Starting to Stay at Home

How can Stephanie adjust for a new household budget when she decides to stay at home with the kids?

QUESTION: Stephanie via email wants to know the best way to work toward being a stay-at-home mother. Dave suggests testing it by living on her husband's income only.

Dave's ANSWER: You've got to look at and think through your husband's income and start to trim the household to where it fits within his income. That could be paying off debt; it could be selling things. If you want to be very radical, it could be living in a different home.

The way to practice it if you think you are almost there is to live on his income and save your entire income except for daycare costs or any other costs that are associated with you working. If you drive a long way to work, your gas bill would be lower. If you don't work outside the home, then your daycare bill would be less. You can take those things out of your income and save the rest.

The actual operation of the household, as if you were home full time, you have to be able to do that on his income. You can practice that by budgeting together and laying out your written plan. That's a great way to know that it's safe for you to come home.

I will tell you this, because it's an interesting thing to me. A large percentage of the time, you'd be amazed at the number of times that, when we pull daycare out of her income and she wants to be at home full time with the kids, they are only $300 or $400 off. Then we look over and see a car with a $300 payment on it.

What we figure out is that the one thing that is driving her into the workplace away from home when she doesn't want to be is a stupid car. That leads to a real quick answer: Sell the car. You'd be amazed at how many times you are within one car payment of coming home if that's what you want to do. It's real simple–amputate the Tahoe. That's what moves the needle here.

I don't know if that's your case, but I'm just telling you to look for things like that. Don't trade a stupid car for time with your kids. Drive a beater; who gives a rip? Your kids will not remember what you drove when they were kids. Actually, many of us remember what we drove when we were little because it was so bad. It was fun and it was a joke. But we don't remember it like our mother put our lives in jeopardy every morning and I'm still in counseling because of the car she drove. People just don't do that.

It doesn't leave a psychological scar for your parents to drive junk. It just doesn't.