Last month marked the first year anniversary of my new career of stay-at-home Mom. Since we adopted our oldest daughter from China five years ago, I knew I wanted to quit work. It nearly killed me to return to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave, yet I thought our family could not afford to live on one income. However, in the year since I quit my job, we have not burned through our emergency fund or gone into debt. How? We have learned to live on 60% less income.
This is by no means a solution for every family. However, this is what worked for my family. Several of my friends have asked me about how we did it, so I thought I would share it with you all.
How much does it cost to work?
My girls (then 2 and 5) were in childcare eleven hours a day. We spent 50% of my take-home pay on a highly respected pre-school for our oldest daughter and our church’s daycare center for our youngest daughter. When we added in commuting cost, maintaining a work wardrobe, lunches, and birthday gifts for my team the total was closer than 60% of my take-home pay was going to PAY for me working.
How much do I PAY in Taxes?
Since we were in a much higher income bracket, we also were in a much higher tax bracket. Once we were living on one income we were able to withhold less payroll taxes from Rick’s paycheck so his take-home pay increased.
Be it ever so humble?
We were fortunate that we bought our home 14 years ago when housing prices were much lower. We also fought the temptation to upsize our house when we became parents. We have a very modest 1960s brick ranch house, however we have a great lot at the end of a quiet street in a good school district. We did refinance our mortgage taking advantage of the lower interest rate. We also started making bi-weekly payments, which cut our term significantly.
How much do I PAY for cable?
One of our key secrets was cutting back on monthly expenditures, like phone, cable, internet, and insurance. We systemically call our service providers and see if we could get a reduction in rate and service. If not, we looked elsewhere. As a result of this exercise, we no longer have cable, Netflix, or land line telephone. We were able to take our phone number we have had for over 15 years, and transfer it to my cell phone. We also transferred our auto and home insurance to one carrier, and raised our deductible. In total, we saved over $300 monthly making these changes. Right now, I have been debating on about our Internet service provider to save a few more dollars a month.
As good as new?
Prior to my quitting, we bought a mini-van with cash. How? For five years, we saved money in a special “car account”. When we did buy the van, we selected a used one. The model we purchased was voted the best mini-van for the year it was introduced by Consumer Reports. We bought it through Car Max via the Internet. This saved us thousands of dollars, and best of all, it’s paid for!
Be Our Guest?
We cut back on travel, and for us, that meant we stopped visiting my family who live 3,000 miles away. However, we transformed our “catch-all” spare room into a cozy guest room with high thread sheets and matching curtains. We welcome everyone to come and visit us, since we live in a coastal community that caters to tourists.
Can I do it myself?
Gone are the days of salon visits, professional house cleanings, dinners out, store-bought birthday cakes, and paid babysitters. We trade, barter or make things ourselves. My husband tends a vegetable garden and he also colors my hair. I have also become a barber for him. I make homemade pizza dough, and watch my neighbor’s kids so we can have a date night.
Think out of the Box?
This is how we came to home schooling. We wanted a parochial school experience for our children that we could afford; home schooling has allowed us to do that. My oldest daughter participates in Girl Scouts, so she still engages with many of her old classmates. Both girls attend Sunday school and weekly Chinese language classes. Next year my oldest daughter will also be attending CCD classes in preparation for her First Holy Communion in second grade.
What’s the pay off?
One thing I have learned in my 46 years on this earth is that money does not buy you happiness, listening to God does. I know that might sound preachy to some of you, but it is the truth in my life. Although I had been successful in my chosen field, and enjoyed working very much, I knew there was something missing in my life. For me, it was being a stay-at-home Mom. Living on less has not been easy; it does require humility, acceptance, and trust.
Over the past year, I have learned to “live simply, love generously, and leave the rest to God.”