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Monday, September 27, 2010

How Can You Afford to Stay Home?

I recently received this question/comment on an older post about affording to stay at home:

I want to be a SAHM (and soon, homeschooling, I hope) more than anything I've ever wanted. I worked part time for two years, but we struggled financially. I am now full time again (my husband and I make about $78,000 together before taxes) but our daycare is extremely expensive, I hate my job, and I spend all my spare time googling ways to cut to one income. We rent, we do not have car payments, we rarely go out to eat and never shop. The only thing is, we try to save about $1000 a month in a savings account. Problem is, if we don't do that, we'll NEVER get ahead, never be able to buy a house, will always be stressed about money. I don't know what else to do. I feel like my babies are growing so quickly, and my chance to be a SAHM, what I want more than anything in the world, is going to pass me by and then it'll be too late.
By Lynn on Can You Afford to Be a One Income Family? on 9/23/10

This is a heartbreaking comment, and an all too common one. The problem is that we live in a society where a two-income family is expected. Lifestyles around us are based on two-income families. It doesn't have to be this way, Lynn.

No one on their death bed ever said "I wish I would have bought my house sooner" or "I wish I would have had more money". I'm sure many have said "I wish I could have spent more time with my family". Which means, if your dream is to stay at home with your children (and possibly homeschool them), the time to make something change is now (or soon!).

You mention that your husband and yourself make a combined income of about $78,000 a year. You didn't mention how much of that you contribute but it seems as though much of your income goes to childcare, meaning that you don't make nearly as much as your income appears on paper. Add to that work clothing, expenses getting to and from work, maybe not as many home cooked meals or relying on pre-packaged foods due to feeling rushed for time, etc. and you may be making very little at your job. Not to mention that by working full-time you possibly don't have time to "save money" by scouting garage sales for second-hand items (therefore paying full price for new things), unable to save money on your electric/gas bills by hanging out laundry, spending more at the grocery store instead of watching sales and using coupons, etc.

You make it seem as though if you quit your job you will NEVER be able to get ahead and will always be stressing over money. We have no idea what the future holds - your husband could get a nice raise or someday find a job that pays much more. You could find a job that you are able to do at home. Never say never. You may not be able to put $1,000 into savings each month but there should be something left over to save. Your dream house goal may be set back a bit, but you will be meeting an immediate dream of staying home with your children. That is something that you can never "re-do".

With that said, I can't tell you that you won't be stressing over money. It sounds like you are already stressing over money though, just in a different way. You'll just be trading one stress for another so shouldn't be too different!

My advice to you to see if you can do this is to take your monthly income (just yours!) and pay all your "work related expenses" out of your income for one month. Childcare costs. Any eating out that you did because you were too tired to cook. Overspending at the grocery store that happened because you were relying on packaged foods too much due to being on a tight schedule. Gas for your vehicle. New clothing or other items that could have been bought used or on sale that you didn't have time to do because you were busy at work or tired from being gone all day. Your lunch as well as your husband's lunch costs, which could have been packaged at home had you had extra time (that is, if you don't already bring your own lunches). Think of any other work related costs and subtract those as well. Add in the fact that you are paying more income taxes due to the fact that you are at a higher income bracket at the moment.

Sit down at the end of the month and figure out how much you are left with out of your pay. Is it $900? $500? Less than that? Is 40 hours a week of work and stress worth $500 a month in actual pay?! All those other expenses could be eliminated if you were a stay-at-home mom. You could find ways to save or make $500 a month if you were a stay-at-home mom.

I wish you all the best of luck and would be interested in seeing what you decide after tracking your expenses for one month.

Does anyone else have advice for Lynn or other women with the same question?


  1. As a mom who has always been a SAHM (seriously, why put my kids in daycare so I could wait tables at a bar?), we've always lived on one income. At the time, my husband had only been with his company about 5 years. We had no savings. But we made it work.

    Now, 8 years later, we live in a beautiful home that we put 20% down on, we have savings, we feel secure, we don't live pay check to pay check. We can afford vacations and dinners out. It was so worth it to sacrifice in the beginning while our children were young.

  2. Being a SAHM is lifestyle. The majority of SAHM's are not going to be rich, live in our dream homes, own newer cars, have the latest fad designer clothing, etc. It is a sacrifice in the materialism department. But the benefits out weigh any cons there may be. You get to raise your chldren. You get to see those once in a life time moments. You get to develop a relationship that will last a life time with them. Children are little for such a short time. In a blink, they are grown and gone. You can always get a job after that. When women say they can not afford to stay home, I say how can you afford not too?

    For us, we have no cable, only one TV, my four girls share a room, they share a closet, they do not have too many clothes, or too many toys. We keep things very simple here. We grow a lot of our own food. We do not have car payments. My children do not participate in expensive outside activities. My children are more important to me then keeping up with the Jones. I also believe we are a lot happier this way as well.

    We do live a comfortable life and we do it all under $36,000/year. It is possible!

  3. I remember after my first son was born my neighbor making the comment, "I wish that I could afford to stay home." It really bothered me. This was a choice we made as a family. If I had continued to work, after your above mentioned items; I would not have really been bringing that much to the table. We also had to change our lifestyle somewhat. No ordering out when ever we feel like it. My minivan is now paid off and I will run it to the ground without getting a new car. I always say - people can make time and find the money for the things that matter to them.

  4. You could provide childcare. That is what I do. We really do need a little extra over what my husband makes, and depending on where you live, you could be bringing in $600 or more a month by watching one child. This allows you to still spend time with your children, and you get to give them a playmate as well. I have been doing this for 8 years now, and am so glad that I had this option over going back to work.

  5. Elizabeth, you made an excellent point to Lynn when you said the dream home goal may be set back a little bit, but it would be worth it to meet the immediate dream goal of staying home with her children!

    I have always been a stay-at-home mom. When you stay home you are blessed with a certain amount of leisure that can help you! You have the time to think creatively about ways to save money. You are able to stick to a budget, plan a grocery list, cook from scratch, and find money making opportunities that you can do from home.
    Staying home with your children makes it all worth it!

  6. This could be me! As of January 1st we are going down to 1 income and although it is scary after being with a company for 15 years for me to walk away from my job, it's not nearly as scary as thinking about missing out on my sons early years. Our income is similar to yours, about 1/3rd is what I bring home but after childcare I only contribute about $300-500/ month. If you cut out childcare, we can absorb that amount no problem. For us it means no more "easy" button. Not as many expensive meals out. No quick trips for milk to the Lund's down the street when we can get it for half the price at Target by driving a few miles and planning better. I'll go back to work for 2 months after my maternity leave and during those two months I am only paying childcare and medical bills with the extra so all groceries, gas, student loan etc. will come out of my husbands salary so we can get a feel for it before we take the plunge. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!

  7. Great post, I also have been a SAHM since my oldest was 2 She is now almost 20, I also have an 18 year old, a 14 year old, 5 year old twins, a 3 year old and one due in 2 weeks. There are things you give up staying home, The keeping up with the joneses has to go out the window. I write about our $5000 house on my blog, It was no dream home but someday with hard work it will be, or we will use it as a stepping stone to our homestead we want. We share one vehicle, So sometimes I have to take hubby to work at 3am. We don't eat out, I don't miss it. None of those material things even comes close to all I have gained by being home with my babies. I would never change a thing. Good luck to those that want to stay home, If you really want to you will do it!! Michelle frugalredneck.blogspot.com

  8. I was in your shoes many years ago. After my 3rd child, I knew there was no way I would come out ahead working. After paying child care, gas, taxes, work clothes, wear & tear on tires etc. I would bring home next to nothing.

    But I did it and quit a job I was at for 10 years. I was able to stay home for 5 years until my youngest went to school.

    I personally loved the challenge of making do. I bought most of our clothes from garage sales, shopped twice a month at Aldi's, cooked and baked everything from scratch, made gifts, babysat in the summers and did all kinds of money saving ideas I'm sure you have already read.

    Yes, money was very tight but I would never have traded those years for anything! The best years of my life!

    Of course I know nothing about your expenses and not saying for you to jump into it but there has been some great advice given, hope you are able to make your decision!

  9. It CAN be done. Like Elizabeth said you need to figure out your actual cost of working. You may be surprised just how much you are NOT bringing home after all work related expenses there are. Time with your kids is timne that you can never get back and being there for them is the best gift that you could ever give them.

    Awesome post and I hope that the reader comes back to read it.



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