I really struggled with returning to work when my first son was born. I was determined to figure out how to become a stay at home mom.
A quick look at some stay at home mom statistics shows that millennial moms are staying home at a higher rate than the previous generation.
This happens to coincide with my observations from my Facebook timeline. I saw all of these other moms posting about taking their kids to story time and play dates while I sat at work pumping in a closet.
I wondered how they could afford to be stay at home moms. Were they all rich? Did their husbands rake in the big bucks? How did they do it?
I searched the corners of the internet trying to find the secret to afford to be a stay at home mom. Unfortunately I only ended up frustrated and discouraged by articles telling me anyone can become a stay at home mom if they just wanted it enough.
I felt more like a failure with the idea that if I was just willing to sacrifice more I could be home with my baby. But that wasn’t true.
It didn’t matter how badly I wanted to be a stay at home mom. The fact of the matter was that we simply could not afford it. The bottom line was we had built a life on two incomes and there was no easy way to change that.
It took almost two years for us to rearrange our life enough that I could afford to be a stay at home mom. You can get the whole story on my switch from career to stay at home mom here.
I was willing to sacrifice a lot to be a stay at home mom, but I would not put my family in a position where we couldn’t pay our bills. That was non-negotiable. I’m not laid back enough to take a “we’ll make it work” approach.
Our financials situations are different and I won’t make assumptions about your circumstances. I just know how hard it is when you’re working but desperate to be at home. Hopefully, I can help another mom.
So here are my tips to on how to become a stay at home mom when you can’t afford it:
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Start with a Budget
If you already have a family budget, then you are off to a great start. If you’re like I was, then budgeting is a big adjustment.
While not exactly exciting, having a budget is a crucial first step to figure out how you will afford to live on one income.
Getting started can be a bit overwhelming, but luckily there’s some great apps to help you out. I like the everydollar app because it’s free and super easy to use. I have used spreadsheets in the past, but apps make it so much easier since my husband and I can both access it from our phones.
New to budgeting? Begin by listing all of your expenses, it may help to start with fixed expenses like rent, car payments, insurance, and utilities. Plan for how much you’ll spend on all of the non-fixed items like groceries and gas.
Then keep track as you spend and make sure you are staying within the limits you set.
For a much more in depth guide to budgeting, I HIGHLY recommend Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover.
That book completely changed how we think about our money and is the biggest reason I was ultimately able to become a SAHM.
Once you have a budget, you can figure out what changes you need to make.
Consider the Cost Savings of Not Working
Examine your budget for potential ways that you will save by staying home. The big ticket item here is childcare, but you may find additional savings.
For instance, the cost of nice suits for the office or gas for your long commute would be eliminated by not working.
Perhaps with this cost savings you realize that you can easily cover all of your expenses with just your spouse’s income.
For me this wasn’t the case and, like many families, we needed to start making some major cuts to become a stay at home mom.
Cut Unnecessary Spending
Go through your budget and look for anything that you don’t truly need. This should be the easiest place to make cuts, but honestly deciding what is an actual “need” versus a “want” can be a challenge.
Start with the obvious: Cable and Gym Memberships. I know you’ve probably heard that a million times, but for good reason. Netflix is much cheaper, and you can also get network stations with an antenna.
Here’s some more ideas for costs to cut:
Salon – Haircuts, especially for a whole family, add up quickly. Getting less frequent and less expensive haircuts can save tons. I’ve been hitting up Hair Cuttery about once each year. Even better, find a friend who can cut your hair or if you’re very brave try cutting it yourself.
Vacations – We love to travel, but it can get so expensive. You still deserve a break, so consider visiting friends or family. A stay-cation can also be a fun way to unwind without the price tag.
Eating Out – I was shocked at how much we were spending on going out to eat. A lunch here and a dinner there don’t seem like big expenditures at the time, but add up quickly.
Home Decor – Would I love my living room to look like a Pottery Barn Catalogue? Absolutely! But the mismatched, hand-me-down motif I’ve cultivated works just fine.
New Clothes – I already own too much clothing anyway.
Before buying anything ask: Do I need this?
Admittedly, this was a massive shift in our spending habits. Shopping just for the hell of it was no longer an option. I pretty much just had to avoid Target completely.
Hopefully when you remove the unnecessary expenses from your budget, you will find that you can get by on one income
This wasn’t true for me. Even with these cuts, we still needed my income.
Don’t get discouraged. Also, some of you may be thinking that you already don’t spend money on that crap. Maybe you have different weakness, or perhaps you have already eliminated any unnecessary spending. Don’t worry, there are more ways to save.
If you need to buy something ask: Can I get it for less?
Save on the Stuff you Need
Cutting more from the budget can take more effort, but can also save you tons of money.
I evaluated every single thing I bought to see if I could buy it for less. And I do mean everything, from shampoo to kitty litter to razors to laundry detergent, I found cheaper alternatives to lots of our household necessities.
Here are some areas where you may be able to make substantial budget cuts:
Groceries – Food is a huge expense for many families. You have to eat so it’s easy to overspend here without realizing it. I was able to cut our grocery bill in half with pretty minimal effort. If you aren’t already meal planning, now is the time to start (here are 8 tips to meal plan to save money).
One of the ways I save on groceries is by using Ibotta. It’s a free app that gives me cash back on lots of items that I buy regularly. You can get a $10 bonus just for trying it out when you use this link.
Cell Phone – Shop around for better deals on cell phones. Even if you don’t see a better plan out there, consider getting new phones less often to save.
Utilities – Adjusting your thermostat by just a few degrees up in the summer and down in the winter will save you some money. Also, ask your providers about budget billing, which will make it easier to plan your family budget without trying to anticipate seasonal fluctuations.
Diapers – Diapers ain’t cheap. Over the course of a couple years, you can easily spend a small fortune on these poop receptacles. I opt for generic brand diapers for about half the price of the big name brands (I have a whole post comparing major brands of diapers that you can read here). You can also save with generic wipes (here is my baby wipe comparison too).
Kid’s Clothing – Kids grow through clothes so fast that, unlike my own clothes, I can’t just stop shopping for them. But cheap kid’s clothes are also pretty easy to find so I never pay full price. Buying off clearance racks is my jam. Also look for second hand kid’s clothing at thrift stores, consignments sales, yard sales, and even Facebook.
Gifts – Buying gifts can be a total budget buster, especially around the holidays. Get your craft on, cook something, or even re-gift to save. I also use the cash back that I get from Ibotta to help pay for gifts.
Cars – Can you get rid of your car payment? Can you trade it in for something cheaper to lower that monthly payment? If you stop working, could you get by without a car? This would also save on insurance.
Downsize – This is probably the most difficult place to cut your spending, but since your rent or mortgage is usually your largest monthly expense, making cuts here can equal huge savings. We went from our dream home to a tiny townhouse, and it did make me realize that we did not need the big house after all.
Pay off Debt
If you’re carrying any debt, paying that off is the best way to eliminate that cost from your monthly budget and save you money on interest.
I had some hefty student loans that were a huge monthly expense. There was no way I would ever be able to stay home with that bill.
Once we got serious about it we managed to pay them off in 8 months (which was over 3 years early). I honestly would not have even thought that was possible before reading Dave Ramsey’s book.
Unfortunately for us, after all of our budget cuts and paying off my loans, we were still not able to make ends meet on just one income.
We reached a limit in what we could eliminate from our budget and realized that cutting costs would not be enough.
How to Become a Stay at Home Mom by Increasing Income
So it turns out that if there is a secret to becoming a stay at home mom, this is it.
Look, I realize this is probably not what you want to hear. It certainly wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
One income may not be enough. The fact is, it doesn’t really matter what the number is because some people manage to get by on a low income and other can’t make it work with a much higher salary. It really all depends on your circumstances and priorities. What works for one family won’t work for everyone.
The important thing is having enough money to cover your expenses.
Your expenses are all of the things that you deem necessary. They may not be the same as mine, but that’s totally OK.
This could mean that your spouse works overtime or that you find some other ways to make additional income. Or it could mean that even as a stay at home mom, you also find some way to make an income.
It took me a long time to realize that lots of stay at home moms actually do work in some capacity. They have part time jobs on nights and weekends or work from home. They have side hustles and blogs and sell leggings.
A couple ways I make a few extra dollars are through survey sites and Ebates.
I’ve tried several survey sites an honestly find most to be a waste of my time. The only one I’ve continued to use is YouGov.
Even better news, use our unique referral link to get $10 after signing up and doing your shopping.
Unfortunately, I still didn’t make enough money to balance our budget.
It took my husband finding a new job for me to finally be able to stay at home. I know that this is not an option for everyone. It also was not something that I could do or really have any control over.
Figuring out how to become a stay at home mom when you can’t afford it sucks. I know how hard it can be to undo years of financial decisions, cut your budget to the bare minimum, and still come up short.
While it took sacrifice and patience, becoming a stay at home mom would not have been possible without help, an incredibly supportive husband, and some luck.
Your stay at home mom finances will look different from mine, you just need to find what works for your family.
For all of the other moms trying to figure this out, don’t get discouraged. Make a plan, get creative, stay positive, and hope for the best.
I want to hear from YOU, what are you doing to become a stay at home mom? What changes are you making? And if you haven’t figured out how to make it work yet, how are you staying positive?