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How Do You Make Ends Meet?
~ A Message Board Archive
Confused by the archive abbreviations? Check out the acronym list from our boards!

From hrnewbie ~ How do you make ends meet? I'm 4 months along with baby #2 and can't seem to kick the SAHM bug that's bitten me tonight. All I can think about is how we can't afford it. But I'm sure some of you felt the same way too and still managed. I guess I'm just curious how? Between student loans ($400/month), mortgage ($1200/month), car insurance ($300/month), etc. I'm just struggling to see how my dh alone could manage all of that. Did you cut expenses? If so, what types of things? Do you work PT? How do you make it work.

B>From JulieD ~ We make ends meet by living within our means. That means having a cell phone plan that is practical, cutting coupons and shopping in bulk or at sales, garage saleing for clothes for the family (I buy a year in advance for the boys and have done very well so far without having to buy much at all during the regular season), I put them in cloth diapers, cook dinners from scratch (and try try try to get DH not to eat out but I don't do so well at that), try to combine all errands so I save on gas, entertain cheaply (water in a big bucket outside, etc. for Logan to play in, our swing set), rent movies from the library (same with CDs), get "comfort billing" for utilities so you pay the same each month the whole year, call long distance on the cheap times, accept other's hand-me-downs for the boys...

I also do a little selling on ebay for extra spending money for things like presents, eating out, special things we're saving for, car tabs, car maintenance, etc. I am trying to increase it but it's slow.

It can be a tough switch to make from 2 to 1 income so give yourself some cushion savings so that you can adjust slowly vs. a screeching halt. Once you've been there for a few months though it will seem like that is how it's always been. I am SO grateful for a parent at home.

I want to be a midwife so DH and I have discussed 1/2 and 1/2 working - so neither of us bear all the work or home load. It may be dreams we're talking about but we'll see - I've got a few years of school.

From Christyne ~ It's a case of "Well, we just do". I decided when my first DD was born (seconds after I saw her face for the first time) that there was no way I was leaving this precious child in someone else's care. So, I didn't go back to work. It meant one less car (so, no car payment and no insurance on a second car), but if I needed the car for appointments and the like DH can take the bus to work and it really doesn't take him any longer than the commute would in the car. It also meant that I wouldn't have to pay day care costs (cheapest here is $180 week until they get to a toddler room and then it's something like $120/week) which would have eaten up at least 1/2 my salary. For a while I took in kids and earned some money that way, but that's not feasible any more.

We cut back on eating out, borrowed videos from friends and the library (free!), bought things on sale or in bulk, shopped at the big box stores (Costco and the like).

Now, we've had baby #3 and I work PT (have for 3 years), but it's 3 nights (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and Sunday afternoon. We still don't have to pay for a sitter and the extra income helps with groceries and the cable bill. I get to support my scrapbooking habit (LOL!) with anything that's left over (good thing I work in the scrapbooking store and can get a discount).

We still have some debt, but we're getting rid of it slowly but surely. Some months there are more expenses than others and that's hard, but we manage.

From Canameri ~ Same as the ladies above. A few years living frugally is well worth it to us. We live in a house that dh alone can afford on his salary, and we do without eating out, big fancy vacations, etc. I think if it's something you want, you just find a way!

From mary1 ~ It was a priority for us when we have kids: going back to work was not an option in our minds, so like many here we just did it. When I had my DD I was driving a 15 year old car. It got great gas mileage, was full of rust, but didn't cost hardly anything to maintain and run. Being at home I drive very few miles. In the summer I either would take the bike and trailer (purchased at a garage sale) to the store, etc or walk with stroller.

Secondly, we gave up luxuries. We don't rent movies or go to movies. We do not have new furniture or even matching furniture. All of my DD's baby furniture was hand me down or garage sale stuff. I buy many clothes for DD at second hand stores and garage sales or, like JulieD said, a year in advance, on sale.

I prepare and cook meals and made my own baby food. This is a cheaper and healthier way of eating. We stay away from processed foods and do not eat out very often. When we do, we usually have a coupon. We look for free and low cost entertainment such as zoos, parks, local festivals, hsitorical sights, etc.

Most importantly we have made budgets and stick to them. We take out all of our bills from our income and then divide the leftover by 31 (days in a month) and that is what we have to spend everyday. It has been a realistic way for us to look at spending and keeps us from impulse shopping.

It is not always fun or easy, but I would not go back to work for anything. I like being home. Good Luck!

From Viketory ~ I agree with many of the things the others said. I get my son's clothes from rummage sales and thrift shops if it's off season. I check prices on everything. I'll buy off brands on clothes and buy more of items with good prices. We rarely go to movies or out to eat. As our Christmas gift we gave each other a subscription to Netflix so that's our primary treat. We'll do picnics and that's a cheap, fun family activity. I'm starting to Christmas shop year round. I bought the family kids shirts at Old Navy on winter clearance for $7.00 each instead of the $35.00 they started out as.

Eliminate debt. We carry only our mortgage as debt. Don't think in terms of payments. Thing grand total. We looked at how much money we had and paid cash for our car. When we need to replace it we will spend half of our total amount in savings. I get my books in the library. We have Tracfone's for our cell phones and use them sparingly. I get my hair done a cheap place instead of a nice place. I buy what I need, not what I want. I don't throw miscellaneous stuff in the cart. Just what we need.

We do have our treats. Cable TV and internet and Netflix but right now we can afford them but I'll cut them if I have to. Save up as much money as you can. It helps to have a cushion in savings and checking. Some months we spend more than DH earns but it doesn't matter because we have wiggle room. We just try to fill it in the next month.

From Blue Eyes ~ I watch my nephew 4 days a week and make a little extra cash but that is used for spending money so it sort of doesn't count. I cut expenses like cellphone, switched from road runner to dial up internet, found cheaper car insurance, found cheaper phone bill plan, and cut out going out to eat a lot. I'm proof that "We can never afford it" is untrue. You'd be amazed at what you can do when you put your mind to it. We don't live a lavishly fancy life but by no means are we suffering. Life is good.

From Margaret ~ I totally agree with what a lot of people have said already. You will find that you can make it if it's a priority. We have only 1 car payment and it's minimal. Dh drives a 93 Volkswagon that we paid $500.00 for and has PLPD on it for insurance. We very rarely eat out. I do not shop at garage sales, but do shop at outlets and never buy anything full price. I use coupons and check the sale ads. Unless it's on sale and I have a coupon, I don't need it. I would say that I save 30% at least at the grocery store. I don't have a cellphone and dh's is paid through work. I also, have my hair cut at a cheap place ($20). I don't have anything colored, tweezed, waxed, or shaved on a regular basis. I guess in general we're just kind of frugal. Good luck and enjoy being home!

From M ~ I don't really count as I'm 1/2 sahm and 1/2 wohm. (I intentionally work 12 hour shifts Saturday, Sunday and an 8 hour on Monday so dd NEVER has to go to daycare.) The no daycare thing has always been a huge thing for me, so I do what I have to do in order to keep her out of it. It stinks working every single weekend, but it's worth it come Tuesday - Friday.

My dh cuts my hair. I have a simple 'do that he just cuts straight across. He has clippers for his hair. We have saved a ton of money doing this. I just trim DD's hair when she needs it. I'm going to cloth diaper the new baby. That will save a lot of money. Hit yard sales - I can't since I work on Saturday but my MIL has gotten so many beautiful clothes for Emmie, and most of them look new. She has practically given us her wardrobe for every season since she's been born. I agree about when you see clearance items (clothing) buy a size bigger or whatever size you think your DS will be in the next year. I've done this and it's so nice when that season rolls around.

We still have the "luxuries" (ie cell phone, we eat out a lot, etc) but that's only because I'm still working. Those things will be cut out, as will the internet when I finally can be a full time sahm (should be this time next year). We got ourselves in a heap of trouble with credit cards right after dd was born, and we are slowly but surely paying them off. So I won't quit work until they are paid for.

We are due around the same time, so you have 5.5-6 months that you can save as much as possible. Dh and I had talked about saving but never did, so I did something radical and opened my own savings account and had part of my check direct deposited into it every 2 weeks. We paid off our car in March so I'm putting the car payment in the bank every month. Come December we will have quite a nice sum saved up.

If you think you really can't make it on just dh's salary, try looking into working an off shift, or pt somewhere. Good luck! I think anyone who wants to stay home should be able to. Can we make that a law????

From franros ~ I am not sure if I have anything new to add. DH and I both have student loans which are equal to a mortgage payment. We live in a smaller house than we could have afforded when I was working. We bought the house only on his salary so that we could have the choice for me to stay home. You also have to consider the cost of working, which means day care, professional clothes, lunches out, parking, more take out when you don't have time to cook etc. For us, I was only going to go back part time anyway and after all the expenses of working, we weren't going to come out very far ahead anyway.

I do clip coupons religiously and read the supermarket flyers when making my shopping list. I try to plan my meals ahead of time and I have a number of dollar stretching recipes. I bring a list to avoid any impulse buys. I cook from scratch 90% of the time. I stock up on BOGOs and bulk items like ground beef, plain chicken breast and salmon fillets which I keep in the freezer so I can always make cheap and healthy meals. I hunt for bargains at dollar stores (for paperware, tin foil and cleaning supplies mostly,) outlets and warehouses. (It is hard to find a true "outlet" these days-they are not all bargains). I have plenty of very nice hand-me-downs.

I do like to buy things for Jillian though. I have found some very nice childrens consignment shops in my area. The clothes are a bit nicer than some thrift stores (many still have the tags on them and were never worn) and I buy her toys that are either very clean or easy to clean. Some of her favorite toys are ones that I bought for just a couple of bucks at a consignment store (including a Discovery Toys stacking toy and a zylophone. When she was younger I got great deals on popular playmats and I found a very new looking Neurosmith Music block for $12 which normally sells for around $60). Also, unless you are saving things for another child, you can make some money by having the store sell things that the baby has grown out of or no longer plays with.

I also like to go to garage sales, but lately that is difficult as Jillian doesn't share my enthusiasm.

I rarely, if ever, charge things.

We joined the local Jewish community center which has a pool and a gym and short term babysitting for $2/hour. We also take music class there (half the price of Gymboree). I met many other SAHMs that way and was invited to join a playgroup. We got a Zoo membership as a gift this year, so that is some more free entertainment.

Last, and I hate to admit this, is Grandma. My mother's new hobby is buying things for her grandaughter. Who am I to stop her?

Being a SAHM on a budget is hard and takes some getting used to, but it is definitely possible. I do wonder though what we did with all that extra money we had when I was working and we had no kids. Should have saved some of it! Oh well.

From Travelin Mama ~ I work full-time, but my DH stays home with the kids. The ladies above said it well, we just make do with what we can. We don't have cell phones, we cut back to basic cable. I shop at the thrift stores and I also joined several mom groups where I got tons of hand-me-down items. DH has also taken his hobbies to the next level when he can. He likes building things, so he's now in business building wooden swing sets for the neighbors. He also does some small landscaping jobs for neighbors who can't do it themselves. He has also sort of taken on the title of handyman for the homeowners association. Think about what things you might be good at and who might appreciate some help with those things, even an extra $50 is a wonderful treat for us.

From o2BaMom ~ It is an ON GOING struggle. We are a month behind in the mortgage and well . . . we just do what we have to do. I do a lot of side babysitting. In fact, this evening I had two children over. I also sell creative memories, but haven't found that to be lucrative at all . . . at least it will be a nice TAX BREAK from all the money I have lost!

It is a day to day thing for us, but I just rely on God to help us through it all, and some how we manage. It's a struggle, but it is SO worth it. I love waking up to Maegan's voice and then spending the day with her. We go to the pool and just enjoy all of our time together.

As for things we cut out or do without--I am fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed Maegan, so that cut out cost of formula, we don't have cable tv, we don't go out often and when we do, my parents babysit. We joined a wholesale club and that is where we get Maegan's babyfood and diapers and they take manufacturer's coupons so we save even more. We cut back on using the air conditioner and the heat. Maegan doesn't mind being cold or hot, so that's been a blessing. We eat with my parents a lot, which cuts down on grocery costs. I don't get to shop for clothes as much anymore, and that is REALLY tough on me because I love buying clothes for me and Maegan! OH and I buy ALL of Maegan's clothes on clearance or on sale . . . Old Navy, Carter's Outlet, Gap Outlet, Hecht's, etc. She has clothes from now until age 4!

From JillB ~ It kind of worked out for us that when we moved for dh's job, I didn't really work for the first year we lived here, just a little part time. Then when I got pregnant it was our plan that I would be a sahm. Sometimes we just get by, and often we are in our line of credit, but we don't let it bother us. No one goes without anything. I do a little bit of freelance work from home, but it just makes enough to give me a bit of spending money and sometimes help with a few bills. The thing is, you spend what you have. We get by just fine with dh's teacher income, but I have friends who make over twice as much as dh now struggling because one of them was laid off. It might be very worth your while to be a sahm, when you think about how much of your income would be going into child care anyway!

Other tips . . . breastfeed!! Also, consider giving cloth diapers a try, even if you only use them occasionally, it really helps cut down on diaper bills!!

If you are not sure how things would work, you could always just try it for a couple months. Hang onto your income while you work for those months, and see how you guys get by on just the one salary. If it works, keep hanging onto that money and you will have a great backup savings for when you become a fulltime sahm. Even if you could withhold just half each month it would help.

From aliboo ~ I think we should write a book!!!!! There are brilliant ideas in all these replies! I do very similar things. I try to cook from scratch. That saves a fortune. I go for cheap deals, like at Blockbuster, it costs 13.99 per month, I can get as many DVDs to watch as I want during the month, as long as I don't have more than 3 at a time. I can choose from over 25,000 DVDs online and they send them by post. I reckon that is good, cheap entertainment for all the family. I budget with enthusiasm!!! I check the bank every morning. I know when everything is due in or out, etc. I have 4 different accounts for different things. Like, one for income; one for household/monthly bills; one for short term savings, for example, for Christmas, for child care, savings for family day trips, etc, and one for food and weekly expenses money.

It sounds confusing, but I find it so much easier to keep the money in different accounts. I have access via the internet at all times, but I can't 'accidently' spend money budgeted for another purpose. My savings account looks like the UK Treasury budget!! I have a book with in/out payments and columns for every 'cost centre' whether it's gas, or whatever. But it means I am in control. I know exactly how much money I have for each 'cost centre' until I get my next income. When you don't have much to spread around, there isn't much room for mistakes. it works for me and really isn't time consuming once you get in to it.

Where I tend to fail, is with long term savings. That's my next 'project'. But I do try and put away money each month for property maintenance, and I am insured for other things like heating, drains, electrical fixtures (which is considered a waste of money by many 'money' people). Anyhow, for me if I get the accounting right, I have my infra structure to work from. Of course I can't buy or do all the things I may have been able to, if I was working, but I guess being a SAHM meant changing some of the things I once considered more important.

From PaulaSue ~ When we bought our home we knew I wouldn't work so we planned for that. Also college for Dh was paid off before we had kids. Shop around for car insurance. I did a few months ago and now we pay $60 less a month. Also our cars are older/not old. IF you ant to stay home you might have to downsize but it is so worth it!

From MamaJAM ~ I'm another who just 'does it'. We're fortunate in that we never had 2 incomes to rely on. I've been a SAHM since 3 months before our first DD was born, and before that I worked part time (we were only married for 6 months when I quit working). We've always lived within our means . . . currently we live paycheck to paycheck -- but that should change after January 1st once DH has been at his current job for a year and the car is paid off.

One thing I will suggest is seeing what you can do about the debt you mentioned. Maybe refinance the mortgage -- look into a home equity loan to pay off the student loans -- shop around for car insurance. Also cut it down if you can - if you won't be using your car as much once you're at home, you won't need the highest level of coverage, etc. Don't forget you'll save on child-care; you won't need to pay for either child because they'll both be home with you. Some months are more of a struggle for us than others - but it's worth all the scrimping and saving for me to be here with the kids.

From bearsmom ~ Wow! What a lot of awesome ideas and suggestions. I don't really know if there is much I could add. I know that there has not been anything more satisfying that being able to stay at home with my kids. All the times I have agonized over the finances and worried about how things would be covered are worth it to be able to be totally there for my family. Things are tight now and we are paycheck to paycheck as we try to get our budget under control but somehow we manage to keep things going and the kids don't go without.

When we were in business during the time we had Beren we did make use of the available social services -- the kids had insurance through the state and we got help with milk and formula through WIC. Kids can take part in WIC until they are 5 years old and the income levels for the program are actually pretty high... Just a thought...

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