Itching to get out of the 9-5 workforce and spend more time with your kids? Or, perhaps you’re thinking of getting pregnant and want to know how to stay home full-time with your kids.
I share why you cannot risk quitting your career, but you can still maximize time with your family and other personal priorities.
What does that mean for you? If you’re looking for a new job or starting a business you can do from home, now is a prime time to find one — or to ask your current employer if you can do some or all of your work from home.
In this post, I’ll show you:
- “I want to be a stay-at-home mom but we can’t afford it”
- How you can afford to be a stay-at-home mom
- Ways to make money for stay-at-home moms
“I want to be a stay-at-home mom but we can’t afford it”
The argument is over: You absolutely, positively cannot afford to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
No need to delve into arguments about personal choice or what is good for children or families. That’s all been hashed out in the mommy wars. It’s not about those issues. This is about money.
You. Cannot. Afford. To. Be. A. Fulltime. Stay-at-home-mom. You just can’t.
What’s that you say? Your husband is a banker? And your family is rich? Your spouse adores you? Doesn’t matter. It makes no financial sense for any of those 5.1 million women in the United States who are stay-at-home moms.1 That is about one-in-five married-couple families who have decided to put their family’s futures in jeopardy.
Don’t just take it from me. I recently interviewed Joanne Cleaver, a career consultant and author of The Career Lattice.
“Stepping off the career track completely is career suicide,” Cleaver told me. “Don’t do it.”
Her reason? You will no doubt lose the momentum you’ve built, the network you accumulated, the credibility you’ve earned. But these longtime truths are accelerated in today’s tech-driven world – no matter what industry you’re in.
“If you completely leave the workforce, when you return you’ll have to completely reinvent yourself with new skills, new credentials and a new portfolio,” Cleaver said. “You might as well start in a new career.”
These challenges translate into a tougher time getting a new gig when you want one. And once you do, you’ll earn less than if you had kept a foot in the workforce while caring for your kids.
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and Oxford University found that when professional women leave the workforce for three or more years, they suffer a compensation hit of 41%.2 Other research finds that stay-at-home moms are more depressed, anxious and socially isolated.3
The good news, however, is that despite the cultural and social pressure to commit endless hours to our children, kids actually don't benefit from all those hours of helicopter parenting — and instead do best with working mothers.
However, if you plan ahead and keep a hand in the game, things might turn out differently. Of course, things don’t always happen as planned.
What happens if your husband leaves or asks for a divorce? You’ll have no income. In this post, I talk about what happens if you want to get divorced as a stay-at-home mom.
How can I afford to be a stay at home mom?
1. Budget — track spending (and cut expenses)
The first step, says Doug Carey, is to create a budget. Carey is a Chartered Financial Analyst and president and owner of WealthTrace, a consumer retirement and financial planning software company in Zionsville, In.
Carey offers the following tips:
- Use a budgeting app to track your spending. It’ll help you gauge the impact of a salary loss. It will also give you concrete data on how much money you need versus how much you want.
- Figure out how much you'll save by staying at home. Expenses like gas money, babysitting, and clothing are likely to decrease. However, there could be new expenses such as health insurance.
- Cut back on luxury items and dining out.
- Think about downsizing your home or moving to an area with a lower cost of living.
- Think about starting a home garden to save money on groceries. Even if you live in an apartment, you can have a container garden on your balcony.
“In addition to having a budget, it could be a very good idea to hire a financial coaching or planning service to keep you on track,” Carey advises. “By seeing how your finances look in the future, it will help you get your arms around the situation better.”
In short, create a tight budget, crunch the numbers, and be realistic about what you can afford. If the numbers don’t support your decision to be a stay-at-home mom, make a plan to get there by exploring new opportunities to earn extra income.
After all, spending quality time with your children is worth the fight to make this happen.
You Need a Budget is a spreadsheet-based app that helps you pay off debt, create a budget and set and reach all your money goals. Try YNAB's 34-day free trial now >>
2. Start a flexible career you can work at home
Ask yourself: How can you keep a foot – toe, knuckle, nail – in your industry while still giving your children the time you feel they deserve? Brainstorm, ask colleagues and mentors for advice, and get creative to make sure you remain relevant. You can’t afford not to.
Do not aim just to pay the bills and get by, but focus on a longer-term career, advancement and the education and skills you need to get there.
There are countless ways moms can earn a high income, from home, with legitimate, flexible careers — many of which earn $100,000 or more.
Our Top 2, highly paid work at-home careers, without degrees are:
Proofreader. If you’re great with words, detail and grammar, you may also be interested in a proofreading career, which can pay $15-$30 hour from home, on your schedule.
Bookkeepers. Bookkeepers can earn a salary, or build a business earning $75+/ hour, which can be more than $100,000 per year. Entry-level bookkeeper jobs can pay $20/hour.
Bookkeeper Launch is the top-rated online video course to help you start and run a successful, 6-figure bookkeeping business.
3. Ask for a raise – and then bank it
The fastest, surest way to make more money is to ask for a raise and/or promotion. But make sure you have a plan for that extra money ahead of time. More money often leads to more spending if you’re not committed to a strict budget.
One easy way to save is to open a savings account and set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking to your savings. Once you calculate your after-tax raise, send that amount directly to a savings account and don’t touch it. You can also invest it and build wealth.
You might be surprised how fast it adds up. You can use the money for an emergency fund if you don’t already have one.
Here is expert advice (with videos!) about asking for that raise.
4. Find ways to save money
Living within your budget — even a reduced budget — will help you feel less stressed and more focused on making wise investments in your career and time:
Shop around for insurance rates
Compare rates among different companies for auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and other insurance products you buy.
Refinance your car
If you have a decent credit score, you may be able to refinance your car for a lower payment, and skip payments for 90 days.
Auto Credit Express is A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau:
- Average Saving: $1,700 or $143 per month
- Minimum Credit Score: 525
- APR from 3.99%
- Loan Amounts: $5,000 – $45,000
- Vehicle Criteria: Under 10 Years/150K Miles
Transfer your debt to 0% credit card
Be sure to keep an eye on your credit score. If you carry a credit card balance, see if you qualify for a 0% balance transfer credit card, and save thousands of dollars in interest each year — or at leaset transfer to a lower-interest loan and pay off your debt.
One easy way to overspend is to avoid meal planning — and rely on take-out, restaurants and prepared meals at the grocery store. These are less healthy, and more expensive than cooking from scratch. Get some ideas for meal kits, meal planning and other ways to save on food for your family.
How to make money as a stay-at-home mom
No matter how much income you bring in every month, most moms feel they could use a little more cash. Or, a LOT more cash. Most of us could use more spending money, you have investing goals or college tuition to save for.
One of the best things about being alive today, is there are more ways to make money than ever these days. The internet is a treasure trove when it comes to making money.
Here are ways stay at home moms make money:
Sell things you don't need
Instead of going straight to MLM programs, sell items you already have (think old clothes, electronics, household items) online through craigslist.com, eBay.com, or Facebook Marketplace.
Check out 10 business ideas for moms.
You can also earn money selling your talents and abilities in the form of a service. You could mow lawns, clean houses, help people with bookkeeping, or teach piano lessons, for example.
Freelance and online businesses
Selling your skills is one of the most sustainable ways to make money online, and can grow into a full-time career, or even a scalable business. This is how Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson started — by freelance writing, and then by starting a blog.
One of the best ways to start growing an online service-based business is with freelancing gigs.
The benefits of freelancing, opposed to having a j-o-b, is that rather than following someone else’s rules as an employee, you have control over your schedule and the work you do.
Most types of freelancing don’t require any formal education. You don’t need an English degree to be a successful freelance writer. And if you can answer emails, manage social media, or do other administrative tasks, the role of virtual assistant could be perfect for you.
There are also excellent online courses that can help you learn the basic skills to launch your new career, plus support for finding clients. Bookkeeper Business Launch is a popular first step for many successful freelance, work-at-home bookkeepers who can earn multiple six-figures.
Coding, or programming, is a high-demand, highly paid industry that is especially short of female workers. This work can be done remotely, online.
Don’t panic if you can’t write code. There are many online resources for how to get started, as well as online communities of other coders from whom you can learn.
Earn money quickly
If your goal is making money in a hurry, you need to find ways that don’t require long waiting periods or a bunch of hoops to jump through. Here are some of the best ways to earn money in a hurry:
If you need to earn more money than you’re making now, you may face an even bigger challenge than many working moms: How can you possibly increase your earnings when you have so little free time already?
Start a side hustle today to make more money
Finally, don’t forget the prospect of starting a side hustle — or a temporary job you can take on in addition to your full-time work. Side hustles look different for everyone, but they can include concepts like driving for Uber or Lyft, babysitting kids, painting houses, mowing lawns, and more.
Online side hustles include some of the ideas we’ve mentioned already — jobs like tutoring or finding online freelance bookkeeping work.
Some side hustles you can do from home also overlap; for example, you can work as a virtual assistant or freelance writer online and from your couch, just like you can write freelance articles anywhere with an internet connection.
Maybe you need a little extra cash (or a lot – hello, savings account!), maybe you’re bored with your current career, or you want to safeguard yourself against a recession or an industry crash by having a fall-back plan. Or maybe you’re interested in pursuing your passion project, but you’re not quite ready to make the leap into full-time business ownership. Whatever your reason is, you NEED a side hustle.
The good news is there are many jobs you can do from home. Many of them can be done with just a laptop and an internet connection. If you need job training, you can find free and affordable courses online through sites like Udemy and Coursera.
Bottom line: Being a stay-at-home mom will require you to work
The fact that the majority of moms today will be an unpartnered mother, and divorce rates still stand at around 50%, only underscores why all women must prioritize their careers, earnings and future investments.
Many stay-at-home moms take on a part-time job or side gig to keep cash flowing and to keep a foot in the professional world.
If you have no income (or not enough income), apply for recession-proof jobs to establish financial stability initially. Long-term, it’s important to keep your eyes open for jobs that align with your interests so you can build a fulfilling career on your own terms.
If you already have a full-time job, be open to working outside of your home until you can establish financial stability, but give thought to lucrative side hustles that could turn into a full-time business — giving you the necessary cash flow to stay at home.
- “Stay-at-home moms and dads account for about one-in-five U.S. parents,” by Gretch Livingston, Pew Resarch Center, Sept. 24, 2018 https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/09/24/stay-at-home-moms-and-dads-account-for-about-one-in-five-u-s-parents
- Kahn, J.R., García-Manglano, J. and Bianchi, S.M. (2014), The Motherhood Penalty at Midlife: Long-Term Effects of Children on Women's Careers. Fam Relat, 76: 56-72. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12086
- “Stay-at-Home Moms Report More Depression, Sadness, Anger,” by Elizabeth Mendes, Lydia Saad and Kyley McGeeney, Gallup May 18, 2012 https://news.gallup.com/poll/154685/stay-home-moms-report-depression-sadness-anger.aspx
One of the best things about being alive today, is there are more ways to make money than ever these days. The internet is a treasure trove when it comes to finding side hustles or new ways to sell your product or service, and there are money-making apps you can use as well.
The first step, says Doug Carey, a Chartered Financial Analyst, is to create a budget.
Start by taking a detailed look at your finances, and identify your short-term and long-term financial goals.
While some stay-at-home moms can survive off of their spouse’s earnings, it’s important for stay-at-home moms to retain some financial independence in the event of: death, divorce, or spousal job loss. That's why many stay-at-home moms take on a part-time job or side gig to keep cash flowing and to keep a foot in the professional world.