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Can I Really Afford to be a Stay at Home Mom?

Feb 29, 2008
Whether you've been a stay at home mom for a while or are just starting out, this is one of those questions that can really hit you hard. Going down to a single income as a family is quite a tough choice in most cases. And in the current uncertain economy it can be even easier to feel guilty about not contributing to the family's finances.

Directly, that is. As in earning money.

Indirectly, there's plenty a stay at home mom can do. She is often the one to handle all the shopping and keeping track of all the bills. If you don't think that has an impact on the family finances, think again.

Your first consideration is always how the family will manage to get by with one income rather than two. Sometimes the answer is quite surprising. Depending on what you earn, by the time taxes and the costs of wardrobe, eating out, childcare and so forth come out, you aren't bringing that much home. Sometimes it can easily be made up for; other times it will take more planning.

If having one parent stay at home is going to be a huge sacrifice for your family, take a look at what can be cut. Don't start with the grocery bill. Just because you have to buy food every week doesn't mean it's the most important bill.

Instead, start with your regular bills and figure out what can be cut. Cutting your cable plan down to basic can save you a nice chunk of money every month, and you probably won't even miss most of the channels you drop. Decide if you really need both a landline telephone and a cell phone. Then decide if one or the other should be dropped.

Cutting those monthly expenses makes a lot of sense. It's savings you won't have to think about every time you go shopping.

But the biggest savings of all can be in paying down credit card debt.

Credit card debt, as a rule, is expensive. Much worse than paying for a mortgage. If you can get it paid down, your budget will have far more leeway, and that's vital if you have only one income coming in.

You should also take some time to think about the things you spend money on, but really shouldn't. A lot of people, for example, get new cell phones regularly, even though the old one is perfectly good. Same goes for televisions when they decide it's time for a big screen unit. The list goes on and the numbers add up.

Get those other expenses in control as well as thinking about how you spend money at the grocery store. The broader your efforts the more you will save.

Handling the "What Ifs"

There are a lot of what ifs that you should face if you want to be a stay at home mom. The biggest one is "What if the situation changes?"

"What if your husband loses his job?"

"What if the two of you separate or divorce?"

"What if a medical issue comes up?"

You do need to have a backup plan in case anything happens. Obviously you hope that none do, but life happens. Better to plan ahead than to be caught unawares.

This means keeping up your own job skills, whether or not you work at home. Having savings. Talking about how potential problems will be handled. Not panicking if something does happen.

You may never need your backup plans. But if you do, you will be very grateful to have some idea what to do to keep your family going. The middle of a crisis is a rotten time to have to figure all this out.

Being a stay at home mom has its own challenges. Just due to personality differences it's not for everyone. But many learn to love it, and soon have trouble imagining doing anything else.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster runs http://www.homewiththekids.com/ as a resource for stay at home moms. She offers more ways to afford to stay at home at her site.
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