As an at-home parent, even though I work, my income as a self-employed individual is less than I made as an outside-the-home employee with a regular employer. Therefore, I look for ways to make up for my diminished salary by finding ways to save around the home. Childcare is of course a huge savings, cutting literally tens of thousands of dollars off our possible expenses, but in addition to this, I try to find other, often lesser, albeit still important ways to cut costs while I'm home.
Since I'm home much of the day, I can have a major impact on utility consumption. We have a programmable thermostat, but we don't have to use most of its features since I serve as our own programmable thermostat during the day. By doing things like monitoring consumption, determining pricing per unit (yes, by gauging electric and natural gas usage while the unit was operating, I determined that it costs us about $1 per operating hour for heat, and about $1.50 per hour for air conditioning), and just by opening blinds to various rooms, or closing vents to others, I can minimize our utility costs for our condo while keeping us comfortable.
Our current heating and cooling related costs in our newer, smaller condo are about $40 a month less than when we were in our larger home, and we're keeping the temperatures much more comfortable.
I would love to have an extra vehicle, were it not for the extra expense. As an at-home dad, it would be great to be able to get out and about when mommy is away at work, but I'm willing to sacrifice in this area to keep costs down. Not only does this save us the initial cost of buying a second vehicle, which can be substantial even if it is a used vehicle, but it cuts out costs like insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, and parking. These expenses alone could easily run $1,500 to $2,000 a year, not even factoring in depreciation on the vehicle once purchased.
Working at home with a five-year-old in half-day kindergarten and a newborn can be tough. My productivity would certainly be higher without them around, but this is the choice I've made and I'm quite happy doing it; however, it often means less work, which as a freelancer equates to less money.
However, every extra cent that I can earn helps us add to our family income, and since I'm pulling double duty, between what we'd spend on childcare outside the home (about $13,000 a year on average for one child in our area -- possibly more for an infant), and my diminished freelance income, it pretty much equates to one full-time income.
Food and Beverage
It can be easy to let cravings get the better of me when I'm just feet from the refrigerator; however, I tend to maximize my money saving abilities at home when it comes to food and beverage costs. Even just doing little things around the house when it comes to food can have the savings adding up.
Since the kids aren't big coffee drinkers, I only make a half pot for my wife and me, effectively cutting our coffee costs in half. We avoid soda, instead serving water, milk, or juice (to which I even add a little water since the juice is often so sugary and sweet), which makes it last longer. I also tend to eat what my five-year-old eats, not only forcing me to keep his meals healthier, but since he's often happier with meal options such as peanut butter and jelly, egg salad, fruit and vegetables, and similar cheap to make items, it helps me keep costs down too.
By following these guidelines while at home, we keep our grocery costs largely limited to around $50 a week for a family of four. While this might sound difficult to some, is really isn't all that hard by buying non-name brands, utilizing leftovers, decreasing food waste, and avoiding unhealthy snacks and treats.
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