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Can You Afford to Become a Stay-at-home Mom?

Some financial advice to help you re-orient your values and save money.


by Christine Moriarty Field

 

When author Marilee Horton quit her job to come home to raise her children, she heard her pastor teach a lesson on Philippians 4:19—"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." She was impressed by the fact that God promised to supply "needs, not wants."1

What do you really need in a home? Prior generations were more willing to make do with worn carpeting and an old sofa. Many young families seem to think that their house has to be perfect, even early in a marriage when small children are entering the family. They pay a high price for this material choice. Two jobs are needed to make the furniture payment, the van payment, and the pool payment as well as everything else. Is all this really that important to you? A simpler lifestyle means less stress and more time for your family to spend together. They will remember the afternoons spent making macaroni necklaces. They won't remember that the table was worn and the chairs were rickety. As Ruth Gibson says, she was always "thankful that she had a home to clean."

Is it time to consider refinancing your castle? As of this writing, interest rates are still low. If you are able to shave a few points of interest off your loan, it could result in substantial savings. In addition, if you have some equity built up in your home, you could use that equity to pay off some higher-rate debts. Ask your lender to show you the exact facts and figures for your situation. It costs you nothing to investigate.

Also, learn to do minor home repairs and redecorating yourself. There are many fine how-to books in the library to teach you or your husband to fix a leaky faucet or replace a frayed wire. My husband has saved us a fortune by learning to do some home maintenance that he had no desire to learn, but graciously handled because it was more economical. (He can now rod out the drains, and saves us an incredible amount on plumbing bills.) We repainted the entire interior of our house ourselves, one room at a time, and replaced some trim. Although it was sometimes a hassle, I look around my little house with great pride because I know that those brush strokes and that plastering job were done by us.

Shopping, shopping, shopping

I love to shop. It is sometimes a struggle for me to forgo shopping with wild abandon as I did in the old days. Previously, we lived in an economically depressed area with few shopping options, but because we were both working professionals, we had a lot of expendable income. Then we moved to our present location, a shopper's paradise, but we cut down to one salary and have little, if any, discretionary money. God does indeed have a sense of humor!

Janice Smullen, a mom at home, says her best tips on saving money are to, "tithe, don't go to the mall, and refuse to go to buying parties." Good advice. But what are some day-to-day ways you can cut down that shopping bill for all of your household needs?

Many grocery stores have provided a built-in system to help us keep on a budget. It is called unit pricing. In most of the larger stores, there is a little placard on the shelf under each item. On that card is the price, the unit of measure, and the price per unit. For example, a sixteen-ounce can of vegetables sells for eighty-nine cents. On the same shelf, the generic version of the same product is a twelve-ounce can that sells for seventy-nine cents. Which is the better buy? The unit pricing on the placard will tell you, in this instance, that the brand name is actually a better price, at 5.56 cents per ounce, over the generic brand at 6.58 cents per ounce. Unit prices are calculated for almost every item in the store, from ounces of cereal to the number of paper towels per roll. It pays to check. When using a coupon, whip out your calculator, subtract the coupon amount from the price, then calculate the unit price. Are you really saving? The information is there for us to use.

Another way to save is by getting information from an under-utilized resource offered by the United States Government called the Consumer Information Center. They have a little catalog with hundreds of mostly free government publications on consumer issues. You can request a free catalog by writing to this address:

Consumer Information Center
Pueblo, CO 81009

Gardening and farmers markets

Can you productively use space in your yard to plant a garden? This is not only a fun way to share nature with your children, but it can also save you money on vegetables at the market. And you can pick up canning jars and supplies from garage sales for a few pennies, so your family can have healthy, inexpensive foods from your garden all year round. Look out in your yard and ask yourself if you are making the most productive use of that space. Be sure to save space for yard play and mud pies, of course. If gardening, canning, or drying food is all new to you, your local Co-operative Extension Service can be a great source of free or inexpensive informational materials. Look in the "County" section of your phone book to find out if there is one in your area.

As an alternative, many urban areas offer farmers markets in the summer. These are a wonderful source of fresh produce that is often priced less than the supermarket. Also, if you want to can some foods you have not grown yourself, you may often purchase them in bulk from one of these markets. Contact your city or village hall to find out if these markets are held in your area.

Coupons and rebates

Are coupons worth the hassle? Remember that the manufacturer's motivation is to get you to try a new product. Make sure you compare the cost of the product after deducting the coupon with the cost of your usual brand by checking the unit price as described above. But the wisest use of coupons is to buy products you use all the time, like your usual detergent.

In an entire book on couponing, author Susan Samtur suggests the best use of coupons and gives suggestions for organization. You may purchase a copy by calling the following number:

Susan Samtur
The Super Coupon Shopping System
Hyperion Press
1-800-759-0190

Rebating is another way to save on your purchases. A refund or rebate is an amount of money manufacturers will send when you send them proof of the purchase of a product. They usually require three things: a rebate form obtained from the store, a UPC code from the product, and your sales register receipt showing the purchase. In exchange for assembling these items, a manufacturer will send you a small check or some other item.

Many women claim to supplement their family income and also obtain free products by sending in rebates. If you want to learn more about rebating, write to these specialized newsletters for subscription information:

Money Talk
P. 0. Box 1677
Kingston, PA 18704

Refunding Makes Sense
P. 0. Box R
Farmington, UT 84025

Refund World
P. 0. Box 16001W
Philadelphia, PA 19114

Miscellaneous money-stretching tips

Remember when you're shopping for groceries that convenience has a cost. Denise Wickline says, "By avoiding refined convenience foods, we save money in the long run a well as time—fewer illnesses, doctor visits, and time lost to healing. We eat food that's simple and as close to its natural form as possible." Denise is a wonderful example of a mom who is a careful steward of Gods gifts.

Diluting can also make products last longer. Our kids usually drink sugar-free juice, and lots of it! We often dilute this to stretch it a bit. You can also dilute cleaning products and shampoo. Most are too strong anyway, especially shampoo.

Many women make their own soft soap for their pump dispensers. Cover leftover soap chips with boiling water and when they're melted, pour the mix into the pump container.

Another popular item to make at home is baby wipes. Rene Jurkowski makes her own with paper towels, baby bath soap, and baby oil. These can be stored in a zipper plastic bag or other plastic container, and they work just as well as more expensive ones from the store.

Do you know what products are lurking in your cabinets? Clean out your cupboards and think of creative, tasty dishes to make with that canned asparagus and those garbanzo beans before they are too old to use. Take an inventory of how many cans of tomato sauce you have so you don't keep buying more. Are there half-used containers of cleaners you forgot you had? It's silly to have this stuff taking up space if you're not going to use it.

1 Horton, Free to Stay at Home, 149.[back]

Excerpted from Coming Home to Raise Your Children by Christine Moriarty Field. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 1995. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

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