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how to afford to be a stay at home parent

7 Steps To Be A Stay At Home Mom

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In this article, I explore the options available to families who are considering making the switch from two incomes to one in order to keep mom at home. Many parents dream of being able to afford one of them to stay at home to raise the kids. The big question remains: in today’s economy, is that even possible?

If you have a baby on the way or already have young children, the possibility of being a stay at home mom or dad has undoubtedly crossed your mind. The idea of staying at home may excite you but the thought of living off one income can be terrifying. It can be especially terrifying if you are currently living paycheck to paycheck right now.

Why We Wanted My Wife To Be A Stay At Home Mom And Not A “Working Mom”

Before you crucify me, I am fully aware that stay at home parents work their butts off. However, for the purposes of this article, a “working mom” is referred to in the traditional sense of one that brings home an income. 

While I was growing up in the 80’s, my mother stayed with us while my dad went to work outside of the home. He was the sole income earner and supported our family financially while my mother tended to all the child rearing and house work. 

I personally feel I benefited from this arrangement because having a present parent kept me out of trouble and created bonds that may not otherwise have occurred. Our life certainly wasn’t perfect but having a full time parent gave me a sense of safety and security that I wanted to replicate for my children.

This is not to say that families with working parents are any less effective or loving than a single income family. I just experienced a single income family and it was a situation I wanted to see if I could afford for my family.

60% Of Americans Think A Stay At Home Parent Is Better

A Pew Research Center study from 2014 found that 60% of Americans believed children in families with a stay at home parent were better off. In contrast, 35% felt there was no difference between stay at home parent families or families where parents both worked outside of the home.

pew research center children and parents who stay at home, stayathome mom

Obviously, this was a study based on opinion without the backing of scientific evidence. However, it shows that the majority of Americans would like to stay at home to raise their children if they could afford it.

Perhaps there is a way for more Americans to make these dreams a reality with the proper budget and spending strategies.

Childcare Costs Are At An All-Time High

Another reason we wanted to try the single income stay at home parent strategy was due to the high cost of childcare in the United States.

According to American Progress, the average cost of center-based child care in the United States is $1,230 per month, or $14,760 a year. This was also a strong factor in our decision to try and keep my wife at home. If she were to work full time, we could count on at least $14,760 a year coming out of her paycheck to pay for childcare.

for most families, the cost of licensed child care is out of reach. stayathome mom

For families that are already living paycheck to paycheck on two incomes, the thought of paying an extra $1,230 a month may seem impossible.

That means in order to pay for that upcoming birth, you may need to cut down on expenses by at least $1,230 a month, regardless of your decision to stay at home or not.

Personally, for us, we decided that if we were going to make major cuts already, why not see how drastic we could make it in order to afford my wife to be a stay at home parent?

Childcare May Be Linked To Behavioral Problems

As soon to be first time parents, we did more research than we probably should have. The more we read, the more scared we became. In fact, a New York Times article cited two different studies that linked childcare to increased behavioral problems in children.

The studies stated that children who spent long hours in childcare had the potential to experience more stress (higher cortisol levels) and become overly aggressive compared to children who did not spend as much time in childcare.

They linked a correlation between the amount of time a child spent in childcare to how disobedient the child was. The longer time in childcare, the more at risk they were to display disobedient behavior.

My Wife’s Experience With Childcare And Childhood Confusion

One of the more eye-opening moments for me that helped solidify our decision to attempt the single income family came directly from my wife’s experience.

Before we married, my wife worked as a full-time nanny for several wealthy families. My wife made an impressive salary from these jobs and spent most of her time raising their children. My wife was with many of these children Monday through Friday from the first week they were born until they started kindergarten.

Due to her role as a full-time nanny, she often spent more time with the children than their parents did. I remember one such occasion when one of the children she was watching started calling her “mom.” My wife immediately corrected the child and explained to them that she was not their mother and talked to them about her role as a nanny and their mother’s role.

Upon hearing this heartbreaking story, I never wanted my children to be confused as to who their parents were. This was yet another substantial incident that cemented my desire to have my wife stay at home with our children – no matter how much we had to sacrifice.

How We Made The Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) Role A Reality

I can tell you through experience that living off one income is possible. When my wife and I had our first child, we made the decision to keep my wife home with the kids as long as we possibly could afford it. So when our first child was born, my wife quit her job and became a full-time stay at home parent.

Many of you know that when I had my first child, I was a line-level police officer. I was making a decent income but it certainly wasn’t anything to brag about.

The sudden decrease in income was nothing short of scary. In fact, our monthly income was cut in half. We were forced to actually stick to our budget and pay much more attention to our expenses. The days of spending whatever we wanted whenever we wanted were suddenly over. 

It became painfully clear that our needs and wants were way out of balance.

How Our Stay At Home Dream Became A Reality

our stay at home dream has become a reality! stayathome mom

It has been almost ten years since my wife quit her job and we have been able to manage. Several things contribute to our continued success but it certainly isn’t without sacrifice. I drive a vehicle that is 12 years old and my wife drives a vehicle that is 13 years old. We don’t have cable or fancy things, but we are happy.

Being forced to stick to a budget and to ensure our money is spent on what we value has made us much better money managers. And honestly, we are happier. Keeping up with the Joneses was much too difficult and stressful. Now we are in control of our money rather than our money being in control of us.

Let’s get to the point of why you are here. How in the world do we do it?

You Cannot Afford To Be A Stay At Home Mom

If you are not willing to make serious sacrifices. I’m not talking about lowering your quality of life, but rather seriously reevaluating your needs versus wants.

Being a stay at home parent may require you to stop eating out at restaurants, sell your new car to buy an old junker, and to stop spending as much money as you are used to. It may even require serious sacrifices such as buying gently used clothes at second-hand stores depending on your situation.

Affording to be a stay at home parent is not about living in poverty. It’s about putting your money towards what you value most in life. If you truly want to stay at home with your kids, it may mean sacrificing many of life’s comforts you have become accustomed to.

To Be Stay At Home Parent, You Will Make Sacrifices

The idea of cutting your income in half right now may seem impossible. However, I’ll bet that you can do it if you are willing to make significant sacrifices.

Before my wife quit her job, we reevaluated what we personally valued in life and how much we wanted to make this dream a reality. We understood that our lives were going to significantly change, but we had no idea how much.

Looking back at our life over the past 10 years, I can honestly say that I don’t regret anything we have given up. Yes, I wish I had a newer vehicle, a larger home, and a bigger TV, but I would not have my wife at work just so we could have “nicer things.” For us, the benefit gained from having my wife stay at home to raise the kids was much more valuable than any material items.

Use These 7 Steps To Afford To Be A Stay At Home Mom

Before we get into the steps, it’s important to understand that in order to be successful, you need to make a plan for your income and expenses. Create a timeline for yourself for when you want to be able to achieve this dream and how much frugality you need to embrace.

1. The Only Way To Afford To Live Off One Budget Is To Budget

I know that’s not what you wanted to hear but it’s the absolute truth. I can say without a doubt that if you do not stick to a strict budget, there is no way you can stay at home unless your partner makes a ton of money. If you have an average income like the rest of us, the budget is absolutely necessary.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about budgeting. A well-written budget that both you and your partner believe in is actually empowering and brings happiness! Why? Because a budget allows you to make real progress towards your financial goals and can allow you to be a stay at home parent!

free budget printable

Pick Up These Free Budget Resources

I have written a few great articles on budgeting but I recommend you pick up my free budget printables from this link. After you pick up the printables, head over to my related article on budgeting to start your budget the right way.

When you do your budget, honestly cut out your “wants” and focus first on your “needs.” If there is money left at the end of the budget, you can throw a few wants in there to keep your sanity.

2. Find Ways To Save Money To Live Off One Income

find ways to save money to stay home stayathome mom becoming stayathome

As you explore the possibility of living off one income, look for ways to save money. If you focus on your goal of raising your children yourself, it’s amazing how much you are willing to sacrifice. It all depends on how badly you want the job of a stay at home parent. God bless you if you do because I personally don’t have that kind of patience!

Check Your Transportation Situation

How many vehicles do you own and how much are your monthly payments? Before we switched to one income, my wife and I had nice vehicles. She had a brand new Chevrolet Tahoe with chrome rims and a custom front grille. I drove a newer Nissan Xterra and life was great. I think we spent around $1,100 a month on vehicle payments alone.

If you want to stay home with your little one, a car payment is going to kill you. I recommend you either downsize your vehicles to get rid of the payments or get rid of one car altogether. Again, this all depends on how bad you want to be home with your kids. If a vehicle is keeping you from extra time with them, I would sell the vehicle in a heartbeat.

It may be time to sell that nice new car and buy a used $2,000 Toyota. They run forever and are very reliable!

Reevaluate Your Living Situation

reevaluate your living situation to be a stayathome mom, becoming stayathome mom

How big is the house you live in? It may be time to reconsider how much house you are paying for each month. If you are in an apartment, see how much you are spending in relation to the areas around you.

The natural order of things is for a couple to get married and go out and buy a new big house and park two expensive vehicles in the driveway. This sounds great at first but the time quickly comes where the expenses start to outnumber the dollars coming in.

If you are in a large house, it may be time to downsize to a smaller one. Right now, I live in a three-bedroom house and my boys share a room. They are in bunk beds and it is tighter than we would like. If we could change it, we would give each of our children their own room, but it’s just not in the budget at this point.

Again, what’s more important – my kids having their own bedrooms and mom working full time or sharing a room so mom can stay home? This is how I look at expenses.

We have learned the value of sacrifice to keep my wife at home and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Having children made us quickly grow up and realign our priorities.

Take Control Of Your Food Budget

One of my biggest problems is I eat for pleasure, not for nourishment. I’m waiting for the day when my metabolism throws in the towel and I suddenly gain 100 pounds. The truth is, this is one of the most difficult areas to stay on budget. Our family loves food and we constantly have to double-check our grocery bills and spending.

If you struggle like us, I wrote a great article on the cash envelope wallet system to help you stay on budget. In this article I review some of the best cash envelop wallets and how you can make your money work better for you.

After children, we significantly cut back on restaurants and allotted a certain amount of money each month to be spent at the grocery store. We have significantly reduced the amount of money we spend on food because we now actually track how much we spend at the grocery store. I wrote a related article about how we save a ton of money by using Click List.

We also use several cashback apps to save money on our groceries. If you don’t use these apps yet, I encourage you to sign up. They don’t cost you anything and you can get quite a bit back in cash each month. We use Rakuten, ibotta, and Swagbucks to save us money each month.

Meal Planning Saves Money

meal planning saves money

I have difficulty spending an entire Sunday cooking food to use throughout the week, even though this would be the best way to do it. We struggle to stay on top of our meal planning because making three meals a day for a family of five takes a lot of energy.

However, if you can get into a routine of meal planning and budgeting, you can certainly save yourself a ton of money.

Another service that offers great meal planning options is eMeals. eMeals is endorsed by Dave Ramsey and is a great program that can help you stay on budget while planning your weekly meals.

3. Increase Your Income To Stay Home

I have promoted a couple of times in my career since my wife quit her job. Undoubtedly, my promotions certainly have helped us keep her at home. However, I am constantly looking for ways to supplement my income. At least one day a week I work an extra side job to supplement our income.

This week I worked three extra side jobs because they were available. I usually try to keep my side jobs to a minimum because I know my kids need time with their dad as well. However, my family also knows we need to make sacrifices to maintain our quality of life and to afford mom to stay at home. It’s a delicate balance between work and home life and it’s one that is important to balance correctly.

If your partner is unable to get overtime or extra work, there are many online jobs that the stay at home parent can do. For instance, blogging can create additional income depending on what you blog about.

Jobs For Stay At Home Moms

With the age of the internet, there are many stay at home parent jobs that can help parents add supplemental income to the family without leaving the house. Being a working mom doesn’t mean you need to leave the house! Depending on your skillset and talents, you may be able to contribute additional funds to the budget with some of these ideas.

  • Become A Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are quickly becoming a popular way for stay at home parents to make extra income. Virtual assistants make money by completing tasks online that help other people manage tasks in their small businesses.

For instance, many bloggers don’t have time to write every article on their websites so they hire people to write articles for them or to manage their social media profiles. There is an unlimited amount of work available online depending on what you enjoy.

To find available opportunities, you can check for popular jobs online at places like Fiverr and Upwork.

Many people who transition to being a stay at home parent left the workplace with tremendous skills and value. VIPKid is an online education center where you can put your previous work experience to work for you at home while facilitating online classes. There are a variety of classes you can become an instructor for depending on your niche.

Depending on the number of classes you teach, you could make around $20 dollars an hour by teaching online classes at VIPKid.

  • TranscribeMe

TranscribeMe is perfect if you are a fast typer. This company specializes in transcribing audio into text for companies that do interviews. One of the major benefits of this company is the ability to work as little or as much as you want.

The starting pay for TranscribeMe is 33 cents for each minute of audio which totals about $20 dollars per hour.

4. Working May Be More Expensive Than You Think

working may be more expensive than you think

Have you considered the amount of money you will spend to raise your little one if both parents work? There are several expenses that are unnecessary if one of the parents stays home. As stated earlier, daycare, for instance, can average over $1,000 a month per child. In addition to day care, formula and diapers can cost you around $200 a month or more.

Parents on a strict budget often have the option to save money by breastfeeding their babies and using cloth diapers. If you factor in these costs, you may be able to save over $1,200 a month by breastfeeding and using cloth diapers.

5. Pay Off Debt To Be A Stay At Home Parent

Perhaps the goal of staying at home will be enough to motivate you to finally get out of debt. If you no longer had credit card debt, vehicle, and student loans, can you imagine how much money you would have?

Motivate yourself to stop your excess spending and use that money to destroy your debt. Becoming debt-free certainly is possible and can occur much faster than you imagine. If you get on a budget and start attacking your debt with either the debt snowball or the debt avalanche, you will quickly find yourself with extra money!

6. Live Off One Income, While Still Making Two! [The Ultimate Strategy!]

live off one income

If you’re anxious about the thought of taking the plunge and quitting your job, try living on one income. While you both still have jobs, create a budget that only includes one income. Give yourself a two or three-month window to see if you can make it work on one income.

This trial period will give you time to perfect your budget and expense strategy in order to be successful. I have a feeling that if you want it bad enough, you will be able to make it work!

7. Create An Emergency Fund To Stay At Home

In order to give yourself the best chance at success, make sure you have a healthy emergency fund before you try living off one income. Life has a way of hitting us when we are down, so an emergency fund can protect yourself from the unexpected expensive life issues that arise.

With one income, there is not that additional income earner in the house that can make up for any cash shortfalls that may occur. Prepare for life’s emergencies by having cash on hand in emergency savings to protect you from life. The idea is to keep this savings fully funded and to replenish it if you have to take from it.

We keep our emergency funds at $2,000 and have been able to increase our savings to have 6 months of cash in reserves to protect us from going into debt when a vehicle breaks down.


Closing Thoughts

My wife and I have made many sacrifices in order for her to stay home and raise our children. If I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t change it for the world. The quality time she has been able to spend with them is worth all of my time away from home working my extra jobs.

This is not to say that those who choose to work outside and put their children in daycare are any different. We all love our children – this was just a decision my wife and I made together for our family.

Have you thought about staying home with your kids? What has stopped you – was it only the financial aspect or was it something else? Comment below I’d love to hear from you!

-Ryan

General FAQ

How much do Americans pay each month for childcare in the US?

According to American Progress, the average cost of center-based child care in the United States is $1,230 per month,

How much do Americans pay each year for childcare in the US?

According to American Progress, the average cost of center-based child care in the United States is $14,760 per year.

My wife and I made the tough decision to do everything we could to keep her at home with the kids. Living off one income has been hard but we have been able to do it for the past 10 years! Find out how we did it and how you can too! #parents #kids #money #stayathome #stayathomemom
My wife and I made the tough decision to do everything we could to keep her at home with the kids. Living off one income has been hard but we have been able to do it for the past 10 years! Find out how we did it and how you can too! #parents #kids #money #stayathome #stayathomemom
My wife and I made the tough decision to do everything we could to keep her at home with the kids. Living off one income has been hard but we have been able to do it for the past 10 years! Find out how we did it and how you can too! #parents #kids #money #stayathome #stayathomemom
My wife and I made the tough decision to do everything we could to keep her at home with the kids. Living off one income has been hard but we have been able to do it for the past 10 years! Find out how we did it and how you can too! #parents #kids #money #stayathome #stayathomemom
My wife and I made the tough decision to do everything we could to keep her at home with the kids. Living off one income has been hard but we have been able to do it for the past 10 years! Find out how we did it and how you can too! #parents #kids #money #stayathome #stayathomemom

About The Author

Visit The Authors Website | Other Posts

Ryan Luke is a father of three, a husband, finance blogger, and full-time police officer. Through proper budgeting and money management, they have been able to live off one income and build wealth at the same time. As an active member of the personal finance community, his goal is to educate and help people get out of debt and build wealth!

4 thoughts on “7 Steps To Be A Stay At Home Mom”

  1. Great post! I have always been a stay at home mom. Now that my kids are no longer babies, I have picked up housekeeping jobs in my neighborhood. I get paid $25/hr. It’s been a great job for me.

    1. Rebecca that’s great! We saved so much money by my wife staying at home – I wonder if she will get bored when the kids get a bit older and take on a side job like you have. Here’s hoping 😉

  2. Another great read, Ryan! I’ve been a SAHM since 2012. It was one of the best decisions we made. Living on one income is doable with the right plan in place. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but I get to be there for my kids, and that’s what parenting is all about.

    1. Chrissy, I totally agree. Many times I get home and my wife hands me the kids and runs out of the house. Staying at home can drive you nuts but it’s totally worth it haha!

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