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stay at home mom

Family, How To, Motherhood, Parenthood

How to Afford Being a SAHM + FREE Budget Printable

Before my husband and I got married, we talked about the family we would grow one day.  When we talked about kids, I always knew I wanted to stay at home with them.  At the time, I didn’t know the logistics of how we would make that possible, but I knew it was a priority.  My own mom was a stay-at-home mom throughout much of my 3 older brothers’ lives, as well as mine, until she began a teaching career when I started school.  So all my childhood memories, I remember my mom always being there with us.  That is the kind of childhood I wanted to give my kids.

Matthew joined the military straight out of high school, we got married at 20, and I attribute the fact that I can stay at home all to the security of his job and the amazing health insurance we receive.  However, I have heard so many women talk about how they wish they could stay home with their little ones, but they feel like it is impossible.  So I wanted to give you all some practical tips on how we have afforded living on one income so that you can examine your own living situation, if staying at home with your kids is what you really long to do!

1.  Plan, plan, plan AHEAD

Like I mentioned above, Matthew and I discussed what we wanted our life to be like when we had kids, so we planned accordingly.  When Matthew joined the military, we spent 2 years dating long-distance.  While he was living 1,000+ miles away from me and deploying regularly, and I was home going to college, we SAVED.  Matthew opened a 401K and started saving for retirement, as well as saving a large portion of his income in a savings account he didn’t touch.  I saved for our wedding and he saved for our future.  One of the best things you can do if you want to become a SAHM is to plan ahead-before having children-what you want your life to look like and saving for that.  If you already have kids, that’s fine!  My best advice is to try to build up your savings account as much as you can.  Also, work as much as you can before and during pregnancy.  I know this is not possible for all women, but if you have a healthy pregnancy, it is great to try to make as much money as you can before the baby comes and you stop working.

2.  Begin living on one income well before the baby comes

This helped us tremendously on the shock and adjustment that going from a two to a one income household brings!  While I was pregnant and still working, we began transitioning all of our bills to come out of my husband’s paycheck.  Even though we still had the “cushion” of my income, we did not use it to pay bills.  Instead, we used my income strictly for baby purchases we needed or savings.  This method really helped us reevaluate our income, what we were spending money on, what our necessities were, and that being a SAHM was going to be possible!

3.  Make a budget!

This probably should have been tip #1, but guys, make make a budget!  You have to do it!  When we were both working and we were newly married, we spent money on whatever we wanted and we didn’t keep a checkbook (do those even still exist?!) or really keep an eye on our money.  But when we wanted to make this transition, it was important that we sat down and wrote out our budget for us to see.  We took our bank statements and looked at what are monthly income was, the bills we had, the areas we were needlessly spending money, the areas we could cut down on expenses, and how much we felt we needed to save and invest.  And who says budgeting can’t be fun?!  Get creative with it!  I know that I am most productive and willing to stick with something if I can write it out and it looks cute and pretty.  So that’s why I made this FREE Monthly Budget Printable for you guys!  Hopefully this will help you get organized and stay motivated to stick with your budget.

4.  Plan large purchases ahead of time

One thing that my husband and I have really been trying to get better about is planning out our large purchases ahead of time and saving for them!  We do not like the idea of going into debt for something we need, so we try to save for it and pay in cash.  These could be purchases like furniture, a car, a laptop, a camera, a new mattress, etc.  Obviously most of us can’t pay in cash for something like a house, so you still want to save as much as you can and make sure it is a home below or at what you can truly afford.

5.  Minimize your monthly expenses

When you write out your budget, you will be able to clearly see where your money is going every month.  One of the biggest areas that sucks away your income is those recurring, monthly expenses.  While some of these are necessary, paying them down or eliminating them will free up so much extra cash!  For example, we have two car payments each month.  Even though we bought used vehicles, we have these two recurring payments that suck almost a quarter of our monthly income!  We have recently been following Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to aggressively start paying of this debt.  Minimizing your monthly expenses can also mean cutting those subscription services you use like, Amazon Prime, Hello Fresh, Fab Fit Fun, whatever.  While they might seem like a good deal by themselves, they truly add up!  Also, cut your cable!  I am a firm believer that cable is the most overrated, unnecessary monthly expense that most of us have in our homes.  Cable is sooo expensive and a lot of us rarely watch enough live TV for it to be worth it.  With all the free shows on the internet the day after or Netflix, Hulu, etc., cable proves pretty unnecessary.  Unfortunately for us, the only internet provider in our area is Comcast, and for us to have internet, the cheapest way is to bundle it with their basic cable package.  It is frustrating because I know so many people who pay much less than us but with Comcast as the only internet option, our hands are tied.  But, we got our bill as low as possible!

6.  Look for sales, use coupons and thrift

I will admit, I am not a couponer!  One of the main reasons I don’t use traditional coupons very much is because we generally try to buy whole foods-fresh produce-and we shop at stores that don’t accept most coupons you see from manufacturers.  We live in an area where the cost of living is rather high compared to many other places, so we do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi and Trader Joe’s.  We have found that we can get the most from our money here and it allows us to get more fresh and organic foods at a price we can afford.  But, for household items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, diapers, baby wipes, etc., I absolutely look for coupons!  You can always find deals on items like this usually in the P & G section of your Sunday newspaper and stores regularly run sales on them, as well.

Another super easy, amazing way to save on the items you have to buy is through rebate apps!  Rebate apps will give you cash back or rewards towards gifts cards, etc. on the purchases you make.  My very favorite rebate app to use is Ibotta!  To use Ibotta, you just:

  • Unlock cash back rebates (by watching a short video or answering a simple question)
  • Go shopping, buy products you love & keep your receipt
  • Verify your purchases by scanning the products you bought and taking a photo of your receipt

The best thing about Ibotta, compared to most rebate apps, is they offer rebates on a general item like: bread, milk, eggs, bananas, etc. instead of it having to be a specific brand name.  This is huge because sometimes you might not be buying the brand that the rebate offers.  I also love that you can get rebates for fresh fruits and veggies!  Also, Ibotta is not just for groceries, but for online shopping (Ebay, Groupon), pharmacy items, clothing, and even restaurants.  If you don’t have it, try it out because it is amazing!  If you want to sign up and use my referral code gjneyap, you can get a free $10 credit when you redeem your first rebate!

Another rebate app I love is Shopkick.  It is super easy to use and when you shop, it rewards you with “kicks” just for walking in the door of your favorite stores.  You also can get kicks for simply scanning certain items in the store, as well as purchasing certain items.  These kicks can then be redeemed for gift cards!

If you are an avid online shopper like most of us moms are, you need to be using the rebate site Shop at Home!  All you do is visit their site when you are ready to do some online shopping and pick your store out of the thousands they have on there, you purchase the item through their website, and you then get a percentage of cash back straight to your account.  You literally are getting rewarded for online shopping! (My hubby won’t get upset about that!)  Shop at Home will also show you the great deals all your stores having going on so you won’t miss a thing.

Another way to save big when you are living on one income is to look out for sales for kid’s clothes.  We all know how quickly are little ones grow and that means we are always buying clothes!  When I know I need to get Avary new clothes, I wait for when stores are giving away cash back like, Old Navy super cash, Children’s Place cash, Carters rewards.  Most stores now give cash back for you to spend when meet a minimum threshold.  I shop to get the cash back when the store is running a good percentage off discount or I have a coupon code.  Always sign up for the rewards program at the stores you frequent because it just means more coupons and sales in your pocket!

Also, thrifting or buying second-hand clothes is a great way to score gently used children’s clothes at unbeatable prices.  Consignment shops are popping up every where, and depending on the area you find them in, you can find some name-brand, quality pieces!  You can also consider joining a Facebook buy/sell/trade page in your area to find even more steals.  A lot of times these items are priced even lower than a consignment shop because you are buying directly from the owner.  Shop smart!

7.  Choose free or cheap entertainment

When you are wanting to become a SAHM, you have to evaluate what areas you can cut to save money.  Entertainment is definitely one of those areas.  Going out to the movies, going out to eat, going to amusement parks, or planning costly vacations can take up quite a bit of money.  Instead, try to create free or cheap entertainment for your family!  This could mean family pizza night at home with a $5 family pizza from Aldi and a Netflix movie or a coffee date night for you and your husband at home instead of at a coffee shop.  You can still have fun without spending so much!

Also, look up free activities in your area for kiddos!  You can find library storytimes, playgroups, and parks that are all free of charge.  And, you can always call up a friend for a play date, take a walk in the stroller, play in the backyard, or go window shopping to entertain your little one.  Use your imagination!  There are lots of ways to create free fun at home with children, and I find so many ideas on Pinterest!

8.  Meal planning + cooking at home

I know we all lead busy lives, especially us moms!  But let me tell you, you will save so much money if you begin meal planning for your family and cooking at home.  Just within the last couple of months, I have really gotten into the habit of planning out our meals before going grocery shopping, and wow-what a difference it makes!  Not only does it cut down on our grocery bill, but it cuts down on food waste.  So before going shopping, I’ve been sitting down with a free meal planning printable from Christene at Keys to Inspiration to plan out my meals for each week and jot down the ingredients I need to make it.  If you sign up for her email list, you get access to all her free printables, check it out!  Meal planning will help you stick to a specific menu and encourage you to cook at home.  When you have a plan, you can always prep something ahead of time to save on time for a busy day.

So those are my 8 tips on how to afford to be a stay-at-home mom!  I’m not going to lie, going from two incomes to one was a big adjustment-a lifestyle change, really.  But I never once have regretted my decision to make the sacrifice.  If you have a strong desire to stay home and care for your little ones, but you don’t think it is possible, I challenge you to take a step back and reevaluate.  Look at your budget, try living out these steps and see if they make a difference in freeing up some money, and determine what you feel are essentials and non-essentials for your family.  No matter what-SAHM, working mom, or WAHM-you are amazing and what you do for your family is priceless.

Let me know in the comments, how did you decide to be a SAHM?  Was the transition hard for you?  Let me know any tips you have on how you afford to live on one income!

 

Baby, Motherhood

How To: Create a Routine as a SAHM

*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.*

When we made the decision that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom to our little girl, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I assumed that the job was pretty easy because all I had to do was take care of the baby, right?  Wrong!  Being a SAHM is much more than “taking care of the baby.”  A lot about being a SAHM is being a homemaker-making sure things stay cleaned and organized, planning meals, preparing food, doing laundry, running errands and just simply keeping the house running.  Not to mention, taking care of the baby involves a host of different tasks.  I’m feeding, changing, nursing, bathing, entertaining, comforting, and nurturing a little human being.  And now that my little girl Avary is at the age where she is crawling, pulling up, and cruising around the house, our playtime has to be more meaningful and teaching and SUPERVISED.  I have to teach her what is and is not safe to stand up on, what we do not touch, that we do not eat dog food, that we should not take the dog’s bed, that we cannot eat books or fuzz or the rug or DVDs. . . (ha!)

And what I have learned is, if we just wake up in the morning, with no plan for our day, the day is going to be very unproductive.  I won’t be able to get chores done around the house, we will miss running our errands, the baby will probably act out because she doesn’t know what to expect next.  It took me months to realize that what we needed was a routine and a schedule!  Once I added this to our lives, everything changed!  So I thought I would share with you my tips on how to create a routine as a SAHM + stick with it, as well as a glimpse at what our daily schedule looks like.  I would like to preface this by saying, in the first 3 months of Avary’s life, we did NOT have a schedule.  I felt that in those early newborn days, it was important for me to allow Avary to make her own schedule so we could get to know each other and she was giving me cues to exactly what she needed.  We really started carving out a routine when she was around 4.5 months old when we began transitioning her from co-sleeping to sleeping in her own room and crib.  Remember, you know your baby better than anyone, so experiment with routines and schedules and find what works for you!

Tip #1: Get a Planner

Get a planner, get a planner, get a planner!  I cannot tell you enough how helpful a planner is in staying organized and helping create a routine.  Depending on what you like, you can pick up a cheap planner from Target or if you want to get serious, you can get something like the Erin Condrin Life Planner or Lara Casey’s Powersheets.  You can use your planner to write down any important dates to remember like appointments, work schedules, meetings, playdates, birthdays, holidays, vacations, weekly cleaning schedules, to-do lists, goals, priorities, etc.  Basically, you want to write down anything and everything here so you won’t forget and so you can stay motivated to check tasks off your list.

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Tip #2: Plan Out Your Day

Planning your day out is a great way to give your day structure, as well as productivity.  I have often found that if I have no plan for the day, I end up getting nothing done.  There is something to be said for predictability; it has its place.  Some people thrive on planning out their day down to the hour.  I personally am not that rigid.  But, I plan our day so I know when we are having mealtimes, naptimes, going out, cleaning, etc.

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Tip #3: Create a Baby Schedule

After you are past the newborn phase, babies truly do thrive on a schedule.  They need the predictability and stability that a schedule provides.  It helps them in their development to be able to learn their routine.  When we transitioned Avary to sleeping in her own room and crib, this was the time that we started shaping out her schedule.  One of the biggest things that I believe helped solidify her schedule was creating a stable bedtime routine.  For us, this looks like:

  • 5 pm:  Dinner
  • 5:30 pm: Playtime
  • 6:00 pm: Winding Down Play/Books; Clean Up Toys; Head Upstairs
  • 6:10 pm: Bathtime *(she doesn’t get a bath every night so on nights she doesn’t, our winding down play is a little longer)
  • 6:25 pm: Diaper, “Night Night” Lotion, PJs & Nighttime Nursing Session

Once you get a bedtime routine down, you can start incorporating when baby needs a nap into your daily schedule.  You also want to carve out times for play-whether structured (a planned activity) or free-play.  I have also found that with a baby Avary’s age, she needs to get outside a couple times a day.  As long as the weather permits, we do a playtime out in the backyard in the morning, we take the dog on a walk while Avary rides in the stroller midday, and go to the park or play outside again in the afternoon.  She loves being outside and fresh air is so good for babies.  If you want to see what our full daily routine looks like, a post on that will be coming soon!

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Tip #4: Create a Cleaning Schedule

I don’t know why I didn’t do this a long time ago; maybe because I was working and just cleaned whatever I could squeeze in that day, but since becoming a SAHM, I have realized the beauty that is a cleaning schedule!  I actually came across “Clean Mama” on Instagram, you can find her here.  She has created a simple cleaning and homemaking routine you can follow weekly to help keep your home clean and organized.  I love it because each day you have a different cleaning tasks.  It helps so much; because, you don’t feel like you have to tackle one hundred different things in one day.  It feels more doable with the one or two tasks to complete each day.  She also has printables to help you stay organized in your schedule.

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Tip #5: Take Care of Yourself

I am going to be honest, in the first couple of months of motherhood, it is so incredibly easy to lose sight of yourself when you are constantly taking care of another human being.  It is so easy to forget to shower or get dressed or make yourself some food or workout.  Every day looks different, but I learned that it is so important to take care of myself, my body, and my health.  If I am not taking care of myself, I won’t be able to take good care of Avary.  In this season of life, we just don’t have the luxury of paying for a gym membership where I can drop Avary off at the childcare and go workout.  So I had to come up with a way to exercise when I was home with her.  I was looking for exercises on YouTube that I could do from home, and I came across Moms Into Fitness.  These workouts are designed especially for moms for strengthening your body postpartum.  I absolutely love them!  They have really helped strengthen my core, my back, and my pelvic floor.  There are workouts anywhere from 5-40 minutes I have found.  Honestly, doing something to get your body moving and working-even if it doesn’t seem like a lot-is going to help!  You can find the Moms Into Fitness workouts on Youtube, here.  Or you can purchase full length workout videos here.

Also, when it comes to nutrition, try to make sure you aren’t skipping meals or forgetting to feed yourself.  I think us moms have our fair share of times that we forget to eat because we get so busy!  One way I’ve tried to alleviate this problem is by having easy meals or snacks ready to go.  I might make a batch of hard boiled eggs, which are great for breakfast or a quick snack.  I also love to make my own trailmix with almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips.  I always have granola bars and fruit on hand.  Another thing I love is putting dinner in the slow cooker in the morning, so I don’t even have to worry about it all day!  Meal planning and meal prepping is another way to save you time in the kitchen and take care of your health.  This is an area that I am trying to learn and grow in.  Remember, when you take good care of yourself and your body, you will be able to take care of your littles much better!

Those are my 5 tips on how to create a routine as a SAHM.  Being a stay-at-home is much harder than I thought it would be; because, it truly is a job and you have to be organized and productive the same as any other job.  Creating a routine saved my sanity and made me feel like I was running our home well.  I know everyone’s routine will look different, but what is one thing that helped you when you became a SAHM?

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