Last Updated June 24th, 2019

21 Steps To Make Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad Work Financially

21 Steps To Make Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad Work Financially

For some families, being a stay at home mom or dad just happens. It’s not always planned. There’s just the sudden realization that having mom or dad stay home makes sense. Maybe there’s a layoff while she’s pregnant or the kids are young, or the sudden realization that childcare costs more than one parent’s job brings in. If you aren’t prepared, going from two incomes to one can be quite a shock.

Others know from early on that they’re going to be a stay at home mom or dad. The income may not even be a part of the decision as such; it can be based more on the desire to have one parent at home. Still if the family doesn’t prepare financially for the changes, things can get difficult.

This is why it’s so important to plan before your family goes to a single income due to one parent staying at home if at all possible. You can avoid some nasty financial surprises if you know how these things may go.

1. Practice living on one income first.

If the decision to have one parent stay home with the kids is a deliberate one, not one caused by circumstance, try living as though your family only has a single income for a time while both parents continue to work. Not only will this show you how things are going to be, it allows you to save up the money from the second income. A little financial padding is always a good thing to have.

2. Review your finances.

You can do this even if staying at home wasn’t planned in advance. Calculate all your living expenses – rent, food, utilities, vehicles, taxes, insurance and so forth. Make sure the income of the parent who continues to work will be enough to pay all your regular expenses… ideally with some left over for savings.

Don’t be too discouraged if you don’t see right away how to make things work on a single income. It’s common to need to make sacrifices.

3. Cut down on monthly bills.

Rethink your monthly bills where possible. Are you on the right plan for your cable TV/internet? Do you really need it? Can you cut down on your cell phone plans (consider what early cancellation fees will do)? What other monthly expenses can you cut down?

stay at home parent budget

You can cut your electric bill by changing where your thermostat is set. Let your home get a little warmer in summer and cooler in winter. Don’t overdo it, but do remember that you can adapt to a greater temperature range than you may normally use.

You may even want to decide if going solar is right for you. If your bills are high enough, it can save money.

The great thing about cutting back on monthly bills is that once you’ve decreased a bill, it stays down unless your service provider increases the basic cost. You don’t have to change it every month – just review your needs occasionally and make sure it’s still right for you.

4. Plan for emergencies.

Life never keeps things simple for long. Cars break down. Kids get sick. Parents get sick. Something in the house needs to be repaired or replaced.

If you don’t plan ahead for emergencies, they can ruin all your financial planning. Have some money set aside for those times when things need to be repaired. Have insurance to help out with the things insurance can help with.

I like having a home warranty. It doesn’t save me the whole expense every year, but it ensures that I won’t spend a fortune on repairs. Check with the companies that offer home warranties in your area and make sure that they have a good reputation before signing up. It is NOT cheap, but can be very worthwhile if something goes wrong with a covered item.

5. Avoid credit card debt.

Credit can be a very tempting way to pay for things you can’t afford at the moment. I still have credit card debt to pay off, although things are steadily improving these days. If it weren’t for the debt (taken on for reasons that were generally good at the time, not so much frivolously), we’d easily be living within our income and have money left over to save.

6. Pay off debt.

Beyond credit card debts, there are other debts that can make having a stay at home parent more difficult. Pay off or pay down those student loans, car loans and pay down the mortgage if you have them. The lower you can make those bills, the more flexibility you will have financially.

There is, of course, a balance to be struck between paying off debt and making investments with your money. Choose wisely for your situation.

7. Pick your sacrifices.

Most single income families have to make sacrifices to keep mom or dad at home. Talk as a family about the things you’re willing to sacrifice, and which things you’d prefer to keep.

For example, you may have the habit of going to the movies as a family frequently. That may be fine on two incomes, but can you still afford to do so on one income? You may need to cut back.

8. Look at taxes withheld.

stay at home dad

Take a look at the taxes being withheld from your spouse’s paycheck once your family is down to a single income. The fact that your family is now living on one income means you can probably adjust the withholding so that you get more money now rather than a big tax refund. Big refunds feel like a windfall, but what they really mean is that you didn’t have that money earlier.

9. Talk about money.

Have a talk about your attitudes toward money, especially that only one person will be bringing it in for the family. A lot of tension can come from the bread winning parent feeling as though that money is his or hers, not both of yours. It’s just as important for the stay at home mom or dad to have spending money as it is for the working parent. Don’t let the “I earned it, it’s all mine” attitude ruin things.

There are many different ways to manage family finances, and you should choose the one that works for your family. Some want separate accounts, while others feel that there’s something wrong if you don’t keep all your money in a joint account. Find what works for your situation.

10. Consider or increase life insurance.

The expense of life insurance may seem like an unnecessary extra, but if your family is unfortunate enough to need it, you won’t regret the expense. Should one parent die, whether that’s the working parent or the stay at home one, the money from life insurance can help keep the family going.

11. Discuss how long you’ll stay at home.

What is your plan for being a stay at home parent? Is it just while the kids are babies? Until they go to kindergarten? Until they’re adults? Forever?

What you decide at the start may not be what you want forever. Some find that staying at home isn’t right for them. Some think they’ll only stay home for a while, but find it so good that they want to stick with it always. Some realize that while they love it, the financial aspects aren’t working out and that it’s necessary to go back to work.

However things seem to be going, talk about the stay at home decision occasionally to be sure everyone still considers it to be a good thing and to deal with problems as they come up. Don’t let issues fester.

12. Consider your retirement.

One major problem many long term stay at home parents don’t always take sufficiently into consideration is retirement. Not working for years will impact what you could get from Social Security. If you aren’t saving for your retirement even when you don’t have an income, it could become a problem in later years.

13. Consider part time work or work at home.

Not every family will be able to get by on a single income. My husband and I don’t. I earn pretty good money working at home – enough that it isn’t worthwhile for me to look for an outside the home job even though my kids are all school age and well able to handle most things without me.

make money by working at home

Working at home is a challenge, especially when it comes to getting started. Many jobs won’t work out if your kids are going to distract you. Think carefully when deciding what you want to do. Can your kids be quiet enough that you can do work at home customer service or would you be better off doing something else?

A home business is another good idea, if risky. Not every home business makes money. I like blogging and running my own websites because it’s fun and flexible. The money can vary quite a bit, of course.

Sometimes, a part time job when your spouse can be home is the best way to handle things. A part time job can also be nice for getting time with other adults. If a single income isn’t enough, make sure you find a way to bring in enough extra money so that your family doesn’t have trouble with debt.

14. Consider furthering your education.

Furthering your education can be very important when you’re a stay at home parent looking to return to work someday – or just because you want to learn more about something. If you take online classes, look carefully into the school to make sure it’s a good quality program – there are a lot of low quality schools out there.

An improved education may help you land a better job when you go back to work outside the home. It’s not a guarantee, even from a good school, as there’s still a gap in your paid work history, but it should help.

15. Keep up professional credentials.

Even if you don’t plan to go back to work soon, keep up any professional credentials you may have. If you need to go back to work, even part time, this can be a huge help in getting a better paying position.

16. Keep up professional contacts.

If you left a professional position to stay at home, keeping in contact with old coworkers and other professional contacts can be a huge help if you decide to go back to work. It’s not just about working outside the home – you may be able to use these contacts for freelance or work at home positions if you don’t want a regular position. Keeping your foot in the door can be a huge help if you need to increase your family’s income for any reason.

17. Learn to find bargains.

Knowing how to find bargains on the things you need can be a huge help when you’re a single income family. Seek out ways to save money on the things your family needs, but make sure you don’t buy things you don’t need just because the price was good.

stay at home mom

Clip coupons, go to thrift stores, pay attention to sales in local stores, buy in bulk when appropriate, find out what’s cheaper from programs such as Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. There are many ways to save money that won’t take up more time than you’re willing to give it.

I’m very fond of my local dollar store. It’s one of the few companies that regularly carries fresh produce in its stores. This allows me to keep a good supply of healthy, fresh foods in my home while spending less on them.

Not all dollar stores have produce, unfortunately, but they can have good bargains on other items. They may be worth adding to your shopping routine if you find a good store.

18. Cook more.

Eating home cooked meals is generally far more budget friendly than eating out. If this isn’t already a habit, make it one.

I love my crockpot and my Instant Pot. They’re each useful in their own ways on those busy days when it’s hard to figure out how to make meals at home.

I also buy meats in bulk at Costco, and then freeze them into meals. I don’t do the once a week cooking thing – instead, I prepare multiple meals all at once, including the one I’m cooking that evening. This way I have a number of meals at any time that I need only remember to defrost on time so I can cook it.

19. Learn to do basic home maintenance.

The more repairs you can handle around your home, the less you’ll have to spend on professionals. Painting is relatively easy, a project many people are comfortable with taking on, but you may find that you are capable of handling more than you think.

YouTube videos are great for do-it-yourselfers. If there’s a household repair that you’re willing to try, odds are that there’s a video to guide you through it.

That said, when professional help is called for, get it. A poorly done repair may cost more than the original problem would have if it had been fixed correctly the first time.

20. Don’t be too hard on yourself about mistakes.

It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you make financial mistakes when you stay at home. Maybe you overspend and have to take on some credit card debt. Maybe you didn’t prepare enough for unexpected bills, and ended up having a car repair ruin all your plans.

Whatever happens, take it as a lesson, and don’t be too hard on yourself. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re learning.

21. Adjust your plans.

Review your finances regularly. Make changes where things aren’t working or where they could work better. Not every money saving tip will work for every stay at home parent. There may still be times where convenience trumps money saved. On the other hand, you should also be able to find more ways to save money over time that will suit your lifestyle. Just because one thing isn’t working out doesn’t mean something different won’t work either.

Life can change pretty fast. You may be happy being a stay at home mom or dad, but then have to go back to work because your partner lost their job or was injured. Your plans now don’t have to be your plans forever. Be adaptable.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated May 8th, 2019

20 Simple Money Saving Tips And 3 That Aren’t Worth It

20 Simple Money Saving Ideas And 3 That Aren't Worth It

Many families are on tight budgets these days, and that can hold particularly true for families with a stay at home mom or dad. Getting by on a smaller income is challenging at times. Sometimes it’s the simple money saving tips that can help you get started.

Not all of the ideas here will be useful for everyone. If your budget is super tight, you’re probably doing most or all already.

At the same time, there are things you can do to save money that aren’t the best idea. These can cost you more money in the long run, and that’s a problem. Sometimes you have no choice, as it may be a choice between doing the thing and eating, but do your best.

20 Simple Money Saving Tips

1. Make a list before going shopping.

A shopping list is a great way to control what you spend at the store. If you can discipline yourself to sticking with the list, you can cut out those impulse purchases that add the small amounts that add up so quickly.

This idea is best combined with the next one:

2. Plan your meals for the week.

Having your meals planned out allows you to more easily make your shopping list and helps you avoid food spoilage, as you know what you’re going to use. Plan to use foods that spoil quickly earlier in the week.

This will also encourage you to eat more often at home, as you’ll know what you were planning on making. You’ll have less reason to eat out because you can’t decide what to make.

3. Make the most of leftovers.

Many people dread leftovers, but they don’t have to be that bad. Some can be frozen so that you eat them a while after you had the meal, rather than so close that you’re tired of that meal. Others can be made into entirely new meals.

4. Buy in bulk when it makes sense.

Buying in bulk does not always make sense. Sometimes it’s one of the worst moves you can make. But when it makes sense, it’s a good money saving move. Canned goods, rice, personal care items and so forth can be cheaper if bought in bulk. Be sure you compare the price per unit (ounces, for example) so that you know for certain that you’re getting a better deal. Sometimes the bulk price difference isn’t worth having to store the extra.

We buy rice at Costco, for example. It’s a huge bag, and most of it goes into our earthquake kit. That excess runs down as I go through the bag, but it ensures that at least some of the food in my earthquake kit is rotated regularly.

5. Just how many phones does your family need anyhow?

how many phones do you need?

Lots of families have more than one phone these days. Cell phone for mom, cell phone for dad, maybe even a cell phone for each of the kids, plus the landline phone for the house. Just how many of those do you really need?

The answer to this will vary depending on your family, but if you need to cut back on expenses, it’s worth reconsidering how many phones you have. Some families get by with no landline phone, but if it’s bundled in with your television or internet service you need to look at what you’d really save by cutting that line.

You may be able to replace some paid options with cheaper or free options. Look at the plan your cell phones are on, and make sure you have the most cost effective one for how your family uses them. My family uses Ting, and our combined bill is rarely over $40. We have four phone lines with them.

Look into services such as Google Voice for when you don’t need a cell phone. It’s a great way to have a free phone line for your home business. Keeping business and personal calls separate is a huge help.

6. Cancel subscriptions you don’t need.

Sometimes subscriptions and memberships are well worth the money. Other times they’re a waste of money you keep paying because you swear you’re going to use it again eventually. If you’ve been promising yourself that for a long time, it’s probably time to save your money and give up the subscription.

One thing we like to do is rotate through a variety of video services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so forth. There’s only so much you can watch at a time. Subscribe to no more than one or two at a time and you’ll have plenty to watch without paying for every service out there. Do it right, and you may be able to comfortably cut your cable subscription to save a bunch of money.

7. Walk.

Do you really need to drive everywhere you go? If you’re going someplace close and the weather is right, try walking instead. It takes a little more time, but it’s healthier and cheaper to walk.

If possible, have the kids walk to school. You can go with them if you like.

When we lived close enough, my kids always walked to school. Now that we aren’t so close, I miss it. Not only do I use a lot more gas now, but it takes more time out of my day… and I don’t even get into the pickup line early.

8. Use your local library.

You can get so much from the library

Libraries are a great resource that many people don’t take advantage of often enough. You can get books of all sorts to read for pleasure or to learn from. You can often order in books from other branches if your local branch doesn’t have a title you’re after.

Many also offer DVDs for rent. With all the streaming services available, the library may not be as appealing as it once was, but it may still be a good option for movie rentals.

9. Keep your car maintained.

Cars can get expensive sometimes. Basic maintenance adds up fast, and breakdowns can be even worse. Even so, that maintenance is important, as it keeps your car running longer and more efficiently.

Some things you can handle on your own, such as keeping tires properly inflated. This helps them wear more evenly, and improves your gas mileage.

Sometimes you will have to decide if a repair is worth doing before it’s urgent. My husband’s car had a transmission fluid leak that wasn’t causing problems as such yet, but eventually could have. It cost $400, but that’s better than what it might have cost later.

10. Sign up for free customer rewards programs.

Stores love customer rewards programs, as they give them a lot of data about your shopping habits. I don’t think the privacy lost is too big a deal, but not everyone likes sharing their shopping habits like that. In exchange, you get discounts on certain purchases. These can be quite significant.

That said, my favorite stores give you discounts without requiring the cards, but when the discount is offered, why would you skip it? You can keep some of your privacy by using a Google Voice or other number to sign up, rather than your home or cell phone number. Alternatively, get friends or family to agree on a single phone number to use, and all shop through that card.

11. Make the most of handmedowns.

If you knew how rarely I bought new children’s clothes when my kids were little, you might be shocked. I didn’t buy them much at all, despite having three children. I got plenty of handmedowns, and that solved most of their clothing needs.

They weren’t all from family either. I had friends with children give handmedowns as well. I don’t think I could add up how much handmedowns have saved me. Just be sure to reciprocate as possible.

12. Wait.

If it’s not an immediate need, try waiting before you buy. This is a great way to control impluse purchases at the mall or online.

Wait at least a couple hours, but several days is better. Get past that initial reaction so you know why you want to buy that item. The less it matters, the less likely you are to even remember that you wanted the item in the first place.

Yes, sometimes you’ll miss out. Odds are that it will be okay.

13. Don’t buy your kids so many toys.

too many toys

Kids will beg for just about any toy they see on television or online. Most won’t be played with all that much and won’t be worth the money they spent.

If you want your kids to be happy, spend more time with them and do things with them. Show them how to do things that don’t require so much equipment. There are lots of free ways to play with your kids.

14. Combine errands.

Gas prices have been pretty painful of late, making it all the more important that you use your car efficiently. The more errands you can take care of in a single trip out, the less gas overall you should be using, plus it’s a more efficient use of your time.

I do grocery shopping after dropping my kids off at school, for example. Not only does it help me save gas, as the store is near the school, it saves time since I’m not going out twice.

15. Find free places to go in your area.

It’s fun to get out as a family, but tickets to get into things can really add up. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do for free.

Pay attention to free events in your area. Your city’s website will often have a calendar of things that are going on. My area, for example, just had a music festival that was free to get into, although it would be all too easy to spend a fortune at the booths.

Take your kids to the park if you want a simple way to have fun together, or look for local hikes. You can make fun time out as a family without impacting your budget.

16. Hide your credit cards and debit cards.

Only carry these cards when you need them. You’ll need the debit cards sometimes to get cash, but other times you won’t need to have them with you.

Carrying these cards leaves you more tempted to spend extra money. You can’t do that if you limit yourself to the amount of cash you need at the moment.

17. Pay down debts.

money saving ideas can pay off

This is especially important for any high interest rate debts such as credit cards. Interest rates really eat up your minimum payments, so the more you can pay down your credit card debts, the better off you’re going to be in the long run.

Paying down credit cards is often difficult. When you’re carrying a balance on a credit card, there’s often a reason. If it’s due to poor spending habits, it’s time to work on that. But if you used them when your income wasn’t enough, it’s more difficult. You may need to find a way to make more money so you can pay off your credit cards.

18. Avoid bank fees.

Banks love fees. They make good money off some of them. It’s to your advantage to be aware of what’s going on with your accounts so you can avoid ATM fees, overdraft fees, monthly fees and so forth.

Take a good look at your monthly statements to see when you’re getting hit with a fee by your bank. Decide if it’s worth sticking with that bank if it’s a fee you can’t avoid, or how you can avoid that fee in the future if you could have avoided it.

There are a lot of online banks to choose from. Many offer better benefits than traditional banks. Look over the possibilities to see which would work for you.

19. Swap babysitting when you need a night out.

If you don’t have willing grandparents in the area available for babysitting, swapping babysitting with friends or family members is the next best thing. Trade off taking care of each others kids so you can all get breaks without spending a fortune on the sitter.

20. Learn to do basic repairs around your home.

If you have basic tool skills, there are a lot of repairs you can handle on your own around the house rather than call in a professional. Add in the resources available on the internet, and you may be able to fix things you didn’t realize you could.

YouTube is an amazing resource for learning how to do basic repairs in your home. I’ve used videos to do a variety of plumbing repairs. I’m too chicken to mess with electrical, though.

3 Money Saving Ideas That Aren’t Worth It

Not every money saving idea is brilliant or worth the trouble. Here are just a few that usually aren’t worth the money saved.

1. Dropping car insurance coverage.

insure your car

In many states, car insurance is required, making dropping the insurance even less worth your while, as you may have to prove you have it in order to register your car. But even if it’s not required, car insurance is worth the money it costs if you have an accident.

If you want to save money on car insurance, compare plans and make sure you have the best price for the coverage you need.

2. Buying bulk items you can’t use or store effectively.

Buying the right items in bulk is a great plan. On the other hand, buying bulk items you won’t use fast enough or can’t store properly is a huge waste of money.

Some bulk items will need to be broken down into smaller portions so that you can use them effectively. This costs money in the form of packaging, and so may not save you as much as you think.

If you buy meat in larger packages, for example, you need to have the freezer space to store the excess until you’re ready to use it. A large pack of toilet paper, on the other hand, is much easier to break up and store.

3. Buying the cheapest appliance with no regard for quality.

Whether it’s a blender or a washing machine, you should consider quality when buying an appliance for your home. It usually costs far more over time to buy several of the cheapest quality than one of a decent quality. You don’t necessarily have to go for top quality or the highest price, but buying appliances that do the job well and are expected to last should save you money.

You won’t always be able to buy better quality, of course. That’s one of the costs of being poor, that sometimes you have to spend more money in the long run because you don’t have enough money to buy better quality from the start.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 15th, 2019

7 Ways To Ensure Your Kids Have Bad Money Habits

7 Ways To Ensure Your Kids Have Bad Money Habits

Most parents want their kids to have good money habits. But they have to be learned and many parents don’t take enough time to teach their kids how to be smart about their money. Neither do most schools. That’s why so many kids have bad money habits.

Good financial habits are a help lifelong. Not only will it help your kids to manage their money better if you teach them good habits, it will decrease the odds that they’ll keep coming to you for loans when they’re adults. Not that you can’t help out when there’s true need, but it’s nice to know they have the skills to only ask when there really is need.

Not bothering to teach them now is so much easier at the moment, though! There are so many fun things you would love to do, and it’s easy to forget that you’re setting an example for your kids.

If you want your kids to have bad money habits, here are some of the things you probably do.

1. Use credit cards when you want it but can’t afford it.

Who cares that a new widescreen TV doesn’t fit in the budget? You have a credit card, and that TV would look great with the new entertainment center. Buy it now!

If this is the kind of example you set for your kids, why would you expect them to do any different when they’re old enough to have credit cards? They need that example of saving up for wants, and knowing the difference between wants and needs if they’re going to be smart about money.

dollar bills

2. Don’t talk about credit.

Credit cards are for fun, right? Kids don’t need to understand the finer details of how they work!

There’s a huge advantage in teaching kids as much as you can about credit cards and credit scores. A good credit score helps to get lower interest rates on major purchases such as cars and homes. It’s a huge advantage for them to understand how credit scores effect them when they reach that point in life.

At the same time, don’t teach them that having debt is a good thing. There are better ways of maintaining a credit score than by carrying a load of debt on a credit card. Using one to buy things and pay it off can help build a credit score. It can be a good habit, so long as the balance doesn’t get out of control.

3. Don’t save for a rainy day.

Rainy day, schmainy day. Why save up an emergency fund when there are so many things you could be buying instead?

Saving for a rainy day can be hard if your budget is tight, but it can keep you away from the credit cards when unexpected expenses pop up. If you can find a way to do it, those savings will be a huge help, well worth the sacifice.

4. Never talk about finances.

Your kids don’t need to know anything about family finances, whether they’re good or bad, right? They’re just kids!

It always amazes me how much kids can understand about the family’s financial situation. While you don’t need to stress them with your money problems, letting them know about monthly bills, how to save when you go shopping, and in general how to manage money is a good idea.

coin jar

5. Don’t encourage them to save money.

When your kids get an allowance, let them spend it as they please. They’ll figure out the rest eventually, right?

Kids love spending money. Many will spend all they have in one spot if they’re given the chance. Few have the habit of saving money naturally.

If you want them to learn to save, help them find a goal to save for. When they’re younger, it could be a particular toy. Older kids might save for an iPad or a phone.

When you’re ready, help them open a bank account. There are a variety of choices for kids bank accounts.

Another alternative is to use an app to help them keep track of what they’ve saved.

6. Don’t have them work for money, ever.

There’s a lot of back and forth about whether allowances should be earned or given. It’s a parenting choice, and you no doubt have your own thoughts on the matter.

But if you don’t want your kids to understand about money, just give them what they ask for, whenever. Don’t worry about why they want it or if they need what they’re asking for.

Having them do chores either for an allowance or for extra money can be a good teaching tool. So can having them run a little business, whether it’s the classic lemonade stand or babysitting younger kids in the neighborhood.

My own philosophy is that not all chores should be related to getting an allowance. Some things you should have your kids do just because they’re a part of the family and live in the home. What is expected depends on the age of the kids. Expectations increase with age and ability. It can be a tough balance at times, but it works out pretty well.

save money piggy bank

7. Never teach kids to make a budget.

Kids don’t have much money that they have to spend, so why bother with teaching them budgeting skills? They won’t need that skill for years!

That’s the key, right there. Eventually we all need budgeting skills. It’s not just about saving up for a goal. It’s about wise use of the money they have.

You can start by having the kids help with the family budget, or just a part of it. Go over grocery bills with them, and have them help you figure out how to manage it wisely. Take them grocery shopping with you so they can see how fast it all adds up. Show they what you do to save money on groceries.

Kids will often be surprised by how much things cost, but that’s a good thing. Better that they be surprised when they’re kids than when they’re adults and want to move out.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 25th, 2019

What Can Stay At Home Moms Do When A Money Crunch Hits Their Family?

What Can Stay At Home Moms Do When A Money Crunch Hits Their Family?

Having one parent stay home with the kids is often seen as a benefit to the family. One parent is always there for the kids, you don’t have to spend money on daycare, it just sounds better.

The only problem is that when finances get tight, you have less flexibility. There’s a certain financial sacrifice already when you have one parent stay at home, and when the one income drops or disappears suddenly, your family may be in trouble. How can you, as a stay at home mom or dad, help when the money crunch hits?

I’m going to assume at this point that you’ve already cut back on spending in the usual areas. You probably aren’t getting a daily Starbucks if money’s tight. You’re probably watching what you spend on groceries. It’s the most obvious and simplest step to take, even if it’s not without discomfort.

When money’s tight, don’t spend on the things your family doesn’t need, and know the difference between needs and wants. There’s a lot of ground in there, but you can find what works for your family.

Here are some other ways to help out with a money crunch while still being a stay at home mom.

Find a Way to Earn Money From Home

Whatever you do, don’t be desperate about this one. It’s easy to get scammed when you’re trying to get a work at home job or start a home business. You have to pay attention to what you’re getting yourself into.

Don’t expect miracles. Most people earning money from home don’t earn millions, or even thousands per month. If you find some good work to do, it’s still something you can contribute financially to your family.

Read up on how to earn money from home if you’d like more ideas on how to get started.

coins

Increase the Income You’re Already Earning

You might be earning money from home already, in which case it’s time to step things up and bring in more money. That can mean increasing your rates if you’re a freelancer, working harder on getting more sales if you’re an affiliate or if you sell your own products, or asking your employer for more hours if you have a work at home job. Find a new affiliate product to offer that complements the products you’re already offering.

The thing to remember if you’re already earning money is that you can find ways to increase it. It may not be easy, and may add to the stress in your life, but that’s often what it takes to dig yourself out of a bad financial position.

You might also take on a side gig. There are many flexible ways to earn money at home that can be added on to what you already do.

Get a Job Outside the Home

This can still be compatible with one parent staying at home. If your spouse is still working, just with a decreased income, consider taking on a job at night, and being the at home parent during the day. Working opposite shifts from your spouse sucks big time, but if that’s what it takes to support your family, you may have to do it.

If your spouse is completely out of work, it may also pay for both of you to look for work. It might just be that you trade who’s the one at home, assuming the parent who had been working can stand the switch. Not all can.

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Sell Things You Don’t Need

Selling things you don’t need only takes care of the short term, but that can be important in the long run. When my two oldest kids were small, my old car broke down, we didn’t have the money to replace it. We also realized we didn’t really need it. We lived in a very walkable area, and I arranged my errands around my husband’s work schedule.

Selling that car for the little bit it was worth not only brought in a little money, it cut down on insurance and gas costs. I almost hated replacing it when the time came that my husband’s car was no longer enough.

Garage sales can be pretty easy to organize, although you have to be ready for the over enthusiastic bargain shoppers. Some areas require you get a permit in order to hold a garage sale. Check with your local City Hall to see what’s required in your area. The money is quick, and you get rid of things you truly no longer need.

The same goes for selling on Craigslist. It’s a fast way to get some money, but probably not a complete solution.

Try Not to Rely on the Credit Cards Too Much

While it may be necessary to put more than usual on the credit cards when times are tight, do what you can to minimize that. Credit card debt can take a very long time to pay off, and can keep the financial stress up even after your income improves.

If you don’t have a choice in the matter, of course, use those credit cards. It’s better than losing your home.

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Find Free Fun Things To Do Together

Going through a money crunch is stressful. You have a lot of legitimate worries when money is tight.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

There are tons of free and cheap things you can do with your kids. Getting out and having fun as a family is a great stress reliever.

Just think about all the fun things you can do that won’t cost much at all. Anything from taking the kids to the park to having a family game night to finding free community events is possible.

The most important thing you can do when your family has money troubles is to find a way to work through it together. These things don’t last forever; they just require some extra effort to find your way through.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated September 27th, 2018

6 Keys to Smart Frugal Living

6 Keys to Smart Frugal Living

I prefer to live a fairly frugal lifestyle. While it’s in part due to the limitations of my family’s income, it’s also a personal preference. Being careful about how much you spend, even when you can easily afford it, is just sensible.

Be sure you’re doing smart frugal living, however. It’s not just “here’s the cheap way, let’s do that!” The immediately cheap way isn’t always the cheap way in the long run, after all. You have to consider the long term, at least as much as you can fit it into your budget.

1. Go for quality.

Within reason, you have to consider quality when you buy things. The cheapest product can cost more in the long run if you have to buy it more often than you would a more expensive product.

I’m fond of how Terry Pratchett has Samuel Vimes explain it in the Discworld novel, Men At Arms, in terms of the cost of boots. A cheap pair of boots would cost him $10, and last about a season or two. Better boots would run about $50, but would last for years. This leads him to reason that the rich don’t have to spend as much money on such things because they can buy products that will last longer and cost less in the long run.

Of course, most of us can’t always afford the things that will last best. Still, when better quality and longer lasting products are within your budget, it can be more frugal to spend the extra now, rather than spend more over the long run.

This is especially true for expensive things such as furniture and cars. You want these to last as long as possible, and some extra money spent now can save you more in the future.

Kids clothes, and shoes in particular, on the other hand, you should think about how long it will be until they grow out of them. Some things you really don’t want to overspend on. Buy better quality if they’re something that can be handed down, but if you know your child is going to ruin it, go for the quality that should last until they outgrow it.

We pay more attention to the quality of my son’s running shoes, for example, than my daughter’s, because he uses them hard and can wear them out before he outgrows them. He needs better quality so they last and we don’t have to buy more in the same size. By the time my daughter wears her shoes out, she usually needs a new size anyhow.

piggy banks

2. Buy only as much as you need.

This rule is especially important when it comes to food. About 40% of the food supply in the United States is thrown away every year.  That’s a lot of food wasted, and of course money wasted too.

Think about how you handle your grocery shopping. Do you buy in bulk because that’s what you’re going to use, or because it’s a lower price per unit, and you hope to use it before it goes bad? Are you only buying the fresh meat, dairy and produce your family will use before it goes bad? Do you eat the leftovers you put back in the fridge, or do you throw them out a week later? Do you know what the sell by dates really mean or when the expiration date really matter?

Food waste happens when you eat out too. It’s not just that eating in a restaurant costs more, it’s that the portions often result in a lot of food waste.

If you want to figure out how much you’re spending in restaurants, keep track for a month or three. You might be surprised. My family doesn’t eat out very often, but it adds up fast when we do. Eating at home is a much more frugal choice, and likely to be healthier as well.

This goes for other things too, of course. Think about what the right size wardrobe is for your needs. Rethink that next gadget, and so on.

Are you overspending on your home?

Buying as much as you need goes for the home you live in too. Your rent or mortgage is probably your biggest monthly expense. Cut this one down and you can slice hundreds of dollars per month off your expenses.

It can also be one of the most difficult to cut. Moving costs money. Finding a less expensive place to live that suits all of your needs can be difficult. But if you can make it happen you’ll do your finances a huge favor.

frugal living cat

3. Get repairs done right.

When something in your home or car needs repairs, get the job done right. This doesn’t mean be a sucker for every suggested repair, but to spend enough to have the job done right the first time so that you won’t have the thing break down again in a month or two. Mechanics and repairmen can sometimes suggest a cheaper alternative to what really needs to be done when you’re concerned about price, but that may only delay the work that really needs to be done.

Whenever possible, get it done right the first time… and know how they warranty their work in case something goes wrong again. I’ve had my mechanic repeat a repair for free because something didn’t go quite right the first time he did it.

Think carefully, however, before buying an extended warranty. Make sure you know what you’re really getting before you pay for it. Often they’re nothing more than an added expense and don’t give you anything in return. How often have you had something break during what would have been the extended warranty period?

I have bought the extended warranty for a few items, and for a couple, it was even worth it. My laptop developed a bad line across its screen just a few months before the extended warranty ended. The store had to install a new screen for me. I probably would have purchased a new laptop rather than replace the screen otherwise. Laptop screens are on the pricey and difficult side to replace. The store really grumbled about the whole process.

4. “Sale” doesn’t mean “buy now.”

We all love a bargain. Sales are wonderful ways to save money on the things you need, but they’re also great for getting you to spend more money than you should. Just because you see a good deal doesn’t mean you should forget to consider whether or not you need that item right then.

I find it helpful to remember that most items will go on sale again at a later date if it’s something I might need later, but not right now. Stores often have a cycle they go through for their sales. If you know how often things go on sale, you can buy them at a good price when you need them, not just because you saw the deal and didn’t want to pass it up. And if you don’t really need it, even a great deal on it shouldn’t matter at all.

This also goes for any dollar stores you visit regularly. I belong to a Facebook group for my favorite dollar store, and it amazes me how much stuff some people buy there. I mostly get food there (they have an amazing fresh produce section), but many people get all kinds of home decor and other stuff there. Some even get to the point where they know they’re overspending, but they can’t resist the bargains.

Overspending, even on super good deals, is not a part of smart frugal living. No matter how good the deal is, think about whether you need the item or not.

frugal garden

5. Consider your health.

Don’t be so frugal that you damage your health. Don’t be too cheap to eat right, go to the doctor and dentist, take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself in general now can save you a lot of money and discomfort in the long run. This can include simple activities such as taking regular walks to keep fit.

Unless your doctor says you need them, skip the vitamin supplements. Most do little more than give you expensive urine. Some vitamins can even damage your health if you take too much of them.

Make sure you pay attention during open enrollment times for your health insurance.  If your employer offers a variety of selections, you should review your coverage choices every year. You can save a lot of money if you switch to a cheaper plan that still offers all the coverage you need. You won’t find a cheaper plan every time, but it can be a huge deal when you do.

If you have space, starting a garden can be a wonderful source of fresh produce. Even an apartment balcony may be used to grow tomatoes and other vegetables in pots. Think about your favorite vegetables and see if there’s a way you can grow them. So long as you don’t overspend on supplies, this can help you save money.

We planted fruit trees when we moved into our home as a way to save money in the long run. The trees are still young and don’t produce a lot yet, but in years to come, they’ll give us a lot of fruit to enjoy.

And of course, gardening is a nice form of exercise. It’s not terribly strenuous most of the time, but it gets you outside and doing things. That’s good for your health too.

growing money

6. Remember that smart frugal living only takes you so far.

Smart frugal living can help you reach a lot of financial goals, but it may not take you as far as you’d like. There are more important things to consider.

Increasing your income, for example, can do far more for your financial situation than most steps you take to live frugally. A raise from your current job can be a help, but sometimes finding a better job will do far more.

What you do with your savings matters as well. If being frugal is the only thing keeping you going financially, you may not have a lot of options. But if your frugality leaves you with money beyond what you need to live on, consider doing one of these things with it:

  • Pay off any remaining credit cards.
  • Pay off student loans.
  • Set up an emergency fund.
  • Put money into a 401(k).
  • Put money into a Roth IRA.
  • Contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA).
  • Save toward a down payment on a home if you don’t own one.
  • Save toward a vacation.

Also remember that no matter how frugal you are, spend money on things because they’re fun once in a while. Take a family vacation. Go on a date.

These things don’t always have to cost a lot of money. A trip to a local campground can be a wonderful, memorable family experience. The same goes for a day at a local museum.

If you want to spend more money on experiences, have your family come up with ways to save money up for it. You can make that family vacation to Disneyland all the more memorable if you give the kids the pride of having helped save up for it.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.