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.