How to Afford to Stay Home with Your Kids: Your Single Income Roadmap

You want to be a stay-at-home mom… but is it really possible? One-income households used to be the norm, but rising costs of living, inflation, and changing expectations have made the single-income family much less common.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a stay-at-home parent. Here’s how to see if you can make it work without two incomes.

stay at home mom reading with child

You don’t have to stop working forever

Of course, deciding to leave your job and stay home with your kids is a big decision. But it doesn’t have to be a forever decision.

You can opt to work part-time or freelance if you want to get some of that office time back when the time comes.

Even if you love being a stay-at-home mom, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later.

Go into this with the idea that you’ll try it for a few years, and if it doesn’t work, you can go back to being a working mom. This will help relieve some of your anxiety about your choice.

Find out what you’ll save by not working

There’s no doubt that getting a paycheck is nice. But don’t forget that you have working expenses, too. These could include office supplies, clothes for work, and other expenses part of a job.

If you decide to stay at home instead, you can avoid these commuting costs and other work-related costs, which can really add up.

Don’t forget the biggest one of all: child care costs. Before you decide on going back to work, do some real research about the cost of childcare.

Tour the facilities and find the real price of a place that you’d be comfortable with. You might be shocked by the cost. It’s not uncommon for parents to pay as much as $1400 per month for some childcare facilities.

(Typically, home daycare will be a bit less, and a full-time nanny will be much more.)

⭐️ Try the stay-at-home calculator here to see how much money you actually take home at your job once all the expenses are taken out. It might be less than you think!

Calculate your bare-bones expenses

cash and budgeting notebook on counter

It’s time to go through your budget and see what your bare minimum should be. I’m not suggesting that you try to live on the absolute minimum, but if things get really tight financially down the line, knowing how much you can cut back is essential.

Look at your housing, utilities, food, and other essentials. How much are you paying each month for gas? Phone bills? Groceries? Credit cards or loans?

Keep in mind that the bare minimum is just what you need to get by on.

Cut out some luxuries

If you’re going to reduce your income, you have to reduce your expenses to match. And now that you know your bare-minimum survival number, you might be wondering where all of that dual income goes.

Most of us have a lot of luxuries in our lifestyle. Some of them are going to have to go.

Here are some things you can reduce or cut out entirely:

  • Travel: traveling with little kids is expensive and inconvenient. If you travel a lot and are looking for a big area to save money, cutting travel is an easy choice.
  • Entertainment: going to the movies, concerts, and bars can add up. Again, a lifestyle that includes little people in it will have a lot of this cut out anyway. You can probably save quite a bit of money in this category. Don’t forget about subscriptions and extras like cable TV.
  • Eating out: if you’re going to eat out, it should be a special occasion. Cut back on eating takeout or dining out with the entire family in order to cut down on costs.
  • Clothes: do you spend a lot of money on trendy clothes for work and going out? You can probably spend a lot less.

Make a budget

Once you know what your bare minimum expenses are, it’s time to make a budget. Take a look at your remaining single income. (We love the zero-based budgeting method, but you can pick whichever method you like best.)

Add your bare minimum expenses, savings for upcoming big expenses like tax bills and car repair. If you have extra at the end of the month after all those necessities are paid for, that’s great! You’ll be able to save for unexpected expenses or add back in some of the luxuries you currently enjoy.

If you can’t break even or don’t have anything left over after meeting those bare minimums, then it’s time to start cutting back a little more.

Many people might give up here and think that they can’t afford to be a stay at home moms. But if you’re willing to make some choices that others won’t, you can do it.

Live in a humble home

There’s no reason you have to live in a mansion with six bathrooms. You can find a smaller home with less space and fewer rooms, but it is still comfortable for your family. A smaller house means lower taxes, utilities, and general maintenance costs. (For example, replacing the heating system and roof in a simple rectangular home will be about 1/5 the cost of replacing it on an elaborate McMansion.)

Take a look at a floorplan of a home built in the 1950s for the average family of five. It is typically a simple, modest house that is perfectly fine. Reset your expectations of what you need or think you deserve.

If you want to be a single-income family, this might be what it takes.

Drive a used car or give up your second car

Do you have a brand new, fully-loaded vehicle? Don’t let that car payment be your downfall. If it’s going to prevent you from staying home with your kids, sell the vehicle and buy something large enough for your family but small enough to save money on gas and maintenance.

And consider whether you even need a second vehicle: you can sell your second vehicle and save a lot of money on car payments and maintenance. Sometimes, if one family member has to drive to work or run errands while the other stays at home, you don’t actually need two cars.

Pay down debt while you’re still working

If you’re currently in debt, cut down as much as you can during the time you’re still working. Pay down student loans, credit cards, and anything else so that all of that interest is not adding up.

This way, when you start living on one income, you will have already paid off some of your debt. Your payments will be lower, and you won’t have the stress of debt hanging over your head once you stop working.

Maybe you can’t become debt-free. But paying down debt as much as possible before becoming a stay-at-home mom just makes good financial sense.

Don’t have debt? Use the extra money you have while you’re still working to build up your emergency fund and retirement accounts.

Prepare for everything

When you become a stay-at-home mom, you aren’t just sacrificing your income. There are other ways you receive compensation in the workforce: benefits like life insurance and health insurance.

Be ready to pay for these things out of pocket, have your spouse’s work cover them, or find alternatives. Don’t forget that these expenses may be higher than they are now with the new baby (and maybe additional children in the future).

Don’t let this discourage you! You can stay home and still meet your financial goals. Just be prepared before you leave.

Embrace frugal living once you are home

woman cooking at home with kid

If you’re used to having a lot of extra income, it’s hard to lose it suddenly.

But embrace frugal living as a lifestyle. You can still enjoy life on one income; you just have to cut back where it’s not necessary.

We’ve already discussed cutting out some luxuries, but truly loving frugal living goes a little further. Here are some things to explore:

Saving money at home doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. It can be a fun adventure. Promise.

Make up the difference with more income

You can make up the monthly income you’re losing in other ways.

It’s actually straightforward to make a few hundred dollars a month doing online work like freelance writing or becoming a virtual assistant.

There’s also babysitting, flipping furniture, selling crafts, and paid part-time work.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

How to afford to stay home with your kids

If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, it may seem like there’s no way you can afford it. However, if you reduce your expenses now and plan how life will change when the baby arrives, staying home with your kids is possible.