How I can afford to stay home as a single mom

I actually did it, last Friday was my last day.

I am terrified. I have worked the last 3 years for the sole purpose of paying for insurance. Almost every cent of my paycheck went to the very expensive daycare that was raising my children for me. They taught my daughters their ABC’s, they were there for Ellie’s first steps, and they were there for them during new teeth, new scrapes, and new friends. I was horribly jealous. I am not knocking daycare facilities at all, I actually cried with the owner on the last day because we have become such good friends.

After Ellie started talking, I decided that there was no way I could miss all of these firsts, but as a single mom, what could I do? I started small, looking around for opportunities. I started mystery shopping again like I used to do when I was married. Soon afterwards, my sister approached me about the DS company she worked for. I had social anxiety, and an intense hatred of selling people anything. 18 months later, these little hair accessories made it possible for me to stay home.

Less than two years after I started toward my goal I was making more money with my side jobs than I was at my real job after paying for daycare, so I made the jump. No, I don’t make a lot of money and I have to cut a lot of corners, but I am able to stay home with my children, where I want to be.

Learn to budget

I use Every Dollar from Dave Ramsey, it’s an app that loads straight to your cell phone and lets you keep track of your spending. Yes, it is still up to me to say “No” once I reach the end of the money in a certain budget catagory, but it’s worth it to know I have enough money to cover all the bills and basics we need. I took it a step further and took the Financial Peace University class at my church, which teaches you how to pay off your debt, save for the future, and switch to cash so you never overspend.

SIDE HUSTLE

I worked several hours each night after my kids went to sleep and several hours in the mornings before they woke up (have to love it when kids still need 11 hours of sleep). I currently do mystery shopping, Lilla Rose, backyard gardening, and selling handmade lotions and lip balm at local farmer’s markets. I could never have quit my job with just one, but everything combined is enough for us.

DIY

With these miracles called Google and YouTube around, why would you pay someone for a service you can do yourself? I built myself a clothesline this spring and fixed a broke ceiling fan all from tutorials I found online. This summer I am building myself a picnic table, which will cost me about $25 in materials versus the $200 for a decent new one at the store.

Find free

I have no problem with free, in fact it’s my favorite word, especially when it’s associated with kids. My kids and I love to be outside, so we go to the zoo a ton! Seriously, we know almost all of the animals names. We also take advantage of story times at the library, and free butterfly and tree walks at the local Audubon center.

GARDEN

I have a big backyard and landlords who let me do pretty much whatever I want, so this spring I put half the backyard into a garden. This morning I dug up a patch of beets, picked half a dozen cucumbers, and planted another 2 rows of green beans. Most of the vegetables will make their way into my canner to supplement our winter grocery budget, but I still have more than enough to fill our meals with fresh produce. I even have a farmer’s market stall reserved for a couple of weeks to make some money on all this overflow and let others enjoy the tastes of summer.

Accept Help

This is the hardest concept for me, how can I call myself independent if everyone else is supporting me? Because that’s what I would want to do for someone else. When I have out of town shows with Lilla Rose, my family steps in and offers to watch the girls. It’s hard to swallow some days, but I know that I would want to help if someone I knew was in the same situation.

Even help from a state or government agency is not a bad thing. My children and I have been on several different programs over the years, including WIC, SNAP, and for a little while, help paying for daycare. I hung my head in shame the first several appointments, but it is more important that my children are well fed and taken care of.

do what it takes

This mostly includes lifestyle changes. I make whole foods rather than buying pre-made, convenience meals at the store (my grocery budget thanks me and I can make more from my garden). Rather than running to the store for a new pair when my kids rip a pair of pants, I sew a patch on; which sounds totally ghetto, but I get a ton of compliments on their bright colored play clothes. It’s a simple (ha!) matter of changing the way I think and making do with what we have rather than what the world says we need.

Have you made the jump to work from home? If not and you want to, what is holding you back?