How I Afford Being a Stay at Home Mom

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Pssst… before you start reading this stay at home mom post, you should know that this isn’t supposed to be a “Mommy War” post! If you work outside of the home, I don’t judge you in the least. I also know that some families are dealing with extenuating circumstances- like being a single parent, or facing real financial hardships. This post is not a criticism of you or your situation. It is simply meant to be helpful to parents who want to stay home with their kids, even in the face of a limited budget. 

How to Afford Being a Stay at Home Parent

When I was pregnant with my first, I worked at a day care. I really enjoyed and came to love the kids I had in my room. We had a special relationship- I was their teacher that they came to trust, and they were my little munchkins who I was to protect, care for, and guide. I worked hard to give them a good foundation in life and to prepare them for kindergarten.

When it came time for me to go on maternity leave, I had to make the decision whether or not I would come back after the baby. This was no easy task. I loved the kiddos in my room. I wanted to be there for them and see them grow up and head off into school. And though he wouldn’t be in the same classroom, I would likely be able to bring my son to work with me. It appeared to be an almost ideal situation.

And yet, there was part of me that really wanted to just be home with my own kids, in my own living room, without having to tend to several other children as well. In hindsight, this seemed like an especially sacred and desirable experience to have with my first child. I knew nobody would love him as much as I would. I didn’t want to have the pressure of getting up and out to work every day. I wanted to be able to enjoy him, and to be the first to see his developmental milestones.

In the end, I decided to quit my day care job, and only continue with teaching private voice lessons one evening a week. Since then, I’ve picked up more teaching and become a little more of a work-at-home mom. However, for several years I only worked four hours a week.

You can imagine the obvious financial challenges this brought about. We went from being a two-income family (though not rich!) working at lightning speed to pay off debt and save up for a house, to being a one-income, near poverty-level family trying to make the best of life. While my one-night-a-week teaching brought in a little extra cash, it wasn’t much to write home about.

Yet, looking back, it was definitely the right decision for us at the time. I needed time with my son, and the time to transition to motherhood. (I didn’t adjust nearly as well as I thought I would.) It was worth every penny that I didn’t bring in to become a stay at home mom.


During this time, many people told me they “wished they could afford to do that.” I almost laughed. Like we could?!? (I think they thought I had a rich husband and a house cleaner and I could stay home with my feet up.) Other people asked me how we were managing to make it happen.

I’m writing this post not to guilt you into giving up every worldly pleasure and convenience to stay home with your kids. Rather, I’m writing it to share what helped make it possible for me to be a SAHM- even without a good salary to back us up. I hope it might encourage someone who wants to stay home, but doesn’t think it’s financially possible.

Here’s how I afford being a stay-at-home mom:

  1. We spend less than we make. It sounds basic, but I am constantly surprised by how frequently people make purchases that they can’t really afford. If you can only just barely afford the mortgage or the car payment, then you can’t really afford it. Better to only make purchases that you are confident you can comfortably pay for than to strap yourself to a bill you’ll be regretting later.
  2. We put any extra cash into paying off debt.  Even if you only have $25 extra, put it on your bills instead of eating out. You may be surprised how those little bits of extra money can work to put a dent in your payments. I also love the concept of snowballing your debt payments. By putting nearly all of our extra income on our debt, we were able to pay off $25,000 in less than three years, and we are now debt-free except for a modest mortgage. Though things are much tighter now with three kids, we still try to put extra cash on our mortgage payments whenever possible.
  3. We keep our living expenses low. When we were renting, we would look for the absolute lowest rent we could possibly find in a good neighborhood. This meant at one point we lived in a tiny tin can trailer to help save money to buy a house. When we bought our house, we went for one that was about $300/month less than we could technically afford so we wouldn’t be struggling to make payments. If you can, choose to lower your living expenses (even if it means moving) so you have more wiggle room in your budget.
  4. We make purchases carefully. I have to say, it’s a pain to not just buy the thing I want. Picking a “new” pair of pants for us means a carefully calculated, deliberate search through the aisles of Salvation Army. Shopping for a home recording device means digging through reviews and sale prices for hours before spending $150. Granted, we’re slower than most people- but it sure stops us from impulse spending.
  5. We make it our job to save money. Why pay $4 for bread that I can make myself for pennies? We almost always try to make quality food ourselves for much less than we could buy it. My husband works hard to do any home improvement and/or car repairs himself in order to save us money- even if he has to take some time to learn how to do it first. Time is money, they say, and we choose to spend the time more often than we do the cash.
  6. Nearly everything we own is used. I can barely bring myself to spend any money on new things, so I dress us on the cheap with mostly used clothes. Our cars are used. Our furniture is used. Our chimney cap is used. Even the materials for our chicken coop are used. You get the idea.
  7. We live without extras. Going out to eat just isn’t in our budget, so we usually rely on gift cards for date nights. I make my coffee at home and don’t buy lattes anymore. We don’t have TV, and our internet is the lowest speed possible. We haven’t been to the movies in over four years. (Why spend the money on tickets when there’s Amazon Prime and free libraries?)

These are the basic principles we live by. Obviously, your specific situation may look different. However, if you’re willing to think outside the box a bit and get creative with the ways you reduce spending, you may find that you actually are able to afford staying home with your kids.

My new project as the kids are getting older and the bills are increasing is to make the work at home mom thing work for me. More on this another time. 🙂

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Photo credit: Icarus Image. Used with permission.


19 thoughts on “How I Afford Being a Stay at Home Mom

  1. Mindy@FarmFitLiving

    Good tips! I’m getting easy to make the big transition soon after baby number 2 comes. ? We have a plan I think that will work, following many of the tips you have listed here. I can’t wait for the change. It will be a challenge, but I believe it will be so worth it.

    1. Abi Post author

      That’s wonderful, Mindy! I’m so happy that you’re able to do that. I wish you all the best as you transition to two kiddos!

  2. Krystal @ Little Light on a Hill

    This was such an encouraging read. I found your post on Pinterest, and I kid you not (you see what I did there), I turned in my letter of resignation yesterday. As of June 17, I will be staying home with my two girls! Scared, excited, hopeful, butt a little anxious. I was letting my thoughts get the best of me. Finding this post was perfect timing.

    1. Abi Post author

      Awww, congratulations, and I am SO glad you found the post at the right time. I’m so happy that you get to start this journey!

  3. Janice Yeagle

    Your tips are great. I too was a stay at home mom and followed many of the tips you suggested. We lived on very little but I loved that time. We learned to save, save , save plus I educated myself on ways to help my children get scholarships to college. All three graduated dept free and with very little financial help from us., plus they are thrifty as well using their money wisely.

    1. Abi Post author

      Wonderful! It’s so encouraging to hear how you also gave your kids great financial habits. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Nicole @ Pursuit of Simple

    I totally agree. It’s amazing how being patient, creative, and disciplined with your money can make such a huge difference. I started staying home with my son when my husband was still in grad school, and we definitely couldn’t afford it, but we decided we’d rather be uncomfortable in our finances yet comfortable in our home situation rather than uncomfortable in our home situation just to be a little more comfortable in our finances.

  5. shana matney

    Great read! We too decided it was best for us to have me stay home. I do work two nights a week and we are blessed that we have family to watch the kids for a couple of hours before my husband picks them up after work. I’m proud of my second hand life. Almost everything in our house is from Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Goodwill, Garage Sales, curb side shopping etc. I also make use of reward programs from stores and coupons if I have time. We use our library almost daily. Great place for kids to play in the play area, free movie and video game rentals and you keep them for a couple weeks vs. a day. We use our inter-library system to search for things at other libraries and usually receive them in a couple days. It just takes patience, creativity and a thrifty mind but it’s possible. My husband used to laugh at my thrifty ways but it’s rubbing off on him too now and he enjoys the thrill of the save.

  6. Amy Dingmann

    Great article. Like you said, it always makes me laugh when people say, “I wish I could afford to stay home.” Like, what part of my life do you think is so glamorous? 🙂 Keep on keepin’ on, my dear. You’re doing great!

  7. Lisa Lightner

    I’m really surprised at how many families must be living with a ton of debt and outside their means. We do a lot of the things you’ve mentioned, plus my husband makes a decent income…still living within those boundaries is by no means extravagant.

  8. Vanessa B

    I’m a few years away from having a child because I want to finish my degree & we want to pay off some debt. But I so want to be a stay at home mom if I can. I know if/when I have a baby it will be hard for me not to be there for them as much as possible. Thank you for this post. I’ve been doing a lot of research to prepare for a baby and prepare to stay at home. We by no means make a lot of money so I’m a bit worried but so many posts I’ve read say you CAN make it work. So, I’m hoping I can too!

  9. Jess Lahti-Coplans

    Goodness am I glad I stumbled upon this while on Pinterest! I worry and worry about living on just our husband’s income. We live in Northern California and it just sounds impossible. I worry our kids will be embarrassed shopping at Goodwill-why would they! They’re kids! Lol. I worry that if they don’t see me with a career, they won’t be motivated. Being nurtured daily, loved, encouraged, etc. isn’t enough! Please! Pretty simple steps like these make me realize if I want something, I can make it happen. Just so refreshing, thanks for writing!


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