How to Make Being a Stay-at-Home Mom a Reality

by Ashley Eneriz · 9 comments

Many times when people ask me what I do, I get mixed responses when I explain that I’m a stay-at-home mom. Some people are a little put off by it (which is totally fine), while others look at me as if I have stumbled upon this lucky coin in life. “I wish I could stay at home with my babies too, but we need my income”, is usually the response I hear.

For some individuals, staying at home is not a choice because they do need the extra income. However, when another mom tells me how lucky I am, I can’t help notice that they have a nice iPhone, new and trendy clothes, as well as a pricey SUV. None of these things are bad, but my point is that staying at home and living on one income does require a bit of sacrifice. That lucky coin is not be attributed to luck after-all.

Here are the two questions I asked myself when I wanted to stay at home with my kids, and still make sure the bills were paid.

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

My husband and I are definitely blessed to live comfortably on $61,000 yearly income, and live in an affordable area in California. With that being said, we don’t have a lot of extra fun money, as living in CA comes with a higher cost of living. We’ve turned down travel opportunities, fun purchases, and extra toys, in order to prioritize other spending goals. And yes, there are definitely months when it feels like there are more bills than paycheck.

However, if being a stay-at-home mom was ever threatened, I would sacrifice even more and cut back on more costs. I would go without a smartphone, our Hulu Plus subscription, and a second car if I had to. I would sell as much extra stuff in my house and reduce our grocery bill as much as possible. But I’m willing to do all of this because staying at home with my kids is a huge priority to me.

If you want to make staying at home with your kids a reality (and it’s your priority), then sacrifices will need to be made. That’s all there is to it.

Here are some sacrifices you might have to make in order to become a stay-at-home mom:

  • Downsizing your home
  • Downsizing your vehicle
  • Sharing one vehicle
  • Simplifying your grocery menu and shopping sales
  • Cutting cable, internet, Hulu/Netflix, and pricey phone plans
  • Selling extra toys or furniture that is not a necessity
  • Avoiding purchasing new items (opt for used instead)
  • Cutting kid’s preschool/school and extra activity costs

Looking at that list is hard. Everything listed might be difficult for you to cut and do without. But I suggest those items for those who are serious about wanting to stay at home.

Sometimes we look at our situation in life and complain because things can’t change. The reality is, we just aren’t willing to make the sacrifices in order to enable the change to happen.

What Are the True Costs of Not Being at Home?

Working outside the home may be costing you more than you realize. When my husband and I first discussed having me stay at home, and what that would look like, we weighed all the options. We talked about what our finances would look like if I did get a “real job”. We would easily be making over $100,000 a year as a family, and it would be nice to live without too many financial worries.

However, if I were to break down what it cost me to work outside of the home, I didn’t find that it was worth it. A nice preschool or daycare can cost you almost $1,000 a month! Then you have to add in the costs of traveling, new work attire, fast food splurges, and more. After all is said and done, I realized I would only be making $4-5 an hour.

The small amount of income-per-hour was not worth it being away from my kids, and I decided I do not want to work outside of the home. I wanted to stay home with my children, and homeschool them when they’re older.

If those are not your priorities, then you and your family have to discuss the best decision for everyone. However, if you are one of the moms wishing you could stay at home too, don’t just wish it would happen — do something about it. Take a hard look at your finances and find out what can be cut and what you’re actually making after all the added expenses.

I truly believe that staying at home with your children, is definitely a possibility for those moms wishing they could. But as I mentioned, it will take some work, discussions and calculations to get there.

Are thinking of becoming a single income family, and want to be a stay-at-home mom? What are a few things you might have to sacrifice to make it work?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ashley says:

    Hey Amber,

    We are definitely not perfect in the budget category, but I am more than happy to share. I wish I could follow Dave Ramsey’s principle of 25%, but I don’t think that is even possible in CA, lol. Here’s a rough look at what we pay each month:

    Budget:
    Take-Home Pay After Health Insurance and Benefits: $3140
    Tithing – $500
    Mortgage – $1730
    Utilities – $300 (this includes everything from electricity, water, trash, Hulu, cell phones, internet, etc)
    Groceries – $250
    Car Gas – $125
    Car Insurance – $127
    The total of these necessities leaves us with $158 – not a lot.

    We still have to pay $300 towards debt each month, then when we do need clothes, gifts, haircuts, dog food, or want to spend on eating out or something fun, that is where I need to come in and make extra. Ideally, if we had no debt and were extra careful with our spending (i.e., me driving less, being better with utilities, cutting back on groceries), then we would have a little more money for the budget. Also, we live in CA and taxes and high health insurance do eat a lot of our income (though maybe after my 2nd baby comes we will switch health care providers – not sure).

    My budget is by no means perfect and I do bring in extra through selling items and freelance writing that has been a huge blessing to pay off the remaining 5K of debts and to help give more wiggle room in the budget. If I didn’t make any extra money, then I think we would have to cut back a lot more.

    Staying home full-time may not be completely in your budget, but maybe part-time will? My husband is also great in doing as much overtime as he can, but I know that is not always an option for everyone.

  • Amber says:

    Hi Ashley,
    Thanks so much for getting back to me. We don’t have any PMI and our interest rate on our mortgage is 4%. But with escrow (property taxes and home owners insurance), our mortgage payment is pretty close to one of my husbands bi-weekly paychecks. But I’m wondering if going from 2 to 1 incomes will significantly reduce our income taxes, because right now we have the maximum amount taken out so that we hopefully don’t have a tax liability at the end of the year. Do you guys follow the Dave Ramsey principals of your home costs not exceeding 25% of your take home pay? Sorry for all the questions. If I’m getting too specific on your budget/living on one income just let me know. I just keep looking at the numbers and can’t get it to work, but it could be because I’m not considering the small ways to reduce our budget/spending…
    Thanks, Amber

  • Amber says:

    I just found your blog through Babycenter, and am very curious to know if you can share a general budget on how you live off of $61K a year. This is what my husband makes, however, I make about $20K more. I’m able to work my budget so we can live off of my income alone, but can’t get the #’s to work on my husband’s income. Which is what my dream is 🙂 We do have a 15 year mortgage on a $200K house so I think that plays a big part in “why” we can’t live on one income. But I’ve been looking for 6 months now for a house to downgrade to. The thing is $150K homes are in a totally different ballpark then $200K homes, which I can only imagine will require $50K in upgrades/maintenance over the next few years…

    • Ashley says:

      Hi Amber,

      Thank you so much for sharing your heart. It is definitely hard to live on 61K, and we have a 15 year mortgage for a 180K home. Here are just a few things that kind of pop in my head that may help you –

      -What is your mortgage rate and are you still paying PMI? If so, maybe refinancing can help. We were paying over $2K in PMI for our house. A refinance cost $1K, but ultimately we dropped the $2K annual fee.

      -We just switched to T-Mobile from AT&T which saved us about $30. We then added two family members to our line and all split the bill evenly, which saved us another $30. Now we pay $50/mo to keep our iPhones and don’t have any other phone lines.

      -We don’t have cable and only use Hulu at $7.99/mo. We shopped around for internet and my husband got it for $27/mo. He calls in regularly to ask for a discount or promotion and somehow gets it (I guess he has a magical voice lol)

      -We don’t do any daycare, preschool, or kid activities. Unfortunately, we just can’t afford it, but I try to take my toddler to free events often.

      -I try to really stretch my grocery bill by buying 50% off meats from Vons. If I am lucky I can find packages of organic chicken breasts for less than $3-4 just because they are going to expire that day. I just stick them in the freezer until its time to use them.

      -We don’t have a car payment, which has helped tremendously. I wanted to go down to one car, but my husband refused. However, I know we would both do that if we had to for me to stay home.

      -We also don’t have a lot of debt. We have about $5K debt right now that we are trying to eliminate before January (hopefully)

      -We are also kind of boring people and don’t eat out or go out very often. We don’t buy a lot of new things. If we do need something, we shop online or second hand. All of my daughter’s clothes and toys are gifts or found at thrift stores and garage sales.

      I really hope that these suggestions help. It is hard to live on one income, and we feel it quite often, especially when family members want us to take trips or when I wish I had a nicer wardrobe.

  • Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income says:

    My wife expressed early on before we got married that she wanted to stay home…and she went to law school and had a very high earning job. My mom did it so to me it was no big deal. So we prepared by living only on my salary when we got married. It was awesome to save all that money for so long and then when my wife quit to stay home there was no change in our finances. Our daughter is now in school and my wife was recently approached by her old boss to work again, but wants to continue to stay home. I think everyone needs to do what is best for their situation and family. It’s a personal decision that takes a lot of time and planning, but can be successful no matter the decision as long as everyone is behind it.

  • Gretchen says:

    I, admittedly, have never had the desire to stay home with my daughter. However, having my husband as a stay at home dad is something both he, myself and my daughter really enjoy! That being said, managing finances as well as communication within the marriage are both hard when one spouse is the primary breadwinner (especially the female)!

    • Ashley Eneriz says:

      I think your story is very neat. I think it is wonderful that you and your husband were able to work it out so that he could stay home, and I bet it took a lot of sacrifices on both of your parts. I really admire that 🙂

  • I get the same reactions as you when I say I’m a stay at home mom. Either the “well, what do you DO all day?” or “I wish I could afford to stay home”. Really, if you could leave the rat race you couldn’t imagine some way to fill your days? And like you said, many of the people who wish they could afford to stay at home have partners that make more than mine does!

    For some it really just isnt’ in the cards. But if your partner brings home a decent income, run the numbers, question what you think you need, shop around, and you could be pleasantly surprised!

    • Ashley says:

      Love to be in similar company. This article was definitely not meant to put down anyone that can’t afford to stay home. But like you, I get most of my comments from women whose husband’s make more than mine, are dressed better than me, and have bigger homes.

      Your comment was like a good hug from a friend 😉

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