Would you be able to afford it?
Even if you have no desire to quit your job (or yours is the one paying the bills), you probably can’t help but wonder what life would look like without it.
If you are actually trying to figure out if life as a stay-at-home mom would work for your family, the devil is in the budgeting details. Here are seven things you should be aware of—and prepare for—before you make the leap.
1. You’ll Save Money on Work-Related Costs
Your job is earning you money, but do you know how much it’s costing you, as well? For example, once you quit, you’ll no longer be paying for gas or public transportation to and from work every day, your morning latte and lunches from the deli, or silk blouses that require dry cleaning.
“Staying home definitely saves money in the clothing department,” says Marisa Costa, who just recently went back to work after deciding the stay-at-home life wasn’t for her. “The SAHM uniform was basically jeans and a t-shirt for me.”
Rebecca Adler Warren, a freelance writer who lives in New York, saves big on transportation: “I no longer have to shell out $104 a month for my unlimited Metrocard since Baby and I usually travel on foot,” she says.
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Depending on what your partner does, quitting your job might even allow you to move to a less expensive area where everything–food, housing, transportation–costs less.
LearnVest Tip: When building your new, post-work budget, lower your transportation and clothing costs and move that money elsewhere–like to diaper costs. LearnVest’s My Money Center can help you figure out what your readjusted budget would look like.
2. You’ll Have More Time to Cut Your Costs
You know how you’ve been totally meaning to cook more of your own meals, plant a vegetable garden and stop paying retail for your clothing? Now, you might be able to start doing that. “I finally have time to go to the grocery store. That means goodbye daily trips to expensive salad bars for lunch and hello weekly meal planning,” says Adler Warren.
“When you are busy and are working, you often settle for something just because you don’t have time to do the grunt work of figuring out a better, less costly solution,” says Costa. “When you’re at home, you have more time for ‘home management,’ and can use that time to lower your costs and bills by making calls, doing research and negotiating.”
LearnVest Tip: Take advantage of what used to be commuting time by preparing and eating dinner with your family, trying your hand at couponing to lower your grocery bill, monetizing your hobbies to bring in extra income and accomplishing the important financial tasks every mom should do.
3. You’ll Spend Money to Just Get Out of the House
When you imagine life as a stay-at-home mom, you might picture the tranquility of being away from the office–but that vision can quickly fade. “Domestic bliss is only that for about the first six months; after that, the at-home partner will start to feel like the household drudge,” says Chandra Clarke, one mom who managed to find a happy work-life balance with her husband.
Some moms, including Lenz, didn’t expect this. “Since I was working by myself, I got lonely and started spending more on coffee when I was doing work in coffee shops and spending more on going out to eat.”
And Costa warns, “Beware of bad weather. You want to get out of the house with the kids, but you can’t go outside because it’s raining or snowing, etc.” So she ended up shopping to fill the time. “Many moms talk about how it’s easy to spend too much money just because it’s raining.”
LearnVest tip: Don’t assume your children will be all the diversion you’ll need. ”It’s absolutely critical to budget for some sort of personal outlet for the stay-at-home partner,” says Clarke. “This could be a night course, starting a home business or one day a week of childcare.” Set up a savings folders for your personal outlet in your My Money Center and start contributing—even before you decide to go stay-at-home.
4. You’ll Save Big on Childcare, But …
The average cost of daycare in the U.S. is over $11,600 a year. So saving almost $1,000 a month–more if you live in a city–is one of the biggest financial perks of being a SAHM, of course.
The downside is that you don’t have someone else to take the kids away at the end of the day, which can lead to a situation where you feel resentful. ”The non-working parent needs a little time off,” says Neal S. Godfrey of Children’s Financial Network. “It’s very detrimental if the non-working parent starts to feel like an indentured servant.”
LearnVest Tip: Incorporate babysitting or part-time care into your budget so you can recoup and get away with your partner. If you need more than just an occasional babysitter, you can save by joining a co-op or nannyshare.
5. The Power Dynamic Will Shift
Even if your partner thanks you for your hard work every day, you may still struggle with the feeling of being the “lesser-earning” half. Lenz’s partner always made more money than she did–she’s a writer, and he’s an engineer. She continued to bring in freelance income, so their shift didn’t seem huge … until she asked for a smartphone and it turned into a fight.
“I think I told him something to the effect of, ‘I CAN HAVE IT BECAUSE I MAKE MONEY, TOO!’” she says. “It wasn’t pretty. But the fight helped us realize that we both have autonomy and need to have voices in working out priorities.”
LearnVest Tip: Don’t set up a dynamic that has you asking for money for everything from perfume to a sippy cup. Instead, set up a monthly budget that gets automatically transferred to your personal account so you can make autonomous decisions regarding how it’s spent.
6. Your Taxes Will Change … but How?
If your plan is to quit your job and stop earning money all together, you might be pleased with the effect on your taxes. It’s very possible you’ll be bumped into a lower tax bracket, meaning your spouse will pay a lower percentage of income to taxes, saving you money.
Another perk is that when you quit, you won’t be subtracting the full dollar amount of your salary from your budget to make it work. That’s because you were only taking home your after-tax salary. So if your full salary was $50,000, you only have to budget for $45,000 or $40,000 less in income.
However, if you plan to freelance to bring in extra income, you’ll be paying a higher percentage on that money–and may have to outsource doing taxes to a skilled accountant because of the way self-employment income is taxed. (For more on doing taxes when you’re a freelancer, read this.) “I pay more in taxes now than I ever did,” says Lenz. “That’s something I didn’t expect.”
LV Tip: You should already be budgeting for your take-home pay, not your full salary. But make sure to consult with a tax professional as soon as you make the decision to change your job and see how it will affect your tax bill.
7. Retirement Will Be Your Responsibility
When you had a salaried job, saving for retirement was as simple as sending a portion of your income to a 401(k), IRA or other savings account. But just because you aren’t earning anymore, doesn’t mean your retirement savings should stop. In fact, here’s why retirement is harder for women.
You can’t plan on relying on your partner’s 401(k) or other retirement account down the road, even if he’s contributing enough for both of you. In the event of a divorce, you would be left high and dry. That’s why it’s so important to have your own savings.
LearnVest Tip: First, roll your 401(k) over into an IRA, which will save you on taxes and keep you on track. Then consider options like an annuity, spousal IRA, individual 401(k) or SEPA if you’re a freelancer. Here’s excellent advice on how to save for retirement as a stay-at-home mom.