You can save money for your whole family as a stay-at-home mom. Here are frugal living tips to help you make the income in your family go as far as it can.
So you’re on a tight budget. Maybe you’ve just become a one-income household. Maybe something in your life has changed, and it’s time to buckle down a bit. Or maybe you just think it would be fun to be saving money so you can retire earlier.
If you’ve been living a life that’s less than frugal, that’s okay. Here’s how to start.
1. Stay home as much as possible
You wake up later than you were planning, and the kids wake up a few minutes later. Everyone sits around, eats breakfast, generates some dishes and some clutter. They’re bored. You’re a little bored.
And what sounds good to you right about now? Strolling around Target. Maybe a nice iced coffee, a trip in the car with the radio on. Just, you know, to get out.
You finally load everyone in the car, get to Target, order your six-dollar coffee. And then the kids start asking for things. There’s nothing wrong with the stuff they want: stickers, little books, cute gardening tools! In a way, they’ll save you money, right?!
You needed a few things too. Basics. New socks. A citrus peeler. No big deal.
Everyone is so hungry by the time you get out of there; you stop for fast food. The healthy fast food place, of course. The kids get to run around and play and go crazy in the ball pit, and you get to relax for once.
You get home and unpack your stuff. And gosh, it’s almost three-thirty! You’re so exhausted from this trip the idea of immediately prepping something for dinner is just too much. You send your husband a text at work.
Would takeout pizza be okay for dinner? You ask. Again.
Did this feel like a personal attack? It would have to me, not long ago. I’ve had days like this more times than I care to admit. And there is nothing wrong with getting a break now and then and wasting the day on something silly.
But you can’t do it all the time. At least not if you’re trying to save money.
You haven’t just spent the actual costs of your outing: the money you spend while out and the gas it takes to get there.
There’s also wasted time that you could have used to do something truly productive and beneficial to your family’s finances. When you’re running around all day doing something dumb, there’s no time to make dinner, organize the house, or do anything else.
Stay home is number one on this list for a reason. It doesn’t feel like it should save you that much, but it does.
If you hate being home, changing your home atmosphere needs to be your #1 priority. The importance of this for you can’t be overstated if you’re a stay-at-home mom. (Here’s a hint: if your home is clean and decluttered, it’s a lot easier to love. If you’re bored and the house is a mess, you can take care of both of those problems instantly.)
2. Use what you have
Does this sound obvious? It is, and it isn’t.
Think about how we start doing most planning. We think about what we want, not what we have:
- Meal plan for the week? Let’s list out what sounds good to us!
- A family vacation in the cards? What are our dream destinations?
- Needing a new vehicle? I want a third row and heated seats for sure.
See the problem here? We haven’t started with what we have. We’ve just made a wish list and assumed that we could afford it. If it turns out we can’t, life feels like a big disappointment. Or, we just put it on a credit card and start digging a little hole.
So instead of this, try starting each decision, big and small, with what you have right now. Some examples:
- set a budget for your vacation and only look at destinations that fit within it
- look at your pantry, freezer, and fridge before you make a grocery list and meal plan for the week
- budget an amount of money to spend on Christmases and birthdays
- stop buying duplicates of things you already own
- use the electronics you already have until they die
- only spend money that exists in your bank account (instead of watching your credit card balance and hoping you can pay it off on payday)
You just need to get in the habits of understanding that money is limited and sometimes even scarce. You have to work with what you have, not just buy what you want and hope it all works out.
Making a budget is part of this step, but if you don’t want to do that now, just commit to only spending the money you have, and we’ll tackle your budget later!
3. Plan for your big goal
So… both of our first two steps were sort of…mean.
Now we’re moving on to happier steps. Yes, a lot of money-saving tips involve sacrifice. But not all of them. So much of frugal living is about having more. More time, more freedom, more of what you want. And that starts here, with a step of planning your big goal.
What is your big goal? Why are you saving money?
- are you trying to get out of debt (it will feel so great when you get there!)
- do you want to lower your expenses so you can be a stay-at-home mom forever?
- Would your husband like to leave his current job and start his dream job?
There is a reason you are reading this. What is your big, big goal? Plan for it, keep it in mind and let it guide everything you do.
4. Embrace having less
This is one of those sentences that can mean nothing. Like “live your dream.” But let’s really look at what it means.
You can have less and grumble and complain and feel victimized. Or you can have less and embrace it and see the good in it. And there is good in having less.
- When you have few clothes, it’s easy to do your laundry and organize your closets.
- When you don’t have the latest kitchen gadget, you don’t have to worry about storing it and losing all the parts.
- When you can’t afford all the home decor you want, you don’t need to worry about keeping up with trends.
So when Step #2 rears its ugly head, and you just don’t have what you need to buy something, don’t think of it as a hardship. There is always something good about not getting what you wanted. It might not seem like it at the time.
5. Realize why you’re spending money
Before you can become a frugal stay-at-home mom, you have to take a hard look at why you’re spending so much money.
- Are you bored, and browsing online shops is fun?
- Are you feeling unattractive, and getting something pretty would cheer you up?
- Are your kids getting on your nerves, and buying them new toys will give you some peace?
- Did your best friend get a new kitchen backsplash and now you need one too?
There’s nothing wrong with admitting any of this. I have personally experienced every one of these feelings myself. But it’s a good practice to separate your needs and your wants. When you can take a hard look at why you want something, you will realize when you actually need something.
Hint: it’s usually because something else is broken, empty, or required (like school supplies).
I’ve found it helpful to track my spending for at least a month when wrestling with this. I’ve made a spending tracker that includes a column that asks why you bought something. After a few weeks, a clear pattern will emerge.
This is the step that will help you save money long-term.
A different approach to saving money
Here’s what we didn’t discuss: signing up for rewards programs that give you points for buying things you don’t need, driving to multiple grocery stores to save fifty cents on your grocery bill, or unplugging all your appliances to save money.
That’s because little things like that are just so…little. They can be undone with a few hours of careless spending. If you’re trying to stay a one-income family, they’ll never be enough to move the needle.
You can do so many practical things to save money as a stay-at-home mom: meal planning, making your own cleaning products, more frugal grocery shopping, ditching that second car payment, and more.
But before we tackle those (and we will!), we need to look at the big things that keep us from saving money.
Good luck! You can change your ways and embrace frugal living. I know it.