When my husband and I had the serious discussion about starting a family, the first thought that entered my mind was, “how would we afford this?”
Not having enough money worried me to death. So much that it delayed the process of having kids by years! I am honestly sad and embarrassed to omit that fact.
Why was I worried? After all, I am a registered nurse and he is in the military. Together we have stable jobs that put us in a comfortable middle-class bracket.
Well, the answer is plain and simple. I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Our lifestyle was based on two incomes and I had no clue how to be a stay at home mom.
During the last month of maternity leave and my return to work date fast approaching, the desire to stay home was still burning and aching inside of me. Every day my son did something new and these moments were so precious.
After six years of waiting, I didn’t want to miss a minute.
We came up with a short-term plan which I was able to work out with my employer. I worked my nursing shift on Sundays, and my husband would care for our baby.
Of course even going down to just one shift a week was a huge decision, sacrificing some of our income. I started looking closely at our money to try to find a way I could stretch out working less for as long as possible.
What I have discovered is it’s not only possible to afford to be a stay at home mom, but you can actually SAVE more money by being a stay at home mom.
I found the following strategies extremely valuable to our lives then and they still are today. They are worth sharing with others who want to be able to afford to spend more time at home with their children.
How to be a stay at home mom in 5 steps
Track your spending
Tracking your spending is key if you are serious about going down to one income. There is absolutely no way you can succeed financially, even if you are a high earner, if you are not aware of your money’s comings and goings.
This may come as one of those eye roll statements but a budget is an essential part to any personal finance success story.
The beginning of my maternity leave marked our first experience in actually needing to do this. (I hadn’t been at my current job long enough to earn fully paid leave.) I was no expert when I started out.
The good news is there are tons of software out there to help make this process easier. I love using the pear budget spreadsheet because it is simple, and it is free to download.
The only downside to this spreadsheet is it won’t be fancy and link up with your accounts to automatically input all your spending data.
There are companies that do this such as mint.
Optimize your spending
What do I mean by this? I mean once you got yourself set up with budgeting, really look closely at your data. Look hard and analyze it.
It is going to take a few months to acquire your income and spending data first. If you are currently pregnant and are trying to figure out how to be a stay at home mom, start now with tracking and analyzing!
I started noticing trends that absolutely blew my mind. $30 worth of Starbucks coffee here, $7.99 a month for Hulu there. We were burning money in more places than I realized.
Making coffee at home does require a bit more effort, but so does getting up, packing everyone’s lunch, getting your children ready for childcare, and driving to work. Pick your effort, ya know?
Now cutting out unnecessary spending wasn’t an all or nothing deal mind you. It took months of slowly weaning ourselves. The crazy part about this process… it starts to snowball and it starts to empower you!
For us, it felt like we were finally in control. Not smart marketing, not the pretty catalogs in my mailbox, or Instagram perfect lives. We get to decide where the money that represents our time goes. We don’t have to be subject to chains of ramped consumerism. All of a sudden, I didn’t need those extra hours on my paycheck.
Ultimately, I realized that happiness wasn’t in things, it was in TIME. It became easier to say no to things when I took on this mindset. Every purchase became intentional. And because of this, I get to stay home much more and be a mom.
Related: How to be a happy mom
Pay down debt
Paying down debt is going to be how you can maintain your SAHM status much longer than the few months of maternity leave that your employer offers.
This part is painful but ya know, it’s necessary. There isn’t an easy button either.
There may be months where you feel like you are doing nothing fun. All your extra resources are going towards paying down debt so the gap between your monthly income and expenses gets a little wider.
But every time you think about how much it sucks to stop drinking Starbucks or cook at home so another 30 dollars can go towards debt, I want you to think about this gap.
This gap represents your freedom.
The gap is the wiggle room that keeps your family from despair when something unexpected happens, like car trouble or a hospital bill.
The only way to make the gap bigger is to get out of debt. Pursue becoming debt-free like a lion after its prey. Don’t let anything stand in your way toward your freedom to chose how you mom.
Educate the heck out of yourself
I wanted and still do want to be a stay at home mom. I also don’t want my kids to be without something they need just because I would rather be with them more than at a place of employment.
There are so many people to there smarter than me. They have written books that lay out the framework for living an extraordinary life. One in which does not revolve around going to a job when you would rather stay home with your kids.
The best advice I could give anyone trying to find a way to be a stay at home mom is to soak up every piece of cheap or free education out there. Start with a good book.
I don’t have to tell you where to look after that because reading 1 book about personal finance will probably send you down a rabbit hole. Here are some of my favs!
Don't forget to save for "retirement"
The compound power of interest is amazing. You still need to save for retirement even in your mommying years. It is something small you are doing for yourself today that will benefit you years to come.
Once you have started to get your debt payments down to manageable amounts, you may start to see a little left over each month. You can now start to invest your money for your future.
I am not a stock guru. Or a real estate shark. I am just an average middle class citizen, looking for a way out of the rat race so I can spend more time with my family.
I am investing in my IRAs now because I plan to continue to make family time a priority in the future.
What am I saving these few extra dollars for? Not for a life of riches in material things, although that would be cool.
Happiness resides in a simple life with people I love. A life rich in memories and experiences together.
This is what we are busting our butts for today right? I hope I can imprint these values in my children. That’s why I want to be with them more often than not, so I am their biggest influence other than God.
Pave your own path
Ok I realize this is extremely vague. The problem is I can’t tell you where to go from here.
Once you are consistently tracking your money, optimizing your spending, and don’t have crazy amounts of payments to debt every month, you will be able to live comfortably on one income. You will have the greatest gift a mom could ask for, to watch her children grow.
However, I realize that this, although lovely in thought, may not be the only component to your happiness.
What if you are at this place, quit your job, and realize that you miss the identity your career gave you? What is you just miss Starbucks and it isn’t worth staying home to not have your favorite conveniences?
Well, This is why I say choose your own path and stay flexible. Your plans may change.
By taking some time to be a stay at home mom, you will gain some perspective. You may find that you actually enjoy having a career outside of the home and this is a null point!
Perhaps now that you have freed up some of your time from a traditional career, you become more inspired to earn money in other ways.
I have started this blog as a creative outlet to share my knowledge about healthy living and as way to earn a little extra in my free time. You can start a blog too!
My son is one year old now and I have been able to stay home with him 90% of the time without putting my family in financial ruin using the steps I have outlined in this post.
It has provided me so much joy and has been worth every sacrifice.
I will pray that you can too!