When I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I still had a ton of credit card debt and I had just graduated college to the tune of $70,000 in student loan debt. It felt like the worst possible time for us to start a family, but ready or not, our little Nugget was on his way. I knew being a stay at home mom would be difficult with our finances, if not impossible.
It has always been my dream to be a stay at home, homeschooling mama.
I know that not everyone is willing to give up a career in order to stay home with their kids and I certainly don’t fault anyone for making a different choice than I did, but this is what I always knew would work for me.
I just never imagined it would be so financially difficult.
When I first looked at our finances, I couldn’t imagine what we could cut out that would make a big enough difference that it would offset the $2,000 I brought in monthly. Looking back, I could kick myself for the financial stupidity my husband and I were both participating in every day.
Cut Back on Going Out to Eat
While we didn’t eat out every single day, we went out to eat often enough that it took a huge toll on our bank account. We really should have been pinching our pennies and fighting our way out of debt, but instead, I dealt with the stress in our lives by insisting we go out to dinner.
I would make tons of excuses. One of us had a hard day, we’d had a fight and deserved some time alone together to reconnect, we were traveling and had to eat somewhere… The list goes on and on. The truth is, even when traveling or on vacation, there are tons of frugal ways to fill our bellies without sending our bank accounts into the red.
One of the easiest ways to stop going out to eat is to peruse the internet (looking at you, Pinterest!) for copycat recipes for your favorite restaurant meals. Then recreate them at home in your Instant Pot. It saves time, money, and you’ll have a big enough portion to last a few meals!
Instead of going to places like TGI Fridays and Olive Garden or local restaurants where we easily spent $30 per meal, we could have stopped somewhere much cheaper and eaten healthier. Even a quick stop at McDonald’s for a salad off of the dollar menu would have packed less of a caloric punch than unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks! (Even though just typing that gives me a craving for Olive Garden!)
Another option is to use credit card points to earn gift cards to offset the cost of eating out at popular restaurant chains. Our Discover card gives us cash back on all of our purchases which we typically use to get free gift cards. Most recently, we ordered a $50 Cheesecake Factory gift card and used it to take my best friend out to dinner when he came to town for a visit.
Swagbucks is another amazing option. If you’ve never heard of Swagbucks, you have to get on board! By just watching sponsored videos and taking surveys, you can quickly accumulate enough points to get a free gift card. The best value is a $4 Amazon gift card, but if you’re addicted to going out to eat like I am, a restaurant gift card is much more practical!
Keep in mind, I’m not telling you it’s a good idea to keep up your going out to eat addiction if you’re anything like I am. It’s almost impossible for us now that I’m a stay at home mom and our income has been cut in half. However, there are ways to make eating out more affordable when necessary.
Cut Out Hair and Beauty Treatments
Before I had my son, I spent $100 every 6 weeks on getting my hair cut and highlighted. Now, my husband highlights my hair for me. We spend about $12 every 6 weeks at Sally Beauty for highlighting powder and developer. We initially spent about $30 for highlighting caps, picks, a mixing bowl, and a brush. Those things will last us for years to come. We just have to replace the highlighting caps when we eventually run out. Now, we save $78 every month just on my highlights alone!
One thing I do miss is getting my hair cut every 6 weeks. I’m ashamed to say I’ve had ONE haircut in the 11 months I’ve been a mommy. I had my hair professionally done on January 1st, 2015. I had my son on January 6th, and had one haircut in the summer. It’s now December and I have longer hair than I have in years, but I still love my highlights! My husband just cut my hair for the first time last night.
He did an awesome job! I can definitely live with his beauty treatments until our financial situation turns around.
Rethink Your Makeup Brand
Before getting married, I used Bare Escentuals make-up exclusively. If you’re familiar with the brand, you know a container of their mineral foundation goes for $26. Bare Minerals bronzers cost around $18. Their eyeshadows cost $14. These expenses really add up!
As you can imagine, this just wasn’t in our budget anymore.
My new favorite foundation is this one for less than $7.
Maybelline is my favorite drug store makeup brand, but E.L.F. is a close second. Their deals simply can’t be beat.
I started researching cheaper make-up alternatives and found E.L.F. I’m now completely hooked on E.L.F. makeup and can’t imagine ever spending what I used to on makeup, no matter how our financial situation may ever change.
E.L.F. foundation is $6 at Walmart. Most of their brushes are between $1 and $3, their eyeshadows range from $1 to $6. The bronzer I use is $3. This is a huge savings! Of course, this still isn’t enough for me. I’ve found a way to shop for my makeup once a year and save at least 50% on E.L.F. makeup. Here’s how:
Occasionally, E.L.F. runs sales on their website for 50% or 60% off of everything. If you couple this with their free shipping offer on sales of $35 or more, you can save a ton of money on your makeup and have it delivered right to your door. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
To take advantage of their sales, simply sign up for their updates at eyeslipsface.com. Watch your e-mail inbox for their newsletters and buy up everything you need when they run one of these specials! Be sure to add at least $35 worth of product (after the sale code) to your cart in order to take advantage of their free shipping offer. In my last E.L.F. haul, I purchased 8 foundations, two primers, three eye shadows, and three eye liners for just over $35. This is all of the makeup I will likely need for the next year. $35 for makeup for a whole year is one heck of a deal!
Give Up Cable
I decided to include this even though my husband and I did this years ago, long before we were trying to find a way to afford for me to be a stay at home mom. We were paying around $200 a month for internet and cable. It was absolutely crazy to me that we were watching that much money go out of our bank account every month when we were hardly ever home to watch the TV!
Finally, I put my foot down. I told my husband if we didn’t watch cable in the next 2 weeks, I was going to cancel it. He agreed. Now, I understand two weeks without watching TV must sound crazy to most families, but we had two young puppies and I had two jobs. There wasn’t a lot of extra time to watch TV. Even now that I’m home seemingly 24/7, I still don’t miss cable television.
Yes, there are days that I just want to binge watch HGTV, but Netflix helps me get my fix! Here are some ways to keep up with your favorite shows without paying a premium price for all of your favorite channels.
Buy an Amazon Fire Stick! We absolutely LOVE ours. We even bring it with us when we travel and are staying in hotel rooms (for my husband’s job…totally free for us!) that have cable.
With a Fire Stick you can watch Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access…whatever you want, and take advantage of Amazon Prime movies if you have a membership.
We subscribe to Netflix for both streaming and DVDs. We pay around $17 a month for both services. That’s a HUGE savings from what we used to pay! In addition, we have an Amazon Prime account and can watch the Amazon streaming service as well.
Through my Netflix addiction, I became OBSESSED with Hawaii Five-0 on CBS. I realize this is usually a channel that’s available to anyone with even basic channels. However, when I say my family and I live in the middle of nowhere, I mean we live where there is hardly signal even with a signal booster. This makes it difficult to even watch basic TV channels.
Now, we can catch up on past seasons of shows we love, even when we discover them after 4 or 5 seasons have already aired!
Most networks now offer full episodes of their shows on their websites. CBS offers shows for free 8 days after they originally air. If you want to catch a season premier or the most recent episode though, you’ll have to pay for their All Access subscription. I’ve found this to be pretty basic across all networks. The good news is that most offer the first month free, so if you’re diligent and cancel in time, you don’t have to actually pay a penny to watch that one episode that you just have to catch up on.
Highlights, manicures, and expensive makeup are just a few sacrifices that I’ve had to make in order to be a stay at home mom. Sure, sometimes I wish I could go get my nails done and get my hair professionally highlighted, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a thing. I get to stay home with our little boy and am not missing a single second of his childhood.
Cheaper makeup, hair, and entertainment solutions are a small price to pay, in my opinion, to be able to raise our babies myself.
What are some things you’ve had to give up to reach a goal? Let me know in the comments!