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Staying Home With Your Kids When You Can Barely Afford It

I had the privilege of meeting Erin from The Humbled Homemaker recently. She’s such a beautiful woman — both inside and out. Contentment and joy just radiates from her and you’d never know that she and her husband are living on a beans and rice budget.

That’s why I was so blessed to read this post from her on how they are surviving on a small income. If you are currently hoping to find a way to be a stay-at-home mom on a very small budget, I think you’ll be blessed immensely by her post. Here’s a snippet:

People often ask how I can be a stay-at-home mom when we can barely afford it.

“Rice and beans,” I tell them. “Rice and beans.”

But in all seriousness, to use the old cliche, when there is a will, there is {often} a way.

I won’t pretend it’s easy. My husband is a high school teacher (and a pretty amazing one, I might add!). He makes a true difference in the lives of his students. But the pay is slim. He gets paid the end of every month, and some months, our pantry and fridge are mostly bare those last few days.

Staying at home on a moderately low income means that when our third child was born, we decided we’d continue to live in the 2-bedroom townhouse we rent instead of paying several hundred more dollars a month for a 3-bedroom. That’s just beyond our means–and we strive to live at or below our means.

Read the full post.

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  1. says

    I really enjoyed your perspective on limiting shopping trips to help stay within your budget…those stores can be so tempting. I have just been shopping at Walmart and price matching to help eliminate multiple shopping stops and reduce temptation to buy additional items. I love being a stay at home mom and feel so blessed that our budget allows me to do so. I just wish these days would slow down a little bit so I can have more time with my three girls. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Rachael P says

    This is my most favorite article in a long time here! My hubby works full time but makes under $20k. I teach a couple afternoons at a music academy to supplement but with both incomes combined, we’re still at the poverty level for a family of 4, soon to be 5. It is definitely hard but I wouldn’t really have it any other way. We’re still able to save a little money and we’re able to give too. Thanks for the encouragement!!

  3. Sandy says

    Like a saty-at-home mom, I am a stay-at-home daughter. I too, have to watch every penny for I am without any income. I utilize my savings to survive, pay for every day needs, and supply for my mom whatever she needs which isn’t covered by insurance. I am extremely cautious and purchase only what I need. The first week after I brought my mom home from a long-term care facility the toilet broke, the garbage disposal broke, and we had a mini-flood under the sink where there is a leak in the pipes. Fortunately, my brother fixed the toilet (and paid for the parts, YAY!), I choose not to use the garbage disposal and I have a Glad container under the sink where the water leaking from the faulty pipe. When I was working, I would not have hesitated to call a plumber for all 3 problems. I owned a home, spent whatever I wanted on evenings out/vacations, and always bought whatever I wanted, when I wanted. But, now that money is more of an issue, I make different choices. I’ve sold my home, and my savings is dwindling but, I am able to spend each and every day taking care of my mom because of the sacrifices made. And believe me, she’s worth every penny!

  4. Jodi says

    I was extremely humbled and brought to tears by this post. She is so positive and intuitive. She has blessed me today!

  5. Ashley P says

    It’s a great post. I just wish I could make it work. Living in South Florida, the Land of High Cost of Living, we just couldn’t afford for me to stay home. I did the budget, and the numbers just don’t add up.

    We’ve contemplated moving to another location with lower cost of living, but the problem is lower cost of living usually means lower job market.

    We’ve cut everything we can think of: we live in a tiny 1 Bedroom Apartment, we make cheap food (We’re having home made potato soup for dinner tonight, actually), we only have 1 cell phone between us, we hardly ever go out (last time we went to the movies was back in June), we have no cable, I never buy clothes, we have 1 car that’s paid off and we only have $6,000 to go before we’re totally debt free. Even counting the money we’ll save once our debt is paid off, I’d still need to make about $2,000/month just to make ends meet, and we don’t even HAVE kids!

    Any other money saving (or making!) ideas?

    • says

      Hi, Ashley P. I’m sorry I don’t have any fantastic advice. It really sounds like you’re doing everything you can. I was/am sort of in a similar situation. Even though my husband and I live fairly frugally, we’ve decided to delay having kids longer that we would really like to, because there was absolutely no way we could work the money out for me to stay at home with babies while my husband still had a lot of school left. You’re definitely not alone!

      Also, there’s another post in the same series where a lady talks about keeping a positive attitude being a working mom when she really wanted to stay home. You’d probably find it helpful:

    • Ashley P says

      Thanks for the advice, guys.

      I do have one saving grace, of sorts. Hubby and I both work at the same location, and we both work night shift. This means I’ll be able to be home with my kids during the day.

      This has a downside, however. It’s usually pretty easy to find a babysitter when you work day shift. Finding a baby sitter who wants to work NIGHTS? Granted the kids are sleeping for most of it, but my shift ends at 1 AM, so I’d be picking the children up at 2 AM or so. It’s going to take the grace of God to send me a late-night sitter. That’s what I’m praying for, I guess.

      • WilliamB says

        Ashley – have you considered getting a roommate who would mind your putative child/ren while they sleep? This would require moving, I realize; one possibility is the roommate pays rent while you guys cover food? Or something else off-the-wall?

  6. elise davis-chavez says

    love this post, I’m a stay at home mom also and i always get ugly looks when people find out (like why can’t I work). I’m just glad my husband makes enough for me to stay at home with the kids.

    • Heather says

      Elise…Ohmygoodness…you are not alone! Ugly looks, check! Weird responses, check! Loving being a SAHM, check! Like somehow me being a SAHM makes me less than…NOT! I *chose* to stay at home and I find it interesting that people identify themselves by a job title. I know, I’ve been there…it was sexier at a cocktail party to say I am an Operations Mgr for such&such company and brag about my accomplishments, but now I would rather skip the cocktail party for a simple coffee date and brag about my daughter!

      Love the post…nice reminder that we are all doing what we can for our own family! Living below doesn’t mean living without!

    • Jenn says

      I love this post. I have 2 children in public school and do not work because my husband does not want me to and because we are financially doing fine. But I too get looks from people who can’t figure out why I am not working including from my mother who says sarcastically ” I’m so glad I did all that sacrificing so you could go to college”. I had every intention of going back to work when my youngest hit school but one day was talking with my grandmother and said “don’t go back to work, your children will always need you and someday they will be gone with their own families and you don’t want to have any regrets”. So I took grannies advice. I must say though that I very much respect working mothers and think that they have a very hard job, and not every one has the same situation. I think a lot of mothers who think they can’t afford it but really could, however it does take sacrifice.

    • Nancy says

      When my husband and I took the step of faith to have me quit my job and stay home with our children, I received MANY comments in regards to my responsibility to provide for my children, wasn’t I going to be bored, and so on an so forth. Well it has been over to years and the Lord has been faithful to our obedience and I’m never bored, especially with all new homemaking skills I have been learning over the two years. I actually do not know how we made it as long as we did with me working outside the home. To top it off, my husband is proud to say his wife stays home and I really believe that his role as leader of our family has taken off since I “retired”. 😉

    • Lisa says

      I have to confess, I’m always surprised when SAHMs say they get attitude from others about being at home. As a work-outside-the-home mom, I feel like I mainly get either judgment or pity from others. I assumed everyone thought being a SAHM was the “superior” choice. I guess I was wrong!

      • Madelyn says

        Some people think the “superior” choice is whatever you’re not doing. There really are people who disapprove of *whatever* you choose, like disapproval is their hobby. That’s why the nasty looks and condescending comments mean nothing– they’ll take the opposite stance with someone else, in an hour or so!

    • Jessica says

      Ditto that. I have a Masters of Public Health degree and 10 years of experience in my field, but I left it to be a SAHM just over a year ago.

      It sounded a lot more exciting to say I was an epidemiologist at the state health department than it sounds when I say I stay home with my kids. It’s not like my brains dried up and my degree went *poof* and disappeared.

      We sacrificed for years so that I could stay home and we continue to do so.

  7. Kimberlyn says

    My son is now 15 but I chose to stay at home with him until he went to kindergarten then I returned to teaching. Believe me, there are options! I couldn’t stand the idea of someone else raising my son for the majority of each day.

    I chose to wait tables on Friday and Saturday night and sometimes on Sunday, when my husband would be home. I chose a popular franchise with a higher price point and would bring home at least $100 per night in cash tips.

    Yes, I gave up a couple of evenings at home, but it worked for us. Now, 15 years later, I do not regret a single thing. You can do it!

  8. Andrea says

    I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this post and that I can relate a little to it. My mother was a stay at home mom and my father was a high school teacher also. I remember many times when, at the end of the month, we were scraping up change to buy some bread or had to eat potato soup – again! My father also worked extra jobs many times to supplement his teaching income, but it was tight for us for most of my childhood. I am so thankful my parents made that choice for my mom to leave nursing to be home with us. I am sure you already believe this, but you won’t regret it – it’s worth it!

  9. Lisa says

    What a blessing this is today! I am our family’s breadwinner and I long to work fewer hours but have been afraid to even consider it because I don’t think it can work. I do know we can be better stewards of our money. Perhaps if we really focus on that, I may be able to work part time after all!

  10. Patti says

    Just in case you are wondering if it is worth it to stay home, let me tell you about my latest experience. A grant funded temporary (3 month or so) job came along and I decided to take it since my son is now in college and every little bit of money helps with his bills. I had worked for a university for 18 years but have been a SAHM for the past 10 years, so I was not unaware of what to expect but this working thing is awful!! It is not the work that bothers me but all the “costs” involved. I am so tired when I get home that I am very tempted to eat out (thank goodness I have some freezer meals tucked away). I would surely like to update my wardrobe to a more professional look, but that will eat away at the money I am earning so I am spending a lot of extra time making my clothes look better (washing and ironing my best things and mixing and matching them so no one realizes I am wearing the same items over and over). I do not have child care costs or extra gasoline costs, thankfully. But I cannot tell you how stressful this has been for me and my husband. With the holidays approaching, I am wondering how I am going to “do it all”. I do not have as much free time to make gifts and homemade goodies and if I spend more for these items, I am again negating any money I bring home. It has made me realize that even though I CAN make money outside the home, it is not always the best idea for saving up money. Vice versa, if you are working and wondering if you can afford to stay home … look closely at all of the costs involved to see if it might just be cheaper for you to stay at home and/or smarter. I know when I was working full time, my accountant always said the only thing I was earning was my future retirement savings (and I had a great salary!). He was probably right. Money truly isn’t everything. Sometimes it is not even close.

  11. Christie says

    I love my current situation–I work just part time: 2 days a week in a job I really like.

    It’s the best of both worlds because I get to spend lots of time with my 3 yr old and 9 month old, but am usually ready for a break from them by the time my 2 days of work come along.

    Luckily, I make a high enough hourly salary to afford day care for them for those 2 days, otherwise, if you have more than one kid that is daycare age, it is not worth it to work at all!

    In our neck of the woods, child care is $4.50 an hour for infant care and $3.50 an hour for 3 year olds. Multiply times 9 hours a day, 5 days a week and it’s $1,500 a month!

    I did go back to work full time after our second was born and it was hard. My kids were tired, I was tired, our house was a mess and I had no interest in getting dinner on the table. My husband is a teacher, and with his salary plus my 2 days a week, we have been getting by just fine.

  12. says

    Crystal, thank you SO much for linking to me and, even more, thank you for your kind words! It was SUCH a blessing to meet you at Allume. Our little dessert time with the KOTH team was a highlight of the weekend for me! Thank you for teaching your readers how to save money so they can stay at home if they so desire!

  13. Bri Bojang says

    This blog is just what I needed for a pick me up! I am stay at home mom with a 3 year old daughter and we are expecting our second (which was a surprise but a good one!) in April..My husband works and is currently tring to start his own ad company so we have really had to cut back..We rent a 2 bedroom condo which I wish we had enough for a house but not yet..and unfortunatly I have to be on government insurance for this baby which I am not happy about..Its been very discouraging comparing myself to other moms and seeing all that they have (all material of course) and wanting what they have instead of enjoying being able to stay at home at all! Its great to read that other moms are making the sacrifice to stay home with their kids. Glad I found this on pinterest, thanks!

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