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You CAN afford to be a stay at home mom (or dad) even if your spouse has a low income. If you are determined enough to make it happen, you can almost definitely find a way to cut your bills and spending down to a point that makes it possible. Here is how my husband Scotty and I did it:
When we found out that I was pregnant with our Nugget, I was excited, but immediately filled with fear. Financial fear. He was a complete surprise and our living situation couldn’t have been much worse. We lived in an RV in my parent’s backyard with whom we have a very turbulent relationship, we had a ton of debt. It was one of the worst situations to be bringing a baby into.
Still, I was determined to make my dream of becoming a stay-at-home mom a reality.
With my husband’s unwavering support, we have been able to survive and thrive on one small income by making a few changes.
If you are in the same situation and want to stay at home with your little ones, please throw caution to the wind and decide right now that you are going to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make your dream a reality.
For us, that meant moving south to a new job for my husband, better weather, and away from the dysfunctional pull of our families. It meant resolving to live in an RV for a few months while we worked to build up my husband’s credit score so we could buy a home, and it meant living as cheaply as possible to make our dollars stretch as far as they possibly could.
When Nugget was just 5 weeks old, we drove an RV, a moving truck, and our SUV south to our new home in Durham, NC. Our home was the RV that we were bringing, but we were parking it in the most inexpensive campground that we could find. We paid $160 a month for our Jayco Travel Trailer, and $440 a month in lot rent at the campground. This included electric and water and was our main financial priority.
You’re probably thinking we moved because my husband could make significantly more at this new job. Nope! We moved 7 hours from our hometown for a job that paid a few cents LESS per hour. Yes, and I was giving up my income to do so. To get to a better climate and away from negative family influences for our little one, it was so worth it. I can honestly say that decision we made a year ago was the BEST decision we have ever made for our family and our marriage. Hands down.
A New Car
We traded in our new SUV for a small Honda Civic. This saved us about half of what we had been paying in gas costs. I thought I would hate going from a large SUV to a small car, but the gas savings have been absolutely worth it! Don’t buy a new car like we did though. We absolutely regret this decision. Get a cheap beater car that is a reliable brand. Pay cash if at all possible, but aim for a tiny monthly payment if not.
Stop eating out on a whim. Going out to eat is one of my biggest weaknesses. We were able to still go out on occasion with the help of gift cards from our Discover card points and gifts from relatives. We still had to cut WAY back.
We’ve always been good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) about stocking up on food when we find a really good deal. The thing is, when you’re living in an RV in under 400 square feet, there just isn’t much space to store anything!
When you’re trying to live on a tight budget, start researching sales! The biggest food sale that Scotty and I go to is Big Lots (stick with me here…) when they have their 20% off sales.
I know that Big Lots is probably the last place you think of when you consider grocery shopping, but trust me, it’s worth it. Sign up on their website for their e-mail alerts and you’ll be notified of these 20% off sales when they roll around. It was at these sales that we stock up on canned goods and dried items like pastas.
Watch for sales elsewhere. Whole Foods is usually too expensive for us to even consider shopping at, but one day we happened to be in the store and saw an AMAZING deal on organic tortillas. They were only 50 cents for a 6 pack of organic tortillas! We bought all that we thought we could fit in our freezer and then started using those for as many meals as we could.
Make “dump” meals. When you know things are going to be really tight, especially at the end of a paycheck when you’re waiting to get paid again, dump meals are an awesome go-to. We throw frozen veggies, vegetable stock, and some noodles or beans into a pot and see what happens. We’ve never made a soup or stew that we weren’t absolutely in love with!
Bread – stock up when you see the “We Made Too Much” racks at Walmart. Their French bread loaves are usually only $1 which is already an amazing deal, but you can often find them for only 75 cents! When you see this, if you have the freezer space – stock up! We use these for dipping in our soups, for making French bread pizzas, and for just making plain old sandwiches.
Finally, shop at Aldi! You can buy produce cheaper than anywhere else (or use their sale ads to price match at Walmart), they have an incredible selection of rotating specialty items, and they have great prices on things like cheese. Also, keep an eye out for their discount section, usually in the middle of the store near the canned goods. Just last week we stocked up on bags of tortilla chips that were marked down to just 35 cents!
Don’t Forget to Live
We try to make great memories while still living on an extremely tight budget. Look for cheap or free entertainment options in your area. Our city offers free concerts in the park every other Thursday in the summer, so for just the price of parking, we get a night out on the lawn to listen to music and can pack our own food.
There is also a free outdoor movie night just one city over where we can go and watch old favorites, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Get outside! We LOVE to go camping and go for hikes, and you can usually do that stuff for free! Our local state park offers primitive camping for only $10. Explore local parks in your area. Follow local museums and other attractions on Facebook so you’ll be alerted when they’re having discount or free days.
Keep an eye out for festivals in your area. These are almost always free to get in, and if you eat before you go or pack your own snacks, you can have a whole day of fun without spending a dime!
Oh – and this one should go without saying – CANCEL YOUR CABLE! We used to pay $200 a month for cable TV and ooooh how I wish I could have that money back!! You won’t miss it, just do it. Today. Seriously, it’s that big a deal.
Get Netflix instead! We pay $8.59 for DVD service and $8.59 for streaming service. With these two options, we’re able to watch the same shows that I used to watch on HGTV, I just might have to wait for them to pop up on the streaming option unless I want to get DVDs in the mail and watch them a few episodes at a time. Sign up for Redbox text message alerts and go get a DVD every time they have a free offer. There are SO many ways around having cable that there is really no reason to keep forking out so much of your hard earned cash each month.
Where there is a will, there is often a way. If your bills are what is keeping you from staying at home with your kids, consider making drastic changes. Move into a smaller house. Get rid of your car and get a beater car. Move to a cheaper area like we did. We finally were able to purchase a small home after living in an RV with our baby for 9 months.
Believe that you can do it and you can truly do anything! Call your credit card companies and see if they can work with you to lower your payment. Try this with all of your debtors – it can’t hurt to ask. Sign up for the budget plan on your utilities like electric and gas. Shop around for cheaper car insurance. Cut out the unnecessary things and you’ll see how much of a luxury they become. Coffee at Starbucks? We do that MAYBE once every 3 months. The only difference is now we actually enjoy it!
Finally, just do whatever it takes.
Here are some things I sacrificed in order to be a stay at home mom. I promise, it’s so worth it. I wake up next to my beautiful son every morning knowing I’m going to be the only one taking care of him for the next 13 hours until his daddy gets home. I get to see every new thing that he learns, I change every diaper (I see this as a perk!), and I make sure he has a well-rounded social life.
I am lucky to have an amazing husband who supports us and makes this possible. My husband works on a survey crew and LOVES what he does. He isn’t making a six-figure income. We’re living on a very low income and are able to make this work. PLUS, we have another baby on the way – and this one we planned!
If you are willing to make some HUGE changes, some sacrifices to your current lifestyle, and to get creative with paying bills and making food, I promise you that staying home with your family IS possible. If we can get out of the situation that we were in and still make this happen for our family, you absolutely can too!
Are you struggling to afford to stay at home with your kids? What changes did you make to make being a stay at home mom possible? Do you have any questions about how I’m able to do it? I want to help everyone stay at home with their babies if that’s what they’re being pulled to do. Reach out to me in the comments and let’s get you on the right track!