One of the questions I get asked is “how do you afford to be a stay at home mom?” I never know exactly what to say because honestly, we don’t have an abundance of money just floating around. Staying home has meant that we don’t eat out very often, we give a lot of thought to what we purchase, and although we live a frugal life, we live a happy life.
Let’s be honest, affording to stay at home is not easy. It’s not something that was just magically bestowed on us although we do KNOW it’s a blessing. However, living on one income brings a new set of challenges and sacrifices. My husband works about 50 hours a week so we have a stable salary from his employment.
My husband and I have always tried to be “smart spenders” and careful with our money even before having children so that definitely gave us an advantage once we had kids and more expenses. I continued working after my first son was born and then once my second son was born, I transitioned to a stay at home mama. I always wanted to be a SAHM but didn’t think we could afford it. We looked into daycare for two babies (infant and 2-year-old at the time) and we agreed it would be best for me to stay home. Daycare was practically equal to a mortgage payment each month!
So how do I afford to be a stay at home mom?!
Here are a few ways we save money so I can afford to be a stay at home mom. I think most people want to save money but often times it seems time-consuming and overwhelming to keep track of expenses and stick to a budget. I know as a busy mama, it’s not always easy to keep up with coupons or tracking every dollar in and out of the checking account. I actually need improvement on setting a budget but these are few easy ways that just keep us living within our means.
1. Grocery Shop Smartly & Cook Meals at Home
With a house full of boys, our grocery bill is growing on a weekly basis. I try my best to plan out weekly groceries, even if it’s just a note I keep on my phone. While the grocery bill might increase, I’ve noticed that when I cook more at home, our monthly food bills are significantly lower than when we get take-out.
I do most of the shopping with the boys so it’s pretty common that I forget things since I’m always distracted in the stores with them. But, I’m going to try a new way of organizing separate lists for the 3 stores we mainly shop at. It frustrates me so much to go to a store one day and realize I need to go back in the same week!
I try to get most of our groceries at Aldi which really helps save on our grocery bill. It’s not always the most convenient place to shop when I have the boys since I have to bag the groceries but it is the cheapest!
2. Buy in Bulk
A huge money saver is buying in bulk! We love to buy household supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper towels, diapers, and non-perishable food items in bulk every month. It’s a time and money saver and everyone is happy that we’re usually well stocked on all of our favorite snacks. I love that having a bulk supply of household goods means that I’m not making random trips to the store to pick up one or two things.
3. Focus on Essentials
Of course, essentials are different in every family. We’re pretty good about distinguishing between our needs vs wants. We definitely splurge on the “wants” but that’s only if our budget allows it. So what do I mean? Well, we don’t have Netflix – seems like a staple in many households. We know it would be cool to have but we can’t afford all the “cool” things so we don’t. We have cable and that’s our splurge.
I don’t often shop for new clothes for myself or the boys. When I do shop, I look for sales, shop end of season sales for the next season, and my youngest mostly wears big brother’s hand me downs.
Taking it a step further considering essentials we decided not to send my oldest to preschool this year. We sent him the year before thinking he needed it. Many families in this area, start children in preschool or a formal daycare setting pretty early so I felt a bit of pressure. But, the reality is that preschool is another expense. I was a teacher before staying home so we decided not to try and scrounge up the money for preschool and I incorporate learning time into our days.
Oh and treats like pedicures, manicures, and fancy coffees — well, those are treats for special occasions. It’s not to say that I won’t ever treat myself but I just think of how we could use that money instead so I enjoy my cup of coffee at home and paint my nails myself.
My oldest use to be in swim lessons, as soon as I decided to stay home, that monthly expense was cut. We knew for this lifestyle to work we had to choose entertainment options carefully.
The boys LOVE to get out of the house and enjoy activities but we mostly find activities that are free. We love exploring libraries, parks, playgrounds, or inside playgrounds at McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A. Also, when we go places, we pack our own snacks and drinks. We make impromptu picnics just a part of the fun.
Another tip is to plan ahead and search for coupons. We wanted to take the boys to a local Children’s Museum and when I was searching online I found that investing in an annual pass was a much better option. I’m glad I checked it out ahead of time or we would have spent about half the price of the annual pass on just one visit. I check for coupons for places like Chuck E Cheese and often we get more tokens for our money.
5. Earn Money at Home
There are many ways mamas try to earn money while staying home. I know finding the time and life balance can still be kinda tricky. But, I have many mama friends who supplement their income in various ways. I personally started blogging when I transitioned to a stay-at-home-mom. I loved having an outlet and something new to learn and challenge myself with. There are paid opportunities which is always awesome since it’s just a little extra to cover some of our monthly expenses. Here’s more about how blogging has kept me sane as a SAHM.
I know there are no quick and easy solutions for a family to afford to live on one income. We have made sacrifices and sometimes I have a little worry about putting my career on hold and what that means for my professional future but I don’t have any regrets. I wish every mom who wanted to be a stay at home mom could be home. I remember the emotional stress I felt when I had to work every day when I had my first son. I enjoyed working but my heart just wanted to be home with him. I know I don’t have all the answers but I hope this gives some insight into how we make this life work!