I thought since I planned to continue this series that I'd repost a few of the earlier ones to familiarize you with the content of them. I'm looking forward to sharing a few of the previous posts and then presenting new ones.
First Things First
I was not new to the role of stay at home wife and mom when I decided to be at home with Kay and her brother. I had in fact, become a stay at home mom by default once (due to a layoff) and by choice twice before. But finances were always a huge source of struggle and eventually I'd succumb and go back into the work force. That things did not improve financially in my life during all but one of those sojourns in the work a day world was due to the fact that my skills were considered entry level skills and while I was a good and reliable employee, I had the ill luck to choose for employment businesses that were in a state of flux, creating high stress for both employers and employees.
Unable to find a steady job in a reliable company, unable to manage at home on the income at my disposal...well, it didn't make for a feeling of security in mine nor my family's life. It was not however, until the fateful day 11 years ago that I actually sat down and put the figures on paper that my husband and I had a clear financial picture to study.
And that leads to the number one reason why so many who attempt to become stay at home moms fail to stay there if they are working moms. They and their partners have no clue what their financial obligations are each month, nor what it is costing them to work. And until there is a clear financial picture, there can be no permanent decision made.
When I drew up our financial worksheet, I had facts and figures on my side. Cash receipts, the checkbook register, bill statements were all used to create our financial picture page. And I had the same sources to use as back-up for the figures on what it cost me to work day in and day out. I had quotes from day care centers and the number of extra miles that would go on my vehicle should we choose one option over another. It was clear from the financial worksheet that my job was not going to cover the cost of the expenses ahead of us. It was equally clear that without that second income we'd have a shortfall each month of about $200 a month after I quit my job.
Using bills and past receipts, it took me about one day to figure out where we could further reduce our monthly expenses to cover most of that $200 deficit. One area where we knew we could reduce costs was in our food budget. We figured we could trim about $100/month from our current grocery costs simply because being at home would mean I'd have time to cook from scratch on a daily basis. We also knew that because my vehicle would no longer be traveling a long distance daily to and from work, we could reduce our monthly insurance coverage. We found a company that offered a better price for satellite services for our television. My husband offered to take an extra shift each pay period, during time he'd normally have had off. I knew that if I was at home we could more closely monitor our electric and gas usage, and further lower those costs. With these items written out on paper, we felt reasonably sure that we could manage the shortfall without a problem. We wouldn't have wiggle room in our budget but we could manage.
With facts and figures in hand, I wrote my resignation and gave a month's notice. That allowed me to finish my job at about the same time my children would be completing their school year. During the last month that I worked however, we did not wait to begin to implement the changes. We began to decrease our expenses right away.
We went ahead with changes in our satellite company, stopped all unnecessary expenses related to my work (there was no need for instance to spend a portion of my salary on work clothing, and I immediately reduced the number of stops for fast food weekly, etc) and we began to reduce our grocery costs right away. Chance took the first extra shifts available in his upcoming pay periods. He even managed to get a position on the day shift, which meant we could share costs going to and from work the last week I worked.
At the end of my last month of employment we were both pleased when we looked at our financial situation. We'd managed to pay off a small loan with the money we'd saved, allowing us to feel a little more comfortable with the idea of losing my income and we felt assured that we could manage very well with the changes we'd planned for the future.
One other change we'd both determined was necessary, simply because past experience had taught us as much. It was absolutely necessary that we both have a small allowance to use as we chose each pay period. In the past, I'd often disliked and felt great guilt over having to ask Chance about discretionary spending. I never felt completely comfortable about spending on little items and I honestly resented feeling that I had no right to spend our money. I'd seldom had real money to handle, so I hadn't yet grasped the reality of the cost and value of things. I also had issues about buying gifts for one another from the joint account. I felt very strongly that gifts should come out of the individual pocket instead of creating a hardship for the family as a whole. On his part, Chance had good reason from his own past to not trust spending decisions others made and so he often questioned hard about the purchase of little things that he felt were wasteful, no matter how necessary or unimportnat I might have felt they were.
We agreed that each of us should have a little pocket money that allowed us to spend as we chose. It wasn't a large amount of money at all. I think my allowance was $10 every two weeks, his allowance was just $20 each pay period. $60 a month at that time seemed a lot of money to allow ourselves, especially in light of the soon to be tight financial situation in our home. It appeared at first as though we were stepping back after moving ahead one step in paying off that small loan. But it made a tremendous amount of difference in how we felt about our budget! Knowing we had that little bit of money each pay period to spend as we chose actually made it easier to work hard to trim costs radically in many areas. That led us to to another step in my transition to a stay at home wife and mom.
We came into financial agreement with one another. We agreed from the outset that at no time would either of us spend more than $50 without asking the other how they felt about the purchase. We agreed on a set amount for groceries weekly. And we both vowed to actively seek ways to cut costs, discussing changes before they were implemented. This step allowed us to feel that we were mutually agreed on all the changes and if one of us objected strongly to a proposed change we resolved it by offering alternative areas that might generate a savings or occasionally, agreeing, knowing that our viewpoint had been expressed. At no time did either of us feel we were being forced to make changes without our own comfort and needs being considered.
We involved the whole family. While we chose not to share our full financial picture with the children, we did include them in the decisions that we were making. Often we were surprised to find that they had some very good suggestions and ideas on how to further reduce expenses, were willing to make sacrifices that we'd thought they'd find onerous and were in favor of the proposed change in my status. My children were thrilled with the prospect of my becoming a full time mom, but I wanted to be sure they understood that sacrifices were going to be necessary. What I hadn't expected was their willingness to give up even more in order to insure that home was where I stayed. They'd already experienced the upheaval of my home again, work again status. Involving them in the decision making process and making them aware of the financial changes helped them to better understand why those previous home stays had been all too brief and ill-fated. This time the whole family was working towards a common goal and they were thrilled to be part of that process.