Last Updated January 3rd, 2018

The Financial Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

 

The Financial Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

The decision to become a stay at home mom or dad is usually not made lightly. There can be significant financial consequences, both to the family and to the parent who stays home with the kids. But there can also be financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad, and these are worth considering.

No Daycare Costs

The cost of daycare for young children is significant, and this is often a large part of why a mom or dad may choose to stay at home. The more kids you have, the more this costs. Sometimes a family comes to the realization that one paycheck is going almost entirely to the cost of daycare. There is little point in working outside the home if all your money goes to that.

The cost of childcare in much of the United States is higher than the cost of attending an in-state public college. This is why it’s difficult for many families to keep both parents working if they have more than one child – too much income goes to daycare.

I live in California, and according to the Child Care Aware map, the cost of in-home child care for an infant is $7,678. It’s $11,817 for a daycare center. The costs are a little less than double that if you have an infant and a 4 year old in childcare. That’s a lot of income out of your paycheck. Getting rid of that is a huge financial benefit.

These numbers get better, of course, once the kids go to public school and need less daycare. They’re pretty much irrelevant for me now, as my oldest is 15 and my youngest is turning 9 soon. That’s why so many parents go back to work once the kids are in school – you can earn enough to make things worthwhile more easily.

Income Taxes

Your income tax burden may drop when one parent has no income. Not only do you have less income to tax, you may fall into a lower tax bracket. The change in tax bracket, of course, depends on how much the family earned with both parents working versus having just one work.

Remember that the higher tax bracket only applies to the income above the previous bracket. The income below that is taxed at the lower rate. This makes estimating your taxes difficult, but you can give it a good shot if you want actual numbers to work with.

Spending Goes Down

Your family can decrease spending in many ways with a stay at home mom or dad. It’s not just about child care.

A stay at home parent’s wardrobe costs less than a professional wardrobe, as a general rule. Pretty much everything can be washed at home rather than dry cleaned, which helps as well. How much of a benefit this depends significantly on the job the parent had before.

Stay at home parents eat lunches out less as a general rule too. They also don’t grab coffee out as often as parents who work outside the home. Getting coffee and a little something for breakfast on the way to work can easily run $5 a day. When stay at home parents do go out, on the other hand, it’s usually with the kids, so things can add up a little faster.

These savings can also extend to dinner. Having a parent at home makes it easier for that parent to cook meals at home, so the family eats out less in the evenings too.

A stay at home parent can do a lot to help the family live more frugally. They have time to find the best deals on groceries and other things the family needs. Food is one of the major expenses for a family, and there are many ways to save money in this area.

Transportation Costs

The stay at home mom or dad no longer has commuting expenses. This can be a huge savings. We went through a time when we had only one car because I drove so little. The savings was incredible, as that means we only paid for insurance on one car, having sold the other. Where we live now, it’s not practical to have just one car, but my insurance premiums are pretty low since I still don’t drive as much as someone who commutes.

Your transportation expenses will probably go up some as the kids get older and go to school or join activities. How much of an impact this has depends on how far away these things are – I was able to walk my kids to and from school for years.

No Hidden Work Expenses

Working outside the home can have some hidden expenses beyond commuting and clothes. Consider the social side of working in an office. Some of these expenses don’t come up often, while others are more frequent.

Some places have employees contribute to a coffee fund, for example, so that coffee is always available for everyone. There may also be requests for contributions for birthday gifts, baby showers and retirement gifts for coworkers throughout the year.

While all these things are pretty small in most places, they can add up through the year.

Better Career Focus For The Working Parent

The parent who continues to work outside the home can put their complete focus on their career when the other parent stays at home. They don’t have to worry about being called home when one of the kids gets sick. Staying late to finish a project is easier when you don’t have to worry about being on time to get the kids from daycare, which also looks good to employers.

This makes that parent look more dedicated to their employer, and may improve his or her chances at advancing their career. This benefit can be hard to define because it depends on so many factors, but it can be significant.

Time To Improve Your Education

Taking some time to improve your education while you’re a stay at home parent is an expense, but you may be able to make that into a financial benefit when you return to work.

There are a lot of online education options these days. You might decide to learn to be a medical coder while you’re at home so that you can earn money. You might look at getting a degree from an accredited college.

Improving your education is never a guarantee that you will earn more money when you go back to work, but you do improve your chances. This can help make up for the opportunties lost while raising your family.

You Can Work From Home

Working from home is a benefit I strongly recommend to stay at home moms and dads. My income has saved us many times. Several years ago my husband was laid off from the job he held at the time, and the fact that I was bringing money in meant that it was a complication, but not a complete financial disaster.

Working at home is so affordable in most ways. Costs will depend on what you do, but many work at home jobs and online businesses don’t add a lot to your monthly expenses. If you need only your computer and your internet connection, well, these are things you’re paying for anyhow.

It is not easy to get started working from home for most people. Work at home jobs can be challenging to find, and businesses… are businesses. It takes time to make one into a success and there are no guarantees that you will ever succeed with an online business. On the other hand, they’re cheap. It costs very little to start a blog, for example.

I strongly recommend working at home, at least a little, when you’re a stay at home parent. A single income family can be hit hard if anything happens to the breadwinner parent. Unemployment, disability, divorce, and death are all things you probably won’t see coming but can happen to any family. Working from home gives your family a buffer against these problems.

These financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad aren’t meant to dismiss the very real financial risk a stay at home parent takes. I’ll be covering that next.

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 December 6th, 2017

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas

My kids really enjoy when we use the Elf on the Shelf. My older two don’t much care what the elves do, aside from laughing when we do something particularly funny, or snagging their share of candy when candy is involved. As we’re a bunch of science fiction geeks around here, so I’m often working on geeky Elf on the Shelf ideas. That way it’s more fun for me.

We have two elves. The first is Peppermint, the second is Cocoa. Cocoa started last year as an elf in training when we couldn’t find Peppermint for a while. This year, Cocoa is still around, helping Peppermint while waiting for a permanent position. I made Peppermint poseable, but Cocoa isn’t

The challenge is deciding which fandom to use. There are so many choices.

I started out simple this year. The elves have been messing with my dragon, Norberta. Peppermint started things out by stealing Norberta’s eggs (the eggs were made in the thumbtack, Game of Thrones style) and putting them in the fridge with the regular eggs. Peppermint hid the next night in the cat carrier because Norberta was after her. She has since tried to use Minecraft TNT to blow Norberta up. The feud continues.

Elf on the Shelf dragon egg

Elf on the Shelf hiding from dragon

Minecraft stuff is easy to make. The TNT is paper. The emerald egg Peppermint is holding was made for a Minecraft themed birthday party some years ago and is made of Perler beads. Perler beads are great for making Minecraft stuff if you can spare the time.

Elf on the Shelf Minecraft TNT

There are so many fandoms to work with, and you may have some of the things you need for geeky Elf on the Shelf poses on hand.

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Basics

Take a look around your house to see what you have to make this easy. Funko Pop vinyl figures make it easy to have characters from just about any fandom. Disney Infinity characters are very useful, as are Lego Dimensions and Lego building sets your kids have made.

Dolls, action figures, and anything else you and your kids have for shows you love help as well. Plan things out so that you can easily reach what you need while the kids are sleeping.

I scout things out while the kids are at school. Usually, even my older kids don’t know what I plan for the next day. This is more fun for those ideas that they actually like.

I do not focus on the idea that the elf is spying for Santa. I’m honestly not fond of that part, so we ignore it. My kids have heard that one from friends, not from me. Our Elf is more fun and has been known to do thing such as replace the ice in the ice maker with candy. That was a really fun one. A lot of work, but worth it.

Elf On The Shelf With Harry Potter

My oldest loves Harry Potter stuff, so we have done quite a bit with that fandom. This one with Harry Potter and Peppermint going up against Voldemort was an easy setup. The elf’s wand is a bamboo skewer cut down to size.

Elf vs Voldemort

The most fun Peppermint has had, however, has been chasing Niffler around. I got my oldest well with that one. Peppermint chased Niffler all around the house for days as Niffler stole shiny things. My daughter was quick to ask to have the Niffler figure when we were done with it. It was a stocking stuffer for her.

Elf vs Niffler

This year I might have Niffler bring in some candy in shiny wrappers. Not chocolate coins – the chocolate in those is usually awful. Some Ghirardelli squares might work. Not that Niffler will make them easy to reach.

Many other people have done a lot with Harry Potter and the Elf on the Shelf. Rather than recreate them, take a look at these links.

A Little Moore has a sorting hat printable.

This Harry Potter meets Elf on the Shelf idea on Pinterest is cute.

Elf On The Shelf Vs. Disney Infinity Characters

As I said above, the Disney Infinity characters give so much range to set up your Elf on the Shelf. Disney owns so many popular franchises that kids adore. We have rather a lot of characters in our Infinity set because my sister handed down a bunch when she got tired of having duplicates.

That means we can do the simple “horde of characters attacking the elf” scene very easily.

elf vs disney infinity

With the various Star Wars characters, I decided Peppermint needed her own lightsaber. This was easy to make.

I used a bamboo skewer and some nail polish. I have a nice, bright green nail polish, so that was the best choice for Peppermint’s lightsaber. The handle was painted with my black polish.

Paint an appropriate length of the skewer for the lightsaber. It will take a couple coats. I stuck the unpainted end into the edge of a cardboard box so the polish could dry. Once it was completely dry, I cut off the excess and painted the ends with the nail polish. To let those dry, I set up some other skewers and laid it across them so the ends wouldn’t touch anything as they dried.

elf lightsaber

Now Peppermint can join the Jedi in battle. Or will she betray them? Who knows.

elf vs jedi

Stitch is another fun character for an Elf on the Shelf to play with. Who else gives the elf so good an excuse to get a little messy or get into the food?

elf Stitch eating fruit

Especially the candy.

elf Stitch and candy

There’s always the good old snowball fight with Elsa and Anna. I used cotton balls because one of my cats would eat the marshmallows if I used those for a snowball fight. My kids like to use cotton balls for summer snowball fights anyhow. It’s kind of a thing around here.

elf vs Elsa

Peppermint also had a nice chat with the feelings from Inside Out. If I had some Orbeeze or other small, colored balls there’s more that could be done there, but without that, they just relaxed together.

elf and inside out

Given the range of Disney Infinity characters that we have, I could probably do the entire season using nothing but them. That would get dull, though, wouldn’t it?

The Elf And The Doctor

We have some Doctor Who fans around here, so naturally Peppermint has to play along. In fact, the Doctor should be careful, because the elf has the Tardis. Okay, it’s just a Lego Tardis, but there still might be a problem.

the elf has the tardis

Peppermint and the Doctor can have a lovely chat, aside from what’s behind them… what was I talking about?

elf doctor silence

I don’t know what Peppermint is doing to my router with the sonic screwdriver, but I hope it speeds up.

elf router

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas With Other Fandoms

Around here, you can’t forget the other animated shows, anime or manga. My kids especially enjoy movies by Studio Ghibli. So naturally, soot sprites make an appearance.

elf soot sprites

They’ll have to hide shoes some other time.

Soot sprites are very easy to make. Black puff balls and googly eyes make very simple ones. You can use black pipe cleaners if you want to give them legs, but I’m too lazy for that. I used a hot glue gun to attach the eyes, but you can use whichever glue works for you. I like how fast it dries and how well it holds.

Peppermint seems to enjoy manga. It’s easy to set an elf up with whichever book your kids like. I’m not sure if I should be concerned that Peppermint is reading Death Note, however.

elf death note

I couldn’t resist bringing Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls into the game. My oldest still loves that character from the show – she dressed up as him for Halloween. So, I had Bill give the elf some advice.

Bill Cipher and elf

Finally, I have to mention the cute, printable Elf on the Shelf superhero costumes over at Simple Made Pretty. They’re an easy way to dress up your elf as the superheroes your kids like.

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 November 16th, 2017

Kid Gifts to Encourage Creativity

Kid Gifts to Encourage Creativity

Buying kid gifts is one of those things that can drive me up the wall. My kids are old enough to want a lot of things, and what they want keeps getting more and more expensive. That doesn’t mean they always get what they want – far from it – but it does make finding appropriate gifts within a budget challenging at times.

Kid gifts that encourage creativity are among my favorites. Kids enjoy movies and such, but creative toys really encourage them to explore. What works well varies quite a bit with age, of course.

One of the challenges can be that a lot of creative activities are messy. Painting, for example. My kids have a lot of supplies to allow them to create, and it does create a mess sometimes. But it means I know they’re having a good time expressing themselves.

Younger Kid Gifts

Magic CabinMagic Cabin isn’t itself a gift – it’s an online store. Their toys, however, are wonderful for encouraging kids to be creative. They have building toys, toys to encourage kids to play make believe, art supplies and so much more. It’s so much fun just looking at what they have.

HearthSongHearthSong is another online store I love to look at. They have wonderful creative play and outdoor play toys. Some of their exclusives look really amazing.

Cardboard Playhouse – One of the best gifts that my husband ever gave our kids didn’t cost any money at all, just time. He got a two layer cardboard box from Home Depot by having the night crew save it for him. He taped it closed on top, then cut appropriate doors and windows for a playhouse. This allowed the kids to color on it as they liked. The double thickness of cardboard meant that kids could safely climb on top.

If you like that idea but don’t want to cut one out, there are cardboard playhouses available at Amazon.

LEGO – When you’re talking about kids gifts that encourage creativity, you can’t skip LEGO. There are so many things kids can do with them. There are LEGO sets to go with just about anything your kids like. Personally, I’ve always loved the plain block sets where the kid gets to decide what they’re making. The sets where you’re supposed to make a particular item always struck me as a little limiting.

My Wall EaselMy Wall Easel by ALEX Toys is a great idea. Your kids can have fun drawing, and it doesn’t take up floor space. Kids can use a roll of paper or the chalkboard. The one problem I’ve always had with easels is the floor space they take, so this is great.

Perler Beads – It amazes me how long kids can sit and play with Perler beads. One year they even made homemade party favors with them for a Minecraft themed birthday party. Perler beads were perfect for that job.

These obviously require some adult interaction when the kids are too young to use an iron on their own. If you get more than one board, you can iron out a few at once rather than waiting for the kids to finish something.

Snap CircuitsSnap Circuits are one of the best toys we ever got for my son. My daughters played with them a little, but not like my son did. He was in second grade when we got them, and quickly mastered them. He has even done demonstrations at school with his Snap Circuits, and this is my quiet kid who hates to speak up in class.

If your kid ends up loving Snap Circuits, save on batteries and get the Battery Eliminator. It connects to the Snap Circuits set in place of the batteries. It plugs into the wall instead.

Garden Tools – Age appropriate garden tools are great for kids. They love to dig!

When possible, I’ve given my kids their own place to garden in the yard. They decide what to plant, if anything. They can just dig if they like. My oldest loved fairy gardens for a time when she was little. My youngest has a thing for marigolds. Whatever the kids do, it’s fun to just let them do it on their own.

Play Kitchen, Tool Bench, etc. – A play kitchen, tool bench or whatever suits your kids will encourage a lot of creative play. Children love to do things similar to what they see adults do.

If you want to get more realistic, go for an Easy Bake Oven or real cooking tools they can use in your kitchen. Real tools to make things are great as kids get older too.

Art SuppliesArt supplies of all sorts are ideal for encouraging creativity. We have a cabinet where the kids keep all their art supplies. Crayons, colored pencils, pens, paint, all kinds of paper, clay, play dough, glitter, craft foam – the list goes on and the cabinet gets cluttered. But that’s all part of the fun.

Lessons – What does your child want to learn? Art lessons, dance lessons, music lessons… what do they want to do? Learning how to do these things can help them quite a bit with their creativity, and makes great kid gifts. There are often good classes available locally.

Teen And Older Kid Gifts

As kids get older, they are so much harder to shop for. They also have a better idea of in which direction they want to direct their creativity. Some will make it difficult, however, and insist that they aren’t creative at all. Don’t believe them! Everyone can be creative; it’s just a matter of figuring out what type of creativity they enjoy.

YouTube videos can be great for helping teens improve their skills. There are lots of “how to” videos for just about anything your teen can imagine.

Art Supplies – Just because the kids are older doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy the right art supplies. My oldest daughter still loves to draw, so better quality colored pencils are good for her. My son is into steampunk, so supplies to work on that are better for him.

Drawing Tablet – Art on the computer may be more fun lots of kids, and a drawing tablet is a huge help. My oldest daughter has one, and she likes it. It’s a great tool for drawing on the computer.

Musical Instruments – While some musical instruments for kids could almost be considered instruments of torture, things improve as the kids get older. They get better at playing their instruments and may appreciate something of better quality.

Tools – As kids get older and reach their teenage years, real hand tools are definitely in order. Teach them to use the basics such as hammers, screwdrivers and glue guns. Then take it farther, depending on your own skills with tools and what you have available. A good set of tools that is all their own may serve them for life.

Soldering Kit – Take an interest in electronics up a notch from Snap Circuits and teach your child to solder. It’s also a useful skill for a teen who wants to make jewelry.

Camera – A decent quality camera all their own can be very encouraging to the older kid or teen interested in photography. It’s a creative skill that can be a lot of fun to practice. Younger kids enjoy this too, but a teen who enjoys photography can easily be encouraged. A cell phone camera is good enough for a lot of photos, but it’s not the same as having a camera that is just a camera.

Lessons – If your child has been taking lessons and enjoying them, keep them up. If there’s something they want to start, go for it.

Independent Outings – Make sure your older kids and teens get out and do things on their own. Gifts to encourage this could include movie tickets or gift cards to places they would like to go. They’ll be adults all too soon. They need to get used to acting independently so they’re ready to head off to college or career when the time comes. If they’re used to creative thinking and problem solving, so much the better.

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 November 3rd, 2017

Kidde Fire Extinguisher Recall – Have You Checked Your Fire Extinguishers?

Kidde Fire Extinguisher Recall - Have You Checked Your Fire Extinguishers?

On November 2, 2017, Kidde issued a recall of their plastic handled fire extinguishers. This impacts about 37.8 million fire extinguishers. It’s a great reminder of why you should pay attention to product recalls. No one wants their fire extinguisher to fail them.

Take a moment right now to find your fire extinguishers. If you don’t have any, consider it a reminder that a fire extinguisher is a good addition to any home.

Check the Kidde fire extinguisher recall page on their site. The fire extinguishers may have been purchased in the United States, Canada or Mexico. Customers in Mexico have to call in; customers in the US or Canada can fill out an online form.

I did this for our four Kidde fire extinguishers. You fill in a form with your contact information, including mailing address. They have you look up the model number, and then fill in the serial number. When we did this, they confirmed that our extinguishers were recalled, and said we will get new ones within 15-20 days, along with instructions on what to do with the old ones.

The problem with these fire extinguishers is that they can become clogged and not spray. There’s also a potential for the nozzle to come off, which could cause an injury.

Talk About Your Emergency Plans

We used this opportunity to talk to our kids a little about how to use a fire extinguisher. Hopefully, they never need to use one, but if they do, it helps if they have a vague idea what to do. We didn’t have them try one out, however.

Another good thing to discuss at times like these is what to do in the event of a fire. Kids, for example, should be more focused on getting out of the house than on trying to put most fires out. They need to know how to get out of the house and where to meet. They may need to know neighbors well enough to feel comfortable knocking on doors to alert them or ask for help.

A recall like this is a great reminder to keep an eye on product recalls in general. You can follow RSS feeds from the CPSC to make this easier if you like, or just check the website here and there. Local news will usually cover the big recalls such as this one, but not the little ones. If you haven’t checked yet, make sure you know if the Kidde fire extinguisher recall impacts you.

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 October 24th, 2017

50 Free Or Cheap Ways To Play With Your Kids

50 Free Or Cheap Ways To Play With Your Kids

When was the last time you played with your kids?

Playtime with your kids can be hard to fit into your schedule. Life gets so busy between work, school, and activities. The days go by, and you realize it has been a long time since you did anything fun as a family. It’s helpful to think of free and cheap ways to play with your kids in advance, so you can be spontaneous about it later.

Play is one of the big ways kids and parents build memories together. Fun kinds of work builds memories too – think of something you made with one of your own parents. But that kind of work is often close to play as well.

Play is important at all ages. The kind of play your kids consider fun will change as they get older – you do not want to play with your kids in elementary school the same as you would a high school student. You’ll get major eye rolls if you try most of the time. There are only a few things that will keep being fun no matter your child’s age, and that will in part depend on his or her personality.

50 Free Or Cheap Ways To Play With Your Kids

  1. Build a couch fort.
  2. Play dress up.
  3. Make homemade ice cream.
  4. Bake cookies.
  5. Bake a cake from scratch.
  6. Make homemade pizza.
  7. Have a tea party.
  8. Have a water balloon fight.
  9. Have a squirt gun fight (try it in the rain!).
  10. Run through the sprinklers.
  11. Go swimming.
  12. Have a picnic.
  13. Make an obstacle course.
  14. Teach your child to do flips, cartwheels, etc.
  15. Have a scavenger hunt.
  16. Ride bikes.
  17. Go on a hike.
  18. Fly kites.
  19. Play their favorite sport together.
  20. Stargaze, especially if there’s a meteor shower.
  21. Camp in the backyard.
  22. Climb trees.
  23. Go geocaching.
  24. Plant a butterfly garden in the spring, and observe the results for months after.
  25. Catch bugs. A bug vacuum is helpful for getting a good look.
  26. Teach your kids to sew. A stuffed toy snake is easy (just a tube).
  27. Play a board game.
  28. Have an indoor “snowball fight” with cotton balls.
  29. The floor is lava.
  30. Blow bubbles (try touchable bubbles and build with them).
  31. Draw with your kids (consider a speed drawing challenge).
  32. Go to a playground and both of you play.
  33. Play Mad Libs.
  34. Pretend to be animals.
  35. Home spa day. You paint their nails, they paint yours.
  36. Play with Legos.
  37. Make origami.
  38. Solve a jigsaw puzzle.
  39. Play video games together.
  40. Pillow fight!
  41. Play tag, hide and go seek, etc.
  42. Play Simon Says.
  43. Act out a play.
  44. Paint.
  45. Make a cosplay outfit.
  46. Fly quadcopters.
  47. Build something together.
  48. Launch rockets.
  49. Bad movie night – pick a movie you know is awful and have fun picking it apart.
  50. Movie marathon – pick a favorite series and watch them together. Try to stay up all night if necessary.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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.