Can You Afford to be a Stay at Home Mom?

mom and daughter drinking coffee

Deciding whether or not you can stay at home after you have a baby can be a big decision. Emotions play a big factor, especially after holding your precious newborn for the first time. It's hard to imagine leaving this tiny little thing with a stranger. On the other hand, you can gain a tremendous sense of accomplishment from your job that you couldn't feel after a day of changing diapers and wiping up spit up. No matter how you face it emotionally, if you are considering becoming a stay at home mom at all, you first need to figure out if you can financially afford to do it.

Make a Budget

The first step you should take is to record your expenses. For at least one month, better yet three, record everything you spend from lattes to toilet paper to dinners out. Everything needs to be accounted for. There is no need to go on a budget diet yet; the goal is to find out how much you currently spend and on what items, so that if you find you do need to scale back, you can recognize where to do so.

mom and son looking at book

There are a couple of ways you can go about recording all of your purchases. One is you can carry around a little notebook and make a note every time you buy something. The other way is to charge everything you purchase with your debit or credit card and use your monthly statement as your notebook of purchases. However, if you choose to charge everything to your credit card, you must promise yourself to pay off the full amount when your statement comes. Going into credit card debt is not going to help you achieve your goal of becoming a stay at home mom.

Once you have every cup of coffee, every grocery trip, and every pair of new shoes accounted for, it's time to write it into a budget worksheet. Use a spreadsheet that contains all the expense categories most households face and will automatically add all of your expenses together and subtract them from your income. When you have the form filled out, look at your bottom number. Hopefully, this will be positive. Now go up and delete your income at the top. Don't forget to delete any expenses that occur from you working (dry cleaning bill, gas costs, lunches out, etc.). Remember also that your taxes will change once you drop down to one income and you may be able to change your withholdings to bring more monthly income in. Go to the IRS website and use their tax withholding calculator with only your husband's paycheck information to see how much you can change your withholdings.

If your bottom number is still positive, then you are fortunate enough to be able to be a stay at home mom without much fiscal sacrifice. However if it's now dipped to a negative number, do not despair, it's time to look over your expenses and find ways to minimize them

mom and baby

Saving on Your Expenses

Saving money doesn’t always have to be painful. Many women say that one of their biggest jobs as a stay at home moms is to seek out bargains and make sure the family sticks to a budget. Consider this a lesson in what could be part of your new job description. Below are four big-ticket expenses that most households face. Let’s take a look at these and see if we can't save a few hundred dollars right off the bat.

  • Mortgage or Rent. This is often a couple’s largest monthly expense. The obvious way to reduce this cost is to move to a less expensive place to live, but that's not always the best option for your family. Try looking at refinancing. That can be a fantastic way to lower your monthly mortgage payment and may make it financially feasible for you to be able to become a stay at home mom. Plug some numbers onto an online refinancing company to see if this might make sense for you. If you rent, ask your landlord if there is anything you can do around the property that could reduce your monthly rent. Ask if you can help manage their other properties, take on the yard work, do other chores or even sign on for a longer lease for a reduction in rent.

  • Credit card, car payments, and other 'bad' debt. These kinds of debts you want to try and get out of as soon as possible. Make it a goal to get out of credit card debt before you decide to become a stay at home mom. There are a number of credit cards that offer zero percent interest for a specific amount of time. Take advantage of these offers to reduce your monthly bill and use the amount you would have paid with your old card towards paying off the principal. Condense your monthly expenses and throw everything you can towards paying your credit card debt and car payment off so that your time for being a stay at home mom will be less stressful.

  • Grocery Bill. You can easily reduce your grocery bill by planning a weekly menu and making a shopping list. Designate one night a week for sitting down with the grocery ads and your cookbooks. Come up with seven different meals that take advantage of the week's grocery sales and write down the list of ingredients you will need. There are many great website services that will plan your weekly meals and e-mail you a weekly shopping list too. Make sure to clip coupons from the Sunday paper and from coupon websites. Also, try the generic version of your favorite brand. Chances are you'll never notice the difference.

  • Utilities. Take Dad's advice and start turning off the lights when you leave a room. Replace incandescent lights with fluorescent, and get a hot water heater blanket for your hot water heater. There are a number of different ways you can reduce your energy bill. Don't hesitate to call your utilities and ask how you can save money on your monthly bill. Your phone company can find a more efficient and cheaper plan for you and the garbage company can suggest a smaller garbage can size. Also, ask yourself if you really need all of the gadgets you’ve become accustomed to: Do you really need that cell phone now that you won’t be commuting? Do you really need the fancy cable TV package or can you live without it for a few years? Keep moving down each category on your budget worksheet and ask yourself how you could reduce costs. In this day and age, most families have to make sacrifices for a parent to become a stay at home parent. Remember that it's temporary though. Children grow up before you know it and being a stay at home mom may just be more satisfying than any payroll job you could ever have.

About the Author:

Kendra Spencer is the editor of, a website devoted to bringing new and expecting moms the best advice and cutest baby products available.