Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to Go from Two Incomes to One and Make it Work

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I was just reading a thread on babycenter about a mom who is struggling with the decision of whether or not to go back to work after the baby is born.  She said it seems like they'd have nothing to show for their work after childcare and other expenses.  She was asking for input on what has worked for other families who have made the decision for one parent to stay at home.

We decided when we got married (nearly 10 years ago - goodness!) that I would stay home when we have children.  I must say that it was a really rough transition for us.  We had to absorb a lot of moving costs plus the cost of taking a loss on a home sale.  We had to adjust to the new bill costs in our new home.  We had to absorb the health insurance costs of the birth - we had to switch insurances in the middle so the cost was double.  It honestly took us nearly a year to get a good handle on things.

We now have a baby emergency fund ($1000 in the bank that we don't touch).  We only use our credit card for business expenses that Hubby will be reimbursed for.  We are slowly making headway on our student loan debt and car debt.  We use cash for groceries.  We budget carefully - yeah - we could be better here, but we're improving each month.

Here are some ways that I've been able to help our financial situation while staying at home:
  • Couponing.  By learning how to coupon effectively, I have been able to cut our grocery budget from around $400 a month for 2 adults and a baby to just over $200 a month.  Check this past post to learn the basics of couponing.
  • Dave Ramsey.  Hubby and I took his Financial Peace University a few years back.  Dave gives common sense advice about money - live on less than you make - so that later you will be able to live very comfortably (thanks to the sacrifices made early on).
  • Swagbucks.  By using Swagbucks as my search engine (note - just one account per household is allowed), I have earned $120 in Amazon gift cards since March 2009.  By combining some survey income that comes as Amazon gift cards, I have been able to purchase nearly all gifts for birthdays and holidays without spending "real" money.  Learn what Swagbucks is all about in this past post.
  • Surveys.  I spend about an hour each day taking surveys and doing product trials from various companies.  It takes a little while to get going where you see any income, but after a few months, it really starts to add up.  I just received 2 packs of diapers to test (Pampers!).  The diapers were free and I will get paid for my time to answer a survey.   Some companies pay directly to paypal, others have prizes (including gift cards) to choose based on a point scale, and some send checks.  Here are a few of my favorite companies:  Opinion Outpost, SayNation!,  Valued Opinions, and MySurvey.  You can check out my reviews of these companies and more here.  You can research the safety of these sites through surveypolice.
  • Word of Mouth Marketing.  Word of Mouth Marketing companies send free products or coupons.  You try these products and share your thoughts (and coupons and other samples) with friends.  Some companies require reports of these conversations.  Other companies do not.  The companies I use are:  Vocalpoint, BzzAgent, Smile.ly, SheSpeaks, Pssst!
Hope this helps!  It hasn't been easy, but we're making it and I wouldn't change our plan for anything.  

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