When James and I moved to Texas for his new job last summer, I obviously had to quit my job in D.C.. About a month after settling in, I was offered a position here in Austin and agonized over whether or not to take it. The hours weren’t ideal. We were trying for a baby and knew that if I did get pregnant, I would have a lot of doctor’s appointments to work around. We knew that no matter what job I had, I would quit once the baby was born. But it was hard to turn down the money.
Ultimately, I decided not to take the job, and I’m so thankful. I could go into all the details of my not-so-easy pregnancy, but I won’t. I’ll just say that I’m very thankful that I didn’t have to balance long hours, learning a new job, and working around my complicated pregnancy with a new boss that I hardly know.
With that being said, James and I made a lot of sacrifices to make it financially possible for me to stay home. At first, I felt a lot of pressure to ensure that I was contributing enough at home to justify giving up an entire salary. I thought that if everything I was doing at home didn’t add up to $1,000 per week, then I wasn’t doing enough. Thankfully, my husband didn’t feel that way and God humbled me with some intense pregnancy exhaustion that prevented me from contributing much at all.
I have since learned that you can’t really put a price on having a healthy pregnancy, a happy home, and a rested husband. Being a full-time homemaker affords me the opportunities to take responsibilities off of my husband’s plate so that we have more time to spend together and he doesn’t have to worry about paying bills, running errands, or doing laundry when he gets home from work. This has been a huge blessing during this extremely busy season where James sometimes doesn’t get home from work until 8 PM, 10 PM, or (on one crazy occasion) 8 AM!
So I wanted to share with you some of the things that we’ve done to save money and afford for me to be able to stay home with just one income.
- We live by a budget. We did this even while I was working, but we were even more committed to it once I stopped bringing home money. We use Mint to keep track of our expenses. First we budget out the necessities and commitments like our mortgage, utilities, gas, tithes, etc… Then we decide on budgets for flexible necessities like groceries, expenses for our dog Willie, and other things that we need, but might not stay consistent month-to-month. Then finally, we set budgets for non-necessities like ordering take-out or going out to eat, date nights, and entertainment. When we have an unexpected expense like vehicle repairs or veterinary bills, we may skip a date night that month or decide to eat at home instead of going out to lunch after church. We avoid impulse purchases and plan for big expenses.
- We cut the cord. Even while I was still working, we abandoned our cable plan in favor of Sling TV. Once I became a full-time homemaker, we got rid of a Sling plan as well. Honestly, we don’t miss it. Between Netflix and Amazon Prime (and my sister-in-law generously sharing her Hulu password), we have more than enough shows and movies to watch. We have an antenna so that James can watch sports on basic cable, and James subscribes to a lot of YouTube channels as well. I borrow e-books from my local library using the Overdrive app so I always have plenty of books to read for free. We also unsubscribed from monthly subscription services and boxes.
- We buy generic. Of course, some things are worth buying name brand, and I’ve learned not to skimp on dishwasher and laundry detergent, coffee creamer, salad dressings, and make-up. However, we tried different store brand items until we found some that we liked. Things like tea, ketchup, salsa, peanut butter, flour, and sugar are usually just as good as the name brand. Here in Texas, I’m a big fan of our local grocery chain H-E-B and find that most of the store brand products are great. We stock-up on Costco brand coffee, toilet paper, and paper towels. I’ve even found off-brand capsules for our Nespresso machine on Amazon. I can still enjoy my homemade latte on a budget!
- We cook from scratch. Not only is cooking from scratch better tasting, healthier, and more fulfilling, it saves you money! I tend to avoid convenience foods whenever possible, and because I am home during the day, I have the time to cook from scratch. I make homemade bread and biscuits. I take the time to soak and cook dried beans rather than use canned beans. Brownies, muffins, oatmeal, or cookies are always made from scratch rather than prepackaged mixes. I also make an effort to use up any leftovers we may have. A half-opened bag of frozen vegetables may go into a soup or casserole. Fruit that may be past its prime can be dried, frozen for smoothies, or baked into muffins.
- We shop the sales and stock up. Every week, I plan my menu and make my grocery list based on the weekly ad and coupons. Recently, my grocery store has been selling whole chickens for 95 cents/lb! I buy 3 at a time and put them in our deep freezer. Because I do a lot of baking, I stock up on butter when it goes on sale for $1.99/lb. Foods like cereal and snack foods only go in the grocery cart when I have a coupon. You can read more about how we save money at the grocery store here.
- We find ways to make our hobbies affordable. Just because we’re on a budget doesn’t mean we live paycheck to paycheck and never do anything fun. James loves to tinker with his Jeep and take it off-roading, which can sometimes be expensive. When the Jeep needs a repair or James wants to upgrade something, we plan out the purchase. We wait for holiday sales, free shipping offers, or until we have a coupon. Now that we’ve purchased our first home, I’ve been investing a lot of time and money into a garden. James built me some raised beds for my backyard garden, instead of buying them. I started my plants from seeds rather than buying the more expensive seedling plants. We’re in the process of building a rain barrel from recycled materials to save money when it comes to watering the garden.
- We do our own stunts. More accurately, James does most of the stunts in our family. When work needs to be done around the house, James fixes it himself rather than hiring someone to do it. James does all of the oil changes and vehicle maintenance on our cars. If he doesn’t know how to do something, sometimes a quick google search or YouTube video is enough for us to figure it out. Since purchasing our home two months ago, we’ve put a lot of sweat equity into our house — painting the garage, hanging shelving, weeding the yard, and planting grass seed.
- We balance comfort and convenience. We recognize that small actions can build up and lead to big expenses. We don’t sacrifice comfort just to save money, but we do make minor adjustments. For example, on a nice day, we turn off the heat or A/C and open up the windows. Just turning off the thermostat for a few hours during the day can add up throughout the month. During a baking spree, I’ll wash my dishes by hand to avoid running the dishwasher unnecessarily. We try to be mindful about turning off lights when we’re not home, using energy efficient light bulbs or appliances when possible, and not being wasteful.
- We live simply. We want to be good stewards of the money that God has given us. And that means choosing to live a simple life. Rather than spend Saturday morning at an expensive brunch restaurant, we enjoy a slow Saturday morning at home. Instead of an expensive vacation, we take a getaway to a state park or take a camping trip. Iced lattes or lunch out are special treats instead of daily routines. Designer clothes, the latest technology, and expensive products just aren’t really part of our lives. And you know what? We don’t miss them.
- We choose to be content. The biggest secret to living on one income is that we have chosen to be content. We don’t compare ourselves to our friends or neighbors. We don’t live for the Insta-likes. Almost all of our furniture is second-hand. Our vehicles are at least 10 years old. We recognize that money (or the things we can buy with money) is not what makes us happy. We live happily within our means and choose to be content with what we have. We know that buying the perfect house, our dream car, taking luxurious vacations, or filling our homes with expensive clothes and furniture will never bring us happiness. If we cannot be happy with what we have now, we won’t be happy when we have more.
When I think back to what I enjoyed most about my life when I was working outside the home, I realize that homemaking has afforded me the opportunity to do more of those things, not less. Homemaking allows me to spend more time with my husband, keep my house clean, welcome people into my home and practice hospitality, enjoy stillness and quiet mornings, and spend time in the kitchen baking and cooking for people I love. And I thank God constantly that he has blessed me with this job.