Life has a way of changing long-held opinions. I used to vehemently state that I would not want to stay home with my children (who did not exist at the time) because I needed adult interaction and the feeling of financial independence. Years later, after the birth of my son, I found myself feeling just as vehement about my need to stay at home with him.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t let you know how you will make these things work after you have your epiphany. It’s up to you to figure out the logistics. Going from a two-income to a one-income family in this economy can be frightening, especially with the family growing at the same time. However, it is possible for almost any family to find a way for one parent to spend more time at home.
Here are three tips to help you make the transition to one-income living:
It’s important to start with a clear-eyed look at your finances before making the jump to one-income living. You can find several stay-at-home specific calculators (Parents.com has one), but it’s not necessary to use one of these to get an idea of your income and spending. Grab a pen and paper to put together a budget if you don’t have one. (Here’s a step by step guide to your first budget.)
Once you know how much income you need per month you’ll need to figure out how much it costs for one spouse to work. When couples decide that they cannot afford for Mom to stay home they often forget how much of her income is eaten up by childcare and work-related costs (the cost of lunches out, a work wardrobe, etc.). Knowing exactly how much money you’ll be giving up (and saving!) by staying home will put you in a much better position to make your decision.
From there look to see if there is any fat you can trim from your monthly budget.
Food is an obvious place to start as having one parent home will make it that much easier to cook from scratch. Cooking more meals at home rather than eating out should save most families money.
Cooking from scratch doesn’t just include meals but all kinds of foods you are used to buying from a store. For example, homemade bread and jam are both much tastier than their store-bought counterparts, are relatively easy to make, and cost just pennies. Become a do-it-yourselfer (in the kitchen and beyond) and save.
If you decide to become a one-income family, can you also become a one-car family or a one-cell phone family? Many of the things that society tells us we must have are not actually essential. Decide what you can live without in the name of staying home with the kids.
Do you really need to be able to watch the latest episode of your favorite show as soon as it comes out? Do you need to get a haircut and manicure once a month? Do you need to drink the specialty coffee you love? These will certainly be painful cuts to make, but realizing why you are making them should help soften the blow.
The most important aspect of making the changes necessary to stay at home is for both parents to be on board. Deciding what is best for the family as a team will lead to happier parents both in and out of the office. And of course, happy parents = happy kids.