Make Staying Home With Your Kids a Reality: A Six Month Plan
by Scott W. Danger, CPA
I recently had a conversation with a working mom who has mentioned on many occasions that she’d like to stay home with her kids. “You’re wife is SO lucky to be able to stay home. I wish we could afford to do that,” she tells me. Meanwhile, in the same conversation, my friend also mentions that she and her husband are going to be purchasing a new minivan soon, and that they are going to Mexico next month. Yes, my wife and I are fortunate to have her staying home with our daughter. But, luck has nothing to do with it. Our family drives old vehicles, we rarely eat out, and our vacations include driving to visit family members. The choices we made to cut back on expenses and find alternative ways to supplement our income were not easy, but we have never regretted them. Kim has her whole life to work. And, be honest with yourself. When you are eighty years old and looking back on your life, would you rather remember that new car or would you rather have the memories and pride of spending time with your children in their formative years? The choice is yours. There is no right or wrong answer. But, I assure you that staying home is possible if that is what you really want.
If you’re looking for an easy answer to staying at home, this isn’t it. But if you’re willing to work hard and make some trade-offs, staying home with your kids can become a reality. Here is a six month plan to help you realize your goal.
Month One: Is it what both of you really want?
Staying home with your children must be a decision you and your spouse make together. Both of you will need to make changes in your lifestyle and it takes a total team effort. If both spouses are supportive of the idea, staying home with your children can happen. It’s important to remember that the decision to stay home is not a lifetime decision. It can be for as long or as short a time as you choose. Many moms decide to stay home until their children are in school. Discuss with each other the benefits of both working and staying at home. Don’t discuss whether you can or can’t afford it. Just discuss if staying home is what you really want. If after one month you still feel it is something you want, move on to month two.
Month Two: Track your spending
You will need to know exactly where your money is going. This means tracking every penny. Keep a tiny notebook in your purse to keep track of small cash expenditures, money spent in vending machines, etc. Use your checkbook register and try to avoid using the credit cards. When the month is over, analyze your spending. Look at each expense and determine which expenses you have no control over such as utility payments or your mortgage payment and which expenses you can control such as groceries and eating out. Summarize your spending in different categories such as food, car and entertainment. With this summary of your spending, move on to month three.
Month Three: Create your budget
Now that you’ve tracked your spending for a month, you should have a clear picture of where your money is going. You now have a basis to see which expenses you can cut back on and which would be eliminated by you staying home. From this, create a budget. A useful guide is budgeting 101: http://www.mommysavers.com/moneywise/budget.htm. Remember, your goal of the budget is to spend less money than you make. Even with cutting back on expenses, most couples living on one full-time salary will need to have some additional income. Start brainstorming on ways you can earn extra money. Remember, your main job is to be with your kids. You are looking for a second job and not a career, so keep your options open. Write down everything you can think of that could help supplement your family income. Taking in an additional child during the day, working your current job from home or even a paper route are all possibilities. Have an open mind and keep your eyes open.
Month Four: Put your budget into practice – make sure it works
This is important. Budgets take practice and refinement to make them work. They also get easier over time. Throughout the month, continue to look for ways you can save money. This month you should also start narrowing down your ideas of ways to supplement your income. By now you probably have a good idea of how much additional income you’ll need to make your budget. Look at your list of “ideas” and pick a few that would fit your families schedule. Many stay-at-home moms find work outside the home very fulfilling. After spending the day with the kids, some adult contact is nice. And, it also gives dad some time alone with the kids.
Month Five: Make plans for your change
It’s now time to decide what you will be doing to supplement your income. If it is work outside your home, you’ll need to start applying for jobs. If it is work inside the home such as caring for another child, it’s time to interview prospective parents and children. It’s also a good idea to discuss your plans with your employer. It’s better the news of your leaving comes from you rather than a co-worker. And, don’t forget your budget. Continue to use it and refine it. It is critical to making your decision to stay home achievable.
Month Six: The change
This is the month you’ve been waiting for. It’s also the scariest. Leaving friends at work is always difficult but leaving that paycheck behind is even harder. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve done your homework and you know staying at home is possible. You’ve figured out a way to supplement the family income and by sticking to your budget for a couple months, you’ve proven to yourself that your family can make it. Congratulations!
Making ends meet on one full-time income is not easy. However, nothing worthwhile ever is. Staying home is about making choices and setting priorities in your life. It is a personal decision each family needs to make. If it is something you want to do, that’s great. If it is something that’s not right for your family, that’s fine too. Just don’t let money become a barrier to staying at home. If it is something you truly want, there are always ways to make it work. Best of luck in your decision.
Scott W. Danger is a C.P.A. with ten years’ accounting experience. He is husband to Kim, and father to one-year-old Sydney. Look for Scott’s monthly column on Mommysavers.com, a site created to help moms make the most of their time and money. http://www.mommysavers.com