Some days being a stay at home mom is magical and I soak in the blessing and privilege it is. Other days, I really miss feeling a greater sense of day-to-day purpose and I feel… less than privileged. Maybe even less valuable in this world. Isn’t it funny how quickly our sense of identity can waiver when our worldly titles shift?! I love to remind myself of C.S. Lewis’ words, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” I used to dream of having a really impressive job by this time in my life and in the last few years I had an honest quarter life crisis because I hadn’t achieved the goals and expectations I’d set for myself and my life’s timeline (I’m not exaggerating! Turning 23 made me cry!… I thought I was sooo old. Ha!). Somewhere along the way God changed my heart. My greatest desire grew to be for a family more than a career and we quickly decided that it was important to our dreams for our future family that I was home to raise our kids in their first years. It was an easy choice to make when it came to it, but it’s a hard choice to continue making (with joy, anyways) on the days I wake up and I’m just not feeling it.
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” – C. S. Lewis
I say this to be real and transparent and acknowledge that staying home is not for every mom + family. And even if it is for you, it doesn’t make every day perfect and dreamy. It is hard. It is work. But, I really believe it is the best work and I really do believe it is a privilege. I know so many women who would like to stay home, but are held back by financial circumstances. It’s scary! Recently I received a message from someone who hopes to stay home with her children, but is worried about how they will make it work. She asked me to share about our experience and I wont lie, it’s a little intimidating. I know that we all have unique financial circumstances and there’s no way I can give a road map for how every woman can afford to be a stay at home mom. But it’s also exciting. Because 1 – I do believe there are women and families who have the ability to live this lifestyle, but need the push and encouragement to do it. And 2 – The opportunity to stay home is a HUGE testament to God’s faithfulness and provision in our lives and any time I can talk about that or remind people to see it in their own lives, I’ll take it!
So first let me say, I am not a financial expert. Actually, Jordan takes the lead on the finances in our home and I’m so thankful! I also mean to speak with sensitivity to anyone who really is not in a season that allows for staying home. There are women I greatly admire because, despite how nice staying home would be, the responsible choice for them to make is to work in order that their family’s needs be met and I have nothing but respect for you!! If you were made and called to stay at that work and be a mom at the same time, more power to you! I dream of someday doing the same if it’s what God has for us! For now, I can only speak from my own convictions and experience. So that’s what I’ll do 🙂
Okay… are you still with me? Can you tell I’m a little nervous about this topic? 😉 Here goes!
The development that happens in the first years of life is unmatched and the opportunity to spend each of those days shaping the mind and heart of a child is a profound responsibility. I knew I didn’t want to miss that or the firsts that could happen while I was busy with other work. I also believe that if God places the desire or call on your heart to stay home with your family, He WILL provide what it takes. So I quit my job! This wasn’t just scary for me because of the identity and priority challenges I thought I’d face, I was worried about our finances. But what I was really worried about was being uncomfortable. When I actually took a step back to review our circumstances, I was reminded that just a couple years ago, the two of us made less money together than Jordan made now. Maybe we had less to spend, but we always had enough (and we would now too.) It was all about reevaluating our budget and controlling our perspective. And that’s what I think it takes.
My advice to any couple hoping to make this change is to communicate! Make a plan together and resolve to follow that plan as a team – with confidence, faith, and joy! Establish what you’re working with and how you can make it work for your family and your goals!
Each season of our short life together has been characterized by different financial circumstances and different needs. There’ve been times when we’ve had more than we needed and times when bills were only paid because of the obedience and generosity of other people. And truly, as hard as those seasons were, they’ve also been the times we were most aware of God working out our circumstances for good. During that earlier part of our marriage, we chose not to start a family (and thankfully God let us stick to that plan 😉 ). There’s wisdom in planning!
Developing your plan and budget might take some learning. We don’t all have a business degree, but we can still be great stewards of our finances. Read books, watch courses online, talk with wise counsel… I happen to be married to someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who listens to finance podcasts for fun (bless him), so I know there are some GREAT free resources out there and seriously anyone can become an expert on anything these days! *His favorite is the Dave Ramsey Show!
Each season requires a different budget approach. Some years we have had extra things like allowances and entertainment funds in our budget. Some months we still have to cut out those things when needs arise that require what we have, and we have to be okay with that. When we decided we might be “ready” and really laid out the numbers before bringing Finnley home, we knew we could financially swing being a one income household. Though it didn’t leave room for a lot of extra spending at the end of any month. Achieving financial goals takes sacrifice. We decided that being uncomfortable for a while was worth it to us. This is something that I think can get lost on our generation. Maybe its because we can so easily see what everyone else appears to have? But being uncomfortable doesn’t equal unable.
So where can you cut out extras in order to have enough to be a one income family? How can you get creative and rework some things to save in new areas?
We reconfigured our budget for the millionth time before Finn was born in order to meet our needs and set ourselves up for success. We cut out things that weren’t needs, acknowledging it would be uncomfortable, but worth it, and that it was just a season. And it was! God is faithful. He cares about our finances and I believe he honors our obedience and our attitude towards those finances. Here’s a couple practical ways we did this, starting with our home: We were comfortable in the nicest place we’d ever lived, but it was a commute away from Jordan’s job and cost more than we wanted to pay every month with only one income. We decided we’d move back to the city his job was in. We prayed God would present an opportunity to live in a home rather than apartment; specifically one owned by someone we knew who would offer us a great deal. (I’m a big fan of praying specific prayers – what do we have to lose?!) Coincidentally, Jordan received a text from a friend offering us the exact situation we prayed for and bonus: some of our best friends are now our neighbors!
When we ask God to help us take care of what He’s given us, He has proven that
He will do it!
We were so grateful for that opportunity and we decided not to make much financial investment into a house we don’t own and that’s kept me from changing and buying a lot of things I’d love to fill our home with! For me, this is a sacrifice. We also decided to cut back on our phone plan, become a one car family, put a pause on our allowances and “fun funds”… Some of those things have changed since then, but we still make sacrifices and choose to be disciplined every month no matter how our income fluctuates.
Here’s a few budget conscious choices we make every month:
Maybe you can apply some of these tips to your own finances, but even if not, my hope is that they might inspire boundaries that will fit your needs!
First, let me interrupt myself to say that I can’t talk about money without sharing that the first 10% of what we have goes to our church. Every. Month. Even when we feel like we are barely scraping by; worried and painfully aware of how else we could use that 10% – it’s not optional for us! God says He will bless us for it and He has followed through again and again. It’s not about the amount, it’s about the obedience of our hearts. It’s trusting that it’s God who provides for us and what we have was His to start. I can’t tell you exactly how you should manage your finances or even that doing things how we do them will be the best thing for your family, but what I do know is that tithing is THE most important thing we could ever do when it comes to managing our money. It will impact your whole life (not just your budget!) for the better. If you want to see change in your finances, you have to start with a change in your hearts. This is what tithing is all about and I KNOW you can and should apply this one. It’s a game changer!
Okay, here’s a few others 🙂
- We are very frugal with our spending about 80% of the time. I’m ALL about the bargains! When there’s something we want, or even need, we exercise patience. I don’t buy it immediately. I search other stores and websites to compare prices and then make the choice to buy where I find the best deal. The majority of things we own are bought on sale – especially the extras!!
- We have a set amount set aside every month as an allowance for each of us to spend however we want. The majority of purchases that aren’t needs fall under that category. We also have an amount set aside for Finnley purchases each month and a few other areas of life that are outside our monthly bills. These amounts are determined after we tithe, our bills are paid, and we establish our savings goals for that time. We even have a shared notes page on our phone where we keep track of the spending each month to ensure we don’t exceed those amounts!
- We don’t have an unlimited phone plan. Jordan actually just upgraded his phone for the first time in a veryyy long time! He would’ve loved to have the nicest newest phone, but it wasn’t a need or a want we decided to prioritize, so he sacrificed. For a while we did have an unlimited internet plan, and our phone bill was a contender for one of our highest monthly expenses! But that was an area we identified as a place we could cut back, so now we have limited data and use what we have!
- Sometimes we make an investment in something that we know can save us costs that add up later. For instance, we use Apple TV and don’t pay for any cable. If you can’t stream it through an app we have or it isn’t on channels 1-12… we go to a friends house 😉 We’ve also approached our car purchases this way. We chose to buy a new car because of its reliability and longevity. When purchasing a used car, we were only willing to buy specific makes/models in order to reduce risk of extra maintenance costs.
- We use extremely limited credit. Our credit card is Costco and mostly gets used for gas because of the rewards to us. There are a lot of different ways to do this, but the bottom line is that we make sure to live within our means in order to set ourselves up for success later. Debt is not our friend 😉
- We do spend and splurge! (But we also say “no!”) There are a couple areas that we don’t worry about as much and mostly spend based on the trend of our average monthly costs. Food is the main area we do this. We don’t worry too much about sticking to an exact dollar amount when it comes to food, but sometimes we do say “no” to going out with friends when we know there are leftovers or groceries at home. Not always, but sometimes sticking to your financial goals means saying “no” to the more fun option.
There have been a lot of choices I didn’t really want to make so that I could stay home with our baby and I wouldn’t take any of them back. Discipline is healthy no matter how much money you have and I believe that our efforts to be wise with our finances when they’re small will benefit us as we are given more to manage.
Very soon after we made the choice in faith that I’d quit my job, Jordan randomly came home with a raise that allowed us to reconfigure our budget again. A while later we were hit with unexpected medical bills because of Finn’s unconventional arrival and we needed to reconfigure our budget once again. Notice the trend? Things come and go. Money comes and goes. Needs come and go. God’s promise to provide stays the same. The trick is believing this as much when we’re tightening up our budget for bills as when we’re celebrating abundance!
It’s all in the attitude! The hardest thing about making financial sacrifices is how easy it is to become frustrated and discontent and to compare your situation to someone else’s. But we have the power over our perspective. Anytime I catch myself in this pattern I shut down the “I wish we could afford _____” thoughts and remind myself that our finances don’t control or define us. They are a resource from God that we have been given the opportunity to use how we choose. And we choose to view everything we have and everything we lack as intentional and full of purpose in the big picture of our goals and dreams.
The most helpful tool we use in adopting this mindset is to reframe how we think and talk about money. Instead of “we can’t afford that” we say, “we’re choosing not to spend our money that way.” This approach has been foundational for our attitudes. Here’s an example, maybe on a current income, with current expenses, we could not afford to purchase a house. But if we were willing to eliminate the majority of expenses (phone bills, car payments, monthly spending…) we probably could, technically, afford the difference of a monthly mortgage from our rent. Do we want to give up everything we have to live in an empty home with our name on the title? Maybe not! This is a hypothetical example, but you get the point. It’s not a matter of what we can afford, it’s a matter of how we choose to use the resources we’ve been given. This shifts our perspective from passive to powerful. We stop viewing our finances in terms of what we can’t do and don’t have and gain a mindset of blessing, choice, and purpose. Its empowering!
We each bring our own imperfect relationship with money into a marriage. Before I could ever suggest that you take anything from our personal approach to finances, I’d tell you that you have to determine the strengths and weaknesses you’re workin’ with. Maybe this isn’t the best time to become a one income family or maybe it could be with a little readjusting. You might need to tackle things like we have (and I really hope sharing our position on budgeting is helpful to someone!), but most likely you have your own things to tackle.
So whatever you need to address in order to determine the best next move for your own family, here’s my best tip no matter who you are: Make a date of it! Money has been pointed to as the #1 source of conflict in marriage and we all know that the rate of successful marriages isn’t great. Add a baby into the mix (I think they’re #2 on the stress list?!) and it’s a whole new ball game! Something we’ve found that reduces the stress of our finances is to change our approach. See those money conversations as an opportunity to celebrate what you have and work together towards what you want! We plan date/meetings in advance and develop our goals together. No one is solely in charge of our finances or feels the weight of total responsibility. No one has to ask or say “no”. We’re partners. We compromise, we dream together, and we build a foundation for working towards our plan as a team. We’re on the same page and for us, this has been a game changer!
So whether you decide that working or staying home is best for you and your family, have fun with the process of planning. Do it over something yummy with celebration and intention. God will prepare and equip you with the capacity to be an exceptional wife and mom (working or not) – He already is!
p.s. if you’re reading this, you might be an expecting mama, this is for you! ❤
And if you already have a little wearing you out… I hope these words encourage you 🙂