Allowing one parent to stay at home with the children might be important to your family, but you may well wonder if it would be possible for your family to get by on one income. The idea of significantly cutting your family's income after becoming used to living on two paychecks is scary, but you might be surprised to find that getting by on one income is possible. In fact, some families actually fare better financially with one parent at home.
If you choose to stay at home, you might not be directly contributing income for your family’s budget, but there is a lot you can do to stretch the working spouse’s paycheck. Caring for children is a busy and demanding job, but even so, you will find that with more time spent at home you will have additional time available for money-saving activities.
First, cook at home. When both parents work in a family with children, it can be difficult to find the time to cook each day. This leads, in many cases, to heavy reliance on carry-out and in-restaurant meals at the end of the day, which can be a heavy drain on your finances. An at-home spouse will have more time available to plan meals, to grocery shop with this plan in mind, and to cook at home each day. Simply sticking to a menu and cooking at home more often can help you save significantly on your monthly food bill. You will likely also be able to save by avoiding paying for lunches out, both for the working spouse and for the children at school. Packing lunches for these situations can further cut down on your monthly food budget.
Also, consider clipping coupons. Be sure to use coupons to purchase only items you would have purchased anyway, and try to combine them with sales to pay the lowest possible price. Take the time to compare prices and to search for relevant coupons -- either from your newspaper or online -- before making any purchase. Money-saving strategies like these might be difficult or impossible if both spouses work full-time, but a person staying home with the kids might be able to fit in some time for them.
Additionally, when both parents work, you might have to pay for services such as housecleaning or lawn mowing. A great way to cut costs after one parent leaves the work force is for the non-working spouse to take on more of these responsibilities. The parent at home can assume the majority of home cleaning and maintenance tasks, and the rest can be done together as a family on the weekends.
A more fun way to save that is also a great educational activity for children is growing a vegetable garden. A small garden will not take a huge investment of time or money. Many children enjoy planting seeds and watching them grow into something they can eat. Once you get the hang of gardening, your family can enjoy healthy and affordable vegetables without having to buy them in the grocery store.
One of the most significant financial benefits of one parent staying at home is the often sizable cost of daily babysitting and related childcare services. In fact, many parents find that a second income evaporates almost entirely simply due to these costs. Having one parent at home can save your family hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month in childcare. Many families will choose to hire an occasional babysitter for date nights or errands, but the cost of occasional babysitting is of course much less than that of full time childcare.
Clothing and other personal care costs can also usually be decreased for the spouse that chooses to stay at home. Purchasing and maintaining a professional wardrobe can cost a significant amount of money depending on the work environment -- money that the family can save by having one spouse at home. Additionally, simply eliminating one commuter in your family will drastically reduce your total transportation costs. You will save on gas and car maintenance costs, of course, but additionally, your vehicles will often last much longer due to their decreased wear and tear.
If the savings generated by cutting out one commuter is not enough to balance your family’s one-income budget, you might need to make a more drastic change. In some situations, your family might be able to get by with one vehicle. Becoming a one-vehicle family after being used to more than car is a big adjustment, but can yield huge savings. If you owed money on the vehicle, you can eliminate that car payment from your budget. You will also pay much less for auto insurance by keeping just one vehicle. Of course, for some families relying on a single car is not an option.
You might be worried that less money will equal less fun for your family. It is true that you might have less money available for expensive extended vacations, but you will probably discover a lot of new and very inexpensive activities available in your area that you might not have even been aware of previously.
If you have very young children, simply frequenting local parks and playgrounds can help keep them busy and entertained. For older children, check out local museums with cheap or free admission. Local bowling alleys often offer discounted play times if you subscribe to their email lists; discount movie theaters can be another fun option. During the summer, camp out in the backyard with a tent and a campfire, or head to a local campground for an affordable vacation. This is a great family activity because family members of all ages can be included -- plus you will often be allowed to bring your pets, saving on pet care costs.
Every family is different. For some families, simply cutting out work-related costs and eating out less will be enough to get by on one income. For other families, having one parent stay at home with the children might require more drastic changes like selling a vehicle or even re-locating to a more affordable home. The important thing to remember is that if having one parent stay at home is important to your family, there are many different strategies you can use to make that possible. You might even discover that your family is better off -- both financially and emotionally -- after making these changes.