How I Adjusted My Family’s Budget By Over $2650/month
Balancing the responsibilities of motherhood and a career can be a stressful task even at the best of times. It’s even more challenging when you must also deal with the additional parenting demands that come along with having a child with autism.
According to Forbes, 3 out of 5 moms with autistic children stay home to care for their children. Those who are working commonly report needing to take a leave of absence, or turn down promotions in order to meet their child’s needs. Workplaces often aren’t accommodating of this and being reprimanded can lead to additional stress.
So you might be wondering how to afford to be a stay at home mom. It can be done without making sacrifices.
If you currently stay home or are considering it but aren’t sure how to afford to be a stay at home mom, read on for tips on saving money and lowering your budget.
(Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links)
When I first published this post in January 2018, I had adjusted our budget by $1900/month. Since then I’ve made additional changes to find more savings and I’ve now adjusted our family budget by a total of $2650 per month!!
1. Buy Your Groceries Online
Buying groceries online has been a complete game changer for us. Since online shopping became available in our area grocery shopping is now stress-free and I’m saving about $150/month on our grocery bill.
How do I do it?
I start out by creating a complete meal plan for the week. Once I have all the family meals planned, I turn that list into a grocery list. I make sure I have all the ingredients to prepare each meal on my list. This way I can cross items off on my list as I go.
Nothing gets forgotten because I’m at home selecting items on my laptop, so I never have to make a second or third trip out to the store. Plus, I never end up with random items in my cart that weren’t on my list from impulse buying or the kids.
It’s much easier to stay within your grocery budget because you can see the cost in your cart at all times, there are no surprises when you get up to the cashier and everything is already scanned.
Plus you can more easily compare products for the best deal online than you can in a store staring at shelves of food (which by the way, those shelves are carefully arranged to make you spend more money). Most sites will show you the full price and the breakdown of the cost per 100 g. So you can make sure you’re getting the best value, not just the lowest price.
Plus, save even more by using coupon apps like Checkout 51. Check out 51 lets you upload photos of your grocery receipt and earn cash back offers. And, some grocery sites allow you to clip coupons and apply them right at the checkout on their website.
Savings Star is another cash back grocery program that I highly recommend joining. Like Checkout 51, you upload your grocery receipts to their app to earn cash back on your purchases. The best thing about Savings Star is that every week they have a new healthy offer where you earn cash back on different fruits and vegetables! They even have offers that never expire – like 1% cash back on all Kellogs products.
Where do you do it?
A lot of local grocery stores are starting online shopping as an option for getting your groceries. Check what is available in your area. Usually, you place your online order and then pick up the groceries at the store, but never need to leave your car.
Amazon also has a grocery delivery program now called AmazonFresh. Amazon delivers your groceries directly to your door. You can check availability and Try AmazonFresh Free Trial here
2. Spend Less on Bills (Without Sacrificing)
You shouldn’t have to give anything up in order to spend less. So yes, here’s a few tips so you can have your cake and eat it too.
Turn Down the Thermostat
Turning down your thermostat by 1 degree can lower your home heating bill by 1-3%. I lowered my thermostat and have been saving about $25-30/month as a result.
Also, turn it down more, when you aren’t going to be home. It takes less energy to warm a cold room back up when you get home than it does to keep a room at a consistent temperature all the time. Installing a programmable thermostat with geofencing may help you save even more because it can be programmed to detect when your phone leaves the area, and lower the temperature until you get back.
Turn Off The Lights
I know this is the most obvious tips in the world. But how mindful are you actually of this being done? Do your kids leave the lights on during the day? Do you? Being more conscientious of this can help you save a lot of money.
Also, make sure you turn off and unplug anything electric when you aren’t using it. Some items continue to use a small amount of electricity even when they aren’t turned on such as the TV, computer, or microwave.
Unplug chargers as soon as devices like your phone or laptop are fully charged.
Taking the time to reduce our energy consumption has reduced the electricity by for my family of 5 by about $30/month.
The image below is a comparison of my electricity usage ( including electric heat) both this year and last year. By making the changes above, I was able to reduce my electricity consumptions and my bill by about 23%.
Negotiate Your Bills or Have Someone Do It For You
Companies that provide services like cell phones, internet, home security, cable, etc often can be negotiated with to get a lower rate. These service providers have a loyalty department that strives for customer retention. I was able to get my cable/internet bill lowered by $50/month and my cell phone bill lowered by $45/month. I also got a new phone in the process.
Before you call, check online and find out the best deal for new customers that your company currently has to offer. Call in using that price as your ammo and listen to their telephone options and select the one for canceling your service – this department can often give out deals other departments can’t.
Check out Trim Financial as well. They’re a free service that tracks your spending habits, budget, manages your subscription services and you can submit your account information and they will negotiate your bills for you. Their service is free to use, they only charge a fee if they can successfully lower your bills. That fee is 25% of your savings.
Analyze Your Spending
Trim will also look for opportunities for you to save money and notify you through Facebook of those opportunities. This doesn’t cost anything.
You can view how much money you’re spending by merchant, category, date, etc. For example, I can see that in March I spent over $107 at Tim Hortons (which is a coffee shop) and had over 35 transactions throughout the month. That’s a pretty huge saving opportunity and I’ve started making my coffee at home more often to save some extra money.
In April I was able to cut back how much I spent at Tim Hortons to $65 by making more coffee at home.
3. Do Surveys & Reward Programs
You can’t make a living off them, but there are some legit programs out there that will pay you a little bit of money.
If you spend some time on them and save the bit of money you make – at the very least you’ll spend less out of pocket for Christmas time.
Swagbucks – These guys really do pay you for surveys and offers, and give cash back for online shopping. If you log on every day you can definitely make anywhere from $10-50/month.( I’ve made as much as $75 in a month once).
They pay to your PayPal account, or as an Amazon gift card, and other online gift cards too. They have cash back offers on thousands of stores.
Swagbucks also now has a daily trivia game where you answer 10 multiple choice questions and the winners split the grand prize. Prizes range from $1000-5000 that I’ve seen so far. And even if you don’t win, they give out bonus points every game!
UsabilityHub – I discovered this little gem a few months back. Usability hub asks you quick questions – it takes 5 seconds or less- and then you get 10 cents per test. I get a notification on my phone when a test is available. Sometimes there are 10 a day, sometimes you don’t see one for a week. But they take no time at all.
EBates – EBates has been around for a long time but I only heard of it last year. With EBates you can automatically earn cash back from shopping online at the places you always shop. Then, they mail you out a check every few months. Plus, if you sign up for a new account, you’ll get $10 as soon as you spend $25 online.
Go2Crowd – This is a newer survey website that looks promising. You earn points for completing surveys which can be redeemed for gift cards including prepaid Visas, Walmart, Amazon, and more. I just signed up and completed one survey for 150 points. You can start redeeming points once you reach 1000 which is worth $10.
Sell Your Books – Have any books or textbooks around that are in good shape? Sell Back Books will buy your used books from you, and cover the cost of shipping so it doesn’t cost you a dime. They pay direct deposit, too. It’s not a long-term money making option, but it’s a great way to get some extra cash.
4. Get A Side Hustle
Find something you’re good at, and start a side hustle. There are tons of ways you can use your skills and abilities to make money and with the right side hustle, you won’t need to wonder how to afford to be a stay at home mom.
Freelance on Fiverr
There are tons of services you can sell on Fiverr as a side hustle. Logo design, transcription, writing resumes, proofreading and editing documents. There are tons of things that you can get paid to do. There are even small businesses who will pay you to post on social media for them.
Freelancing is growing in popularity and is an affordable option for small businesses who need things done. Check out Fiverr and check out what other sellers are doing to get some ideas on what you have to offer.
Start Your Own Blog
Truthfully, becoming a blogger is not for the faint of heart, and I won’t pretend it is. There is a lot involved in starting up a blog.
Most bloggers take several months of work before they start making any money (although I truly did make money since my first-month blogging I know I’m the exception, not the rule). It’s not for everybody.
If this is something you’re interested in, check out The Basics of Blogging. I read Pinning For Pageviews when I first started blogging last year and it really helped me hit the ground running when it came to this blog. Since then I’ve grown my Pinterest account to reach more than 3.4 million people and bring in about 50,000 page views per month.
I currently make about $800 a month blogging. My blogging revenue comes from advertising and affiliate sales.
Offer Child Care in Your Home
Reliable childcare can be extremely difficult to find. If you’re going to be a stay at home mom, why not offer to care for another child or two in your home?
When I first left my job, I was hesitant to take on the job of caring for another child, because sometimes watching my own three was stressful and busy enough. But I actually find it easier to have another kid here now.
The children keep each other busy which means they don’t need as much direct attention from me. Of course, I’m supervising them all but I can set up activities for them and stay close by while the kids play together. I babysit part-time and make $350 per month.
Testing Apps and Websites
Sign up for Tester Work and get paid for testing out apps and websites for bugs and usability. When tests are available you’ll receive an invitation by e-mail.
It’s a first come first serve opportunity so tests can fill up fast. You’ll get all the instructions for the test once you’re in.
You get paid per bug that you discover, so when the test launches make sure you’re ready to go because duplicates don’t count, you’ve got to be the first person to find it.
So, to break it down:
$800 from blogging
$350 from babysitting
$50 from other online earning opportunities
$1100 in childcare expenses for 3 kids
$50 off cable/internet
$45 off cellphone
$150 off groceries
$65 off electricity (compared to same period last year when I was working)
$40 off coffee
Which means altogether, I’ve adjusted my monthly budget by $2650 and this has allowed me to comfortably be a stay at home mom.
So because of all these changes, I was able to become a stay at home mom and be home with my three kids every day. I hope this is able to make that transition more comfortable for you, too.