How to Become a Stay at Home Mom: Making it Work on One Income

Today Cole, from Twinning Babywise, is guest posting on how to become a stay at home mom. Aka, You Can Stay Home if You Want to: How to Make it Work on One Income!

I just adore Cole’s writing style and her take on topics always has such a fresh perspective!

Originally published on January 12, 2017

Recently I’ve been thinking about the relationship between house prices and (married) women in the workforce.

As mothers have returned to the workforce in greater numbers, house prices have gone up. Studies also show that in areas where house prices are higher, more married women work. 

It’s hard to determine which is the cause of this and which is the effect.

Has the prevalence of two incomes driven up the cost of housing or has the cost of housing created an environment in which more mothers must work?

On an individual level, it doesn’t matter which is the cause and which is effect, the result is the same: the cost of housing has increased the difficulty of raising a family on one income. 

This difficulty has led many women to conclude that being a stay at home mom is not an option for their family. 

 But I beg to differ. 

Can Anyone Be a Stay at Home Mom?

Of course there are extenuating circumstances.

There are single mothers and there are unanticipated financial situations that may force a mother to work (at least temporarily).

But baring these rare situations, I really believe that nearly any family who wants to can operate on one income.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

This post is not intended to address the group of working mothers who love working and whose jobs are a source of gratification for them.

—-> You can read my post about a working outside the home mama who LOVES it here!

I’m speaking to the women who find themselves sobbing in the bathroom at work because they wish they could be home with their babies.

The women who feel “stuck” in a job they don’t love because they can’t afford to quit. The women who “in an ideal world” would stay home.

I was that mom. 

This is that ideal world. 

mother and toddler son - battling working mom guilt? how anyone can be a SAHM

You Can Be a Stay at Home Mom if You Want To

Here’s how to make it work on one income so you can be a stay at home mom:

Get out of debt.

There’s not room in most one income budgets for monthly payments on cars, credit cards, or student loans.

A house payment is different because with each monthly payment, you build equity in your home, but the other payments mentioned are just lost money.

I’ve recently started listening to the Dave Ramsey Show and I highly recommend starting there if you want to get out of debt quickly.

—–> Read my post on how to set up a family budget here!

Analyze the income/expense differences between working and being a stay at home mom

Sure, you lose an income when you quit your job, but there are other costs that might go down as a result of you staying at home – things like child care, taxes, and transportation costs.

You might create some sort of chart like this:

This is a good article to get you started, but you can probably google tons of other pros and cons.

Create a budget.

Take all the information you spilled out in step 2 and give it a number.

How much will you spend on groceries if you cook every night instead of eating out?

How much will you drive if you aren’t commuting to work anymore?

What tax bracket will you be in? What will your health care costs be?

The budget doesn’t have to break even just yet – the point here is to get it all out there on paper.

Cut big expenses.

These are the things that will make the biggest impact on your budget.


These are things like furniture, home renovations, new cars, and electronics.

You do not need a new phone every 2 years.

Buy a cover for the couch instead of replacing it. Put off redoing the bathroom.


Vacations are not a necessary part of life. Your children will not be underdeveloped if they never get on a plane, stay in a hotel, or drive out of state.


Sports and other extracurricular activities are expensive.

Certainly organized activities can be good for kids to participate in, but which offers the greater benefit: you staying home or them being on a soccer team?

Preschool is also a totally unnecessary expense.

If you have the money and it benefits your family to do so, by all means, put your children in preschool!

But if you’re scrapping for a way to make one income work, you can guiltlessly cut out preschool from the budget, since what has the biggest effect on children’s academic success is their home environment, NOT preschool.


If you ignored step 1 about the debt and still have a car payment, now is the time to sell that car and buy something you can afford on one income.

Can you still afford your house payment on one income?

If not, now is also when you would consider selling your house and moving to a more economical house or a less expensive area.I’m not saying everyone has to sell their house to make being a housewife work – I personally live in one of the most expensive housing markets and we do it on one (modest) income.

What I’m saying is if staying at home is really a priority to you and you cannot afford to live where you live on one income, you will move.

6 secrets to being able to stay at home as a mom

Cut small expenses.

After you cut the big things out, you should be left with a pretty small gap between expenses and income.

Here’s where you learn to live contently.

Sacrifice dinners out. Sacrifice new clothes (stick to swap groups and consignment shops).

Shop at ethnic food stores and other discount grocers.

Cancel your gym membership. Cut out stops at Starbucks.

Buy your makeup at Dollar Tree.

Dye your own hair.

Start packing lunches for your husband and kids.

Think about what things are ABSOLUTELY necessary for life and only budget for those things. Be content with little.

Now do the numbers work? Probably.

If they don’t, go back to step 4 because there’s likely something big you can change (again, house? Car? Activities?).


For a few years my husband and I bought into the lie that because we’re a one income family in a very expensive area we simply could not afford to tithe. This is called rationalization.

One day I listened to a sermon that strongly convicted me of this and we made the decision to start tithing to our church.

Multiple things have happened since then that have clearly proven the complete opposite of what we initially believed: We are a large, one income family in a very expensive area – we simply cannot afford NOT to tithe.

God has blessed us far and beyond what we have offered up to him – both financially and otherwise.

It is now my opinion that staying at home should never come at the expense of giving – either in the form of tithing to your church or making other donations.

Do this FIRST and the rest will follow.

Stay at Home Mom Tips: Final Thoughts

I am a self-proclaimed penny pincher. I’m currently experiencing buyers remorse over a cute little cake stand I bought for $1.50 on the clearance rack at Target. Did I really need that? No.

Clearly, $1.50 is nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket.

But what do all those unnecessary $1.50 purchases add up to in a year?

How much could be saved by making every Monday a Meatless Monday?

What if you used some of your newfound time at home to find the best deals, and to take advantage of apps like ibotta and cartwheel?

These are all small changes, but together they have BIG results.

If you’re tired of feeling like you’re missing out on your little children’s life, what steps are you willing to take to change it? 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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1 Comment

  1. Dana
    May 22, 2020 / 3:20 am

    Thank you Emily for sharing the “More is less” idea that can help our children to love and focus on God rather than material things! I love this concept, and I am working on implementing it more in my own family. This was a wonderful and encouraging read. Thanks for sharing, and keep it up!

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