Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, a recent MSN Money article noted that, "Staying home with the kids is a luxury fewer parents can afford, with 39% of mothers with children age 3 or younger working full-time, while 16% work at least part-time. A full 6% of mothers stay home simply because they don't have a job. If given the option, their preference would be to go to work."
While I certainly miss some of the things about a regular job, staying home with the kids is an experience I'm willing to trade career advancement and a steady paycheck for. It's a tough trade to make, but our family manages. Here's how we do it.
Forecasting Future Expenses
Knowing not only what our expenses are, but what our expenses will be is critical to being able to properly forecast our financial future. We forecast expenses for the entire year for all aspects of our lives. From food and entertainment, to taxes and health care, we create a very accurate picture of what our costs will be throughout the year so that there are no surprises when it comes to what we're spending versus what we're making.
Understanding the Costs of Working
While working outside the home can certainly be a great way to earn a decent income, there are also certain costs to be considered with the situation. The big one? Childcare.
According to a July 2011 post on babycenter.com, "The average cost of center-based daycare in the United States is $11,666 per year ($972 a month), but prices range from $3,582 to $18,773 a year ($300 to $1,564 monthly), according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA)."
With two kids in the Chicagoland area, such costs could add up quickly for us. Factor in transportation costs, clothing costs, income taxes, and similar expenses related to working outside the home and much of the income earned from such a role could quickly be eaten away by the costs of earning it.
Cutting Costs and Staying on Task
Being at home opens up all kinds of ways to look for ways to cut expenses and keep costs low. It's simpler to do things like turn the thermostat up or down or open or close windows and blinds to keep utilities lower throughout the day. I can create shopping lists and weekly meal menus to help reduce our food costs so that we're only spending about $60 a week to feed a family of four. I can cook, clean, and make repairs that we might have to pay someone to do for us otherwise. I can visit resale shops to buy name brand clothing for pennies on the dollar. We can walk to parks rather than pay for the kids to go to day care. And maybe most importantly, I can look for ways to earn income while at home.
At-home Doesn't Mean no Income
Just because I'm at home with the kids all day doesn't mean there aren't ways to pull in some income along the way. While I'm not bringing in a full salary with my efforts, I'm still pulling my weight when it comes to the bills and putting a little toward savings if I'm lucky.
There are all kinds of way an at-home parent can still pick up a little income on the side…if there's enough time in the day. Personally, I've made extra income from freelance writing online, resale options -- both online and in person at places like consignment shops -- and even through things like just downsizing our home and having a garage sale with the things we no longer want or need.
While such income isn't likely to make us rich, paired with the child care savings and all the rest, it enables me to stay home with the kids and still enjoy a relatively normal existence in the process.
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The author is not a licensed financial or parenting professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or parenting advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.
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