Most families today have two working parents, and many people think it isn’t possible for a mom to stay at home with her children unless her husband is a doctor or a lawyer or some other profession that makes a lot of money. But many moms long to stay home with their children and raise them at home instead of having to send them to daycare all day.
While it may not be easy, it is possible to be a stay at home mom, living on one income, even an average one, rather than two. While most of my kids’ young childhoods I worked part-time at home or outside the home when my husband was home or a grandparent could babysit, I was able to stop working and stay at home fully for several periods of time when my kids were small so I could be there for them when I felt they needed me most.
How to Be a Stay At Home Mom: A Little Preparation Makes a Big Difference
If you have some time to plan before you have your first child, you can do a lot to prepare for living on one income. If you have debt, pay it off now before that first child comes. Try to save an emergency fund or as much as you can, which will help you tremendously when those inevitable emergency expenses crop up and you don’t have nearly as much wiggle room in your budget.
Look at your budget and see how the numbers stack up without your income. Don’t forget that you won’t have expenses related to working anymore, such as commuting costs, buying lunches out, or keeping up your wardrobe with business clothing. Depending on where you live, you may even be able to go from two cars to one, but make sure you know how you will handle things like doctor visits, shopping trips, and emergencies before you take that step.
On the other hand, having kids does add costs to your budget that weren’t there before. Be sure to budget in money for diapers, clothing, equipment, and other things your baby will need.
Figure Out How to Cut Costs
Cutting costs is the next step to making it work on one income when you’re a stay at home mom. Here are some major ways you can cut costs without really sacrificing a lot.
1. Use Trim to pay less on some of your bills
Trim is an app that cancels subscriptions you may not be using (with your permission) and negotiates lower rates on your bills so you can pay less. Not all bills will be included in Trim or will agree to lower rates, but the beauty of Trim is that once you set it up, you don’t have to put in much effort to reap the benefits.
2. Research competitors to lower other bills
You may be paying too much on your cell phone, trash removal, or even your electric bill or your mortgage. Looking into whether you can get a better deal will take some time but could end up saving you several hundred dollars a month when applied to all of the expenses you get bills for each month.
3. Consolidate credit cards
If you have credit card debt you can’t pay off before you leave the workforce, you may be able to consolidate your debt into one payment with lower interest or even transfer it to a no-interest credit card for a few months to a year so you can work harder on paying it off. Payoff offers loans to pay off credit cards at a lower interest rate.
4. Save money on groceries
There are several different ways to save money on groceries, including using them up better so you don’t waste items you buy, learning to shop for what’s on sale, using coupons, and shopping at bargain grocery stores like Aldi. Groceries is an area where you can potentially save hundreds of dollars each month and still get quality items if you know how to shop.
5. Cook from scratch and don’t eat out
Cooking from scratch is cheaper and healthier than buying prepackaged foods. Similarly, eating at home saves tons of money compared to restaurant meals. If you enjoy eating out occasionally, ask for gift cards at holidays (if your relatives would be open to that) or redeem your credit card reward points for free restaurant gift cards.
6. Gracefully accept handouts when they are offered
Over the years, I was offered hand-me-down baby and kids’ clothes, food items someone wasn’t going to use, and someone else’s old couch when they got a new one. I even brought home a very high-end chair that a neighbor put out with a “free” sign. Getting items for free means you don’t have to spend any of your one income on things, and often that you end up getting better quality items than you would’ve been able to buy if you had to spend money.
7. Buy used, but carefully
I absolutely adored yard sales during our years with one income because I could get the items we needed, like clothes, household items, and even furniture at a fraction of the price it would cost new. I did find, however, that I sometimes bought things I didn’t even need because they were such a good bargain. Wasting a quarter or a dollar is still wasting money, and those quarters and dollars can add up quickly when money is scarce to begin with.
If these cost-cutting measures aren’t enough to make ends meet on one income, you may want to consider a big step like downsizing your home or moving to a less expensive home. Just be aware that you will need more space than ever when you have children, and that moving to a less expensive home could mean schools that aren’t as good or a lack of parks and recreational space for the kids to play.
Bridging the Gap As a Stay At Home Mom
When you’re looking for how to be a stay at home mom you should think outside the box. While you might not bring in a regular income, you can find ways to bring in a little extra cash. Instead of getting a full-time job that will leave your kids in daycare and not at home with you, get creative. Some of the things I did to bring in a little extra cash while my kids were little included selling things we weren’t using anymore, doing some ongoing work for a mystery shopping company, and some limited freelance writing.
My son is 19 now, so when he was small, online selling on the internet was just taking off. I began selling household items and books on eBay, CDs and DVDs on half.com, which has since gotten bought out by eBay. When I found items at yard sales that I could resell at a profit, I did so to make a little extra money. Not only did selling items raise money that we needed for our budget, but it also helped keep our house decluttered, and in that area, I needed all the help I could get.
I took outgrown baby and children’s clothes and baby equipment to children’s resale shops and got cash for them. Today, I would post them on local Facebook garage sale sites, the LetGo app, or Craigslist. For electronics, you can buy and sell with Swappa to save money compared to buying new.
I also did some summer childcare and taught at a homeschool co-op one day a week (they offered free childcare for teachers). I never actually homeschooled any of my kids, but I had an education background and had looked into homeschooling at various times, so I knew about state regulations. I also had friends who homeschooled.
Eventually, I found work-at-home jobs that used my college degree, including scoring the SAT essay exam for Pearson and various freelance writing jobs. I’m not sure I think work-at-home moms qualify as stay-at-home moms, but if you have an opportunity to work from home and you think it fits into your schedule and lifestyle, it can be a good way to earn some income while still being at home to take care of your kids and family.