Five Tips to Become an At-Home Parent
By Leslie Truex
American two-income families earn 75 percent more than their
single-income counterparts of a generation ago, but actually have less
discretionary income according to Elizabeth Warren and Amelai Tyagi in their
book The Two Income Trap. The idea that your family earns more but has less may
be discouraging unless you are a person who'd like to be an at home parent. The
truth is, jobs, particularly second jobs, are expensive. When I worked outside
the home as a social worker, I made about $28,000 per year which combined with
my husband's income, was a decent income. But we were always broke, running out
of money before the end of the month. It seemed like it would be impossible for
me to quit my job when we could barely get by as it was. But then I learned
about the dual-income myth and when I ran the numbers, I discovered that 2/3rds
of my income went to work-related expenses. Of my $28,000 per year income, only
$7,900 actually contributed to the family. The rest paid for things so I could
If you would like to join the 5 million moms or 3 million
dads who stay home, here are some tips to help you afford it:
1) Determine how much your second income costs: When I worked
the majority of my income went to taxes, childcare, extra expenses for nicer
second car, commuting, work clothes, lunches out, convenience foods and dining
out, "I-deserve-this-because-I-work- hard" and guilt items.
2) Determine what you need to live on: Now that you know how
much your job costs you, what would happen if you quit? This exercise will show
you two things; 1) how short, if any, you would be with one income and 2) areas
that you currently over-spend that you can cut back. Do a budget covering ALL
spending. Use your bank statements to be as accurate as possible.
3) Cut back on food costs. You can save a significant amount of
money menu planning and shopping with a list. You can also save by not buying
packaged foods and instead cooking from scratch. Not only will the food taste
better but it often only involves a couple extra steps. Avoid dining out
including lunches, vending machines, and the coffeehouse.
4) Nickels and Dimes. This is probably the biggest area of
excess and waste in most families. Spending a few dollars here and a few dollars
there doesn't seem like it would make a big difference. But when added all
together, it can cost several hundred dollars per month. Items in this category
include things like coffee at the local cafe, magazines, paperbacks, manicures,
a quick snack on the way home, etc. The best way to avoid wasting money on the
small stuff is to not carry cash or its equivalent (credit cards/checks), shop
only with a list, use libraries and barter groups for books, videos and other
items, and learn to pamper yourself at home.
5) You can cut back on home and auto expenses easily. Make sure
your home is weather sealed (your utility company will likely have tips on
this), keep appliances clean and tuned, don't have extra features on your phone,
shop for the best long distance based on your use, get minimal cable and use
your library to rent movies instead of pay-per-view, and install low flow water
faucets to help save water. For your car, opt to get a quality used car that
gets good gas mileage. This not only can save you in payments and gas but also
on personal property tax, registration and insurance.
For many families, even savvy shopping doesn't completely
eliminate the need for extra cash to afford to stay home. This is particularly
true when debt is involved. However, if you eliminate work-related expenses, cut
unnecessary items from your budget, and learn easy ways save, the income you
need to earn should be significantly less than you originally thought.
In my case, I didn't have to replace a $2300 per month income.
After I cut out work-expenses, sold my car for a less expensive model, and cut
back on household expense, I only needed to earn about $600 per month to stay
I could work 40 hours per week at a job for $658 in discretionary income
or I could stay-home, work part-time and earn the same. Hmmmmm...what choice
would you make?
Earning income from home isn't that hard if you go about it
the right way. Do lots of research and heed the experts' warnings about
envelope stuffing and other scams. Don't fall for "pay for a job" scams or
sign-up to nothing schemes. Working at home is work no matter what
work-at-home schemers would have you think. If you do your research right,
and choose the right work-at-home option for you, there is no reason why you
can stay and work at home.
Leslie Truex is a work and stay-at-home mom. In 1998, she created
Work-At-Home Success which offers free tips information and resources to
people who want to work-at-home in a job or home business. You can get
her free Coming Home Manual with 100's of money saving tips as well as
eJobs At Home, a guide to finding sources for home income, by
subscribing to Work-At-Home Success Jobs and News ezine at http://www.workathomesuccess.com.