Balancing a marriage, three kids and a budget as a stay-at-home mom wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
In the many decisions I have made and then second-guessed as a parent, my decision to stay home was never one of them. Growing up I loved spending my days caring for the army of baby dolls that lived in my room long after I should have grown out of them, so of course when I was lucky enough to have real babies, I was also reluctant to let go.
To be honest, I did go back to work between each baby for about four months as my husband and I decided to have our kids super close together but after our third baby I was faced with a dilemma—go back to work full-time or stay home?
The thought of staying home was one that was hard to swallow at first. The thought of walking away from a well-paying job in order to take on one that was well…not. In order to finance this new lifestyle we had to make some pretty big sacrifices.
Enjoy a humble home
Shortly after my daughter was born my husband and I started getting serious about buying our first home. Knowing that we were planning on expanding our family, we chose a small home with a small mortgage. By choosing to live in a smaller home we were able to manage to pay our mortgage without worry. Many of my friends chose to buy homes with basement apartments to help keep their costs lower.
Your car isn’t cool
I am the proud owner of one of the ugliest vans in the world. It is full of rust and memories. I own that beauty outright so I have chosen to keep driving it. It is well known that brand new vehicles are one of the worst investments you can make. The moment you drive off the lot it’s worth has already been rapidly depleted. Many of my financially fit friends instead choose to buy used and drive long after their vehicles are considered ‘cool’.
One of the biggest ways to save money while on maternity leave is to buy everything you can secondhand. From clothes to gear and even household items, you can save by only buying what you need and purchasing it used. I love Varage Sale. Save even more by selling items you no longer need.
Make money where you can
While I was home I always looked for opportunities to make money. I would clean houses, do childcare, make and sell crafts as well as do freelance work. Many moms choose to make it work with various MLM (multi-level marketing) companies—there are too many to name. There is always a way to bring in a little cash while staying home with your littles.
Cook on the cheap
One of the easiest ways to control your grocery bill is to curate the ingredients you use. Simple apps like Flipp allow you to compare items to get the lowest price, but it will only help so much if you are buying expensive ingredients. One of the items I am always on the lookout for is whole chickens at a good price. Buying the chickens whole allows you to eat them for more than one meal. You can roast the chicken (I have a bigger family so I make two) with carrots and potatoes (super cheap produce) and then use the carcass to make soup. I love making soup because it is easy, healthy and cheap! All you need to do is throw a chicken carcass in a crock pot covered with water and add in some garlic and whole onions (with skin on). Cook low overnight and you will never buy soup broth again. Leftover chicken is also a super easy way to make chicken pot pies, casseroles, sandwiches or is great with salad.
Live on the cheap
My husband and I have been without cable for over a decade. We use a cheap internet and cell phone service and neither one of us ever has the newest and coolest cell phone. We don’t have a home phone and when we do go to the movies, it’s because we have picked up discount tickets at Costco. We use family for babysitting or trade off services with friends. We also often buy secondhand toys for our kids (they are so little they never know the difference) and we did handmade gifts when we could (I love doing photo books each year). The point is, you need to live within your means no matter what. If you can’t afford it, you don’t do it.
Embrace the free stuff
Staying home with the kids means long days where you could be tempted to spend. Instead look for free programs for you and your kids. From community days to community programs, there is a lot available to you and your family. In Ontario, you can check out the Ontario Early Years Centres for free drop-ins and programs.
Don’t even try to keep up with the Jones’
This is not the time of your life when you can likely afford to have nice things, but with little kids do you really think you are going to want them? If they are anything like most children, they would destroy them anyway. This is the time of your life to enjoy your family even if that means you are riding around in the ugliest van in the world wearing secondhand mom jeans.
So PLNers, what are your secrets to saving money and balancing a tight budget? Share them with us in the comments below!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.