How to Afford Being a Stay at Home Mom
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 being a stay at home mom possible.
I Want to be a Stay at Home Mom
I can’t tell you how often I hear this from my readers.
It’s almost always followed by “but we can’t afford it” or “my husband says there’s no way I can.”
Believe me when I tell you that with a ton of commitment and financial strategy, being a stay at home mom IS POSSIBLE.
We did absolutely insane things to make it possible for our family. I don’t expect you to go this crazy, but if you’re interested in our inspirational story, stay tuned for the end of this post.
In the meantime, here’s what I want you to do…
How to Live on One Income
Right now, I want you to decide you’re going to sacrifice to make this happen.
That means giving up going out to eat, buying expensive makeup or other luxuries, traveling for the hell of it…
For now, I want you to promise me you’ll be willing to give up whatever it takes to make becoming a stay at home mom happen.
Your kids are going to grow up whether you’re there or not.
They’re only tiny once. Do whatever it takes to be home with them if that’s your goal.
How to Live Frugally on One Income
Research childcare expenses in your area. Now subtract that from what you make.
This is ultimately the number we’re looking to either save or add somehow to your income.
The best case scenario is that you’re reading this while pregnant and still working.
If so, stop spending your current income on anything and immediately start practicing to not have that much money in your budget anymore.
For now, throw the entire thing toward credit cards or an emergency fund.
Lots of people swear by the Dave Ramsey “baby steps”.
My philosophy was to just weigh how much we had in our savings account versus how much it would save us each month to give up that liquid cash in favor of paying off a credit card.
We paid off lots of debt but also kept an emergency fund in our savings account. I have been grateful for this several times. It seems like none of our “emergencies” ever cost just $1000 so a $1000 savings account scared the crap out of me.
We kept our savings account intact (I think it was about $3000 at the time) and considered that our emergency fund.
The rest of the money that I made each month went straight to paying off debt while I was pregnant and still working.
How to Lower Monthly Bills
I want you to make a list of all of your monthly bills.
Then, go through your bank account and write down what you’ve paid for each of those monthly payments for the last 3 months.
Write down your total credit card debt (you’ll feel more defeated after you’re done with this exercise, but it’s necessary to make this work, I promise).
This gives you a pretty good average, especially when you’re talking about utilities.
Your goal now is to find a way to lower each and every one of these things.
Every little bit helps.
For us, this meant shopping around for new car insurance, calling all of our credit card companies and requesting a lower interest rate (two said yes!), and renegotiating our cell phone plan.
Are there any things you can completely cut out? See our biggest one below.
These are the 4 main sacrifices I made to afford to become a stay at home mom.
Do you have student loans? Contact your servicer and see what kind of income-based repayment plan you might qualify for that will lower your monthly payments – but be sure to understand what this will do to the overall cost of your loans.
Pay Bills Weekly Instead of Monthly
You know how some weeks of the month you feel rich, but other weeks the money is gone before it even hits your bank account?
This is how it was for us.
The 1st of the month, everything was due. We even had to pull money from savings to cover all of our bills sometimes.
From the 15th to the end of the month, it felt like we could do whatever we wanted and still have money left over (when living on two incomes).
When I realized our income was going to be cut in half, I started paying all of our bills weekly.
I can’t recommend this enough.
This was the closest we came to a budget for a long time and it saved our butts when we went through this massive income drop.
How to Become a Stay at Home Mom When You Can’t Afford It
Simple – stop eating your hard-earned money.
For most families, the number one expense you have control over from one month to the next is your food budget.
Here’s what I need you to do –
To stretch your household income the easy way, shop at home first.
Walk around your kitchen, look behind your cans, what bag of beans do you have that you’ll never use otherwise.
We’re going to work on using all of this up. Don’t worry, you’ll replenish it with sales as you find random things.
Each week, I usually do this on Sundays, sit down with your phone and pull up all of the weekly ads for grocery stores near you.
Even the most expensive ones.
What is on sale this week? What buy one get one sales are there?
Make a list of groceries based on what you have on hand and get creative making meals.
Yesterday I googled “recipes with 1 pound of ground beef and cheese.”
It’s what I had that was about to go bad and I refuse to throw away food.
Now is a great time to start a no spend challenge or low spend challenge.
Try to feed your family for the next week using only $40 or $50 and whatever you already have at home.
Start to build a stockpile. If you find a really great deal on something, buy it. It’s how I ended up with my original random beans.
My husband always says “one for now, one for later.”
This will save you money in the long run.
Stop eating out on a whim. Going out to eat is one of my biggest weaknesses.
Don’t go randomly buy a cup of coffee – make it at home instead.
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.
Learn to finally (FINALLY!) stick to a meal plan! We finally figured out why our meal plan kept failing and I believe this system will work for you too!
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 or even less! 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 or Lidl!
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!
How to Live on One Income – A New Car
We got rid of our SUVs and bought a 2002 Chevy Surburban.
This thing was stained inside and was hideous to look at.
The dash was peeling…it smelled weird.
It had good bones and my husband thought that for just $2200, it was an awesome deal.
We painted the carpet and the dash to make it look brand new with this cheap paint.
We cleaned the headlight covers to make them look brand new with one of these restoration kits.
You’d never know that car is a 2002 and now it has been running for over a year.
It’s already paid for itself, even though it’s a gas-guzzler.
We recently bought a 2007 Honda Odyssey, also in cash, to have two cars in case something happens to one of them.
We paid under $5000 for this car.
Having cars that are paid in full has dramatically reduced our car insurance payments (by around $250 a month) and we’re now down over $700 in car payments.
Do whatever it takes and get rid of your car payment!
How to Survive on One Income and Still 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.
How to Make Memories with Kids for Free!
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!
This is the biggest thing we cut out of our monthly budget that made the biggest difference and we never even noticed it.
I have zero regrets, it’s saved us over $200 a month every single month, and I don’t miss it.
We have Netflix, Paramount+, Disney+, Discovery+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu now instead…and we STILL spend less than we did when we paid for cable every month
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.
One of our favorite purchases was our Amazon Firestick. We use it to watch all of our favorite shows on all of our streaming services, plus we can watch tons of other shows with Amazon Prime.
Your New Job as a Full-Time Stay-At-Home Mom
Once you make the switch to a one-income family, your job is just beginning.
I don’t just mean the child care and parenting.
Now your job is to stretch your income as far as you possibly can.
For a while, the baby’s naptime will be spent grocery shopping online, looking at deals, calling and negotiating and renegotiating debt, and ultimately figuring out how to stretch your money further and further.
If you need to make an extra income to make ends meet, there has never been a better time.
Thanks to 2020 and everything going virtual for a while, more and more jobs are able to be done from home.
Flexjobs.com comes highly recommended because as a paid service, it is much more likely to NOT have scam job postings.
The most popular jobs for stay at home moms right now are virtual assistant positions, freelance writer jobs, and part time positions that bring in a little extra each month.
Unpopular opinion, if you’re trying to make enough money to survive, steer clear of pyramid schemes and “side hustle” positions that require you to harass your high school classmates on Facebook in order to make money.
If you have to buy a $500 package to get started making money, you’re starting out in the hole and are statistically likely to stay there.
I started this blog instead and it has been the best decision I’ve made for our family – but with the future of AI looming, I’m not sure I would do it again if I were at the beginning of my stay-at-home wife journey.
Instead, I would look for a part time job online with a flexible schedule.
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!
Becoming a One Income Family – Our Story
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.
I started a blog and worked my BUTT off to get it to make $1000 a month in just 6 months.
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.
*check out my 2023 update at the end of this post to see where we are now!*
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.
When 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’m 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.
How I Raise Our Large Family on a Tight Budget
Since I originally published this post, a LOT has changed. We have moved even further south – to sunny Florida! While we are still on a fixed income, we have figured out our finances and it no longer feels like we’re just surviving.
We have learned to give our kids an amazing life complete with travel and tons of extra curricular activities while maintaining a tight budget. Oh yeah, and we now have FIVE kids. Believe me when I tell you – if I can do this, you absolutely can too! My best advice 8 years into living this way is to do literally anything that it takes to stay at home with your kids. You want to be the one that raises them. Shop at thrift stores for everything, only go to the grocery store once a month if you’re prone to impulse buys. Being a stay-at-home parent is the most rewarding full time job that exists. It’s also the hardest.