Many times over the past almost six years that I’ve been a stay at home mom, I’ve been riddled with guilt over our decision. Thoughts float around in my head: “Should I go back to work?”, “Will we be able to save enough for retirement without me financially contributing at this moment?”, “I really wish we could afford more flexibility in our budget so we could (go on vacation, join the Y, send our daughter to a cottage homeschool program, etc)”. The guilt ate me alive at times! It was especially worse right after my husband lost his job. Not only was I feeling very depressed about him not having a job, I was feeling massive amounts of angst because I wasn’t working and bringing in a full time income.
I finally had to sit down and decide what our plan was going to be. Often times when anxious thoughts take over, I have to focus on the positives to make myself realize what the bigger picture is. We have a plan, and hopefully next year this time things will be so much better that we will forget about the few months when Mr. Money was unemployed. I’m sure there will still be sacrifices, but if that means that I get to spend as much time with my family as I can then it’s worth it! When there’s a will, there’s (most likely) a way. It may not easy, but it is worth it!
Here are some of the ways we make it work:
1. Keep Expenses Low
We purchased a modest sized house over ten years ago and have made it work for our growing family. We’ve rearranged rooms and decluttered many times (constantly!) to make our spaces work for us. The cars we are still driving are same vehicles we’ve had for years and we take good care of them so they will last. Buying things we can’t afford just isn’t an option at this point in our lives and we’re okay with that. We don’t make trips to the store just for fun and we try to combine trips to save money, time, and gas. Shopping is not a hobby in our household.
Our budget is bare bones right now, but we are doing our best to stick to it. By budgeting, I feel as if I have more control over our finances since every dollar has a plan for it. When the money is gone in one category, it’s gone. I personally think I have the hardest time with the food category- I feel like we need what we need and there’s no way around it. However, we do have a large pantry and freezer that I can use to make it work so I really crack down on that. We meal plan and ensure meat is thawed in time for dinner and that really helps. I think food is a budget buster for many families!
3. Side Hustles
Figuring out a side hustle, or “Dave job” for the Dave Ramsey followers, is an excellent way to bring in extra cash each month. I offer babysitting services, do some freelance writing, and take care of the neighbor’s dogs to help bring in extra income. Mr. Money has been known to do yard work and handyman tasks to help pad our bank account. I believe there is something that everyone is good at that they can use to make money.
4. Cheap or Free Activities
Living in an area with excellent parks definitely has its advantages! We love to pack picnic lunches and visit different play grounds with friends or just hit up one of the local parks and go hiking. A few weeks ago, the aquarium closest to us had a homeschool field trip day and we all went for the cost of one normal admission! It was a great experience, and packing food meant we didn’t pay for anything else. In the month of October, we also scouted out all the local trunk or treats and free Halloween events happening in our city. We had tons of fun and only spent money on gas to get us to those places!
5. No Shame
This is probably the hardest part of being a stay at home mom for me, but I think it’s so important. You have to have no shame with some things. Wearing used clothing and shopping at thrift stores has become the norm for us. We receive hand-me-downs with pleasure and are very thankful for having new pieces of a wardrobe for no money! Sometimes we have to tell friends or family we just can’t afford to do activities with them, and that’s okay. No shame in that!
There are still days when I question whether or not I’m doing the right thing, but I firmly believe that every parent goes through that at times! Raising a family is hard work, there’s no doubt about it!
What are some ways you make your financial situation work?