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Can you even afford to be a stay at home mom?
That was the question I asked myself over and over in the hospital bed while holding my newborn baby.
How can you give birth to something so precious and not even wonder if it’s possible... if maybe you could be lucky enough... to afford to stay with your baby?
I thought about who she might say her first word to, and who would catch her when she takes her first steps. Who would give her her first bite of real food?
I wondered who she would turn to when she wanted to be comforted.
And honestly... maybe I’m selfish... but I wanted it to be me!
I earned it!
But... you can’t exactly tell that to the utility company or the cashier at the grocery store. With no mandatory paid maternity leave, new mothers are having to choose between their baby and their livelihood.
The thing is that we live in a two income world. Anything less and it becomes a lot harder to keep the boat afloat.
Did you know the average millennial only makes $35,592 per year? That’s not a whole lot when you consider that the average cost of living in the US is $20,194 per person per year.
If you and your spouse both made average incomes and then you quit your job to be a stay at home mom, your family would see a net deficit of about $4,796 annually... not including baby.
Now of course these numbers are totally based on averages, but you can see how our society favors two working adults per household.
Don’t be discouraged. That doesn’t mean that you can’t afford to be a stay at home mom!
In this guide, I’m going to show you exactly what you need to do to make this dream a reality for your family.
My little family of four brings home just $4,200/month, and we are able to live comfortably and even take vacations! I’m going to show you the exact steps that I took to afford to be a stay at home mom, so you can do it too!
Can you really afford being a stay at home mom
That’s the big question isn’t it?
You might be surprised to learn that this depends less on how much money your family brings in, and more on your preparedness.
Wealthy Single Mommy has a great write up on why you absolutely cannot afford to be a SAHM. She’s not wrong either.
You see, being a stay at home mom means that you will be staying home raising your children while being fully financially supported by your spouse or significant other.
If anything were to change that dynamic, you, and possibly your children, could be in big trouble. Things like:
- Job loss
- Serious Illness
- Serious Injury
Any of these things, though no one likes to think about them, could happen at any time and flip your life upside down.
You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you are depending 100% on someone else to support you.
This is probably the scariest thing about leaving the workforce to be a stay at home mom. When you quit, you fall back to the bottom of that corporate ladder again. Jumping back in several years down the line becomes... well, a lot harder.
This is something to really consider before quitting your job.
Of course, I quit my job less than 24 hours after my first was born. Ha! So, I guess you could go kamikaze like I did.
Though, I never was truly a stay at home mom. There is a middle ground.
See, after I quit my job (read: J...O...B...), I started my own business and worked for myself on my own time. I became a work from home mom.
That’s a WAY better position to be in.
I was making my own money, working in a position that I controlled 100%, and raising my own babies.
It takes work and focus to do - I’ll be honest - but it’s worth it. You can gain the freedom to enjoy your children while they are young, and the comfort in knowing that you can still contribute to your family financially.
I know you can do it!
In short, being a stay at home mom has its risks, but you can definitely minimize them by becoming a work from home mom instead.
Can you even afford to go back to work
Did you know that going back to work costs you a lot more than just time with your baby?
In fact, a lot of moms decide to stay home with their children simply because it makes no financial sense to go back to work!
Here are some things you might not have considered
Whether you choose to hire a nanny or a daycare center, it’s going to cost you. A lot.
According to Money Under 30, the average cost of childcare in the US IS $972 per month, but that number can vary wildly depending on where you live and how much care you need. You could be looking at upwards of $1,500 a month!
Did you know that rejoining the workforce makes you more than twice as likely to quit breastfeeding before you are ready? About 90% of working moms fail to breastfeed their babies past 6 months of age!
The Simple Dollar estimates that, for the average baby, formula would cost about $1,733.75 per year! That’s nearly $150 per month that you could save!
Let’s face it. That drive to work is dreary. When you couple long work days and longer nights up with baby, chances are you’ll have a hard time cooking and meal prepping three meals a day for everyone.
Eating out when you’re at work, or grabbing take out on your way home can add up fast! Even if you’re only grabbing cheap meals a few days a week, you can easily spend $200 or more dining out per month.
Looking the Part
You can have the greatest capsule wardrobe of all time, but you’ll still need to dress the part for work. This means buying and replacing pieces as needed.
When I worked in real estate, I spent several hundred dollars per year just to replace blazers, shoes, and tops. And I was super frugal.
I also spent a fortune on make-up, and we all know that stuff is NOT cheap. It’s a fact of life that, as a career woman, you will be doing your make-up every single day. That could cost you about $100 a month or more just to replenish your supply.
Whether your job requires you to drive all over town or you take public transportation to get there, the commute costs you time and money.
I tacked on over 20,000 miles on my car per year when I was working full time. That adds up to hundred of dollars due to multiple oil changes, new tires, maintenance, car washes, etc.
Working full time could keep you from enjoying activities and events with your children. Even worse, when you do get to go enjoy something, it could be more expensive to do so.
Smarter Travel has a great write up on this, but to summarize: the most expensive days and times to travel are the ones that have the highest demand.
Basically, if you’ve finally managed to get a long weekend to escape with your family for a bit, whelp! So, did everyone else.
That’s why travel on weekends with Sunday return flights tend to be the most expensive. Some places (museums, indoor playgrounds, etc) even charge more on the weekends than on weekdays.
Talk about a double whammy of suck.
3 practical steps to afford being a SAHM
These are the steps I took to afford being a stay at home mom. With a bit of preparation and dedication, you can make that dream your reality too.
Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Fix Your Finances
No matter how much money your family brings in, if you were making money and then suddenly you aren't, you're going to notice.
The best way to get started is by creating a hassle-free budget that the whole family can stick to. Once the numbers make sense for your family, you can focus on paying off your debt and growing your savings.
Learning to live below your means and having a healthy savings can give you the peace of mind you need to stay home with your baby, guilt-free!
Step 2: Work From Home
Having to rely solely on one person for income is risky at best. Thankfully, there are literally thousands of work from home job opportunities out there.
Being able to make money from home allows you to have the freedom to watch your children grow without being tied down by a 9-5. You’ll be able to have some peace of mind knowing that you can contribute financially.
Besides, having your own money kind of rocks - right?
If you have young children, though, it might not be feasible to take on a lot of those job opportunities without having to hire help to watch the kids - in which case, you could just keep your “not at home” job.
Check out this list of best work from home jobs for moms to get some inspiration and start making real money in your spare time.
Step 3: Leverage Your Credit
This step is all about maximizing every dollar you spend and getting the most back for it.
I’m talking, of course, about using rewards credit cards - the right way! - to take practically free vacations, get tons of money back every month, and protect your purchases.
Because we live on a tight income, it can be really hard to afford to take big vacations. Plane tickets alone would wipe us out, and that doesn’t include room and board.
Even small weekend road trips could cost hundreds of dollars easily!
So, how do we afford to vacation every few weeks as a family of four?
We stack credit card rewards! Like crazy! Right now, I have about 15 free hotel stays just waiting to be used, and over $300 in cash back ready to be redeemed.
That’s real money that I’ve earned just from regular spending.
You can learn how by reading How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards. Saving and being frugal is great and everything, but you gotta live a little too!
Learning to live on just one income can be kind of scary. I know my husband and I were really worried when I decided not to go back to work.
It was the best decision of my life!
I’ve never missed a moment with my girls. I was there for every first word, first step, first smile.
We go to the zoo every week, and enjoy the park in the mornings. I’m there to comfort every boo boo, and watch them toddle out to the living room all tousle-haired every morning.
It can be the most rewarding and most fulfilling thing in your life.
I know, since you’re reading this, that you want that too. You want to just be able to be a MOM full time. No more deadlines. No juggling. No tears when you leave for work.
You can do it! I can help! Just follow the steps above, and you’ll be well on your way to making it work for you too.
All big changes start with one small step. So, take yours now by leaving a comment below. What is the number one thing preventing you from being a stay at home mom right now?
Hi! I'm Ana!
Leaving your baby to go back to work is heartbreaking. I help moms take charge of their finances so they can afford to stay home with their children. You can read more in my full story: From six-figure career to SAHM - How we made it work with no regrets.