Can I stay at home? Budget help, advice (long) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I went back to work for various reasons last November and it was great at first because I was just getting 2-3 (9 hour) days per week. NOW, I'm working 5 (10 hr, on a good day) days per week and it's becoming too much. There's no way to cut back as there isn't anyone to take my spot (I work in a daycare). We just hired another person but she's also working another job through next month so isn't available to work on many days.

Anyway.. on to my question. My DH brings home about $2800 every month. If he works a Saturday or two it would be a bit more, but never less. We live in a low cost of living area (rural Iowa). To give you an example.. We rent a newly updated, 2 br, 1 bath, ~1000 sq ft home for $350 month. Our cars are paid for, we have some medical debt. We'd like to use the money I'm bringing home to pay off some bills and establish a baby EF so that it may be possible for me to stay home again. Our budget roughly looks like this...

Rent: $350
Phone/cable/internet: $125
Storage: $35
Gas/Electricity: $200
Water/Sewer: $60
Garbage service: $20
Cell Phones: $110
Insurance (cars, life, renters): $175
Vehicle Maintenance: $50
DH Gas: $260
My Gas: $70
Clothing: $80
Medical: $100
Groceries/Household: $600
--------------------------
Total: $2235

Debt
Furniture: $150
Medical 1: $50
Medical 2: $60
Dell: $50
--------------------------
Total: $310


I know that theoretically we should be able to do it even with the debt that we have but that's cutting it too close for comfort. And we have trouble staying on budget. How do you (personally) do that? Any commentary, tips, advice, commiseration??? I'll try to put my big girl undies on.

Jenn: WOHM to a big girl (7/03), a medium girl (8/07), and a little girl (12/10)
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#2 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:27 PM
 
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Well, on a good year my dh makes 1900 a month, so yeah, it's doable. Right now we are living under a grand. Our rent is about double yours, but our grocery bill is only $100, so that may be an area you could cut (although it takes a bit of time).
If you are serious about wanting to stay home, a lot of things will have to be cut. Just based on your post, it looks like a LOT of those bills could be lowered. You have $80 budgeted for clothing- are you spending $80 on clothes each month? That seems really really high- I'd say my family spends less than that a year.
You pay for both land line and cells? Personally, I'd lose the land line and lower the cell plans. I prefer having a cell to a land line, and for us is cheaper.
You could also cut your cable bill by losing it and keeping the internet. You watch almost every show online. There are cables you can buy to hook the computer to the tv, and then you don't even need pay tv.
The gas for cars is high too. I gather you have 2 vehicles, and the $70 budgeted is for when you are working? I can get by with about $30 in gas, now that I stay home, and Dh uses a lot of that too.
As far as the other bills go, there are always ways to lower water and electric bills. There are a ton of threads here about that.

Good luck! I'm sure you'll get some great advice from others who have done it.

ETA: We had trouble staying on budget too, when we made more. One way we fixed that was by not using debit cards and doing everything in cash.

Trying to balance a preschooler and peace....
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#3 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:32 PM
 
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Well, I think you can do it. I think there are also areas that you already spend that could be paired down. ie: cable/phone/internet + cell phones. Look at plans, usage, etc. to see if you need all you have and where you can cut. Can u save using coupons? Basically take a hard look at your expenses.

I also think if you are spending $80 a month on gas, that includes you going to work, which would also be cut -- so your gas expense would go down, but not eliminated.

I read that you are in a rural area, however, you also mentioned you work in a daycare setting. So, that leads me to believe there is a need for childcare. Anyway to increase your income by taking a child or two in at your home? Then you would be at home and making some extra $.

Just my
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#4 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:35 PM
 
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Well, yeah ... I mean I SAH and we earn less than that, so it's definitely do-able, but aside from a budgetary comparison I'm not really sure what you're looking for?
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#5 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:37 PM
 
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As far as your budget, how about the irregular things like haircuts, gifts, car registration? Do you have any pets who require vet check-ups/ vaccinations? Otherwise it actually looks pretty good to me, for your area. Of course you know you probably should, eventually, declutter the storage unit, but that can take quite a while.
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#6 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:38 PM
 
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I couldn't then again my debt levels are quite high with over $100K alone being my student loans. However looking at your expenses it seems quite doable since my guess is like others have stated you can have some areas where you can cut back.

I am guessing if you were at home you would not need as much gas money nor would you need the clothing fund that you have. If I added up the numbers you gave correctly though even with no cuts to your budget you have about $255 in surplus cash to go towards your EF etc. So it would seem that provided you stay on track you would have no problem living comfortably with your budget and income.

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#7 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:51 PM
 
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It's hard to tell someone else what they can do that way. $2800 is I think exactly what I bring home (DH is a SAHD so that's our total family income). You have way less debt than we do (we have something like $160k I think, which is the mortgage, student loans and one car note) so you are definitely in better shape. Also our mortgage payment is around $850, so it's $500 more than you pay for housing. So there's certainly a lot of room to work with.

On the other hand, our phone/cell/internet expenses are significantly lower (and we have no television programming or even Netflix at all). You're paying $235 for all that, and we pay around $50 for internet, one prepaid cell phone which is used very sparingly, and one VOIP telephone with limited outgoing minutes. We don't pay storage fees. We have only 1 car, so insurance and maintenance for only one, plus gas is probably $80 a month total. Clothing budget is $0 (I know that doesn't work for everyone though).

Medical budget, are you actually spending $100 a month or is that just saving up for "just in case"? That's a lot of doctors visits and/or prescriptions, but obviously you must need that if you have that budgeted. Obviously we can't possibly comment on that.

Groceries and household, we spend about what you do. Maybe $500/month, but $600 sometimes.

I guess all I'm saying is that you could probably do it, but since you are indeed cutting it close, you'll want to trim some things like phone/inet/tv/cell (if you both have cell phones, maybe cancel the landline and the tv, for example - maybe even the internet but I know few MDC'ers make that step!!) and the clothing budget which seems pretty high. Plus you could probably trim your grocery/household budget a little bit. I think you can do it and it will be fine.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#8 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 07:54 PM
 
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I do it on less. We even have similar expenses to you. I just turned off my cable tv to save more money. I'm easily addicted. I do have it easier in that my only utility I pay is power but couldn't you cut some of your expenses? For instance, you have cell phones. Do you really need a house phone? You could cut phone and cable tv and then get maybe a movie service (I have netflix instead...cheaper all around) and rely on your cell phones. It's worked really well for me. Are you really spending $80 every month on clothing?

Just a quick once over of what you posted budget wise and I see a few places you could easily cut back or eliminate and make it just fine.

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#9 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 08:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies..

DH drives almost 90 miles per day, that's why his gas is so much. However, it's cheaper to live here and pay gas than to rent in the town that he works. It also includes a small amount of "allowance" for him to spend as he likes. He did just quit smoking, so that that cost is gone now.

Cable/internet/phone: The cable is not a necessity and is something that *could* be cut, but it is our only entertainment expense. It's a bundle package through the phone company. If we didn't have the cable we would still have phone/internet because it's MORE expensive if you just have the internet. Go figure.

Clothing: I don't think we do spend that much every month.

Gifts/pets/etc.. We have a fish and a hamster. Not much operating cost there. Their food/supplies I usually get with the household/groceries. I don't have gifts budgeted because I usually just use our "surplus" for stuff like that. And we do Christmas with either DH's yearly bonus or 2nd half profit sharing.


Our biggest problem seems to be staying on budget. Sure, everything looks great on paper, but we always blow it one way or another.

Jenn: WOHM to a big girl (7/03), a medium girl (8/07), and a little girl (12/10)
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#10 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 08:21 PM
 
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This looks very doable. We've been getting by on less in a high cost of living area, with a MUCH higher rent.

Some things to consider: How close are you to paying off your current debt? Could you put your current paycheck toward the debt and knock it down before you start staying home? That would get you used to living on your husband's income, and you'd be starting out your SAHM career with less monthly expenses if that's possible.

You might consider calling your phone bundle and asking if they can reduce your cost. Ask for their retention department and ask, "I want to keep my service with you but I need to cut the cost. What can you do for me?" Same goes for insurance and cell phones. I did this recently and was surprised to cut it by more than $100 a month, with no change of service.
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#11 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 08:26 PM
 
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I guess first things first, I don't follow how there is no way to cut back at work, because no one else is available to do your work, but you'd be willing to quit entirely. Doesn't that still mean there's no one else to take your spot?

Maybe if your employer knew that your hours were so great you're considering quitting, they'd jump on it a bit more about hiring some relief--because they're going to have to anyway! That if you don't get some relief, they'll have to completely replace you.
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#12 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 08:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by umbrella View Post
I guess first things first, I don't follow how there is no way to cut back at work, because no one else is available to do your work, but you'd be willing to quit entirely. Doesn't that still mean there's no one else to take your spot?

Maybe if your employer knew that your hours were so great you're considering quitting, they'd jump on it a bit more about hiring some relief--because they're going to have to anyway! That if you don't get some relief, they'll have to completely replace you.

Yes, that would seem backward wouldn't it?? The problem is we are a very small (max capacity 37 kids), non profit daycare in a small town. It's difficult for me to go to our director because she works five 12+ hour days and thinks that if she can do it at her age then everyone should be able to do it. I really don't want to quit. I like my job. My mom and my sister also work here. I would be thrilled to get back to 3 (maybe even the occasional 4th day) but what will happen is the girl we just hired will get shorted hours if/when we are low on kids and she'll pile on the hours to the rest of us. I know this because I was the new girl last year.. we had a staff member go to another daycare this summer and I moved up on the ladder. I'm sure that really doesn't answer your question though.

Jenn: WOHM to a big girl (7/03), a medium girl (8/07), and a little girl (12/10)
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#13 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 09:53 PM
 
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Didn't read all the replies. Here are how our expenses stack up against yours:

Rent: $350 $650
Phone/cable/internet: $125 $26.99 (internet only)
Storage: $35 N/A
Gas/Electricity: $200 $100 (electricity only)
Water/Sewer: $60 N/A (included in rent)
Garbage service: $20 N/A (included in rent)
Cell Phones: $110 $60
Insurance (cars, life, renters): $175 $90 (car only, about to drop to $60, restructuring our insurance to add life/renters soon - not sure how much the total will come to.)
Vehicle Maintenance: $50 ?? We don't have a dedicated fund.
DH Gas: $260 ~$50 combined
My Gas: $70 See Above
Clothing: $80 $~10 (wild guess, we don't spend hardly anything on clothing)
Medical: $100 $181 (health insurance), no dedicated medical savings
Groceries/Household: $600 ~$400
--------------------------
Total: $2235 ~1600

Debt
Furniture: $150
Medical 1: $50
Medical 2: $60
Dell: $50
--------------------------
Total: $310 This is another story. We do not have any debt we are currently paying on. That said, we are both in school - DH is a 1L in law school - and we will be graduating with about $100k in loans combined. Different game, then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyLittleHouse View Post
You might consider calling your phone bundle and asking if they can reduce your cost. Ask for their retention department and ask, "I want to keep my service with you but I need to cut the cost. What can you do for me?" Same goes for insurance and cell phones. I did this recently and was surprised to cut it by more than $100 a month, with no change of service.
Yep. I just called and threatened to cancel my Verizon DSL because our contract had expired and we were paying $41.99/mo. vs. $29.99 for new customers. I wound up with a customer retention price of $26.99.

OP: Cut the cable - you can watch tons of shows online. We don't have a landline, just cell phones, but will probably get the very basic $20 landline when DD gets a little older (for emergency purposes, basically).

What's in storage? Anything you can get rid of? You could make some money off selling the stuff, plus save the $35/month storage cost.

Cell phone costs seem high, especially with a home phone. I would get rid of all texting and data and cut back to the lowest minute plan possible. DH and I have two cell phones for $60/month, 550 rollover/anytime minutes, free nights-and-weekends and AT&T mobile-to-mobile. We regularly have leftover minutes.

Clothing seems high, but you already said you probably don't really spend that much.

Medical seems high for actual expenses, assuming you're all healthy. Is that savings/insurance?

I have problems staying on budget, as well. I recommend NOT carrying cards, and using the cash envelope system. It helps a lot.
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#14 of 23 Old 10-11-2009, 11:22 PM
 
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We have a deductible plan for our insurance and save in an HSA every month toward the deductible. Our monthly amount is higher than yours, and we routinely use it over the course of the year, so that doesn't seem so high to me. We're pretty healthy, but one ER trip for DD this year maxed out our deductible. (She was holding her breath, had a seizure and passed out.) You might find out if your DH's work offers an HSA if you're not currently using one, since that money is then tax-free.

I missed the storage fee the first time around! What are you storing? I would also recommend selling it if possible.
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#15 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 12:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The $100 for medical is prescriptions. My DH is on several medications and so am I. Our insurance premiums are pretax so I don't include that.

Storage: Crap. Really a lot of it is. The not crap would be our king sized headboard (could only fit the platform base in the room when we moved into this house), a refrigerator, stack washer (front loading) and dryer. We could sell the fridge and washer/dryer. We were just holding onto it... well, I don't know why because we're not likely to be owning anytime soon. Books, I know there are lots of books in there. A play kitchen. We moved under some stressful conditions and into a smaller house so what didn't fit or we couldn't deal with got put into storage.

Jenn: WOHM to a big girl (7/03), a medium girl (8/07), and a little girl (12/10)
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#16 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 06:24 AM
 
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Those sound like a lot of things you could sell, in storage, and then buy again used if and when you ever need them.
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#17 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 09:19 AM
 
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That sounds like a rough schedule! My first question would be, what have you been spending your salary on since you have been working? I think if I was in your situation I would try to stick it out at the job for another month or two, but put all of the money you make into savings. If you find that you can live on one salary then you can use your banked money as your emergency fund going forward, if you find that things are too tight you'll still have a job.

(I also vote for getting rid of the storage unit!)

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#18 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 09:46 AM
 
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this may sound odd but have you looked into a dump near you. Since moving dh is obsessed with taking stuff to the dump they charge $1 per bag and I think you can get a year round pass for like $45. We still pay for trash as it is included in our taxes but if we didn't I would consider just hauling it ourselves as it is quick and right down the road from us.

Aside form that, what about taking in a child 3 days a week in your home then you could have some flexibility and still make a little money on the side to pad your expenses. or look into some other smaller part time job that isn't going to drain your time so much.

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#19 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 10:38 AM
 
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For me, too, the first thing that popped out at me was the storage. You might be able to get some reductions for insurance, too, and you can definitely reduce clothing and your own gas costs if you stay home.

But if you really do love your job, proceed with caution. As a previous poster said, whether you renegotiate your hours or quit, your boss will need to find someone. If she's not willing to understand about your needs, that's her lacking and not yours. I had a similar situation at work. The hours steadily increased and I worked to reduce them. In my case, though, when I reduced my office hours, the workload stayed the same--so I just had to take the work home.

I did quit, but it you don't really really want to, explore other options first. You ALWAYS have the quitting option. It's much harder to do things in the opposite order.

Good luck, whatever you decide!
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#20 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the advice and suggestions. Right now this really is a hypothetical thing because I'm not at the point where I'm ready to quit. I want to see how things change once our new staff member is done with her other job. And we tend to lose a few kids going into winter because some parents have seasonal jobs. I'm just frustrated and want have our ducks in a row, KWIM?

As to what we're using my salary for now... I really couldn't tell you. We never stick to our food/household budget for one. Our plan is to use what I'm bringing home to pay down some bills for a few months. I just need to get better about organizing and managing my time (a whole 'nother thread!!).

Jenn: WOHM to a big girl (7/03), a medium girl (8/07), and a little girl (12/10)
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#21 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 11:39 AM
 
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I think you could absolutely swing it if you wanted to.

There are definitely some luxuries that you may need to cut, but really, you could probably keep all of them if you really stuck to a budget.

Up until very recently we had no budget whatsoever and money just...slipped through our fingers. And we didn't really care. But I have to say that having a budget in place is just so liberating. It may be hard to get started but once it becomes routine you'll be so much happier, I would bet. For us the #1thing that helped was moving to a cash only system. We don't write checks, very rarely use a debit card, etc, etc. And if you only take out the cash you need you can't spend it.

Good luck to you - and I hope you can work something out with your employer!

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you." Buddha

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#22 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 12:01 PM
 
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I would get rid of what's in storage, cut down to one prepaid cell phone for emergencies only and get a cheaper cell/cable/internet package?

You could not only cut out that $35 a month, but generate cash to get rid of the debts and free up that money per month. If you buy in another two years, you will have spent $840 keeping your old washer and dryer. Do you know how much they cost brand new? About that.

As for budgeting, switch to cash until you have it under control, but make the budget cycle short, like a week. If we're out of cheese it's usually only a couple of days until cash day so we can get by, and if I have cash left on the day before cash day I can get a latte and a donut with no guilt. Get your utilities and rent taken directly from your account, and open an attached savings account, where you move your cash buffer. If your account looks empty you'll feel penniless and spend accordingly. Maybe get your salary put directly into the savings, and every time it gets over your comfortable emergency fund limit transfer it straight to debt payoff.

I would also put a general fun/play/misc category for each of you. It will make the budget easier to stick to.
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#23 of 23 Old 10-14-2009, 02:13 AM
 
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I'd try living on that budget for a few months and save up your salary to pay down your debt.

It seems like this is where you want to be not necessarily where you are budgetwise. Really, only you can tell if this is where your comfort level will be.

If you do well for a few months, take the extra $$ from your salary and knock down your debt. You don't mention how much you owe overall, but it would be nice to not have it at all. (Of course this isn't a neccessity, but it would free up 310 a month which is a lot)

Also, if you are planning on staying home, I'd build up a decent EF so that you will have $$ for expenses like car repairs.

Another thing to consider is your long term goals. Are you happy renting? Do you think you'll want to buy a house? Will your current living situation be ideal when you do have more children? I don't think there is a right way to do these things but more what works for you!
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