One thing that I have learned over the years is how much value a stay-at-home parent can bring to a family. I definitely see a lot of families where both parents work because they think that they can't afford not to work. I don't know if it is experience or just a unique perspective, but I see a lot of ways in a non-working family member can actually contribute more than they would if they were working.
Particularly with our crazy military lifestyle, the non-service member spouse may find that they are unable to find work, or that they are in a situation where working doesn't make sense for them. Use these tips to maximize the opportunities created by not working.
Food CostsFood costs are often the largest easily-cut household expense. (The other big expenses are housing and transportation, which can be harder to trim.) A stay-at-home parent has the time to plan meals, select less expensive options, use coupons, use rebates, cook from scratch, and ensure that leftovers are used efficiently. I've seen food bills cut by more than half, but it does take time and enthusiasm.
ClothesHaving a stay-at-home parent can slash your clothing costs. First, they have the time to comparison shop and use thrift stores and consignment shops for purchases. Second, they can keep up with the laundry, meaning fewer clothes need to be owned. Third, they can take the time to remove stains or make small repairs, making clothing last longer. Lastly, they can resell clothes that aren't being used.
TransportationDepending on your specific situation, having a stay-at-home parent may allow you to cut some transportation costs. At the far extreme, your family may be able to reduce the number of vehicles that you own. Or, you may be able to schedule trips in a more sensible fashion, or share trips with neighbors or friends, saving gas.
EntertainmentWith a few extra hours in the day, it is easy to track down free and low-cost things to do. Rather than hopping on Amazon to download the latest best-seller, you can get it for free (online or physical copies) through the library. You can track down free Redbox codes for no-cost movie nights. You can be creative and pack a picnic instead of driving through Chick-Fil-A.
Watching The FinancesThe most important thing an at-home parent can do is keep an eye on the family budget. Making a spending plan, and watching it, does take time, and it is easy to let this step slide when life is too hectic. In addition to watching the spending plan, a little extra time means that you can actually review your bank, credit card, and debit card statements every month, call all your utilities and ask how you can cut your bill, and spend time learning about other money saving techniques.
It has been 8 years since I went back to work after taking care of babies, and there are some times when I think our budget was more in line when I was not earning money but carefully watching every cent that we had. If you're not working, by choice or by circumstances, take advantage of your free time to focus on the basics. You may be surprised at the results!