Couple reviewing spreadsheets and paperwork sitting at a desk with a laptop.

Managing One Income to be a Stay-at-Home Mom

4 Steps to Make the Money Work to Stay Home with Your Baby

Do you want to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM)? It often comes down to money. Managing One Income to be a Stay-at-Home Mom (SAHM) may take a little work, but it may be the answer you’re looking for.

So, the first thing to do is make a plan.

As noted in “How to Transition to Being a Stay-at-Home Mom,” your plan is going to require the agreement and cooperation of both of you.

The transition to having a sound financial plan may be easier to adjust to if given time to do so. Meaning, put your plan into place before you need it. That way, you have the chance to make adjustments to the plan, or to your own expectations.

This is not to say that you will not be successful if circumstances require immediate implementation. Sometimes, loss of employment or a surprise pregnancy necessitates quick adjustments.

In both cases, communication and cooperation are your friends.

Steps:

  1. Make a Financial Plan
  2. Create a Budget
  3. Reduce Debt & Increase Savings
  4. Communicate/ Adjust/ Adapt

1. Make a Financial Plan

This, perhaps, is the most important conversation you will have. As such, the sooner you start, the better.

For many couples, even after marriage, talking about finances is done on a superficial basis. This might be easier to do with two incomes. But, when it comes to a managing one income to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s time to lay all of your financial cards on the table.

Determine an overall plan for your families finances. Fair warning… you may learn something about your partner that you never knew before. I’ve known couples that were not aware of high credit card debt, for example.

If that is you, how will you manage that on one income? Is that something you will be responsible to pay down before leaving your job? Or, will you roll that amount into the overall debts you both carry and tackle it together? Either way, you need to know.

A high-level understanding of where you are financially and what your goals are is a start. Get an idea of your total debt and income as of today.

How long do you have before you stop working? The shorter the time frame, the more aggressive you may need to be.

Do you have the luxury of planning in advance? Yes? Then utilize a timeline for any milestones you would like to reach (ex. saving $5,000 by <date> or paying off credit cards in 12 months).

Working toward a goal and seeing the progression is motivating.

Once you have your high-level plan in place, it’s time to dig down on the details.

Questions to Consider:

  • Why do you want to stay home? Is your reason financial or part of family planning?
  • How long are you planning to stay-at-home? Is this a temporary arrangement or a long term one?
  • What do you gain/ lose by leaving work?
    • Loss: Bonuses, Travel, Stipends, Healthcare (HSA), Career Advancement
    • Gain: Time with Family, No Commute, Childcare
  • Are you financially able to manage on a single income?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the household finances?
    • It might seem like the person staying home to manage the home, but that is not the case for every family.
    • Have the person who will see to the family finances determine where/ how you want to have information placed. (Receipts in an Inbox/ Noted on a Spreadsheet/ Texted/ Emailed/ Scanned to Cloud)
  • Are you consolidating debt?
  • Will you deposit both paychecks into one account or deposit a set amount?
  • What happens if your goals are not reached?
  • What is the least amount of money you need to earn/ save before being able to live off one income?
Desk with monthly budget spreadsheet, glasses, calculator, receipts and pencil.
Take stock of your financial health and make a budget so you can meet your goals.

2. Create a Budget

Take a good look at your financial health. Where are you currently spending? Where do you stand financially today? Are you barely making ends meet? Do you have savings? Go ahead and pull out your bank records and receipts and start calculating. You have to know where you are before you can see where you’re going.

First and foremost, don’t leave any money on the table! Take advantage of any financial benefits due to you before leaving your job. If it’s an option, cash in any vacation days that you will not be taking. The same goes with unused sick days. If not, take them to make plans for this next phase of your life (ex. doctor’s appointments).

Don’t forget your 401(k)! You can leave it with your employer, or roll it into an individual IRA account.

Incorporate ways to reduce the costs of daily living. Once you have a good handle on your current expenditures, remember that soon, you will have the added cost of what the baby needs. This will include healthcare, diapers, clothing, food, toys, etc.

Costs to Consider

Fixed Payments

  • Rent/ Mortgage
  • Car Payment + Insurance
  • Phone Plan
  • Student Loans
  • Health Insurance

Variable Payments

  • Household Utilities
  • Car Maintenance + Gas
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment (Streaming Services, Cable, Movies, Dinner, etc.)

3. Reduce Debt & Increase Savings

Perhaps the most difficult adjustment to your new financial venture will be cutting costs and eliminating luxuries. The goal is to reduce debt. Avoid relying on carrying or adding debt when deciding to stay home.

Debt happens, but you do not want to bake that into your plan. Get ahead of as much of your consumer debt as you can. Pay down credit cards, student loans and car payments.

Consolidate where possible.

You are far more likely to reach your financial goals when you know what you’re dealing with.

Refer to this post on money saving ideas to give you a way forward.

This budget calculator from NerdWallet, or one like it, can help organize the numbers. A simple spreadsheet can also get the job done. And please, don’t forget to budget in mad money for you, mom. You’ll need to have you own spending money too.

Additional Cost Savings Measures

  • Trade-in your Car- (Swap a Sporty Vehicle for Something Economical/ Family Friendly)
  • Cancel Cable & Premium Sports Packages
  • Reduce/ Adjust Gym Memberships
  • Dine in (Eliminate Restaurants & Food Delivery Services)
  • Reduce/ Eliminate Vacations (Consider Staycations for More Affordable Getaways)
  • Move to a Lower Cost of Living Area
  • Use Discount Deals & Grocery Coupons to Save on Everyday items (The Krazy Coupon Lady, Daily Steals, etc.)
  • Shop Sales & Clearance Aisles (In stores and online)

You’re sitting on top of money right now. Look around your house and you might find clothing, shoes, furniture, and more that you’re not using. Make a little room in your home and add some money to your pocket by selling what you can.

  • Good Ole Fashion Yard Sale/ Garage Sale
  • Facebook Marketplace: Virtual garage sale/ swap meet
  • Offerup: Similar to a swap meet
  • Threadup: / Poshmark – Online consignment stores

Shopping

It might be time to expand where/ how you shop. When you have to spend, spend smart. When it’s time to buy, try a thrift shop before going retail. Look at it like treasure hunting. Oftentimes, you can find new or gently used items you would buy at a retail store for great savings.

Before buying, ask yourself:

  • Do I need it or do I want it?
  • How often will I use it?
  • Is this a limited opportunity or can I purchase at a later date?
  • What else could we put this money toward?
  • Does it put me closer or further away from reaching our goals?

If you need things for the baby, look to your network of friends and family first. Baby stuff is expensive and barely gets used.

Save yourself some money by borrowing big ticket items or buying on consignment, if you can. I was able to borrow a new car seat and pack-n-play when my daughter was born. I also got a lot of clothes handed down.

It was a huge savings, especially considering she grew out of everything within a few months!

Working a side hustle is a way for stay-at-home moms to make money from home.

Related Article: Well-stocked Kitchen for Busy Families

Earn Money

Sometimes, after working the plan, you may find that you need a little money to help ease the strain. Thankfully. there are ways for you to do so from home.

  • Previous Employment: Are you able to return to your old job in some capacity while staying home?
  • Utilize Skills: Can you utilize the skills from your career/ life to embark on a new job from home?
    • Are you especially good at anything that you can freelance doing? (Graphic Design, Build Websites, Party Planning, Hand-made Crafts, etc.)
  • New Opportunities: (Childcare, Learn a New Skill, Open a New Business)
  • Side Hustle: Take on jobs that bring in a little cash for very little of your time. (Delivery Services, Surveys, Virtual Assistant, …)

The fulfillment people feel from working is not always tied to the paycheck. You may find that your reasoning for wanting to work again is not monetary, but emotional. It’s so important to maintain your mental and emotional health.

If work provides a sense of purpose for you, that’s ok. You can find a way to work and be with your kids, if that’s what you want to do.

4. Communicate + Adjust + Adapt

Congratulations on making it this far! I know that it’s a lot to think about and even more to do. Now that you have a plan that you are putting into action, remember that it is a living, breathing document.

Life doesn’t do so well with rigidity. It ebbs and flows. So will your life as a stay-at-home parent. Kids are the epitome of unpredictable. While a structure will help keep things front of mind, be prepared to make adjustments if required.

Communication will be your most important tool. Use it. Often.

Should anything new arise that you need to plan for long term, talk about it. Even if you aren’t the one to manage the finances for the household, you should know where things stand. Make adjustments to your plan as needed.

As situations change, you may need to adapt to a new normal.

Take Away

The transition to becoming a stay-at-home parent can be a big one. For many, it comes down to money. Make sure you are taking the time to formulate a plan that you both agree to.

Although it may be challenging and uncomfortable, managing on one income to be a stay-at-home mom, is possible.

Remember that you are on the same team and have the same goals. For some families, having a parent stay home with the kids is a financial decision. Given the high cost of childcare, it makes sense. But for others, it has more to do with a desire to personally care for your kids.

In the end, how do you afford becoming a stay-at-home mom (SAHM)?

It takes communication, planning and cooperation. How much you need to sacrifice and the degree to which you need to make adjustments, will vary by family. The process may be easier for some than it is for others, but it can be done. If this is your path, I wish you well.

Related Article: How to Make Friends as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Are you a stay-at-home parent? How did you manage the financial adjustment? Share your story in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “Managing One Income to be a Stay-at-Home Mom”

  1. Such a helpful and informative post! I’ve dabbled with the idea of being a stay-at-home mom but we are not in the right financial space for it…yet. We’ll see what happens but these are great tips to start the path. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Angie,
      Money is always the barrier to what we want to get out of our lives. I’ve been having a financial panic lately and am at a point when I need to make some money soon. If being a SAHM is something you want to do one day, I’m sure you will have that opportunity. Your blog is great and may be the way for you to replace that income one day. I’m rooting for you!

      ~ Cassie

    1. Hi Giulia, I hope that you are able to stay home full-time soon. How is the planning going? Was it hard to make the financial adjustments? I hope it hasn’t been too painful.

      ~ Cassie

    1. I hope that you are able to work from home. So many businesses are realizing that the need to be ‘in the office’ is just not necessary. Hopefully. it won’t take another extreme world crisis to find better, happier work environments for people. Good luck!
      ~ Cassie

  2. I admire SAHM a lot. I’m not sure if I could do it full time. It takes a lot of communication and works on overcoming any power issues that this reality may bring up to the surface between the couple. These tips are really a beacon of light to make the process more successful! Thanks for sharing xx

    1. Hi Vanessa,
      I know that no situation is 100% ideal. The hope is that communication will help ease the process, but in the end, you still have 2 people trying to compromise. Even through the best of intentions, challenges and disagreements may arise. It certainly isn’t the right option for everyone. But, for those that it does work for, it can be a great thing for parents and kids alike.

      Thank you for reading and commenting,
      Cassie

  3. Hi Cassie, this is a really great post- thanks for sharing. I have been a Stay At Home Mum on and off for 8 years and all of these points raised are definitely valid. I would agree with Vanessa about the power struggle though – that is definitely a thing! Communication is definitely key to overcoming this. X

    1. Hi Jade,

      Thank you for reading. I can certainly see where a power struggle may come into play for some families. I think if that’s the case, there was always the possibility of friction between personalities. Despite our desires, sometimes personalities don’t always mesh in every situation. And yes, communication should help reduce or eliminate some of that, but it is something to keep aware of. I appreciate you sharing your experience and perspective.

      ~ Cassie

    1. Thank you so much. It’s definitely better if you can plan ahead. In many cases, that makes planning for any big transition so much easier. Sure, it can be done on the fly too, but it might be more challenging. I hope that anyone thinking of going this direction does find this list useful.

      I appreciate you stopping by.

      ~ Cassie

  4. Great ideas! I don’t have kids (and not sure if we will…maybe?) but I’ve always loved the idea of being a stay at home mom. Unfortunately, I am the breadwinner in the family and financially it would never work. Also, while financials are a big issue I’m also not sure I could be at home that much and not mentally lose my mind a little! Definitely a lot of thought needed before exploring that options if/when we have kiddos.

    1. Hi Casey Anne! Thanks for reading! You are so right about it not being just about the money. For a lot of people, the money might be the easy part. Some people are better parents because they work outside of the house. That’s why it’s great that we don’t live in a one size fits all world. Our kids just want the best of out us so staying at home or working, whichever makes you feel stronger and more balanced, that’s the right choice.

      ~ Cassie

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