It breaks my heart when I hear moms longing to be at home with their children but have to send them off to daycare everyday. It’s the worst when after a too-short maternity leave a mom returns back to work daily in tears missing her baby.
For many women, working full time is simply not a choice. Perhaps she is a single mom or the family budget is truly just too tight. For many of us though, we believe that being a stay at home mom isn’t financially possible at first glance.
However, if you’ve been longing to be a stay at home mom, a closer look at your budget may show it’s more financially possible than you think with good money management.
It turns out working moms spend quite a bit of money just for the privilege of going to work. Once you take yourself out of the work force, you can save a surprising amount out of your budget.
How to Afford to Be a Stay at Home Mom in 3 Simple Steps
7 Ways you Save Money by Not Going to Work
Step one is easy. Just by quitting your job you can save a ton of money. You might just be surprised at how much going to work actually costs you!
When you’re working, a big portion of your income goes to paying taxes. This will obviously vary depending on your household income, but it could be anywhere from 15-40% for federal taxes alone.
State taxes vary up to 11% of your income. There’s nothing like paying the government to go to work everyday.
Daycare is a huge expense for working moms. The average cost of daycare for one infant in the US is $1000 per month. Having additional children in daycare adds on even more.
3. Diapers & Formula
It may also be more convenient for stay at home moms to exclusively breastfeed.
(There are certainly many exceptions to this rule. One amazing mama from my La Leche League group just completed a full year of pumping at work!) If you do avoid buying formula you can save $150 per month.
4. Eating out
It is no doubt exhausting to be a mom who works full time outside the house. It would be very tough to come home every night day in and day out and make dinner and pack a lunch for the next day.
When you wake up exhausted in the morning, it would be really hard to drag yourself past Starbucks. If you had just one coffee, one lunch out, and one dinner per week, that could quickly add up to over $200 per month.
When you don’t have to keep up appearances at work everyday, you can spend less on clothes.
You certainly don’t have to look like a scrub just because you’ve become a stay at home mom, but you can set the standard and decide whether spending a lot of money on clothing is a priority for you. You can probably dress a little more casually and at least avoid dry cleaning expenses.
If you’re careful, your transportation expenses could go down when you are no longer commuting daily to work. The average worker spends somewhere around $400 a month commuting. If you pay for parking now, that will be another cost savings.
Would-Be Stay at Home Mom Budget
Allow me to make some hypothetical assumptions about the average working mom and how much she could save by not going to work.
The thing I’m obviously leaving out is health and retirement benefits. This can vary greatly depending on whether your spouse has a health plan you can join.
(Update: with the new “Obamacare” rules, your health insurance costs may go down drastically if your income goes down, but this isn’t an option if your spouse’s employer offers benefits.)
If you have savings you may opt for an health insurance plan with a high deductible to keep premiums more affordable.
As for retirement, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make as I know I won’t be at home forever and hopefully I’ll be able to make up for it later in my career.
Those two issues aside, you can see that there is a ridiculous amount of work related expense gobbles up most of a working mom’s pay check.
$3000 gross monthly median income for women in the US
-$600 in taxes
-$1000 in daycare expenses
-$250 in diapers and fomula
-$200 eating out
-$50 on clothing and dry-cleaning
-$200 on transportation
$700 net income
Step 2: Make Up the Difference with Budget Reductions
As you can see there is a fairly small difference in income once you look at how much is saved by not going to work.
You might be able to reduce other expenses through different lifestyle decisions to help make up the difference.
Could you cancel cable or shop around for a better insurance rate? Maybe you could choose to move to a more affordable home.
Then there is all of the indirect savings you could achieve by being a stay at home mom. Your kids won’t be picking up every little illness going around when they’re in daycare, and you won’t be taking time off to take care of them or taking them to the doctor.
If you’re able to cook healthier meals at home instead of going out, that will also help get your entire family healthier and reduce medical expenses.
Step 3: Make Up the Difference with Work at Home Income
Many stay at home moms supplement their income by working at home. The good news is you won’t have to make up 100 percent of your former income by working at home.
As shown above, you are actually savings quite a bit of money by being a stay at home mom. There is relatively little left over that you would need to earn to make up the difference.
You may be able to get contract work within your industry, or you may choose to try something completely new.
When deciding your contract rate, be sure to account for paying your own taxes, insurance, and retirement. Also, factor in for paid time off that you would usually get with full time employment.
How to Afford to Be a Stay at Home Mom
Everyone’s individual financial situation is different, but I hope this look at the budget of the average American family has given you a new perspective on how to afford to be a stay at home mom.
After all the expenses associated with going to work, many families will be very close to being able to afford to have mom stay at home. With a few more money saving strategies and a couple hundred dollars a month of work from home income, it really is financially possible to stay at home.
If you deeply desire to be a stay at home mom, I believe you can make it work with a bit of determination!
Do you want to be a stay at home mom but don’t think you can afford it? Are you making staying home work for your family? Please share your story in the comments.