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.
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.
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.