Living on One Income, A Challenge, but Not Impossible

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Do you like the idea of being a stay at home mom but just aren’t sure if you and your husband can swing it financially? I’m here to tell you, there’s a good chance you can, but you may have to alter your perspective a bit.

For 29 years I worked in my home as a full time Mom. From the beginning, Todd and I were committed to having me at home once we had children. In fact, I sacrificed a desirable social work position to raise my family. The week I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was offered a good job in social work providing home services for families. In good conscience, I had to be honest with the employer and let her know that I would not be returning to work after I had my baby. With all the training the company would have to invest, I declined the position. So, lest you think putting a career on hold is an impossibility, I’m here to tell you it isn’t. I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. Family was a priority for us. Research shows that a child’s character is formed in the first 2 years of life. We wanted to be the ones who helped shape that character, not someone else. There were so many things we wanted to teach our children in those early years. Children are not born with innate abilities to do the right thing. They don’t learn values through osmosis. You as the parents have to teach your child about life, and how God wants them to live in His world. While it has become second nature for parents today to drop children to daycare as early as 6 weeks of age, this was not a value for us. We knew it would mean a sacrifice of money and possessions but we were ok with that.

That’s not to say it doesn’t take some planning and strategizing in order to have a mom full time in the home. This post will attempt to share some of the things we did in order for this to happen. They are not difficult, but you have to be purposeful. One thing I know for sure: children are young for such a short time. Before you know it, they are in elementary school, then on to junior high, heading into high school, getting ready for the prom, and the next thing you know, you blink and they’re in college! I know that when you’re in the throes of mothering, sometimes time seems to drag. But believe me, it happens quickly. Sacrificing your career for a few years to make mothering your career, won’t be regretted.

When I had my first child, I had some well-meaning friends who asked me, “So what are you going to do for your career when you’re a mom.” I had my social work degree and the implication was that I was “wasting” my degree and my life to be at home with my children. Well I am here to say that I never for a second regretted any of the time I spent in the home mothering my tribe. I found mothering exhilarating, challenging, pushing me to be better, and I was always learning more about how to care for my family. Honestly, when I hear women say being a mom is boring, it’s hard for me to relate. To me, being a mom was a calling, and I threw myself into that with a vigor and a joy and all my intellect to raise the best family I could. That’s not to say that at times, day in day out life can be ordinary, unexciting, and at times lonely (more on loneliness in an upcoming post). But in our hurry up, 5 second attention span culture, SLOW isn’t a bad thing. Its okay to push back and decide to not jump on the hamster wheel of incessant activity for ourselves and our children. We made conscious decisions not to over-program our kids, especially young children. We liked the fact that our children were growing up IN our home. Many children now a days spend precious little time at home. Moms, it’s OKAY if you want something different for your family. I know you won’t hear this from the culture, but if you resonate with what I’m saying, give yourself permission to follow your heart! If you want a calmer, more peaceful life, less hurry and frantic, its OKAY! Go for it, and I’m here to give you tips on how we saved money and lived on one income. It will involve some sacrifices but you are resourceful and you’re stronger than you think!

Plus, perspective is everything. If you see things as losses then yes, you may feel deprived. But if you focus on the joy you have as a mom investing in eternal souls, really pouring into them with joy and love, its precious little sacrifice and truly a delight. One of my goals with my entire blog is to restore the delight in mothering that I believe our culture has dreadfully lost. You are not alone, you will make sacrifices to be a stay at home mama, but it’s so worth it!

So here are some practical things we did:

1. Don’t lock yourself in financially. What I mean is don’t max yourself out with credit cards and debt and make it impossible to live on one income. As a real estate agent now, I work with first time home buyers, young couples just starting out. With no kids at this point and two incomes, they get qualified for a huge amount for a mortgage. This in no way is what you should go for. I believe young couples should always have an out. Life may look different when you have kids and if you’re maxed out on a mortgage, you’ll be choked to death with no options even if you wanted to stay home. My advice, do not max yourself out on a mortgage. You have to understand; the bank’s goal is to MAKE MONEY. They will want to give you the largest amount of a mortgage possible. Resist the urge to take it. Look at your budget and decide what you can live with in regard to a monthly payment on a home. Include in that the possible option to live on one income. You won’t regret thinking this process through, then YOU will have the power over your finances and your future, not the bank. The bible says be a debtor to no man, there is wisdom in that. There is some great financial help out there for anyone interested in managing their money in a wise fashion. The Dave Ramsey show or podcast is awesome with great advice for people of all ages and stages in life. Larry Burkett also has some great resources for financial stewardship. Be in control of your money, not vice versa.

2. Drive used cars. For many years we had only 1 vehicle. Our vehicles were always older, decent shape but used, small car payment if any, for only a couple years. New cars can bankrupt you. As soon as you drive it off the lot, it depreciates in value tremendously. They are never a good investment, and most people lose money on a new car.

3. Grow your own food if you can. You will be surprised how much food you can grow even in a small space. We always had a big garden. If we didn’t have garden space at our home, we borrowed friends’ yards to put in a garden. We also canned a lot of food. My mother-in-law taught me canning. I wasn’t raised knowing how to garden or can. But once I learned, I really enjoyed it while raising our kids. It teaches the kids a work ethic as well.

** Perhaps you don’t like gardening. It’s amazing how much food you can get for free. If you know people who grow gardens, they almost always have extra and are happy to pass along extra tomatoes, zucchini, etc. to anyone who will use it. We made home-made salsa, sauce, tomato juice, etc. At the end of the season, farmers markets have things like red peppers marked down, you can cut them up and freeze them on a cookie sheet, or freeze half peppers. Once frozen, put in zip lock bags and use a handful as needed for chili, soup, stuffed peppers, etc. At our church through the summer, folks will leave bushels of extra produce there for the taking! Another great reason to belong to a church lol!

4. Become friends with like-minded families who are raising kids. This is important. Don’t try to keep up with the culture, the neighbors, etc. During those years, I stopped looking at Country Living magazine, Pinterest, and anything that would steal my joy. My husband worked very hard at his job outside the home, and I worked very hard at my job inside the home. And we were raising our own children! And no amount of money was worth it to change that. We enjoyed our kids! We spent a lot of time together, laughed a lot, and really had time to invest and that investment has reaped HUGE returns. If you are friends with people who only talk about the next new thing, the renovation project, or the fancy expensive vacation they’re planning, it will be difficult for you to be content. And when your priorities are to be a stay at home mom, you will be living more modestly. You may need to distance yourself from people who are on a totally different wave length as you. But that’s OKAY. Find families with the same values as you. We have had some amazing families over the years meld with our family and are life- long friends. People who GOT us! They too were raising a big family and we could encourage each other, share resources, and honestly, they were some of the best times in our lives! Simple living, busy but not frantic, lots of together time, laughter, kids growing up without screens, lots of outdoor play. It is so worth being able to pour into our children and developing a close family life. No vacation in the world can match that! It’s interesting to watch our adult children have strong feelings about TV’s, cell phones for kids, etc. They have lived a simple life and now as they are beginning their own families, they want that for their children. I consider that a mom win!

Danners, Jaussens, and Rohr’s , birthday party!

Danners, Jaussens, and Rohr’s , birthday party!

5. Speaking of sharing resources, we had friends who butchered pigs every winter, and if we provided the man power and helped out, they gave us half a pig to take home. We did the same thing with apple cider. We had friends who had a cider press. We helped pick apples and helped with cider and we got gallons of cider to take home and put in the freezer. It was delicious to have some through the winter months! Remember I spoke about being resourceful? This is the Proverbs 31 wife in action.

6. Recycle clothing amongst families who are having kids. Yard sales and thrift stores can provide great clothing at a fraction of the cost. Sharing clothes makes sense as children grow out of things quickly with little wear and tear. I did find there are some ages with little boys however, that they would blow out the knees of their jeans so it was impossible to pass them along. I’d reinforce knees often for my little guys especially around ages 6-9.

7. Menu plan. This is key to saving money. If you plan meals for 1-2 weeks, that will mean less trips to the grocery store and less impulse buying. One of the great things of a stay at home mom is you can cook from scratch. This saves so much money over processed foods, plus it’s healthier. We made home-made pizza for years using dough I made from scratch. Some of the dollar stores sell staples that can be bought cheaply. Also, if you have Aldi near you, there are some bargains there. One of my friends is using Misfit Market, organic ugly produce that’s totally edible for less cost. The internet is full of recipes, cooking on a budget, etc. you can take advantage of for free. My friend was a coupon queen for years as a stay at home mom. If you have that type of personality, you can save a lot on grocery and staples bill.

8. Babysitting exchange. This is how we were able to afford a date night. We have a dear family who also has tons of kids. We watched their kids while they went on a date and vice versa. It was fabulous because our kids got to hang out with their friends, and the parents got free babysitting! A comment about date night… DO it, schedule it, whatever you have to do, plan on it. These are very important to your marriage. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. There were times we went to Wendy’s for date night, or walk around Lowe’s and get an ice cream treat. But time as a couple is so good for you, and for the health and security of your children. It makes children feel secure when mom and dad have a strong relationship and love each other!

9. Take cheap vacations. In the early years, going to my in-law’s farm 1.5 hours from where we lived in Pittsburgh was our vacation. The kids loved being in the country, spending time exploring the farm, seeing Grandma, and hanging out doing chores on the farm with Grandpa. They never felt deprived, rather they loved it and those are some of the best memories of my older kids.

Another cheap vacation is camping. For years we went camping, using a tent. Seriously the best fun ever! Spending time together as a family in the forest, hiking, building fires, cooking over a campfire, sleeping in tents, swimming in lakes, these are some great memory builders.

10. With a bit of resourcefulness, you may be able to think of a way to earn extra money from home. My friend Linda and I sewed diapers for the diaper service in exchange for free diaper service. This was so great! When we had our family cow, we made and sold butter. Our son loved to bake so he sold delicious home-baked bread! When we had chickens, we sold the eggs. I taught a Mommy and Me class in exchange for Steve’s tuition for the preschool 3 mornings a week when he was 4.

These are a few ideas that I hope have been helpful. Will there be sacrifices involved in being a stay at home mom? Yes, there will be. But the closeness you will feel to your littles by being there for them, spending hours together, being engaged in their lives, living life together, will far outweigh any sacrifice. If you need support in your desire to be a SAHM, this is the place to get it. I will cheer you on from the sidelines because girlfriend, I know what it’s like!! Feel free to share how you are saving money from home. I’d love to hear about it. God bless you as you seek to serve the Lord by raising your little ones. Being a Mom---Best job in the world! Making an eternal impact on precious souls. It will yield a huge return on investment. Enjoy!