“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16, NIV)
When One Parent Wants to Stay Home
Many parents want to stay home with their children but aren’t sure how to make it work. Maybe the mother makes the greater income of the two. Possibly the family is used to a higher standard of living which requires both of them to work.
We want to encourage you with this thought. There will likely be multiple job opportunities for you throughout your life. However, your children will grow up and leave home before you know it. There is no substitute for parental interaction in the lives of children. No amount of money, no expensive vacation once each year, no amazing new technological toy. Nothing can take its place.
Advantages of Staying at Home
Staying at home with your child has many advantages. Principal among them is the fact that you know your child is being cared for by somebody who loves them. Parents have a unique dedication to a positive outcome in their children. They will also be with them long-term. By staying home, you’ll be the one to determine the environment they are raised in. Also, you’ll be there for all of the special moments, such as rolling over, sitting up, walking, learning to use a crayon, learning to read, etc.
Many parents end up feeling frustrated by trying to balance family and work. After working hard all day at their jobs, they come home to a to-do list. This might include grocery shopping, cleaning the house, paying the bills, etc. On top of that, most parents want to spend some quality time together as a family.
For families in which both parents work all day, trying to prepare a nutritious home-made dinner may be next to impossible. Instead, the family may often eat out at a restaurant or order take-out food, which is typically more expensive and less nutritious than eating at home.
Calculate Whether Your Family Can Afford It
Try calculating your family’s expenses to find out if one of you can afford to stay home from work. It’s important to calculate all of the expenses. Start by making a list of all of your family’s fixed monthly expenses. This would include rent or mortgage payments, car payments, health insurance, utilities, contributions to college savings plans or retirement, loan repayments, investments, monthly food bills, etc.
Next, add in all of the variable costs you can think of. Include costs related to transportation, such as gas purchases, oil changes, car washes, maintenance, and parking. Then tally up cell phone and cable TV subscriptions, beauty salon treatments, gym memberships, music or other lessons, sports clubs, magazine or newspaper subscriptions, Starbucks habits, vacations, meals eaten at restaurants, vacations, clothing, and pet costs.
Add in an estimate of unanticipated home repairs, and any uncovered medical services. The last thing you’ll do include a cushion for family fun times. This might include going to the movies or an entertainment park.
Keep a pad of paper with you everywhere you go, and keep track of every expense, no matter how small. It may be easier to collect all of your receipts in an envelope in your purse and total them at the end of every day or week. Regardless of how you do it, expect to be surprised at where your family funds are really going!
Cost of Childcare
Let’s imagine that you are considering staying home to care for your child, and want to begin by examining costs. This will depend mainly on where you live. For instance, child care in New York City could cost double or triple what it would cost in a cheaper area like Birmingham, Alabama, based on the lower cost of living and lower wages there.
The annual cost of childcare in 2018 for children ages 3 and under in the United States ranged from $4,822 (Mississippi) to $22,631 (Washington D.C.) per year.
Young children need more hands-on care than older kids. This requires more caregivers in the center, which translates to higher costs for the parents.
Cost of Staying in the Workforce
After you have calculated these expenses for at least one month, make a list of the expenses you could cut or avoid by staying home. You may not have realized how many costs are involved in you going to work. Commuting and parking fees, dry cleaning and beauty salon services, take-out meals, housecleaning and yard services, and childcare expenses can add up to hundreds of dollars monthly per child.
Don’t forget to include before- and after-school care, summer camps, extra-curricular classes, and infant care. You may also find that by quitting your job, your family can move into a lower tax bracket. Subtract these savings from your current monthly costs to find the Potential Spending Costs with one of you at home.
Do the Math
Now it’s time to put together all of the numbers. Start with your total income, after taxes. Subtract all of your fixed monthly expenses. Use the list you created after realizing the savings with one parent at home. Once you have done this, look carefully at the numbers. Does it make sense and is it even possible for one parent to stay home?
If you are still having trouble making the numbers work, sit down together as a couple. Try to think of some more creative solutions. Would your employer allow you to work from home? Is it possible to work part-time, or work different shifts so that one parent is always home? Can you take on the care of additional neighborhood children during the week? Are there ways you can cut back on monthly expenses such as entertainment, coupons, eating out less frequently, etc.?
Be sure to look at all of the options together, and pray about your decision. In the end, both parents need to be in agreement.
Factors to Consider
Don’t forget to total up benefits that you will lose over the years you spend staying home with your children. These might include pension, social security, retirement, and other such benefits. Depending on how long you stay at home, you also might have to take a pay cut for years away from work once you decide to reenter the workforce. The time away may also make it difficult to return at the same level you were at when you left.
Creative Ways to Work from Home
Find creative ways to make money while staying at home. I supplemented our family’s income by teaching aerobics classes at the YMCA. This covered our family’s gym membership and also paid an hourly wage. I also starting an Internet-based wedding music contracting business and taught private music lessons. Using coupons and taking the time to shop carefully also lowered our family’s outgoing costs considerably.
The possibilities for making money from home are endless. You might offer childcare services for other families in your neighborhood. Try starting up an internet business such as buying and selling items on eBay. Cook double meals and sell them to busy mothers in your neighborhood. Make and sell craft items, or teach private lessons such as piano or art to neighborhood children. Walk the neighbors’ dogs, or start up a neighborhood ice cream business with your kids.
Creative Ways to Save Money
At Christmas, my mother gave us an annual zoo pass. I took the kids there three times weekly when they were young. We packed bag lunches and snacks instead of buying expensive food at the zoo. That way, we were able to enjoy the zoo year-round at no cost.
Milwaukee also has an excellent interactive children’s museum. For another Christmas gift, I asked my mom for an annual pass, and we enjoyed the museum weekly year-round. In the summer we drove to a nearby lake to swim instead of paying for a summer pool pass.
There are many fun things you can do that don’t cost money. Take advantage of free days at the local science and art museums. Most local Attend a weekly story hour at your local library. Then stick around and check out all of the cool things your library has to offer!
There are many online resources to help you find creative ways to raise your family on a shoestring budget. If you really want to stay at home with your kids, be creative, keep trying and don’t give up!