Being a mom is the hardest AND the most rewarding job in the world! What’s even harder? Dragging your half-asleep kids out of bed every morning to drop off at daycare for 12 hours, while you fight your way through bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to a job (you don’t love anymore) on-time.
That was me about six years ago.
I was working a dead-end job that I hated. I was away at work more than I was at home. I couldn’t imagine working for another 15 years and only seeing my husband and my son on the weekends.
So when we got pregnant again, I was ready to stop paying someone else to take care of him — I wanted THAT job!
And I know you’re here because you want to stay at home with your kids too. You just can’t see how to make it happen without being broke.
Was I scared to leave my job and live off my husband’s ($30k/year) income? Absolutely! Because I didn’t want to live on one income and be broke either.
We were accustomed to spending a lot of money on stuff we didn’t need, so I was afraid we’d get behind on our bills with less money coming in. And I definitely didn’t want to have to ask for my job back in case I failed at budgeting. That’s embarrassing.
- How To Live On One Low Income and Crush It
- 18 Ways We Cut Costs To Live On One Income (And Saved Over $22,000/Year)
- 75 Simple Frugal Living Tips That Actually Save Money
So I researched how to manage money and changed the things we could control, which resulted in us successfully reducing our spending by over $22,000 in a year and I was able to quit that job two weeks before the end of my maternity leave!
I had to get really good at budgeting money on a small income to make my dreams a reality. Five years + two more kids later? I’m still a stay at home mom!
Even though my husband is still making less than $35,000 a year, we live a good life. So here’s what you can do to make it possible for you too!
Make A Budget
Without a budget, you’re not gonna know if you can afford to live off on one income. Because a budget will show you how to spend your money right — not how to spend less — which is so important when you become a one-income family.
To help you out with this, I created a step by step guide for making a fail-proof budget that shows you how master your money one pay period at a time — even if you live paycheck to paycheck or tried to budget before and failed.
Pay Down Debt
Before quitting your job, plan to pay off as much debt as you can. Anything can happen. Trust me, you don’t want to be in a situation where you can barely make ends meet and you’re drowning in debt.
I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and recommend using his Debt Snowball Method. It’s a strategy that will help you pay off all your non-mortgage debt much faster.
Here’s what that would look like:
Step 1 – List your debts from smallest to largest.
Step 2 – Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
Step 3 – Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
Step 4 – Repeat until each debt is paid in full.
It’s really simple to implement and makes becoming debt-free less scary, and more attainable.
Reduce Your Spending
When you leave your job, keep in mind you’ll also leave behind your income. So it’s important that you discuss with your spouse what you’re BOTH willing to live without so that you can afford to stay at home.
For us, we agreed we could live without cable, we switched to a lower-cost cell phone plan, and we even downsized our home.
I realize that not everyone is able or willing to sell their home or even become a one-car family. You also don’t have to become extremely frugal either to be a stay at home mom.
Here are simple things you can do now to reduce your spending and lower your budget:
- Lower your tv bill – Cut the cord and buy a digital antenna (this is the one we have) to get free TV for life.
- Use the Ibotta App to save money on groceries and get cash back – It’s totally free!
- Sign up for cash back websites like Ebates – Ebates partners with tons of stores like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Macy’s and more to give you free cash back on whatever you order online!
- Learn to cook more meals at home – I started using the $5 Meal Plan to reduce our food spending and get easy recipes that save time and money! We stopped eating out and we feed our family of 5 for under $100/week!!
- Switch to a low-cost cell phone plan – When we switched to MetroPCS we went from paying $130/month to $90/month for two unlimited phone lines!
- Downsize your home to save on living expenses – We did this for two years and saved almost $10,000!
- Start participating in free paid surveys – There are a lot of bad survey sites out there, but the survey companies I recommend you sign up for include Survey Junkie, Inbox Dollars, Swagbucks, and Harris Poll Online. The more survey companies you sign up with, the more money you can make!
- Negotiate any bills you have – such as cell phone contracts, internet, insurance, etc.
You can also see how we cut our budget by over $22,000 here.
Start An Emergency Fund
The number one question I get about being a stay at home mom is, “how much money should I save before I quit my job?”
There’s no one-answer-fits-all here. I always say that number depends on your (financial) stress tolerance.
Because living on one income is hard enough. You don’t want to make it harder on yourself by not having at least a $1,000 emergency savings.
So if you’re easily stressed about money, I’d say you should save up to 6 months of living expenses. This is the one thing I wish we did before I quit my job. Because a few months after I turned in my resignation letter, my husband got into a car accident at work and lost his job.
I honestly believe we could have avoided getting behind on our bills if we had emergency savings in place.
Find Ways to Be More Frugal
You probably won’t have to start taking cold showers, stop eating and nice restaurants, and unplug everything in your house that’s not in use. There are far much less painful ways you can be more frugal to save money.
Some of my favorites include:
- Asking for hand me downs
- Buying secondhand
- Learn to DIY
- Cooking more meals at home
- Downsizing your home (we lived in a two-bedroom apartment with all four of small kids for two years!)
- Signing up for programs you qualify for financially like free school supplies and income-based housing if you’re renting.
You can also check out this full list of 170+ frugal ways to save money today. If you’re ready to start saving in new and easy ways, you NEED this cheatsheet!
We’ve been using a number of these frugal living ideas inside the workbook over the last 5 years to help us save money every month, and they especially came in handy when money got too tight to buy paper towels.
Make Extra Money
This tip is for women that want to stay at home AND make money because that was me.
I wasn’t content with just taking care of my kids at home and letting my husband carry the burden of paying all the bills by himself. I wanted to contribute too because that’s what I was used to doing!
But do real work from home jobs actually exist?
You better believe they do! (The good ones are just a bit harder to find). You could be a freelancer, transcriber, virtual assistant, run a home daycare, and many more!
Holly runs a blog over at The Work At Home Woman and she knows her stuff when it comes to looking for legitimate work from home jobs. Just check out this list of work-at-home jobs and opportunities for moms here!
If you need more ideas for making extra money while you’re at home read these related posts:
- 10 Stay At Home Mom Jobs That Make Over $1000 A Month From Home
- 60 Real Ways to Be A Stay At Home Mom and Make Money
- 30 Things To Sell To Make Money Right Now
- 7 Frugal Hobbies That Will Help You Make Money On The Side
Ultimately, whether you can afford to be a stay at home mom will depend on your financial situation. Your family’s dynamics and finances are different from mine, so I can’t outright tell you that you can afford to be a stay at home mom.
Instead, I wanted you to show you what it would take for you to make it happen! And your decision doesn’t have to be permanent either.
For instance, you can stay at home with your baby for the first year and then return to work. Or you can stay at home with your kiddos and make money on the side!
The choice is YOURS, mama! And whatever you decide, it will be okay.