Statistics tell us that over 5 million parents stay at home with their children. The number of stay at home dads is on the rise both due to the economy making it tougher to find jobs, and some women flipping the traditional gender roles and earning more than their spouses.
Living on one income: My story
I was pregnant with my first child I was 20 going on 21. About 2 months before I had him we moved into an apartment, and my husband took a job that made it logistically difficult for me to work. (we also had one car) So from the time I was about 6 1/2 months pregnant I stayed home with my son.
The plan was originally for me to go back to work after he turned 6 months, but that changed when my husband decided to go back to work and school full-time.
I stayed at home with Nathan doing odd jobs when I could. I worked occasionally as an organizer for friends, and clients when I could secure babysitting. I sold Avon. I babysat. I drove carpool for 2 busy working moms. I took classes. I worked in retail in the evenings.
Around the time he turned 3 I got the itch to work more, so I got a job as a garden guide with really good pay, and he had time with his daddy every weekend.
About 9 months later we moved, and were getting ready to have our second child, so I stopped working again. Between child #2 and child #3 and child #3 and child #4 I had various part time gigs including another retail stint, more organizing clients, landscaping work, and babysitting.
Last year I had no less than 6 various jobs (swim coach, nursery school teacher, writer, retail worker, and farmer’s market helper), and you are looking at one of them now. My blogging job only brought in about $700 last year, but this year it’s replaced ALL my other jobs’ incomes already.
Until this year, while I’ve always worked a bit here and there, when my husband’s work demanded more time, or I was pregnant (again), or had a newborn I had the “luxury” to stay home.
You’re thinking, well her husband must do well, and they must be different, but we aren’t. We just knew that it didn’t make sense to have me get a job to pay for care for our kids when their Dad was working hard (and at several points working more than one job, or going to school alongside full time work).
I fully believe if we have been able to make it work for 12 years you can too. It’s not easy, it takes adjusting, and changing a lot of things, but for less stress and more time with your family it can be worth it.
Staying Home Saves Money
Most people have the assumption that their pay (after taxes of course) is their earnings, but in the ever popular book Your Money or Your Life the authors suggest that you need to be careful not to count your chickens before they hatch.
What does working really cost you? Think about it. If you work in a traditional office you have clothing costs, commute expenses (what if you could cut out a car?), food (no one ever remembers their brown bag every day!), among others. If you work in a less conventional setting, your home for instance, you may have costs that are higher due to that as well. A home office space, electricity costs, phone line, etc.
Figure out what your work expenses are and subtract them from your pay. That’s your real wage. Usually that number is shockingly different than your take home pay.
Ways you can save by NOT working: dry cleaning, clothing costs, second car expenses, fuel, childcare, etc.
Staying at home can help you make more money
If you’ve always wanted to go back to school, start your own business, or just take a year off and find yourself (with newborn in tow), you may be able to parlay your time at home into a new career, a new passion, or a new income you never expected. (hello, I’m a blogger!)
Staying at home can make you happy
For some people their job is simply a job and not their passion. For others, they are unhappy with where they work. For still other parents they feel that having a parent at home with the kids would give them more peace of mind. It’s not for everyone, but if you are unhappy and can make the numbers work, taking time off may be the best thing for everyone (even if you end up going back to work you will never have any What Ifs hanging over your head).
Can you afford to stay home? Crunch the numbers
You need to sit down and crunch your own numbers. You may find a clear answer, you may not. You may find that this year it will work, but next year when you have some large expenses looming you’ll have to go back. There is no right answer. Only you know what you VALUE, and what you feel you need to spend on.
In the 1950s there wasn’t internet, Netflix subscriptions, premium cable packages, or Sally’s hop hop dance class that costs $150/month plus a $90 “performance” outfit. Things seemed simpler because they were. If you want all the above, you have to find a way to pay for it, and a second job may be your answer, but if you are willing to live a more simple lifestyle you may find that you can get by on much less than you thought.
A Real Life Example
My friend, Liz, who asked recently about going to one income from a dual income house realized that cutting out her husband’s income might be easier than they realized.
Expenses that would disappear included:
- babysitting after school
- child care for one of their children
- bi-weekly housekeeper
- fuel costs and work clothes associated with her husband’s job
- The best part? They would owe less than 1/3 of the taxes they paid this year.
With a more thought out budget, having her husband stay home with the kids might be easily reachable for her family.
Some things to consider before you decide to stay at home:
- Do you have an emergency fund?
- Do you have adequate life insurance should either spouse pass away?
- Can the stay at home spouse find fulfillment, or keep their career skills sharp while at home?
- What if the stay at home spouse hates it? (It happened on Modern Family so it must happen in real life too!)
What about you?
For your family things might be different though, so run your own numbers. If mom needs to work to get on a great health insurance plan, could Dad stay home or work part-time?
The answer doesn’t need to be right for everyone else, it just needs to be right for you, and your family.
Staying at Home and the Single
While it is possible to stay at home with your children as a single parent, it most cases it involves your family supporting you in some fashion. For some this may mean a multi-generational home, while others may find that being living in at a job makes sense. (such as a live in nanny, housesitter, housekeeper, etc.) And despite what people think staying at home and being single doesn’t have to mean you are on welfare. I know moms who work part-time while their baby naps, live off savings, and live in communal housing. Ir’s certainly not a common path, but if you are committed to it you can make it happen.
Do you stay at home? Have you thought about it? Tell me your story in the comments.
One Income Living: Taking Care of Yourself on The Centsible Life
One Income Living: Let’s Talk Money on The Centsible Life
How to live on 1 income without going broke by Liz Weston
9 tips for those going to one income by PT Money
Our One Income Family by Dollar Stretcher
How to Live on One Income by Frugal Dad