Financial difficulties do not have to mean mom gets a job

Redefining Work

by Lisa Palmi

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Last week I decided to swing into one of our local chain stores, hoping to snag some deals. I found four packs of name brand fruit cups on sale for $1. I realized I would be hard pressed to find four servings of fruit anywhere for $1, so I grabbed over a dozen. On my way out the door, I calculated my savings. I figured, with a smile, an estimated savings of $8.50.

Because our family is feeling the effects of rising prices, I have gotten more aggressive at looking for deals and cutting back. I don't believe the answer to our family's financial strain is for me to get a job, or should I say a second job. I realize there could come a point where I need to seek outside work, but I have decided to do everything in my power to not add that strain to our family.

One of the first things I did was to attack our food bill, one of our biggest expenses. For instance, this week I stopped at the dented can store and scored six boxes of a name brand wheat cereal that my youngest son loves for $1 a box in addition to 16-ounce boxes of name brand cheese crackers for $1. I can't even find generic for that price. Last week when a major grocery chain had ground beef for $2 a pound, I went in three times and ended up with 26 pounds of beef. I also took home four bottles of shampoo free after coupons.

For a family of five, with two dogs and two cats, I spend no more than $175 a week on groceries. I have no doubt, having talked to many mothers who work outside the home, that I am spending at least $300 per month less on groceries than most families do. I attribute this to having the time to cook from scratch and search for deals.

When finances were better, I would stop at least four or five times a week for an iced coffee. I still allow myself one a week, saving us about $30 per month. My husband is now taking $20 less per week in spending money, saving us another $80 a month. When our washing machine died recently, we paid for an ultra efficient front loader that spins the clothes so dry compared to our old machine that it now takes half the time to dry them in the dryer (Nope, I don't hang laundry yet.). This machine also uses one quarter of the detergent.

I also became determined to reduce our electric bill. Some simple steps led to a savings of just under $20 for the first month. I also turned the heat down further and made sure the woodstove stayed burning day and night. It has easily been a $50 monthly savings.

If circumstances have put your family in debt, find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle.

Then I put our very chubby pets on a diet. All four, to their dismay, now get their recommended daily servings and we save about $15 per month. I also started buying their flea medicines in bulk from an online site recommended to me, saving us $20 per month.

Here is a biggie. Every year my husband buys ski passes for him and one of our sons, costing us over $1000. This year he is going to volunteer at the resort and will receive two passes for $50 total.

If you add up these few of many ways I have cut costs, you will see that we are saving about $700 per month without much effort. One thing that I think is important to mention is just because you don't see the savings all at once does not mean it is not close or equal to the earnings from a paying job. Please don't miss that point. I have come to realize that if I chose to work outside the home, many of my cost-cutting strategies would not be used due to a decrease in available time, thus erasing most, if not all, of my paycheck.

A stay-at-home mom may want to consider that returning to work might not add to the family income at all. I encourage you to run some numbers yourself. I think you may see that it could be more profitable to stay home rather than return to the workforce.

Updated November 2013

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