Until recently, I viewed the choice of being a stay at home parent solely as a loss of income in a couple's life. If both adults are working and one chooses not to pursue professional employment, then the incime at that house is going to go down.
Over time, though, I began to realize that being a stay at home parent has a lot of significant value on its own. Not only does it produce inherent savings through the lifestyle change, but a committed stay at home parent can significantly alter the household budget in a profound number of ways - some obvious, some not.
Saving While Staying at Home
If you're considering making the stay at home parenting move but are afraid of a financial apocalypse from making that move, consider the following:
You'll save on child care costs.
If you're considering the stay at home parent route, this is usually the first financial benefit you think of. In our case, one of us becoming a stay at home parent would save almost $300 a week.
You'll save on taxes.
When one of you leaves the workforce, your tax bill will go way down, perhaps even more than you think, because that lost salary was effectively paying taxes in your highest bracket. Let's say you were making $30,000 a year and that $30,000 pushed you into the 28% bracket by about $20,000. That means your total tax bill from just that one salary was $8,100, or $156 a week.
You'll save on food expenses.
At work, I often go out to eat with my office mates. Let's say, hypothetically, that I do this three times a week and it costs $10 a pop. With that expense gone, $25 a week would be saved just by eliminating the cost of eating out for lunch.
You'll save on automobile expenses.
My commute eats roughly a gallon and a half of gasoline each day and triggers an oil change every three months. That adds up to a cost of about $4.80 each day just for these items - toss on another $0.20 a day for other auto maintenance items like tires, belts, filters, etc. and you've got a $25 a week savings just due to the automobile - and I'm not even including breakdowns, major repairs, tolls, or other emergencies.
You'll save on extra work expenses.
My job has a lot of small, hidden expenses. We all are expected to contribute to a coffee fund. We all are expected to participate in gift exchanges. We all are expected to contribute to donation drives. We all are (basically) expected to buy tchotchkes from the children of most immediate coworkers. These expenses are real and they build up over time, averaging as much as $15 a week over the year.
You'll save on routine work habits.
My wife routinely stops for coffee in the morning and also gets a scone most mornings. This averages out to $25 a week more than just making a pot at home and having a simple breakfast there.
You'll save on stress relief.
I personally find ways to cope with stress by meditation, but I am the only person in my office who doesn't either get expensive massages or engage in a very expensive stress-reducing activity. One could argue that playing with my Wii is a stress reducing activity. I will be conservative and value this at just $10 a week, though it could be much higher.
You'll save by discovering new avenues of frugality.
If one of us became a stay at home parent, lots of other avenues of frugality would open up. For example, my wife has often talked about wanting to take our kids to story time at the library, getting her in the door there on a routine basis and thus encouraging her to check out books - that's something I'd probably do, too, as a stay at home parent. I could easily believe that $10 a week would be trimmed from our budget just from frugal discoveries.
The truth is that quite often, we use the excuse of things being "too expensive" without really thinking too much about it to argue against stay at home parenting, but when you really start adding up the factors, there's much more value there than you think. In the above example, the stay at home parent is effectively saving the household $560 a week. That's the equivalent of a $29,000 a year job, not much less than my wife's current salary, and I feel the numbers used in the calculation are conservative.
Is this a financial argument for one of us to become a stay at home parent? When I first started writing this, I did it merely as a mental exercise, but when I showed this argument to my wife, she was actually stunned. Her response was to try to poke holes in it, but she actually wound up convincing herself that my numbers were low.
If stay at home parenting is something you're considering, but you're worried about the financial impact, give this article a careful reading alongside your spouse. You just might come to a different conclusion than you expected.