One thing that I learned this month during my challenge is that we can do without a lot of what we typically buy. Had we cut out fast food completely and trimmed down the grocery bill even more, there is no doubt that we really would have come in at under $1,200.
Which brings me to another topic that involves money and cutting back: being a stay-at-home mom. I don't stay-at-home because I'm living the life of luxury and my husband makes boat loads of cash. I'm able to stay at home because we make a lot of sacrifices in order for me to do so.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against working mothers. If a woman gets fulfillment from her career or enjoys her job and wants to continue to work while being a mother, that's fine. And I know that there are single women who have to work because there is no choice. Even married couples have to have two incomes in certain instances.
But what gets me, and my husband, is women who moan and complain about their jobs and how they wish they could be at home with their children but that they can't afford it. And then they leave work, get into their brand new fancy SUV, drive to their $80 hair appointment, stop and pick up take out, pick up their children from daycare and drive them to one of their many activities, arrive home to their McMansion, and plan their Disney World vacation while watching their $100 a month cable. This scenario sounds silly but it is all too common.
The majority of women who say to me or my husband that they wish they could stay at home but can't afford it tend to live a lifestyle similar to above. And their husbands tend to make at least double, if not triple or quadruple, what my husband makes. These women are not working because they couldn't afford to stay home, these women are working to maintain their lifestyle. Which is fine with me...if someone thinks trading 40 hours of their time each week to have an SUV, vacations, etc. is worth it that is okay. But to complain about how they wish they could be at home with their children but just can't afford it to someone who lives on 1/4 of their income and does stay at home is foolish.
These types of women could afford to stay-at-home if they really wanted to. Buying a used car with cash, downsizing from their Mcmansion to a regular house, taking their kids out of daycare, not paying $80 for hair appointments, not taking an expensive vacation each year, cooking at home instead of getting takeout several times a week, shopping for clothes at thrift stores and garage sales. All those tips may actually equal what they make a year. In reality, it's not that they can't afford it, they just choose not to. So they are either lying to people like me when they say they wish they could or they are lying to themselves when they say that they can't.
There have been several studies of women who work on, I think it was, $10 an hour or less. These studies have looked at daycare costs for the children, the added expense of clothing and car costs for the job, the extra taxes, the added expense of take out more often due to the working mother being over-tired, etc. When all was said and done and subtracted, it was said that the woman realistically just made about $3,000 a year working 40 hours a week. In many instances, a woman is able to save more money by being at home then she is able to make working 40 hours a week.
This challenge has taught me to never say I can't when it comes to money. If we can manage to almost scrape by on $1,200 a month then couldn't we comfortably live on $1,400 a month and put the rest in savings. It is teaching me that even a family on a low income doesn't have to live paycheck to paycheck. And it is definitely teaching me that the American way of thinking about money is ridiculous. We are taught to consume as much as possible and work all week at a job we hate in order to afford that brand new car and McMansion that we are never at home to enjoy. Isn't there more to life then stuff?