Most of you know that I was a stay at home Mom until my youngest was in seventh grade and my oldest was a sophomore in high school. That is when I went back to work full time. The year before I did that I worked four hours a day while my sons were in school.
A neighbor who has a newborn asked me how we did it just recently. She is fortunate to be able to be home the first year with her newborn before she has to return to work. Of course, she and her Hubby planned for that by saving her entire net income from the day they found out that she was pregnant.
Before I go into how I did it, I want you to know that whether you are a stay at home Mom or a working Mom, you can all benefit from hearing what we did. I knew many stay at home Moms and many working Moms, my mother being one. One of my daughter in laws is a stay at home Mom and one is a working Mom. I admire both greatly.
The first thing we did before I became a stay at home Mom was to never spend my working income on everyday expenses. My net earnings went to saving for our first home and into investments. I worked a total of three of the six years before we had children.
From the time we married until I went back to work part time when my sons were in the above mentioned grades, Hubby made under $6500. the first year to a high of $52,000 when my youngest was 11. Yes, I had to go look it up. We have kept perfect records for years. Some people could look it up on Social Security earnings statements but they don't show the true picture because they only show the earnings that were taxed for social security and medicare. When people reached the earnings limit, they had no tax taken out for these items for the rest of the year. This is still true today. So it is impossible to know what your true gross earnings are unless you keep accurate records. People think that things cost so much more today than they did back in the day. That is not true in most cases when you figure in inflation. Wages have gone up as food, medical, transportation, housing, etc. have. Believe me when I say that it was just as hard to make ends meet back then as it is today.
We cut every expense that we could that was not important to the way we wanted to live when my first son was born. We used cloth diapers which I washed and hung to dry every other day. I even did this when I had two in diapers. My sons were two years apart and my oldest was very stubborn when it came to potty training. I only bought Pampers for when we traveled or went out for the day. I purchased them as cheaply as possible by going to a discount store. If I used an average of two a week that was a lot because we did not go out very often. I made sure that my babysitters knew how to cloth diaper. I used cheap washcloths to clean their bottoms. Those got washed with the diapers and were used only for that purpose. They only had diaper rash once or twice and I used an ointment that the Dr. recommended. I don't remember what it was. After the boys were potty trained, I used those diapers to clean with for years.
I nursed both of my children for up to a year. Once the pediatrician said to start them on baby food, I made my own. I either used a blender or mashed and cut food myself. I would make enough for a few weeks at a time and refrigerate some and freeze the rest. I had some purchased baby food that my father-in law kept buying and bringing the first few months they ate food. But I saved that for when we took the boys to visit family or anytime we went out somewhere.
We had so many toys and clothing that were given to us at my baby shower by friends and family and then again when they were born that we had to hardly buy anything until they were two years old. We also had neighbors and friends who gave us hand me downs. When the boys were 3 - teens, I always purchased on sale or clearance. They didn't have big wardrobes. I purchased what they needed. They outgrew or destroyed their clothes so fast that it would have been crazy to spend a lot for them.
Out pram(baby carriage)was second hand as were the bassinette, crib, and high chair that were all purchased from two neighbors.
We only bought them new toys and books on their birthdays and Christmas. The rest of the year if I saw clothing, books or toys that were dirt cheap at a garage sale, I would buy them there. I had no problem buying a year ahead and packing them away.
We did spend the money to buy them Stride Rite shoes because at that time the pediatricians believed that good shoes were important to the development of their feet. But I always waited until they were on sale. When they were older, they had good sneakers but I didn't buy the top the line expensive brands. Even their jeans were Levi's. When they attended private military school for junior high and high school, I was fortunate that even though their uniforms were expensive, it saved on buying so many everyday clothes. I also was able to buy a lot of their uniforms used at the school's once a year sale.
We did go out about three times a year to either a friend's home or to see a movie. Mostly we entertained at home which was much cheaper than going out. Our friends with kids reciprocated and many times we all just took the babies along.
Mainly if it wasn't a necessity, we didn't buy it. It was much more important to us for me to be home to raise the boys. It was important to us to spend our time with the boys on the weekends and that is why we didn't go out a lot.
We kept tight budgets so that we could invest money each and every month not only for retirement but for college for the boys. They took priority after our everyday major expenses and the expenses for the boys were all covered. We did all of the things that I talk about on this blog to keep our expenses low.
We also did the math on how much income I could make if I worked and then deducted expenses for taxes and other things that would come out of my paycheck each month. We checked out how much daycare would cost us for one and then two babies. We deducted what it would cost us to buy a car for me to get back and forth to work, gas, registration, insurance and car maintenance. We deducted a reasonable amount for take out food for nights that we would both be exhausted. We deducted other expenses like work clothes, nylons, heels, etc. When we got done, it was going to take part of Hubby's salary for me to work which was ridiculous. So we took the stay at home path for that reason and many others.
Bottom line is that it can be done if it really is something you want and you have a spouse who makes an income who can cover the expenses. Is it easy? No. Is it a lot of hard work to keep the expenses low? Yes. Will you be able to keep up with the Joneses? Probably not. But I would not have traded all of those years I was able to stay home with my children for anything.