How I Stay Home When We Can Hardly Afford It

I get asked about how we can afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom a lot. We live in Southern California, where a "cheap" rental home is $1600 a month (that's what we pay). This is one reason Brian and I have always talked about getting out of Cali and have plans to do so in the future. But for now, this is where God has us, and He has called us as parents to "teach His commandments diligently to our children, talk of them when we sit in our home, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise." How we do that in our home is by having me here with them. Like I talked about in

the first part of this blog series, staying at home is a sacrifice we choose to make, not something we are lucky to be able to afford. Honestly, I'm not sure how anybody with an average income even can afford this life. But for us, it isn't about that. It's about saying "yes" to the call and doing what we can to make it happen, then trusting God with the rest. 

Here's some of what we do to live on just my husband's income. 

We cut out what we don't really need.

One of the first things to go was cable TV. This is more of a sacrifice for Brian than the kids and I because he loves football. We had TV for a few years, but he ended up not wanting to spend his time off watching the games. God changed his heart's focus to loving his family and cherishing the days he has away from work, and for that I am surprised and grateful! Now he listens to the games on the radio if he's working, or watches highlights online, and sometimes we'll go to my parents' house and he will watch games with my dad and brothers. We have a subscription to Netflix and Hulu where we watch our favorite shows together and can turn on a kids show so I can get a half-hour of peace every once in awhile. Honestly, our TV is hardly ever on. We go days without using it at all, and it's been so wonderful. My kids have a true love of books and stories that other people ask me about and I know it has to do with how little they watch movies and shows.

We don't have a flat screen TV or any other "latest and greatest" anything for that matter. My parents gave us their TV when they upgraded and it works perfectly fine for family movie nights. We have one computer- my laptop- that has been with us for years and has tape around the charger, but it works, and it's fine, and we are not in want for anything.

I am blessed to be married to a man who doesn't find his worth and value in the things he buys his family!

We don't live on credit.

The only credit we have is our car loan, and that payment is much smaller than the average because of the savings we put down on it at the time of purchase. We do not use credit cards at all. I have heard people say they can afford to stay home with their kids because of credit cards... I'm scared for them! Brian and I love Dave Ramsey and follow a lot of his financial principles (the envelope system works, people!), which we have found to be biblical and very wise. If we don't have the cash for something right now, we don't buy it. It's as simple as that, and this rule keeps us from so many unnecessary purchases!

I get thrifty.

Thrifting has become the cool thing to do, apparently, but I thrift because you can get amazing deals on great stuff! I find things like brand name, clean and new kids shoes for a couple of bucks. I always look through the clothes and house decor when I go thrifting. I get a lot of my favorite dresses and sweaters at thrift stores. Another thing I have good luck with at thrift stores is maternity clothes. It's sad, but stores just completely rip you off on maternity wear. They know you're growing and have to buy new things!

Burlington Coat Factory online has been a huge help with saving on maternity clothes as well. I also joined local exchanges on Facebook where people post items they are selling for super cheap in my area. Craigslist has been great for bulk toys like Thomas the Tank Engine and building blocks (sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!) as well as big ticket purchases like furniture and outdoor play things for the kids.

Gettin' thrifty with my girl at Goodwill!

I even get thrifty when it comes to groceries. However, I am not a couponer. I find that Extreme Couponing and things like that are a waste. All the coupons are for packaged stuff and junk that's bad for you! I save more money by steering clear of packaged anything and buying fresh more often. I get our produce at a local farmer stand, I grocery shop at Winco (a much cheaper version of the grocery store where they can charge less because they have very few employees and have customers bag their own groceries), and I go to Costco for the things that are actually cheaper there and that we use in bulk (diapers, wipes, toilet paper, meat). 

Hubby works extra.

This is the hard one (for me). Brian has the option to take on overtime at work- lots of overtime. It's such a blessing! It's a difficult thing to do though, for sure. He can work twelve hour days if we need him to. In order to make ends meet and live our lives as usual, he works two twelve hour days a week. When we need to save money (since we don't live on credit) or have a large purchase coming up, he will work more. For example, right now is crazy. We are building up a large amount of savings and making some big plans for early next year, but we don't want to put in all the overtime after the baby is born (beginning of November), so Brian is working six twelve-hour days for about two months and we are saving our money now. It's crazy hard! But God provided a way for us to have the money we need and control our income according to our needs, which helps me stay home. I am so thankful!

I plan out our meals.

This is where all of our money used to go out the window- eating. A few months ago I signed up for Emeals. (I saved money there too by paying for a year ahead rather than more money monthly). Emeals is incredibly helpful! We are on the Paleo family dinner plan, and I just choose 3-4 of the suggested meals each week, then stretch them into the remaining nights by doing leftovers, breakfast for dinner sometimes, or just a snack-around night if Brian is working late. We pretty much never go out to dinner as a family- it's just too expensive (and too chaotic to enjoy it anyway)! I also avoid the drive-thru on the days we spend out of the house. I cut up fruits and veggies, pack sandwiches, kettle corn and sippies full of water rather than stopping for cheeseburgers if at all possible. If we'll be out all day long, I bring a cooler with ice and keep it in the trunk. Anything is better than stopping for fast food if it's avoidable, and not just for health reasons but for budget reasons! I will say though, there are times that I am out much longer than expected or life happens and we have to grab a quick bite. But I plan when I can and as much as I can, and it saves us a ton of money. However, let the record show that I do have a Starbucks problem (if you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed how often I have a cup in my hand). I keep that under {some} control with my Gold card, by loading a small amount on it each paycheck and when it's gone, no more coffee out. Plus with the card, I get points toward a free coffee with each purchase :)

I make my own...everything.

Dishwasher detergent,

laundry soap

, dandruff shampoo, baby soap, rash cream... you name it, I make it. There are a few things that, for me, aren't worth the extra effort- hand soap, dish soap, body wash, regular shampoo and conditioner- those are a few things that I have found to be complicated (or the recipes I found didn't work well enough), and it's just better to spend the few bucks. The biggest savings comes from making my own laundry detergent. Seriously, it is so expensive at the store! I can make a huge batch for a few bucks and it'll last me six months. Also, there are some seriously scary and harmful, cancer-causing chemicals in soaps (yes, even baby and kids soaps), so that's another reason I prefer to make my own stuff or at least buy natural on the stuff I don't make myself.

We homeschool through a charter school.

There are so many reasons why many homeschoolers refuse to involve the state in their homeschooling. I have read up on this so much, and I know all the why's and why not's. For us, the why not's do not outweigh the benefits. I feel many of the reasons to homeschool solo, which is more expensive, are based on fear, and we do not make decisions out of fear, but out of obedience to the Lord. Through the charter school in our area, we get $1,000 of funding per student per school year, and it can go towards curriculum, enrichment activites (like the American Girl history class Bella will be going to this year), sports, ballet, music classes... you name it. It's awesome! Our particular charter school is very parent-led, and I get to choose whatever curriculum I want, and don't have to lie or hide the Bible portion of our school days like some other parents do. I am also free to lead my children through a Charlotte Mason curriculum without any complaints from my ES (education specialist) about not having enough structure.

There is so much that goes into living on one income, making it very difficult to concentrate it into one blog post. If you have any questions or can think of something I didn't cover here, please share with me in the comments and I will try to cover it in the next portion of this series!