7 years ago to being home full time with my kids. My desire to be home with my kids became my passion, and I reached that goal 4 years ago. The move wasn’t quick, but it happened. It took many years of planning, preparing, and saving. For our family, it was the best decision we ever made. At times, I have looked back and thought if I was working there would never have been able to accomplish that task.
These are the steps we took to afford to stay at home.
The first thing to do and most importantly is to sit down and evaluate your current income and expenses.
You will be surprised to see areas where you can significantly scale back. Making the idea of one parent staying home a real possibility. For couples who want one parent to stay home, with a little planning and preparation, it could happen sooner than you thought possible.
Assess Your Expenses
There are many online debt calculators to help with this task, but you can also just sit down with a pencil and piece of paper and crunch the numbers. Write down all of your fixed expenses, like your mortgage, utilities, insurance, and car payments. Include any saving plans you contribute to, like retirement or college funds.
Now, create another list of items that are optional expenses that you have every month, such as cable, a gym membership, pedicures, and others. You’ll also need to add in any amount that goes into savings for emergencies. It’s recommended that you have the equivalent of 6 months’ worth of expenses saved. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that what you thought you were bringing home was going straight to childcare and your daily commute.
Make a list
Keep a list of everything you spend money on for 2 to 3 months. That means that you need to list every latte, lunch, and vending machine purchase, in addition to your fixed costs. This task is not just for you; your spouse needs to keep a list too. You may be surprised to see where your money goes.
You may very well be surprised at all those “extra costs”. We absolutely were. In fact, while we enjoy the freedom of spending freely, we didn’t need them. I can make coffee, lunch, and snacks at home for work. We scaled back on eating out too. We go out monthly as a family as a treat, instead of once a week.
Soon you will see it is easier than you thought to Afford to Stay At Home with the Kids
Subtract what you’ll save
If you stay home you won’t be spending money in the same way. You won’t be eating lunch out every day, buying coffee on the way to the office, buying work clothes, filling the gas tank every week, having your clothes dry cleaned, or having childcare. These are all pluses of being home.
There may be other things that you can do without, such as having a cleaning service. By adding up all of these things, it becomes clear that there is a price for working away from home. Figure up how much you’ll save if you stay home.
Do the math
Now that you’ve made your lists, you need to do the math. Look at how much your spouse brings in and subtract out all of your expenses from it. You will need to create a budget for things like groceries, gas, haircuts, birthdays, and the occasional date night or dinner out with the family.
If after you do all that, you still have money to spare, then it may be possible for you to stay home. If the numbers are way off, however, you may have to delay staying at home until you can reduce your expenses. On the other hand, if the numbers are close, you may find ways to cut corners on your existing expenses.
- Start using coupons for everything, not just at the grocery store.
- Get rid of your home phone if you and your spouse already have mobile phones.
- Cancel or reduce your cable bill by cutting some of your options.
- Get rid of the lease on your car and pay cash for an older car to get rid of a car payment.
- Do without a second car altogether if possible.
- Lower your homeowners’ insurance by installing a security system or cameras. This can save as much as 5% with some companies.
- Shop around for less expensive car insurance and homeowners’ insurance.
- Bundle your car and homeowners’ insurance to get a reduction. It’s a good idea to do this every few years anyway, to make sure you aren’t paying too much.
To bring in additional money to the house for extras like vacations or other luxuries, you can sell items that you no longer need on eBay. If you are crafty you can sell homemade trinkets online in an Etsy shop at Etsy.com. Pick up some dog sitting jobs for your neighbors. Work part-time from home by doing data entry or freelance writing. Check out online opportunities at allyou.com/online-jobs.
The bottom line is that it may be more possible than you previously thought to live on one income.
However, it’s important that you consider all the pros and cons carefully before making the decision. Keep in mind long-term effects such as reduced future earnings if you go back into the workforce 5 to 10 years from now. You will also be contributing less to your retirement fund and social security.
Make adjustments for these things if you can, and you will be in better financial shape in the future. And most mothers will agree that caring for their loved ones is the most fulfilling job in the world.