I always wanted to be a stay at home mom.
I knew before I even thought about having a baby that it was the way I wanted to raise my kids.
Fast forward to a surprise pregnancy, not even a year after college, during my first year of teaching, and the idea of being a SAHM seemed out of reach.
Mostly because I didn’t think I could afford to be a stay at home mom or raise our family on one income.
And initially I couldn’t.
We had to change and sacrifice a lot for me to be able to afford to be a stay at home mom.
How We Lived on One Income So I Could Afford to Be a Stay at Home Mom
Not to just a new house, but to a new state.
We were living in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most expensive locations to live in the United States. My husband wasn’t working a great job and I was teaching at a school in Oakland. We were making it, but barely. We knew there was no way I could afford to be a stay at home mom if we continued to live in that area.
Instead of staying, we decided to move across country. My husband had a better job prospect, we could live in a less expensive location, and be nearer to family to help with childcare if needed.
This isn’t a great option for all families, but it was one that we were able to make work. We were willing to sacrifice a lot of things to get the life we wanted and moving was a step we thought would work great for us.
We Gave Up Some Luxuries
Things like cool cellphones, cable, vacations, eating out a lot, movies (which we rarely had time for anyway with a new baby in tow). I started doing things like trip bundling -where you only drive your car like once a week to save on gas. I scheduled all of my errands for that one day and otherwise I walked to the park with my kid or stayed home.
We had to be frugal with out mom and me classes too. We signed up for a couple of sessions of swimming at the YMCA and that was it.
We Downsized Our Living Space
Kids don’t need that much room when you think about it. We always made sure our kids had a separate room from us, but we aren’t against them sharing. In fact, two of my boys still share to this day and they are in middle and elementary school. At times, they have all three been in the same room. Sharing brings them closer together and it also made me much more organized and thoughtful about material things I bought and kept. We sort of became minimalists by requirement and it turned out not to be a terrible thing.
We Changed Our Taxes
We knew that with one income and a baby as a dependent, we wouldn’t really have much of a tax debt. Instead of withholding our money until the end of the year, we adjusted our withholdings so that we could make use of the money on a monthly basis.
We Opted for Different Healthcare
We have always been fortunate that my spouse has good healthcare coverage through work. When we were struggling to keep our budget tight and our unforeseen expenses low, we opted for a basic HMO coverage option. It had a lot of restrictions and required us to get referrals constantly, but it asked for very little out of pocket money and it provided great options for kids (no copays for any visits, low ER visits, etc). When your baby is getting an ear infection every other month, those fees can add up. It was great to know we didn’t have to think twice about seeing the doctor.
We Changed How We Shopped and Ate
We used coupons, we bought in bulk, we ate things like beans and rice and potatoes. I made our bread, I made our desserts, I packed lunches for my husband to go to work, and we ate a lot of leftovers. Plus, I breastfed our son for 18 months to avoid the cost of formula and, when he started eating solid foods around 6 months, I invested in a mini baby mill and just gave him what we ate.
We Used Cloth Diapers
Sure, it was an investment at first, but once we had the supplies, we didn’t have to buy diapers repeatedly. It was also better for our son in the long run since he turned out to have very sensitive skin and long bouts of diarrhea from an undetected allergy. Wearing cloth diapers (and never using disposable wipes) really helped his bottom heal. Added bonus, he potty trained himself!
We Went to Preschool Later
And homeschooled before that. I enrolled my boys in preschool just the year prior to kindergarten to save on tuition fees. Before that, I taught them at home. It helps that I have a Master’s Degree in Education, but even without that, any mom can teach their kids the basics they will learn in a PK-3 class. Also, where we live, the local high schools have child development centers within them for students looking to earn credits. They allow parents to bring their children there for preschool as a learning tool for the students. It is super inexpensive and my kids all loved it because their teachers were young kids.
We Got Rid of Our Debt
And we increased our savings. Debt sucks up pretty much all of your cash flow, so before I quit my job, we made sure we got rid of some of the useless debt we had (we still had a car payment) so that we could more easily manage our income and cover our more needed expenses. We also added to our savings as we could.
We Got Creative About My Income Opportunities
I haven’t worked full time outside of the home since 2003, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t generated an income since then. In fact, I make a full time salary right now as a digital content producer and blogger. But, even before I stumbled into this career, I found other ways to generate an income and help support my family as needed. I babysat for a couple of years. I’d let other moms drop their toddlers off while they ran errands or went to appointments. It gave my child a chance to interact with other kids and gave me a little extra cash. I also tutored in the evenings, worked nights at the hospital, and started a photography business that only took up a few hours of my weekends. All of these ventures allowed me to be home during the day with my boys.
Looking for some tips to help you with your budgeting? Want to know if you can afford to be a stay at home mom? We hosted a #momlifechat recently with some seriously useful budget tips and tricks to help your family live a more financially sound life!