Are you longing to be home with your little ones? Find out how to afford to be a stay at home mom, and how ditching the working mom grind can end up being cheaper for some families.
As I walked into the dimly lit kitchen that morning, I did my best to run down the details of my toddler’s routine without crying. I was dropping him off for his first day at my friend’s in-home daycare, and I didn’t want to upset him.
But the tears just wouldn’t stop.
I had gotten to stay home longer than most, and at least I could bring my infant to work with me, but that didn’t stop the feeling that there was suddenly a gaping hole where my heart once was.
“He’ll be ok,” she assured me in a soothing tone and gave me a hug.
Of course, he would be fine, but I wasn’t sure I would be.
This wasn’t why I became a mom, to hand off my baby to be cared for by someone else (even as loving and capable as my friend was). To barely get to see him on weekdays, and watch the weekends blow past with chores and errands that must get done.
I wanted to be the one to ooh and aah over the latest stick or pine cone he’d found, to wipe his messy hands, and snuggle him before his nap.
I was his mama, and no one could fill that role like I could.
As I walked out the door that spring day, I was determined to find a way to stay at home with my little one.
Six months later, we were back at home together for good, and our finances are better than ever. I’ve also had the joy to help over 8 million moms through my blog and premium programs to find ways to budget successfully, so they can stay at home with their children.
How to Be a Stay at Home Mom
Today I’ll walk you through how you may be able to afford to stay at home by:
- Saving money by not working outside the home
- Saving money in other areas of your budget
- Making up the difference by working from home
1. Look at how much you could save just by staying home
What I’ve learned along the way is that working moms spend quite a bit of money just for the privilege of going to work. Once you take yourself out of the workforce, you can open up a surprising amount of room in your budget.
In some cases, it can even be cheaper to be a stay at home mom.
But first I want to introduce you to Allison. She’s an average mom, who heads out to work every day. She earns the median income for women in the U.S. of $3,557 per month and has two children.
Let’s dig in and see how quitting her job to stay at home with her little ones will save her money.
While it might take an adjustment not to get that regular paycheck, you will also not be paying the taxes and other withholding either. In addition, your tax rate may decrease once your household income goes down.
When you’re working, a big portion of your income goes to paying taxes. The IRS lists marginal federal tax rates ranging from 10 to 37 percent. State taxes can be as high as 13 percent of your income.
The average 4-person household has an effective tax rate of about 15 percent, so Allison saves $533 on taxes when she stops working.
If you’re a working mom, you already know that daycare is a huge expense. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the cost of daycare for one infant can range from $453 to $2,020 per month.
With additional children in daycare, the cost continues to rise. The cost of child care for a 4-year-old ranges from $399 to $1,593 each month.
When you stay home, you get to be the one to care for your babies, and you don’t have to pay for daycare.
When Allison stops working, she saves $2,232 in child care costs for her two children.
When you become a stay at home mom, you get to say goodbye to your commute and hello to more time and money in your life.
The average worker spends a record high of 53.2 minutes per day, according to the most recent data from US Census Bureau, and most drive a single-occupancy vehicle.
Let’s make a conservative estimate that each commuter is driving about 30 miles. Multiplied by the IRS Standard Mileage Rates, that’s a cost of $17.25 per day or $345 per month assuming an average of 20 work days per month.
My friend recently went back to work one day a week after taking care of her little ones full time. But for the first couple of weeks, she had to go in full time for training. She told me, “Guess what was the last thing I wanted to do every night when I dragged myself in after an 8-hour shift? Make dinner!” Suddenly she understood why her working-mom friends ended up going out so often.
Now, I can’t say that I am all that enthusiastic about making dinner, but it is a whole lot easier to find the time and energy to get it done when you stay at home. As my friend found out, when you stay at home, you’re more likely to eat at home, and that saves a lot of money.
When you don’t have to run out the door to work in the mornings, it’ll be easier to cut down on the lunches out and the afternoon mocha that helped you get through the day.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average four-person household spends $397 per month on eating out. If Allison cuts this down by just half, she’d save $199 monthly.
Perhaps she eats out for lunch one less time per week and saves $65. Then she cooks at home 3 additional times per month to save $134, for a total of $199.
Once you don’t have to go into the office every day, your clothing and dry cleaning expenses will go down.
On average, the same BLS report shows that the average woman in a family of four spends $70 per month on clothes.
Now, I’m not saying you have to live in yoga pants all day (unless you want to). In fact, you can easily build a very cute SAHM capsule wardrobe for $20 to 40 per month, according to women’s style expert Erin Ross.
Let’s say Allison cuts her clothing budget in half and saves $35 per month.
Diapers & Formula
If you have a baby at home, you know that the cost of diapers adds up fast. One way that I was able to save money by being a stay at home mom was through cloth diapering.
A Baby Center survey estimated the average cost of disposable diapers and wipes for the first year to be $92 per month compared to only $19 per month for cloth.
Your savings will grow even more as you use your cloth stash beyond the first year and with your next baby.
I bought one set of cloth diapers and wipes that I was able to use through potty training for my kids. It wasn’t a big deal to do an extra load of laundry throughout the day because I was already at home.
In addition, it can be easier to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with your little one when you stay at home. When you don’t have to worry about fitting the somewhat awkward task of pumping at work, freezing milk, and filling bottles, you may be able to avoid using expensive formula in lieu of breastfeeding.
The same Baby Center survey pinned formula at $105 per month while breastfeeding cost zero.
For Allison, this could amount to savings for $178 monthly.
So, is it cheaper to be a stay at home mom?
Let’s take a look based on our example above.
$3,557 gross monthly income for women in the US
-$533 in taxes
-$2,232 daycare costs for infant and older child
-$345 for commute-related transportation
-$199 in additional food costs
-$35 for clothes
-$178 for Diapers and Formula
$35 net income
That’s right, the cost of work-related expenses gobbles up almost all of the average working mom’s paycheck. She ends up with a net income of just $35.
Now, depending on your situation, you might have a higher gross income, or you might have a really short commute, or you might not have a baby in diapers right now. But hold tight. This can still work for you.
I’ll walk you through how to calculate your true net income in a second. First, I want to show you two more ways you can make staying at home work for your family.
2. First, find additional ways to save
Even with all those variables in mind, for most moms, there’s a fairly small difference in the income you’d need to make up once you look at how much is saved by not going to work.
Could you cancel cable or shop around for a better insurance rate? Maybe you’ll learn to meal plan and you’ll save money on groceries, hang your laundry to dry, or make your own cleaning products.
When you’re at home, you have more time available to find additional ways to save money to help make your budget work.
3. Then, make up the difference by working from home
At this point, you might be thinking that you’ve come to the end of what you can cut (or even sell) to make it feasible to stay at home.
And you might be right.
However, there’s one more resource you have available. Legitimate work at home opportunities for moms abound today. In fact, the average mom here in the Affording Motherhood Community who works from home earns $1,406 per month in a range of different careers.
Working from home can help fill the gap in your budget, so you can afford to be at home with your little ones.
What about health insurance?
While staying at home is often more realistic than you might think at first, one of the biggest obstacles is health insurance. There may be an additional cost to get added to your husband’s health plan. If there will be an additional cost involved in the transition, then you will need to account for this when making your plans to jump ship.
When mom carries the insurance for the whole family, leaving the security of those benefits poses an even greater challenge, but nothing is impossible. The first option is for dad to start the job search for a job that provides benefits.
If your income will decrease, you may qualify for additional help from health exchange plans. If you have savings, you may opt for a plan with a higher deductible to keep premiums more affordable.
Finally, for Christian families, a healthcare sharing program like Samaritan Ministries is an affordable alternative to traditional health insurance.
I’ve shown you what it would take for the average mom to stay at home. We walked through how quitting your job could actually save money on expenses like:
- Diapers and Formula
Then we looked at the additional steps you could take to find a break-even point with working vs. staying at home by finding additional ways to save money. In the end, many moms will only need a small additional amount of income by working from home, not a full-time job.
As I write this, my then-toddler came up to display his latest LEGO creation. Same blond hair (but a bit darker now), same deep green eyes, same irresistible smile.
His wrists are already starting to stick out of the sweater we got in the Fall. The days are flying by, and I’m so grateful that I get to spend them right here where they call me by my true name — Mama.
So what about you?
Can you afford to be a stay at home mom?
One of the biggest mistakes I see moms making is that they want to be a stay at home mom, but believe they can’t afford it.
What I would suggest to you is to approach this not as a yes/no answer. Don’t ask ‘Can I afford to stay at home?’
Ask instead, ‘How can I afford to be a stay at home mom?’
I’ve created a Stay at Home Mom Calculator for you to help you assess how you can make staying at home manageable for your family.
Often, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier than you thought. And even if not, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to make it happen in the near future.
If your heart is longing to be at home with your babies (no matter what age they are), download the calculator and plug in your family’s numbers.