The Cost of Being a Working Mom
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Books for SAHMs
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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