How Can I Afford to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom?

This is a guest post from my friend Deana from TheFrugalHomeschoolingMom.com.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

How Can I Afford to Be a Stay-At-Home Mom

How can I possibly afford to be a Stay-at-Home Mom? I thought, as I dropped my daughter off at the babysitter’s and headed to work. When I had my first child, I believed there was no way my husband and I could survive off of one income in order for me to be able to stay at home with her. Especially since his income was less than mine as a public school teacher (in NC, which is notorious for low teacher salaries, by the way). I was saddened at the thought of all the missed moments with my child during my work day, and I couldn’t get the dream of staying at home out of my mind. And my husband agreed with me that I should stay at home and homeschool our child (one day would be children – we have three now). We became determined to make it work, somehow. So we began seeking information and counsel from friends, family, church family, mentors, and financial advisors.

They all said the same thing: Get out of debt.

So, we took their advice. From December of 2007 on, we quit using credit cards, and we began paying down our debt. Simple enough, you would think. However, after blogging about frugal living for 5 years, and trying to get out of debt for 6 1/2, I can say that it is NOT easy. Especially on a small income.  But difficulty didn’t stop us from trying, because we thought it was important enough.

I don’t understand happily married moms who really WANT to stay at home with their children, but say they can’t because they “just can’t live off of one income.” I just can’t understand, because I’ve done it. And I have found that most people earn so much more money than our family does, yet they say they can’t live off of it. My suspicion is that they have too much debt, or perhaps too many unnecessary expenses. I won’t say exactly how much my husband makes now, but I will tell you that for five years he made less than $29,000 per year. It was tough to support a family of four (and then five), and to pay down debt at the same time, but he did it. And we survived, praise God! We learned exactly how God faithfully provides all you need when you give everything to Him. So I dare to encourage moms that yes, they CAN do it. YOU can do it!

My advice to married couples: Getting out of debt doesn’t have to be so hard, and if it’s at all possible, I’d highly recommend that you do it BEFORE you have kids and want to stay at home with them. But, I have a feeling that the moms who are still reading this 1) already have kids and 2) really WANT to stay at home with them right NOW. I encourage you, if you are one of those moms, that it is possible. If you have an income base of more than $40,000 per year, and live in a state with a lower cost of living (as I do) then I would suggest you think about it a little differently. Perhaps you have it easier than most folks. You definitely have it easier than me. And if we did it with much less than that, I can say that you can too.

So I can encourage you that it CAN be done. Yes, NOW. Yes, even if you have a low income. If it’s important enough to you, it CAN be done, with sacrifices. It’s all about priorities – what’s more important to you, to have the latest iPhone, to wear expensive clothes and shoes, to have a brand new car, to go on luxury vacations, to have a perfectly decorated, huge house? Or to stay at home with your children and enjoy them while they are still little? To me and my husband, it’s the latter.

We have sacrificed greatly for me to stay at home and raise our children. I am blessed to have a husband who sees the value in the wife being at home and raising the children and keeping a home, and doesn’t complain about the sacrifices made. I am blessed to enjoy my role as wife and mother. I really LOVE being a stay-at-home mom, and wouldn’t change that for the world. These years have been the best of my life. And I enjoy being able to teach them a Biblical world-view, which is what I personally believe God has called me to do. So I am fulfilled. I have no regrets.

How do you get out of debt if you’re a lower income family? I honestly don’t know, we are still fighting this fight ourselves, but there’s lots of people out there who want to try to teach you, and they’ve all got slightly different ideas. Find one you like. I understand that most of their ideas work. Also look into what resources and options are available to you for your various debts. We’ve learned about so many things that have helped us along the way to live within our means while paying off debt. We’ve made so many adjustments to our budget over the years to accommodate our wants and needs, and I can tell you that even if you don’t know in advance, you will learn as you go what you truly need and what is an unnecessary desire.

If you ask me, I’d say to try Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace plan. Dave Ramsey’s plan is awesome, and I’m not getting paid to say that. Not to mention, his talk show on TV is kinda funny. I like what he says. We don’t use every method he recommends, for instance, we don’t do the envelope system, but we pick and choose what works. We just try to stick to our budget. I also follow couponing and freebie blogs to learn ways to save money. That’s what we’ve been doing for nearly 6 1/2 years now.

We have paid down approximately $18,000 of debt since we began in the beginning of 2008. We have nothing left to pay now except for college loans, a personal loan, medical debt (never-ending), and our mortgage. This may not seem like much progress over a 6 1/2 -year time period. But I am proud of the progress we’ve made on such a small income. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re determined to continue down this path and one day we’ll be completely financially free! It will take us much longer than others who live off two incomes, but it’s worth it to us.

We haven’t used a single credit card since December of 2007. We pay for everything in cash (or debit card), and if we don’t have the money, we just don’t buy it. That has included things like cell phones, TV service, new cars, new clothing, convenience food, vacation trips, unnecessary home repairs or furniture/decor updates. Our home, clothing, and other possessions (and even the cheap meals I cook) may seem shabby to some folks. But it’s a home we love. It’s a home we’re proud of, because it symbolizes all the living and loving we’ve done here. And it’s a life we love. Again, we have no regrets.

If you really, truly want to stay at home with your kids, get out of debt. Even on one income you can chip away at debt and refuse to use credit cards ever again. There are ways to do it. Educate yourself on options that are available to you. Living debt-free gives you the freedom to live abundantly on a small budget.  Abundance in values other than material possessions. But abundance in memories and moments that will never come again. Abundance in a regret-free, and fulfilling life.

About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and handsome little boy. She is the main voice behind Embracing Homemaking.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Pyo says:

    OMG that is amazing. I want to be a SAHM! We have a really healthy income but live in Southern CA & I don’t want to give up my spending $ (my salary) so guess I’m stuck for at least another year or so 😉

  2. That is so impressive and your right Dave Ramsey is such a help when it comes to finances. Congratulations that you are able to stay home and make such great strides to be debt free and happy.

  3. Sara P. says:

    This is a fantastic post!! We are still working on our debt (student loans and such).

  4. Robin Rue says:

    I am a SAHM and we made a few cut backs, but for the most part we live comfortably!

  5. OurOrdinaryLife® says:

    Great advice. I am luckily to work form home and not spend what I have extra of.

  6. JadeLouise Designs says:

    This is such a great idea! I’ve always been a stay at home mom. And we’ve struggled so many times through our married life. Like when the husband went back to school. His program was so taxing that they weren’t allowed to have a job while going through the program. But we knew I still didn’t want to go to work outside the home. We got all the scholarships we could get, and pell grants for school; plus the husband’s GI Bill. We lived off of <1500/month with rent being $800/month for 3.5 years…with three kids and we had debt the first 2 years of that. IT IS POSSIBLE. tight and difficult. But possible. Not always fun. but possible. After 2 years we were out of debt and it got a little bit easier. So yeah. I think if the desire and the importance of wanting to be a stay at home mom is there; you can find a way.

  7. Kelsey Apley says:

    I am not a mom but I work from home. I think it is great for a parent to want to stay at home. I know their is positive and negative things people say. I say if it works for you then do it! Life is short, enjoy it :-)!

    • Kathleen erikson says:

      I would love to work from home but I’m so skeptical about the work from home scams. Can I ask you what you do ? Thanks

  8. Such a great idea – getting out of debt it key! I absolutely love being able to work from home, it is such a blessing!

  9. scentednights2002 says:

    I’ve done both. I worked when my daughter was little & stayed at home with my son. I agree that the key is staying out of debt. People have a very expensive idea of what they *need* when they don’t really need it, they only *want* it.

  10. Tammi Roy says:

    Great post, it’s so important to get out of debt and stay there. I’m almost 6 years into being a SAHM and I love it!

  11. Awesome post! I have been working from home for the past 2 years and love it. We definitely sacrifice, but it is worth it being home with my daughter.

  12. Live below your means, it is that simple. Don’t borrow, period (mortgage is the exception).

  13. My little boy is growing so quickly and I treasure the time that I have with him. It’s totally worth the experience!

  14. The Neighborhood Mom says:

    I spent a couple years at home and have just returned to work in the last couple months. I cherish the time I had at home!

  15. Mama to 5 Blessings says:

    It is definitely a sacrifice. I have been a stay at home mom for 9 years. I quite my job when our 1st son was born. We do not live beyond our means and do without lavish things but it’s all worth it!

  16. Obviously, I’m not a stay at home mom, but I do know what it’s like to try to make a living from home. It’s tough!

  17. These are great tips for someone looking to stay at home and wondering if they could make it work – great job! <3

  18. We like Dave Ramsey’s plans for financial stuff. His programs really helped us when we went into debt, I’m sure he would be helpful for other people trying to get out of debt or become single income.

  19. Ann Bacciaglia says:

    I stayed at home for 7 years. Money was very tight but it was the best decision I ever made for me and my family. I think everyone needs to do what is right for their family and circumstances.

  20. Brittany C. says:

    We paid down our debts before we had a baby and I was so thankful for that because it gave me the chance to stay at home with my girls for a while! I loved every minute of it!

  21. I truly needed to read this today! Thank you for the inspiration.

  22. Audrey Watters Holden says:

    I live in NY where both the cost of living and taxes are ludicrous. However, because of my husband’s job and the good income it provides, I can stay home with our youngest daughter. I’m able to accept freelance writing and photography jobs I otherwise wouldn’t. But like a lot of people, we’re recovering from the financial disaster of 2008. My husband lost his job and subsequently we lost our home. We’re slowly crawling out of the abyss, but it can be done. We do sacrifice a lot in order to make this all work, and my income goes to paying off debt. It’s slow, but given time, we’ll be free and clear. It’s not a life for everyone though and I get that. We do have a few things that others would probably think unnecessary, but that’s what works for us . . . and that’s what this is all about, doing what works for you and your family!

    I’m so glad you and your family are able to make this work and you can stay home with your kids and have the kind of life you love.

  23. Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell says:

    That doesn’t seem like small progress to me. I think that’s OUTSTANDING progress. We struggled because we opted to do the one-income thing for the entire time the kids were in school. It wasn’t easy but I have no regrets. We did fall in debt though, and it took 4 years to dig out of that deep black void. It’s the BEST feeling to owe nothing now…not one thin dime.

  24. Shauna Torres says:

    Wow, I am so impressed… i know it is possible, as I stay home… but my only piece of advice is to add yourself into the budget… the hardest thing for me was ‘asking’ for money and I felt like I had to have a reason… Now we have a set amount I get, every paycheck, no questions asked… this is my money that I can use for what I want. It really helped our marriage, too… LOL

  25. Jennifer Juro says:

    What great tips!! Being a SAHM is the most rewarding job!

  26. Kimberly Grabinski says:

    We did the exact same thing! Right down to Dave Ramsey. We got out of debt and learn how to spend less so I could stay home.

  27. I worked hard to have a good career but when I finally got pregnant after many years of unsuccessfully TTC, I decided that I wasn’t going to pay someone else to raise the child I so desperately wanted. I quit my job and never looked back. When you factored in the cost of daycare and the tax bracket, my take-home was negligible anyway!

  28. Chelley Martinka says:

    I wish we could give up credit cards, but we pay for medical bills (that need to be paid in full) with them… and wow it adds up! I hope that it all settles down and we can try to dig out once and for all!

  29. Lisa - BetweentheKids says:

    I keep saying we’re going to sign up for FPU wtih Dave Ramsey,but we haven’t yet. I think it will change our lives. Thanks for posting this. I just need to find one in my area!

  30. SippyCupMom says:

    It can definitely happen and is doable. When I stopped working, we had to survive on one income and we had debt. I work from home now though and it all works out.

  31. Could you provide a list of the coupon and freebie blogs that you follow?

  32. Lisa Thompson says:

    Yes. A list please.

  33. Getting out of debt before having kids is EXCELLENT advice. It will make things so much easier!

  34. tessii1 says:

    I wish that we could give up things like credit cards and stuff like that. But to the point where we have to use them.

  35. I completely agree! If you want to stay home, you can make it work. I have several mom friends who say they “have to work.” They really don’t have to. They just want to be able to have nice things. I have learned that I can have the best of both worlds by learning how to save money.

  36. Robin Gagnon says:

    I know all about being frugal. We live off my blog income & I don’t use credit cards at all.

  37. Debi@The Spring Mount 6 Pack says:

    I have always been home with my kids. Either I worked from home, had a job where they came with me or was just home with them. It was important to us

  38. ♡ Toodies Momma ♡ says:

    Congratulations on cutting down your debt. Like you said, to some it may not seem like A LOT but I totally know what you mean. I get excited when I pay a store credit card off! It’s a great feeling so keep the momentum going.

  39. Domestic Mommyhood says:

    I actually work at home with my kids. It takes a lot of juggling but I pick my own hours, am my own boss and never have to miss a thing. Love it!

  40. I stopped using credit cards a few years ago and have been slowly paying off my debt as well. I could have been finished but like you medical expenses came up and of course those pesky student loans that need to be paid back. You are so right though, with God’s grace we can all make it. He always provides for his own.

  41. Great post. Cutting out debt is essential if you want to be a stay at home mom!

  42. Debbie Denny says:

    Good for you. You have a plan and put it in action. Fantastic post

  43. We have our house and car payments, but we pay for everything else in cash. If we don’t have the cash for something, we don’t get it.

  44. it’s funny, i have a similar post in drafts on my own blog. my biggest thing is to STOP SPENDING!! i hear people complain about not being able to afford xyz in the same breath that they are talking about the four or five places they went out to eat that week. there’s most certainly ways to do a lot of things, but many people don’t seem to want to have changes that impact their lifestyle. for us, me being home with the kids full time was a huge priority. we’ve done without luxuries for years!

  45. mail4rosey says:

    You are very blessed to have a husband who values the importance of staying home. It’s nice that you’re trying to encourage others.

  46. Thanks for the advice! I am trying to stay at home (but work a little bit!) and trying to see what will work for us.

  47. You made great progress and congrats to you and your family. My husband and I have not had debt for some time but of course we are older now and our kids are through college. Isn’t that how it always is. I considered myself lucky when my kids were younger. I had a job with there hours, holidays, weekends and summers off and even worked at the same high school they attended. It wasn’t perfect but it sure worked for us.

  48. Lucky for us we don’t have any debt, but it’s true – that’s the best way. Less stress and wonder that way and probably regret too! Great advice!

  49. Brandi_B says:

    We are working on bringing our debt down so we can move. When we move I want to be as debt free as possible. We have cut out cable and are working on getting other bills completely paid off. We only owe $200 on one of our vehicles and the other is completely paid off. I’ll say that my income puts us in solid middle class (possible upper middle), but with 7 kids under one roof, it really doesn’t feel like it at times.

  50. Teresa McCluskey says:

    I am a SAHM and do not want to work outside of home. I picked up blogging as away to make money and a few other things!

  51. Constanza Oller de Moore says:

    The only debt we have is medical debt and now is less than 2k so it’s not big thing I love being SAHM

  52. Julie Jordan-Wade says:

    I have two grown sons, & am now playing a critical role in raising my little grandson.When my guys were little, we’d pack a lunch & go to the local parks to play and picnic. They always loved it, and it was a great outlet for their energy. Now when we drive by those parks, they have great memories of our picnics in the park! Back then, I always felt bad that we couldn’t do Chuck E. Cheese or even McDonald’s as often as their friends did. But now, I’m really proud that they remember the park outings vs. Chuck E. Cheese visits. Kids are pretty simple…teach them the joy and value of being in nature, and they’ll love it for always. Plus…the best part…it’s FREE!!! 🙂

  53. This had me until the sentence ” what’s more important to you, to have the latest iPhone, to wear expensive clothes and shoes, to have a brand new car, to go on luxury vacations, to have a perfectly decorated, huge house? Or to stay at home with your children and enjoy them while they are still little? To me and my husband, it’s the latter.” You make it sound like those are the choices. We both work and make more than $40k /year each, but do not have debt, nor can we afford all the things you list. Thanks for trying but I don’t think this article was really written with working women in mind as an audience.

  54. Being a working SAHM was and still is the best decision I’ve ever made. There’s nothing better then being there for you kids whenever they need me. It truly is a blessing in disguise. Best of luck with everything!

  55. Thank you so much for this.. With tears in my eyes.. I say thank you. This post was an answered prayer.. It can be done, there are sacrifices we will
    have to make, but praise God.. It can be done!

  56. I really enjoyed reading this article. I live in Germany (born and raised in the USA) and am a mother to 10-month old twins. While our social government system in Germany does make it financially possible to stay home for the first year (I am recieving 65% of my salary this year) I WILL DEFINATELY be staying home with my babies and have absolutely NO IDEA how we’re going to make it work when this year is over! We too have a fairly sizeable debt and I admire how much you and your husband have been able to pay off! Wow! Thank you for your tips and encouragement…they will be in my thoughts during my next sleepless night.

  57. I have a little boy whose just turned 1 i went back to work in July after maternity leave, supposedly to work 35 hours a week but ended up doing 45 + travelling time I was so upset to not be seeing my son at all my partner suggested I left work.
    I finished work on 31st dec and now can’t find another job and i’m worried about us financially really think i made the wrong choice to leave even though i love spending time with my lil man.

  58. I’m a tax payer. My income is taxed to support your lifestyle choices, and those choices of people like you. If you have a low income, have children, and choose not to work I have to pay for it. I have probably paid a large part of you and your children’s healthcare, food, clothing, and housing. I probably paid to subsidize your worthless college education too. When you are complaining about how hard it is to pay for things you bought, I think the least you could do is give a nod to people like me who make your decisions possible.

    You’re welcome.

    • While I can’t speak for the author of the post or all SAHMs I can speak for myself and you haven’t paid for any of my healthcare, food, clothing, housing, or college. Low income doesn’t always equal government assistance. SAHMs don’t always equal government assistance. There’s nothing wrong with staying home and living off of one income.

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