Priorities are Key to Being a Stay at Home Mom

Being a Stay at Home Mom

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.

Trading in one job for another

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!

Pay off debt…fast

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…

Build up savings

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!

Trim the fat

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:

  • Getting rid of cable
    An over-the-air antennae, a Netflix subscription, and the public library made this transition easier than you may think…and better for our family, since we aren’t parked in front of the boob tube for hours each day!
  • Investing in a programmable thermostat
    Bundle up or get a few fans, depending on the weather. Set your thermostat for a few degrees higher or lower when no one is in the house. Even a couple of degrees makes a difference in your utility bill–definitely doable!
  • Reducing grocery budget
    This isn’t just about coupons! You have the most control over your grocery budget, and while it may take some preparation on your part (including shopping for specials, making a monthly meal plan, taking inventory of what you do have in your pantry), it pays off. We feed our family of three people (and two dogs and aforementioned fish) on less than $200…a month. This is what we were spending bi-weekly before I started to stay home!
  • Dropping down to one car

    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?

About the Author

By , on Dec 21, 2012
Amanda is a full-time mom and aspiring writer. When not chasing after her one-year-old or writing, she is figuring out creative ways to stretch a dollar.

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  1. FI Pilgrim says:

    Kudos on prioritizing your family over extra funds, that’s a tough choice to make in this day and age! Very admirable that you’re helping manage the funds though, my wife hates that part. 🙂

  2. Great post! Downsizing is, indeed, the way to go in order to find your time and make way for your passion. Kep up the great writing!

  3. The transition to at-home mom was hard for me at first, but now I wouldn’t change it for the world. I built a freelance business that’s given me far more satisfaction and control than outside work… Which is what has surprised me the most about it!

  4. Lisa G says:

    Proud of you! Great article! There is definitely more that we need to work on ourselves. I’m looking forward to reading more!

  5. Tori says:

    Similar to one of the previous commenters, we knew that we wanted me to stay at home once we had kids, so we never saw the money I made the two years I spent teaching before kids. We put it all into savings, and then were able to use about half of it as a down payment on our house and half for our emergency fund. That also meant we were used to living on my husband’s salary. Now I’ve been blessed with a job that I do from home (writing curriculum), which is simultaneously awesome and unbelievably challenging! Hanging with my three little boys (1, 3, and 5) while still getting in a full week’s work is rewarding and has taught me a lot about priorities and time management!

  6. We lived on one income for many years it is possible but it requires dedication and I love the fact that you focus in on priorities because it’s so true. Trim the fat absolutely! We had no more fat to trim but we sure had some golden years and some quality time with our children 🙂

  7. Amanda great perspective and insight. It’s excellent and how specific and practical you get for those that want to figure out how to make this possible!

    And Andy, can’t remember if I mentioned this yet, but I love the reskinning of your site!

  8. We don’t have any kids but I have chatted to many stay at home mom’s over the course of the year blogging. They seem to love it but are always looking for ways to cut their budget.

  9. Pauline says:

    Great job showing it goes well beyond daycare. My sister says she has to get out of the house for her sanity, but between childcare, taxes, dressing for work, gas, convenience grocery… her whole salary disappears and she doesn’t get to see her kid much. I plan on staying at home if I have kids.

  10. Excellent tips. Do you have a post on how you get your grocery bill to $200? I feel like I have slashed ours to get it to $350. I obviously need to work harder. I don’t want to stay at home full time, but I am transitioning to 2-3 days per week in the upcoming year. I will be looking for more of your tips. Thanks.

    • Amanda says:

      Look for a post on grocery saving tips in the coming weeks. The great thing about groceries is that it is the one aspect of your budget that can be “tweaked”–mortgage/rent, various utilities, etc. can’t be.

  11. Riley says:

    Good post, we are doing this in my household too! 😉

  12. When we first got married, lack of work dictated that I was a househusband.

  13. Eddie says:

    Priorities is what it comes down to it, but everyone has different priorities. What mine are, may certainly not be yours, and so on. Good post though!

    • Amanda R. says:

      Absolutely right. And, as I noted above, some people are better parents when they work outside the home. The issue arises when a parent wants to stay home, but doesn’t realize they can absolutely make a go of it.

  14. Mackenzie says:

    I too am a stay-at-home mom and it is by choice. You are right; you definitely have to make frugal choices and plan ahead. I would suggest to anyone wanting to stay home with the kids, is to definitely save up. Once you are down to one income, it really makes a difference.

  15. Money Beagle says:

    Between the time that we found out we were expecting to the time that my wife left her job, we transitioned to where the money she was making at her job went 100% to paying down her student loans faster. This made it so that we were already relying 100% on my income when she did leave, and we knocked off a huge chunk of those loans in the process, paying the one with a higher monthly payment completely off.

  16. Debt Roundup says:

    With a baby soon, my wife and I had this discussion. She will not be staying home with the baby after her leave because that is not what she wants to do. She gets very stir-crazy and being home is the last thing she wants. I don’t mind it but we do have to pay for day care and that is very expensive.

    • Amanda R. says:

      Stay tuned to this blog then 🙂 I intend to write up a couple of posts in the future about how to make your money stretch even further, whether you have one income or two. Daycare (really, life in general!) can get very expensive, and some costs aren’t always negotiable–every dollar counts!

  17. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    I’ve worked outside the home my whole life. I paid my own high school tuition by working nearly full time and babysitting because the public school system was disappointing to me!

    I have worked in the financial field for 17years, the only breaks were 12 wks and 8wks maternity leave having my girls. In August I was laid off and have been home. My oldest had just started pre-k and my youngest was in the preschool class needed to hold her spot for pre-k next year. So we did not pull them out and I have been desperately trying to find new work. I HATE being at home! I love being with my kids, but they are in school so it’s just me and the dreaded household chores. Since I’m home, the hubby says the house is now all your job and he previously handled more of it, because I truly despise housework! If it was all about just being with my kids and enjoying them and playing with I could deal…currently I am about to pull my hair out if I have to fold another old of laundry. I really believe moms that work outside the home have it way easier than stay at home moms, and I admire all that you do! I just don’t get any joy from being here…probably different if the kids were with me.
    Honestly, I felt more in control at work…at home it’s all messes that need cleaning with nobody to delegate to!

    • Amanda R. says:

      Being at home is definitely not for everyone, no doubt about that! Some women (and men) readily admit that being in the “working world” makes them better parents. It’s all about what works best for you and your family, financially and otherwise…and priorities, of course 🙂

  18. Michelle says:

    We don’t have kids yet, but we do know that we want someone to stay home when we do have kids. Great tips.

  19. Good post! We had several years where my wife was a stay at home mom and I can definitely relate to many of the things you listed. We now run our own business together, but many of the same things still apply. I do agree that it really does come down to priorities and your spending completely shows that.

  20. Thad says:

    Excellent post. Transitioning from employee somewhere to full time mom at home has to be one of the biggest transitions there is!

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