Joanna and Johnny are the writing duo behind Our Freaking Budget, a personal finance blog documenting the joys, pains and realities of living on a budget. From the basics of saving and getting out of debt, to venturing into the wild world of four-letter investments like 401k's and IRAs, they document their journey through young adulthood while exploring their love-hate relationship with their "freaking budget."
Recent studies have an interesting thing to say about working moms: They're happier. As someone who was a working mom, I can understand why. When I'm working full time, my husband and I both bring in income, meaning there's less financial strain on our family. I have a set routine, and I have a career where I am valued and able to interact daily with other adults. It's by no means easy, but it can be a very satisfying choice.
Despite all of that, I recently decided to quit my job to be at home with my 18-month-old daughter. And the numbers say that I am not alone. A Pew Research study found a significant increase in the percentage of stay-at-home moms in the past decade and a half. Being home with my daughter has always appealed to me, but after she was born, it made more financial sense to continue with my full-time employment. According to another survey, nearly half of working moms would like to stay at home or work less, and their main motivation for continuing their career is to provide income. I fell squarely in that camp. Here are the financial considerations that came into play:
Loss of income. Obviously, the biggest consideration was losing one of our two full-time salaries. We wanted to ensure our husband's income by itself could be cover all of our expenses and provide for some monthly savings. Our monthly savings will decrease significantly, and we'll have to watch our spending more carefully.
Freelance work. As a copy editor, I'm able to supplement our income with part-time editing. Being in a line of work that's conducive to contract work made my decision to quit my job slightly easier.
Insurance. We had to calculate the monthly premium when our family switched over to my husband's employer's insurance plan. We also looked into the differences in the deductible and out-of-pocket costs.
Day care. When I worked full-time, I got help from family in taking care of my daughter. But if I had continued my full-time job, we would have hired someone to care for our daughter full time in our home. There was one major problem with this scenario: It would cost nearly 60 percent of my salary. Working hard for eight hours a day while someone else watched my child and got paid the majority of my earnings seemed unnecessarily complicated. The Pew study I mentioned earlier found that the increase in stay-at-home moms is possibly due to the rising cost of child care.
Retirement savings. I'd been considering quitting my job for several months, but I wanted to wait until my retirement contributions were 100 percent vested. In January, after working for the company four years, that happened. Saying goodbye to my employer's monthly 403(b) match was tough, but I plan to continue beefing up my retirement via a Roth IRA.
My choice isn't the right one for everyone. Some stay-at-home moms choose to go back to work after choosing to be at home, and more than half do so to be able to interact with other adults. Working provides both that and a way to identify yourself separate from being a mom. Perhaps working mothers as a whole are happier. But for me, right now, being at home is the right choice for this happy mother.
Have you ever heard of the 30-day rule? As a frugal guy, this is one of my favorite rules in spending. If you’re about to spend any more than $20 on something that is unnecessary, don’t. Instead, put the item down and wait 30 days to buy it. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save by not making unnecessary frivolous purchases.
I literally mean freeze your credit cards. It seems a bit extreme, but think of it this way. The average credit card comes with a 13 percent or higher interest rate. By simply not using credit cards as often, you’ll save a ton. So, get a plastic sandwich bag and put your credit cards in it. Fill it with water, zip it up and throw it in the freezer. Without easy access to those tempting pieces of plastic, you probably won’t use them as much. However, they’ll still be around -- in an emergency, you can retrieve them from the ice.
Have you ever looked around your house, seen a few items and thought, “I could have made that!” You probably could have. The only thing is, you didn’t. Instead you paid for it. From now on, before you buy something you think you can make on your own, give it a shot. I saved a little over a hundred bucks about two weeks ago. I needed a new bird cage for my fiancé’s doves. Instead of buying a cage for $200, I made one that was far bigger for less than $80.
Did you know that a clean air filter in your car can lead to 7 percent more fuel efficiency? That means at current gas prices, with a clean air filter, you’ll save about $100 a year, if you drive the average 10,000 miles.
How often on the way home from the office do you want to stop for a convenient quick meal? You’ve had a long day, and it feels justified. But it costs much more than a home-cooked meal. The answer is your slow cooker. Use it to prepare your meal in the morning on days you know will be rough. This way, you can skip the fast food and rush home to an already ready home-cooked meal.
Do you pay a maintenance fee for your bank account? Why? Tons of banks offer checking and savings accounts without them. Look to your local credit union or even switch to an online bank. When comparing your options, also look at the interest you can earn. Currently, I get about 3 percent on checking and about 3.4 percent on savings, but who knows what kind of great deals you can find?
I’ve had tons of options to sign up for customer rewards programs and I was just too busy. So, I didn’t sign up. Then one day, I realized that I was paying for rewards I wasn’t getting. The cost of the rewards obviously trickles down to the end consumer. So, if the end consumer doesn’t take part, he or she loses money in the process. Since I’ve signed up for every reward program around me, I’ve saved at least 20 or 30 bucks a month in rewards.