Back to the topic at hand. We have just start living on our apocalyptic Post Baby Budget *cue horror music*. We figured a month of practice would do us some good, even though our brains are screaming for eating out and $2 movies and other things that are mostly of the past. I wanted to share, though, how we are making it work. Obviously we are just now putting it into play. But what you may not know is that it has been in the works for over 2 years- since before we got married! For those of you who don't feel called to be stay at home moms, this post is not for you. This is in no way a judgement of people who don't feel that's best for their families and this is not an attempt to convert you to SAHMedness. For those of you who know there is no way on earth you can make it work, this post is not for you. I'm not trying to convince you that the earth and stars really CAN be moved you when you know they can't. And I so feel for you if you feel called to it and there is just no way to make it happen. This blog post is mostly for people who have an inkling that it could work for their families, that they feel called to be a stay at home mom, but who just aren't sure how exactly to make this thing work. I was there! And I won't say I'm coming out on the other side of it, since it is still just beginning, but we worked our butts off to make this a reality, so I thought I would share some of what we did, how we planned, and what is making it doable for us.
First, please know that we're giving up around 43% of our income by me staying home. Yes, that is our choice so I'm not complaining. But think about that percentage and know that this has not been easy to figure out by any means! I am in awe of anyone who gives up even more to make it work. Second, know that people make this decision last minute or after some of their children have been born all the time. This is from a different angle though; it's from the angle of super-planners like me. For us, I'm not sure it would have been able to work otherwise, but everyone's circumstances are different! It goes without saying that what works for us may or may not work for you. So here is what we did:
- We began discerning my vocation well before marriage. I don't know if this is surprising to anyone, but our original 'plan' was for me to keep working after starting a family. It felt right to us for a while, until it didn't. That could probably be an entire blog post on its own. Once we realized we wanted me to stay home, we knew we had to get going on figuring out how that would happen. I refused for us to bury our heads in the sand, live somewhat frivolously, and then not be able to make our dream of me being at home come true. If it wasn't going to happen, it wasn't going to happen for a much better reason than poor planning!
- As soon as we got married, we began living as much with just Steven's paycheck as we could. We got practice during our engagement because we had to save quite a bit of money for the portion of the wedding we paid for. So we figured, why start spending that after marriage? Instead we spent about 6 months working towards not using my income. Now we actually did use it, but not on anything in our regular budget. It was either put into savings OR used for things like unexpected expenses (that will now come from savings, but no point in depleting it when we had my paycheck), paying for progesterone throughout pregnancy etc. But it was not factored into our regular expenses for the most part. Some months we did great and others we totally tanked, but we didn't throw in the towel.
- We learned to live without. We only had cable at the apartment we lived at when we were first married because it was free. We do 'splurge' on Netflix, but cable is just, to us, money down the drain that we could be saving and a luxury we knew we couldn't afford in the future. We also have slower internet than most people. It's not super noticably slow, and it saves quite a bit of money. We also tend to go on cheap dates (but actually have learned to have fun finding and planning those!). No drinks or desserts at restaurants for us, and we mostly eat at casual places. We only go to $2 movies when we do go and we use coupons for meals, events, etc. It takes extra planning and work but saves so much money. Now that we're in our Post Baby Budget, we will continue to stretch our minds as we live without more comfort things. To some people it's not worth it, and that's ok! To us it is, so we learn to be even more creative.
- We beefed up our savings account. We know things will be rough financially for a while. We knew that our Post Baby Budget is tight and doesn't allow for extras or emergencies. So we knew we needed a safety net for anything that does come up. The hope is that I'll be able to supplement our income, even just a small amount, at some point in the future, but we wanted to make sure we were ok for a while until that happens. So we picked a number and made that our goal. We are actually $1,000 above our goal which is good since the first few months we will probably need random baby crap we never knew existed and will most likely drain that quickly. It was fairly easy to beef up our savings since we weren't using the majority of my income anyways. One of my checks might have gone toward the maternity retainer fee and that month's progesterone, and the next we could sock away into savings.
- We bought a house that we could afford on just Steven's income. This one was hard. I love, LOVE our house. I really do! But a house is something that is hard not to get the "Jones" over. I see people with houses that would be easier to grow into, that have amenities like garages or bonus rooms, that have fancier finishes, and I'd love all those things! But the fact is, for us, we had to choose whether we wanted to buy a house that had all that and I kept working or to buy a house that was sustainable on one income and give up the extras. It was an easy choice for us, and we are so blessed to have found our precious house in a short sale, but it's something I have to constantly remind myself of. I know that our kids will have to share bedrooms, and I know that homeschooling in this house will have to be creative without having a dining room or extra school room space. I know this. But it is so worth it to be able to live within our means on one income. Our biggest mistake would have been buying a house with a mortgage that was 20 or 30% of our combined income because I honestly don't know that we could have made it work once I quit my job. Instead we bought a house that turns out to be about 30% percent of just Steven's income, which makes it doable in long term... probably the best decision we made.
I'm sure there are a few things I'm missing, but I'd say these are the major things that have factored into being able to turn our dream into a reality. I would love to hear what things you all have done either as you prepared to stay at home or if you are preparing currently.