January 25, 2012

Can I Afford To Stay Home?

I have wanted for years to be able to stay home with my kids, but it was never, or never seemed like an option. When I was a single mother it could not have been done.  I was my son’s sole support and without my working we would have had nothing. Then with my second baby I had a great job with excellent pay and benefits. I didn’t think I could leave that because I had become used to a certain standard of living. That standard was: be able to pay all the bills, spend too much on eating out, and be tired and crabby all the time because between work and commute, I was spending twelve hours a day away from home.

When I got laid off from my last job, I couldn’t have been happier. Work had become the enemy. The money kept us going but the politics and insecurity at the company were taking every bit of joy away from me. I had always thought I would be able to stay home sometime “in the future,” but I took being laid off as a sign. Now is the future. It has gotten interesting when it comes time to pay the bills, but so far, we are okay. We used to eat out a lot, but now I cook at home. We couldn’t do that before because I was always too tired and busy to cook. That change alone has probably saves us at least $200 dollars a month.

Just a month before I got laid off I had a conversation with a coworker. She was working full time for the first time in five years. She had worked part time or not at all since her son was born, and her husband had a regular job, not some hot shot executive position. I asked her how they managed. She told me something that didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. She said, “ You just make it work.” Now that I am home, it makes perfect sense. There is no magic answer for your family since every family is different, but there are little things that fit into your family’s life that just make it happen.

Maybe you sell one of your cars. You hate the thought of giving up your freedom, but you also hate the idea of losing your house. Can you coordinate with your spouse to get everyone where they need to be in order to save a car payment and insurance (and gas, and new tires, and oil changes, and car washes)? Only you can answer that for your specific situation, but even if you can’t give up the second car, there are other things you can do to keep the family going.

So what I have been doing lately is just making it work. I’ve saved money by cooking, and I am answering the phone for my friend’s business. I wont make much doing that, but I still get to stay home. I’m looking into other small things I can do from home, and I have been able to help my husband much more with his business. We may struggle, but we will make it. And being home makes me happy. I don’t have to spend money on Prozac to make me feel normal.

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