Simple Savings if You Want to Stay Home
By: Diane Sonntag
|In 2002, Wendy Chamberlin resigned her post as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan stating that, "There are many people who can be an ambassador… but nobody else can be my daughters' mother." Do Chamberlin's sentiments echo your own? Do you wish you could leave the daily grind and spend more time with your children? Why don't you?|
|For 87 percent of working mothers, the answer boils down to one not-so-simple word: Money.
While some of us are happy balancing families and careers, many mothers work because we have to. Or maybe because we think we have to. Many families assume that they won't be able to live on one income because they're accustomed to living on two. Bart Butler, a certified financial planner in Columbus, Ohio, says many families really can live on one income, but they must prepare to make sacrifices.
|Christine Walker, author of The Smart Mom's Guide to Staying Home: 65 Simple Ways to Thrive, Not Deprive, on One Income, echoes this thought: "The number one thing to establish is 'What does your family want?' What you do with your time and money reflects what your priorities are. If you and your spouse agree that one of you should stay home with your children, saving money takes on a different light." You are no longer "doing without," you are just maintaining your family's priorities.|
|Both Butler and Walker agree that planning is necessary when making the jump from two incomes to one. Butler advises, "Develop a current budget and a projected budget. Assess where you are currently spending your money in order to see exactly where you can cut back. Prepare a new budget for your new lower income."|
|In her book, Walker compares money management to weight management. She says that strict, long-term deprivation rarely works with food or with money. Sooner or later, you're really going to blow your diet—or your budget. Both are all about balance. Walker encourages moms to have an "affordable indulgence"—the one thing that is truly important to you and worth the cost, no matter what. It could a gym membership, or a daily latte, or possibly a babysitter one day each week. "The whole point of staying home with your kids is to have a greater quality of life, not a lesser one. Depriving yourself of these niceties will only make you feel as though you have nothing left for yourself. Deprivation leads to resentment and no one wins when that happens," Walker says. So save money where you can, but also allow yourself a treat now and then.|
|Walker maintains that there are many ways to save money and still live well. She says, "It's not what you make, it's what you spend. Once you have a handle on what's important, smart spending becomes a way of life, not a chore." Sometimes just making simple adjustments can greatly impact your family's budget. Here are some of Walker's easy-to-implement tips for smart spending:|
Take a Household Inventory
In her book, Walker describes her experience of helping a friend clean her house after the birth of a child. Walker organized their home from top to bottom, including closets and drawers. Through her efforts, she discovered an entire department store worth of stuff that the family had forgotten they ever had! The list included food, toys, medicine, and clothes. Because the family didn't know what they already had, they were spending their hard-earned money on duplicate items.
|Walker says, "The first step to managing family life on one income is to benchmark where you are." This means going through your home, room by room, drawer by drawer, to find out what you already have. Organize what you need and get rid of what you don't. Many of us waste countless dollars buying new things simply because we can't find what we already own.|
Limit Your Dining Out
Many of your favorite restaurants likely have weekly specials. If your family is accustomed to eating out, Walker advises finding out which nights of the week restaurants offer the discounted rates. "It's a great way to enjoy the same food at a lower price," she says. Lunch menus tend to have lower prices as well, if your family would be interested in an afternoon meal out, perhaps on the weekend, instead of dinner. And don't forget restaurant coupons—some of which may offer buy one/get one free entrees. Limit the number of times a week or month you dine out, since even fast food meals can add up in a hurry.
Make a New Friend
Walker insists that making friends with the manager of your favorite local grocery store can really pay off. "He or she is authorized to offer accommodations such as waive the limit on sale items, negotiate a lower price on large purchases, and direct you to in-store specials," she says. Most store managers are willing to do whatever it takes to make and keep their customers happy.
Dress for Less
Children's clothing, in particular, should not break a family's budget. The younger the child, the more quickly he will outgrow an outfit, and saving money on kids' clothing means that you don't have to worry when an item gets stained or torn. So how do you save? "In these times, there is no reason why anyone should pay full retail price for any piece of clothing," says Walker. Instead, she encourages moms to scour church rummage sales and yard sales, particularly in affluent areas. Additionally, resale shops and thrift stores often carry brand name clothing that looks nearly new and you'll pay a fraction of the retail price. And don't rule out the Internet for great clothing buys. "Sites such as NexTag.com are great for comparison shopping," says Walker.
|If parents can buy ahead for the following year, they can often find deeply discounted clothes at end-of-season sales, too. "Think through your kids' sizes and buy for the upcoming year. Get Halloween costumes in August. Stock up on holiday decorations in June. The key is to plan ahead and know where to shop," Walker says.|
Become a Cheap Date
There are many affordable entertainment options for moms. One of Walker's favorites is "Reel Moms," where mothers and their small children can see a first-run movie at a matinee price. Since it is only for moms, no one will bat an eye if your child cries or you need to nurse him. "It's a great way to meet other moms and there's no need to find and pay a babysitter," says Walker.
|If you and your mate need a date night, try trading babysitting services with some friends. You'll save a bundle on the sitter, allowing you some extra money to enjoy something fun as a couple.|
|There are so many ways to save money on the things that your family wants and needs—these are just a few suggestions to get you thinking! It does take some extra time and planning, but it is well worth it in the long run. "Know what your goals and priorities are. Regardless of whether a mom stays home or not, a family should always know where its money is going," Walker advises.|
|If your ultimate goal is to stay home with your children, start planning now, follow these money saving tips, and soon, your dream may be your reality!|