I wondered if this was too personal of a topic to write about- but then I realized that's exactly what people want to read about! Topics that are personal to them. Things that can be applied to your life. In our family, I am the parent who stays at home. That's mostly because Andrew has a good job that pays well and is stable. Here's my list of the top five things we do as a family to survive comfortably on one income while I have our young children at home with me:
1. We almost always eat at home. I do a big grocery shop at the beginning of each week and we eat for around $5 per meal pretty much every night, even if we have guests. Some of my favorites include pizza (will post a recipe soon), smoothies, pasta with meat sauce, quinoa/veggie/grilled chicken bowls, enchiladas, etc. When we do go out to eat, it's usually from a gift card that we received for a special occasion or for a birthday or anniversary. We usually ask for these when family members are looking for gift ideas. This way we manage to go out on a date about once per month to a restaurant that we like.
2. We choose fun family activities that don't cost a lot of money. Picking fruit, having friends over for a meal, walking in the woods, the park, swimming, the zoo, Smith Playhouse and the beach, festivals/fairs, a walk through the city for the day. These are all fun and either free or low cost if you pack a lunch.
3. We shop sales and second hand. I love eBay, consignment, Thredup, and yard sales. And I'm not ashamed. It's better for the environment and for your budget. I've gotten entire wardrobes of Gap Kids and other high end clothing this way and we even buy the majority of our adult clothes this way. About a year ago I went without buying any new clothing items for myself for six months (the goal was one year but I didn't make it due to a fluctuating pre/post pregnancy body shape as well as a shopping addiction :) ) In addition to shopping yard sales and consignment, I also use these venues to sell things we don't need. Ebay is intimidating at first and then once you make that first trip to the post office you realize how easy it is to buy and sell online.
4. We limit technology. We don't own iPads, Mac Books, iPhones, or have cable TV. We DO use flip phones, Hulu, Netflix, and a regular laptop computer. Maybe this would be really painful for those people who love tech stuff, so it wouldn't be the area for you to cut. It works well for us because we could care less. We spend our extra money in other areas that are more important to us.(Like good food. Are you noticing a trend here?)
5. As the secondary income, I make extra money when I can. I have a small baking business that I run with one other person, and we bake for friends and family. This extra money has been useful for our Christmas savings, as well as paying for groceries during the course of a week. I also work at a doctors office who generously allows me to come in in my spare time for a few hours per week. I look for opportunities to work when Andrew will be home with the kids. This is not babysitting, since they are his kids as much as they are mine. This is Dad time. :)
If you're thinking about taking the leap and staying home with your kids, it can be done. When you consider the cost of childcare, sometimes it makes the most sense! We have a mortgage and tons of student loans, and with careful planning and a supportive family we make it work and still live a comfortable and happy life.