From the moment we found out we were expecting, my husband and I started talking about whether or not I would stay home or continue working. We had already voiced our thoughts long before to each other and in an ideal world I would be at home. But we just weren’t sure whether or not we could cut back and save enough money for me to stay home.
After our first child was born, I continued to work. We knew we wanted to at least try for a second child at some point in the not so distant future. And if I left my job it would mean that we would need to look for our own health insurance and we still had at least one round of in-vitro fertilization and pregnancy bills on the road ahead. So, I kept bringing in a steady paycheck.
When our second child was born, we went into it thinking that I would need to continue working for at least 6 months after my maternity leave. We had been planning and working towards me leaving, but we needed just a bit more time to get things in hand. Then it hit us, neither of us wanted me to go back. In fact, it was more than that…we were both dreading the idea of it.
So we immediately went into high gear. What can we cut out? How can we trim a little off here and a lot of there? Now, about 9 months into my adventure, I thought I would share my best tips to save money and stay at home with your children. Even if you aren’t quite able to make that leap yet, start implementing as many as you can now.
23 Ways To Save Money and Stay Home With Your Kids:
1. Discount haircuts
I LOVE getting my haircut! Who doesn’t? I used to go to a nice salon where the moment I entered someone would be bringing me a glass of wine or mimosas (on a Saturday morning). My stylist would spend nearly two hours cutting my hair and it was heavenly. But I also paid $70 + tip for my haircut. Now I pay $30 (with tip) and am in the chair for about 30 minutes. But I would rather be home with my kids than have a fancy haircut.
in the same vein, I’ve also chosen a hairstyle style that doesn’t need cut every 4-6 weeks. A nice bob can go months without a trim.
2. Avoid toll roads
I live just outside of Orlando, Florida. Most of our major highways are toll roads. But road tolls are no longer in the budget. So, I take city streets instead of the highway to get anywhere (as long as it is feasible for gas purposes). And honestly, sure it may take me 3-4 minutes longer to get somewhere, but I was surprised how little I miss using the highway.
3. Pay cash (or pay your credit card off every month)
I’m all for using credit cards as long as you have the money to pay it off every month. My husband and I have a couple of cards for the specific rewards, but we are diligent about paying them off every month. We never carry a balance because we don’t want our money going to pay finance charges.
Another rule I have is to never get specific “store” cards. For me, it becomes way too easy to buy more at specific stores if I know that I get more cash back or could save more by using my credit card. So, while I originally may have gotten the card to “save” money, I end up buying more because I’m saving money…which really isn’t saving anything.
4. Pay for services a year at a time to get discounts
There are some services or memberships that offer discounts for paying for a full year of service in advance. If it’s a necessary service or something you have to have, ask your provider about this. For example, our Pest Control Service gives us 3% discount if we pay for the year up front.
Being on a budget will help you stay green! Think about things you use that could be re-used easily. Plastic ware is an easy one. Don’t throw them out. If you’re having people over, put a basket out for dirty plastic ware and label it. There are a lot of things that can actually be reused when you put your mind to it. Gift bags, bows, wrapping paper…even ziploc bags in good condition can be washed and reused.
I reuse ANY plastic containers to make toys for the kids. Cardboard boxes are great for art time too. Instead of buying drawing paper, we break down a cardboard box and draw on it like a big graffiti project. Anything can become re-useable when you put your mind to it.
6. Make your own greeting cards
I picked up a greeting card in the store a few months ago and looked at the price on the back and almost had to catch my breath. Six dollars for a greeting card? That was crazy. So, I started to make my own.
Even if you’re only paying $3 a card, say you buy 40 cards a year (sounds like a lot, but add it up…40 actually isn’t that many when you count birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and anniversaries. Oh, and I didn’t even include Christmas in there.) So 40 cards at $3 a piece is $120 a year.
7. Make your own gifts
In the same vein as making your own cards, how about giving gifts that you have made? Do you love to cook? Do some canning and can your favorite pasta sauce or jam. Are you crafty? Knit them a scarf. Or maybe you got busy on your garden and you want to gift someone an array of veggies from your home.
Whatever it is, one thing is for sure, your gift will mean 10 times as much when it’s homemade. My most special gifts have been the ones I know someone has spent their own time investing in.
8. Free rewards programs
There are a lot of stores that have FREE rewards programs. These are great – particularly if you shop there regularly. My only caution on these would be that they can be a double edged sword. These are great if you really NEED something. But, don’t use the rewards as an excuse to buy more or to buy something that you don’t really need.
9. Buy used
If you do need to make a purchase or hard goods, think about whether or not you can buy it used. Buying gently used things can save you a lot of money. Whether it’s a car, clothes, a patio table or a toy for the kids you can find great deals at consignment shops, thrift stores and Goodwill.
And with technology today, you can use apps like LetGo or Facebook Marketplace to find things at deep discounts that have barely been used. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a sucker for a great garage sale too.
10. Cancel subscriptions you don’t really need
When my husband and I were trying to figure out if I could be a stay at home mom, this is one of the first place we looked. We cancelled all of our extra TV subscriptions (goodbye HBO, Starz and Hulu). We cancelled some of our games, online magazine subscriptions and extras that we could live without. We ended up saving over $100 a month just by doing this alone.
11. Wash Clothes in Warm or Cold Water
Try to wash as many clothes as you can in warm or cold water. I know, some things definitely need hot, but just think about it before you use it. The more you can cut back, the more money you will save and help your family meet your new budget!
Your water heater accounts for about 17% of your power bill. So finding ways to limit hot water consumption can really add up to some savings on your electric bill each month.
12. Use Your Dishwasher
Yes, washing dishes in your dishwasher is more economical than washing dishes by hand. Newer dishwasher models can use as little as 3 gallons per load while hand washing can use well over 20! Plus dishwashers have heaters built into them vs. relying on your water heater, which is way more efficient. Read more about that here.
13. Turn off the lights when leave a room
I know this doesn’t save a huge amount of money, but when you’re on a budget, pennies count. And you really don’t need to be using the extra electricity anyway. So turn off the lights!
14. Meal Plan
So you may be asking “how does meal planning save you money?” Quite simply, you’re not buying things at the grocery store you don’t need. How often do you buy produce that goes bad and you have to throw it away? With meal planning, the excess is significantly cut down.
Plus, I try to plan things that may use some of the same ingredients. Not to mention you will no longer be worrying about what’s for dinner at 4pm every day and stressing yourself out. It also cuts down on random trips to the grocery store (where you may buy more stuff you don’t need).
15. Clip Coupons
It’s seems so basic but it will definitely save you money. And today stores make it so easy to do! A lot of grocery stores have digital coupons you can clip too or coupons in store at the front entry way. Plus, don’t forget about competitor coupons. I’m not a crazy coupon lady, but I do save about $25 a month on my grocery bill by clipping coupons.
16. Buy Generic
This is one of the biggest money savers for us and it can add up to huge savings, especially with a baby in the house. Generic products have come a long way from what they used to be and the selection is enormous.
The best example I can give you is that we were buying formula at a local grocery store for around 97 cents and ounce. We now buy the store brand at a warehouse store and it costs us about 26 cents an ounce. That’s nearly a quarter of the price! And adds up to a savings of about $70 a month!
17. Plant a Garden
I’ve never had a particularly green thumb, but I’ve always wanted one. And while the kids keep me busy, I now have time to work on it. Plus, it’s a great way to teach my kids about the earth and where our food comes from.
So we’ve planted some lettuce and tomatoes and some herbs. (not for nothing, but buying fresh herbs at the grocery store is expensive!) Nothing tastes better than food you’ve grown yourself. Plus, it’s a great way to teach your kids about where our food comes from.
18. Subscribe to Consumable Products via Amazon
Amazon has a great feature when you “subscribe” to order the same products each month. Basically, the more products you subscribe to, the deeper the discount. Subscribe to 5 or more and you can save 15%…if its baby products make that 20%…and that can add up.
There are two cautions: 1.) You have to manage it a bit to ensure you aren’t getting too much too soon. 2.) Be careful you’re getting a fair deal to begin with. Prices on Amazon can change month to month so be sure your product’s prices didn’t go up and thereby nullifying your savings.
We buy all of our paper products on Amazon now (paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, etc…) plus other things like dog food and coffee.
19. Shop Multiple Grocery Stores
Yes it’s a bit more time consuming but can save you a lot of money. Just make sure you’re not driving all over town and wasting more gas!
I have a core rotation of 3 grocery stores that I hit semi-regularly. One is super close and the other two I drive about 15 minutes to get to – but it’s worth it.
I do the bulk of my weekly shopping at the close store and then hit the others about monthly to stock up on items when there are great sales.
20. Stock Up During a Sale
And that brings me to my next one – stocking up on products (that you will use) when it goes on sales. When something that you use a lot of is deeply discounted, buy it! And stock up a little. As long as you have the extra money that month to pay for it, why not. It just means that next month you won’t have to buy it at a higher price point.
I realize this may not be attractive every year, but some seasons just call for it. If you can’t afford it right now, it just is what it is. But even staycations can be super fun. Chances are there are parks and adventures in your own backyard that you can visit to make it memorable.
22. Stop Eating Out
This is probably one of the hardest things for me. Prior to me quitting my job we spent over $500 on eating out. We’ll still grab something out occasionally, but our eat out budget is now $100/month – and that doesn’t go very far for a family of four. But since I’m home, we have less of a need to eat out and I have the time to cook (well, some days it doesn’t feel like it).
We have always had a family tradition of Friday pizza night. But that was costing us about $40 a week before (we ordered pizza from a local pizzeria that wasn’t the cheapest). Now, we make our Friday night pizza ourselves and make a night of it. Trying different recipes is fun. And our 2-year old has taken to reciting a chorus of “pizza. pizza. pizza.” every Friday when she knows we’re cooking up some pies.
23. Set a Budget and Check it Often
I’ve put this last but probably should’ve put it first. This is incredibly important. You and your husband need to sit down and lay some ground rules. And then keep each other honest. Regular weekly check ins are a good idea too.
Even if it’s just 30 minutes, it can help you stay on track or at least realize when you may be off track in a certain month and help you course correct before it’s too late. If it helps, open a glass of wine (if it’s in your budget) and have 30 minutes with your husband with no TV and no kids yelling (we do it after kids go to bed).
Being home with my kids is the best decision I have ever made. Oh it’s tough, and it’s exhausting, but when my daughter looks at me and says “mommy, cuddle?” or taps the floor beside her and says “mommy play,” I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I hope these money-saving tips help you realize your goal or assist on your stay-at-home mom journey.
If you have another idea, please leave a comment below and share with other moms!