One of the biggest decisions for a family to make when having a baby is if both parents go back to work after baby comes. For some, the choice is obvious. Some moms and dads love their careers and wouldn’t think of leaving them. For some, especially us mom, the choice really comes down to our current financial situation.
Trying to do the math on whether it is a better financial decision to become a stay-at-home parent or go back to work can be pretty tricky! There are so many things to factor in when you do the math. Add that on top of the fact that most people don’t really understand their own finances to begin with, and it can be nearly impossible to accurately figure out.
This post will help you to do the math on whether or not you can afford to be a stay-at-home-mom.
The first thing to do is make sure that you have an accurate picture of what your finances look like right now. The only way to do that is to track your spending down to the penny. Get yourself an awesome budget spreadsheet and come up with a system to make sure that everything gets entered into it properly.
Next, you need to make up a couple of mock budgets. The first will be your budget if you keep working at your current job. The second will be without your current income.
Here are some things to make sure that you factor into your calculations:
Will you need to pay for childcare?
This is the biggest one for most families, so make sure that you do a good amount of research. Check into the childcare option that you are most likely to go with – a day care center, in home daycare, nanny, etc. Find some places in your area and call to get pricing. The cost of childcare varies greatly from city to city, so you want to make sure that you have a correct number.
Can you work from home?
There are a lot of ideas out there now for parents who want to work from home. You can find an agency to freelance with, work in customer service, watch another child, start a blog, or work for a direct sales company. If you are planning to start one of these things to contribute to the family income, make sure that you use the low end estimates in your budgeting. The last thing that you want to do it create a budget based on an income that you can’t attain.
Would you save on fuel?
Your commute to and from work is costing you money everyday. If you are not driving, will that cut down on your gas cost?
Are there any “luxuries” that you can cut?
Things like cable, Netflix, getting your nails done, eating take-out, etc. might be worth sacrificing if they make the difference between your budget working and not working.
Is your health insurance about to skyrocket?
When we added a baby onto our insurance plan, the monthly premium tripled! Make sure that you know what your payments will be once you bring home that little one before you go through and do your math.
Can you cut down on food costs?
Couponing, using apps and websites, and pre-planning your meals may be a great way for you to save on groceries if you are not currently doing these things. Being home may allow you a little more time to plan and organize your grocery choices leading to lower grocery bills. Amazon Subscribe & Save is also a great way to cut down on household spending.
Does losing an income mean you qualify for government assistance?
If you are living close to the “low income” threshold to begin with, you may be able to reduce some of your food or medical bills by taking advantage of programs like Medicaid or WIC. Check into your local regulations to see if these programs could help you.
Are you willing to use cloth diapers?
For me, going back to work was one of the deciding factors in not going the cloth diaper route. Using cloth diapers may save you money versus the 1000s of disposable diapers that you will go through. It is more time consuming because of the frequency that you will want to do laundry – especially if you want to save by not buying very many.
Are there any debts you can pay off?
Things like student loans and credit card payments eat into your monthly income very quickly. If you have a little bit of money in savings, it may help you in the long run to pay off the remaining balances instead of continuing to make monthly payments.
Can you “downsize” anything?
While selling your house might be a little bit extreme, are there other things that you can trade in if you don’t need to keep up your professional appearance? For example, could you trade in your car for a less expensive one or sell some of your business wardrobe staples that you won’t need to stay home with your family?
When you factor in all of these costs, the numbers may really surprise you. The difference between being able to stay home with your baby and going back to work may just be making a few adjustments to balance out your budget.