The Cost of Being a Working Mom

Is a mother's second income really worth it?
Is a mother's second income really worth it?
 

Being a full time mom and a full time professional is a challenging balancing act for many women. Many families today believe that two incomes are necessary to make ends meet. I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not that second income is really as financially beneficial as it seems. By examining the expenses associated with full time employment, you may realize that most of the extra money you think you're earning goes toward work related costs. These costs include child care, clothing, transportation, food, and more. If you are a working mother (or father) with a partner who works full time, explore the possibility of living on only one income and staying home with your children. The conversion may be easier than you realize, especially if the idea of staying home motivates you to make money saving lifestyle changes.

For some working mothers, daycare expenses eat up more than half of each paycheck.
For some working mothers, daycare expenses eat up more than half of each paycheck.

Childcare

According to Day Care Days, the average cost of daycare in the U.S. is $700 per month for infants and $500 per month for toddlers on up. Costs are dependent on where you live and whether you use an in home daycare, or a professional daycare center. For families with more than one child, monthly daycare expenses can climb into the thousands!

Before I had my first child, I explored the option of remaining in the work force full time after his birth. I looked into a highly recommended child care center close to the hospital where I worked. At that time, the rate was $183 per week for an infant. So child care costs alone would have been at least $750 per month. That, coupled with the thought of someone else raising my child, was a major factor in my decision to stay home for the first few months after my son's birth and then return to work as a part-timer.

Chances are you're not spending your entire paycheck on child care. Hopefully if that were the case, you would have figured out by now that the numbers are not in your favor. For Moms whose income is modest, child care expenses alone might be enough to tip the scale toward staying at home. But for moms who make a large sum of money, child care costs may only take away a fraction of job earnings.

$500 for this suit...Yikes!
$500 for this suit...Yikes!

Clothing

Clothing costs not only include the price you pay to purchase work clothes, but also the costs associated with cleaning and maintaining the garments. For example, the Banana Republic suit shown on the right costs about $500 before tax. This price doesn't even include shoes or accessories. $500 for just one outfit! Multiply that times five days a week, and it's frightening. Fortunately not all women wear suits to work, and there are more affordable options for business attire. Regardless of what you spend on each outfit, clothing is an additional career expense for working women.

Dry Cleaning can also add to your monthly work expenses. Even if you use an inexpensive dry cleaner that charges $1.99 per garment, dry cleaning costs can really add up. If both bread winners need dry cleaned clothes, this could mean ten shirts and ten skirts or slacks per week. Depending on your cleaner, this could add up to well over $250 per month. Becoming a stay-at-homer will slash this bill considerably. Many people wear uniforms to work that must be purchased with their own money. Some of us are vertically challenged and have to pay a tailor to alter pants and skirts. These are expenses that would be minimized or even eradicated by exiting the work force.

By becoming a stay at home parent, you may be eligible for a reduction in your auto insurance premiums because you're putting fewer miles on your car each year and spending less time on the highway.

Transportation

Second to child care, transportation can be one of the largest job related expenses, depending on your commute. In 2004 AAA reported that the complete cost of operating a vehicle was 56 cents per mile. Transportation costs include parking fees, car maintenance, gas, and more. The average American commutes about 15 miles each way, so at 56 cents per mile, that's almost $17 per round trip. If you have an average commute, the costs add up to about $350 per month for transportation to and from work. If you and your spouse drive separate vehicles to work, that's $700!

Food

Spending $8 per day on lunch at the office adds up to over $160 per month. In addition to office lunches, many full time workers enjoy going out for drinks or coffee with others from the office on a regular basis. Spending $20 per week on drinks and coffee costs at least $80 per month.

Full time workers tend to spend more money on dining out away from the office too. Many parents opt to eat out frequently because it's so much easier than cooking at home after an exhausting day at the office. Going out to eat takes a huge bite out of your monthly budget. A family of four that eats out three times per week at an average cost of $25 per meal will spend over $300 in a month on restaurant dining. That's a huge amount of money!

What's the Verdict?

To find out how much you are spending on a second income, use the one income calculator on the Crown Financial Ministries website. The calculator will help you gauge how much money you actually bring home after work related expenses are deducted from your paycheck.

Crown Financial Ministries One Income Calculator

So how'd you do? If you have less than $1000 left over each month, chances are you can easily adjust your lifestyle and spending habits to decrease your monthly monetary needs by $1000. This will require some level of sacrifice for the entire family, so make sure leaving the work force is something you're really passionate about doing before quitting your job.

If staying home full time still doesn't seem financially possible, consider working part time close to home instead of full time. You'd still save on a portion of your job related expenses, and you'd be contributing income to your family's finances as well.

Warning!

Now don't think this is a rant against working mothers. I am a working mother. I just don't work full time. Working part time provides additional income and gives me a much needed chance to use my nurse brain instead of my mommy brain. Being a stay at home mom is not for everyone and that is okay. Some women thrive on the challenge and fast pace of being in the workforce. Others just need some time for themselves. I would probably lose my sanity if I didn't have any time away from my kids, even though I love them incredibly.

If you make the choice to stay at home, be very watchful of your spending and stick to a financial plan. It's easy to get into spending trouble as a stay at home parent. If you're used to going out to dinner five nights a week, frequenting gourmet coffee shops, and taking lavish vacations, the transition to one income will probably be quite a challenge. Sacrifices will have to be made, and your lifestyle may require some downgrades. For tips on how to make these changes, click here.

Here is something I've learned over the years: When you work full time, you have plenty of money, but you don't have any time to spend it. When you're a stay-at-homer, you have plenty of free time to go shopping, but you don't have any money to spend! Isn't that just how life works out sometimes? This decision is not easy. Staying at home will not be a cake walk, but with proper financial planning and possibly some sacrifices here and there, it may be a great option for you and your family. Good luck!

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Comments 34 comments

Mom Erickson 8 years ago

A very informative article. Makes you think twice about working full time with children at home... or in childcare. I think part time jobs are great for moms of young children.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

Great Hub, Shawna!

In the case of a single mom, there also are hidden costs to even that crucial one income you depend on, if you have to leave the house in order to earn it. Here are some of them:

*gasoline or property taxes (if you live far from work, the cost is gasoline. If you live close to work, the cost is in terms or real estate prices and high taxes.)

* day care

* illnesses in the family due to frequent exposure to large populations of people

* clothing (same as the point you made)

* emotional costs of separation

So it's really not a question of one versus two incomes. It's about the hidden costs of any job, if you have small children at home, and the job requires you to work outside the home.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Thanks for your comment, Aya. There are certainly expenses associated with any income, whether it is the second income in a family or the sole income. You brought up some great points that I didn't think of like illness and emotional costs. I appreciate your feedback!


Karen N profile image

Karen N 8 years ago from United States

All good points, for many people it's just way too expensive.


Don Simkovich profile image

Don Simkovich 8 years ago from Pasadena, CA

Nice hub, Shawna . . . I may refer to this and link to it on my blog Cash Flow Tips Today . . . I guess another title would be "When are second incomes worth it?"

Your title is certainly good . . .


MarcNorris profile image

MarcNorris 8 years ago from Canada

This is definitely a topic that most people don't consider when going to work if you have children.

I know for us, we needed daycare for our son when we were in college, and that was pricey at the time.

Now, with three kids, you "make" more money by one of us staying at home.


April Fool profile image

April Fool 8 years ago from Pune, India

Great Hub, Shawna! Very informative and thought-provoking.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Don-thanks for your comment.  Feel free to post a link on your blog!  I'd love the publicity :)  I like your title...I always have a hard time coming up with good titles.

Marc-I can't imagine how much it would cost to have three kids in daycare...too much!  Thanks for reading.

April and Karen-thanks for your positive feedback!


Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

Very reasonable hub Shawna!

Call me sexist and other words, but I am sure our society has it wrong. I strongly belive mothers ideally should stay at home with children at least the first several years, and you are showing some ways to achieve this.


dafla 8 years ago

Good hub, but I have never paid $500 for a suit, or $8 for a lunch. I don't buy clothes that have to be dry-cleaned. I guess some people do, but you really can come out a lot cheaper than what you're saying. I'd like to see a workup with some realistic figures. These figures sound like they're for someone who makes a lot more than the average working mom.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Hi Dafla- I see in your profile that you're really into frugality. I am too. I have never and would never pay that much for a suit or a lunch either. Like you said, though, some (or most) people do spend a lot more than frugal folks like you and me :)

If you want realistic figures for your situation, I encourage you to use the calculator that was linked in the article. You can type in the numbers from your own income and expenses. Thanks for reading!


jim10 profile image

jim10 8 years ago from ma

Great hub, my wife and I have 3 boys and our solution is that my wife and I work opposite schedules. She works nights as a nurse and I work in the middle of the day. We don't see each other much but we don't make enough for one of us to work part time. We have considered moving to a cheaper state, but we both have big families and they are all here in MA. We know a few people that have sold their homes around us and pretty much tripled the size by moving south. I'm working at getting a second income online so my wife can cut down her hours. We both manage to spend lots of time with the kids.


anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 8 years ago from Portugal

Its hard being a nurse. Me and my gf are nurses and we don't have children yet, but I can see from your post how hard it can get. Some things I'll have to give a better thought.

Thanks!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Hi Jim. My husband and I have a similar arrangement for working and childcare. I'm a nurse too, so I work two evenings per week after my husband gets home from his daytime job. We're both really glad we don't have to use a babysitter or daycare. We have also considered moving to an area with lower cost of living, but like you, it would mean leaving all of our family, which we don't want to do. Thanks for reading... I appreciate your feedback!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

anime-nanet-Nursing is actually a pretty great profession to be in as a parent because of the flexibility in scheduling. Like Jim mentioned, one parent can work nights while the other works days, or one can work weekdays while the other works weekends. At most hospitals, you get a bonus in pay for working nights or weekends too, which is great. There aren't a lot of professions that have the flexibility that nursing has. Just food for thought :)


anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 8 years ago from Portugal

You'll get time for the kids but not for one each other...

Life truly is made of sacrifices.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

It just depends on your schedules. Since I only work two evenings per week, I still have plenty of time with my husband on weekends and the other three evenings of the week. If you don't want to give up time with your sweetie, wait to have kids! :)


talented_ink profile image

talented_ink 8 years ago from USA

Even though I'm not a working mother, I like this hub because it offers suggestions and advice to those who blindly jump into the workforce because it seems like the necessary thing to do to make a few extra dollars.


kocharvimal profile image

kocharvimal 8 years ago from India

Good hub but i don't think India will be so expensive atleast not till a decade!!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Thanks for your comments, talented_ink and kocharvimal :)


Junjie profile image

Junjie 8 years ago from Singapore

I wish my wife can calculate the sums like you do. It would save me loads of arguments when I point out if her financial logic is mathematically flawed... :)


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Thanks for your comment Junjie :)


Robin Bresson 8 years ago

Great article Shawna. Ashley and Anthony are beginning to think about starting a family and she definitely wants to stay home with her babies. When they purchase their first home they will do it taking only his salary into consideration. Ashley is going to love reading the article and gleaning your wisdom.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Living on one salary is definitely a great idea. Thanks for reading, Robin!


Ms Sooz profile image

Ms Sooz 8 years ago from Northern California

I really liked this article. I confess- I don't have kids, and I am in a single-income household (I am the earner.) I'd also like to just say that it is not possible to be both a full-time employee and a full-time parent. If you are juggling them both, one of them can only be considered part-time and I think that kids often get the "short end of the stick", so to speak. I think that living frugally and using a lot of the tips you have posted in your hubs can give people a way to spend more time with their kids and family, and less time worrying about the stressful day job. Thanks for the info!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Ms Sooz- I couldn't agree more! Thanks so much for your support!


MrsEmmaLee profile image

MrsEmmaLee 8 years ago from West Central Georgia

Excellent Info...  I linked my daughter to your hub.  Her husband is in the military and often "away' (sadly)...  So her "back-up" are her dad and I  (and let me tell you, I'm loving every minute with our little 10-month old angel)...  The cost of her working would far out weigh the cost of "not" working ! She's be agonizing over what to do...  money is tight, but with the help of the calculator I think she'll feel better with her decision to stay home.  Thanks !


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

MrsEmmaLee-I'm glad you found this hub helpful. I hope your daughter benefits from the information. Thank you for your comment!


RGraf profile image

RGraf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

We have worked for years with more than 1 income. The daycare killed us. Finally my husband was able to work from home which really helped. Now we both work from home which gives us the mutiple income that we do need but we do save on all those items you list above. There are always ways to save and sometimes it is not what seems to be the most "logical" way. Always research.

Another great hub!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Hi RGraf :) Working from home saves so much money! It's wonderful that you and your husband both have that option. Thanks for reading!


ShawnH 7 years ago

Hey Shawna,

Since stumbling onto your hub (never heard of this before) I have loved what I have read. My wife and I decided before our first child that regardless the amount of money we would have if she and I both worked it would never equal the "value" of her staying home with the kids. It's not easy to live on one salary with three kids but we do because for us it would cost more in our kids development than we are willing to pay. We have also lived next door to my Mom and Dad and Sister for most of our kids lives and now that we are moving (I lost my job) God has worked it out for her Mom to move in with us to help out. I am military and will be gone for about 9 months so this is an answer to prayer.

Great post.

Shawn


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 7 years ago from Arizona Author

We see value in a stay at home parent too. We sacrifice a lot of conveniences and extras to make it happen, but I think our kids definitely benefit. If I worked full time, we'd have a lot more money and could buy a lot more stuff, but stuff isn't what really matters to us. Fortunately we live very close to family too, so that helps a lot.


MarieAlice profile image

MarieAlice 6 years ago from Peru

working mom here!!! In my case I am lucky to say that at least I wear a uniform to work (so does my husband) and i also have my lunch paid by my company, my job is 15 minutes walking so I save money on transportation. I can say that at least at this point can save some money. The bad part is that I have to pay for childcare!! so sometimes i just think it would be better to stay at home!!!!

great hub!!!


scla profile image

scla 5 years ago from Southern California

Great article. It definitely helps to sit down and examine your costs to determine whether what you are earning is really just going to cover costs associated with working. A huge portion of income for working moms seems to go toward covering daycare. If we actually sit down and examine the cots of working we may realize that the overall gain in income is minimal while the loss of quality time with your child is large.

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