As a stay at home mom (or, as I like to be called, a “Mother Superior”) in 2012, I am often asked how my husband and I make ends meet on just his salary. After all, it is the era of multiple cars, ever-expanding home size, and boatloads of debt…how can the American lifestyle for three people, two dogs, and a fish be supported on one man’s income?
It all boils down to priorities.
When my husband and I were planning on starting a family, I knew being a stay at home mom was something I desired, and made that abundantly clear. While some women thrive on a busy schedule, love their jobs, or truly cannot afford to stay at home with their children, none of these things were applicable for me. I knew that I struggled with multi-tasking and giving 100% to everything as it was, so something had to give. In my case, it was my job.
With this priority in mind, we contemplated ways to make the transition from two incomes to one as easy as possible. As one famous reality star who stays at home with her (many) children once said, “While I’m not bringing home a paycheck, I do control where it goes; I look at my job as working to make my husband’s paycheck go as far as possible.” I quickly adopted that mentality, and what was initially a rather daunting task became so much of an enjoyable challenge that I now consider being frugal a hobby!
Fortunately, babies don’t arrive instantaneously; you are given nine months to plan to be a stay at home mom. So, once we became pregnant, we set a plan in motion: pay off debt, build up savings, and trim the fat. We knew we could afford the necessities such as the mortgage, and basic utilities on just Hubby’s salary, but that didn’t leave us in the clear just yet!
Like many couples just starting out, we had debt. We still do. It takes awhile to get into that hole, and often takes just as long or longer to get out of it. Before baby “Bean” arrived, we paid off our credit card debt, as well as one of our four student loans. This freed up some money to use elsewhere, including…
Sometimes it can be hard to save for an event that isn’t even on your radar. But, since Hubby had been laid off once before, we knew we needed to sock away as much as possible in case the worst happened. Although our ultimate goal is to save up six months of living expenses, we still managed to save a decent sum. Of course, the amount needed will vary from family to family, but every little bit helps!
What I hadn’t expected on this journey was step 3, “Trim the fat”, being the hardest. We enjoyed traveling, going out to eat, and shopping. I didn’t want to eliminate those things I found most enjoyable! It turns out, I was approaching it from the wrong vantage point. Depriving oneself of something that’s wanted is about as productive as starving to lose weight: you won’t get the best results in the healthiest manner. We started with those things we knew we could live without, and worked our way up, including—but not limited!—to:
Living in a metropolitan area definitely makes this one easier to do. With some creative planning and a willingness to walk, we sold both cars, and bought one used car that made better mileage and was safer. This cuts down on everything from gas to insurance coverage—in this case, one is better than two!
With some thought into what qualifies as priorities in your family, and a little creativity, it just might be possible for you to be a stay at home mom too. Even if it simply isn’t feasible for your family (e.g. you are a single mom or dad, or have a substantial amount of debt), prioritizing will help you set goals for yourself and for your family—both financial and otherwise.
Readers: are you a stay at home mom (or dad)? If so, were there significant changes that needed to be made and how did you prioritize things?
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