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Making the Tough Budget Cuts
When One Parent Stays at Home

by Stephanie Foster
There are a lot of adjustments to make when you get married. Getting used to each other's habits, expectations, dreams . . . it can be a lot of work. But the one that typically causes the most arguments is money. Managing your finances is not easy even when you're the only person you need to worry about. Figuring out how to cope with sharing is not easy. And if one person is a stay-at-home parent, there can be resentment over the income disparity as well as concerns about bringing enough money in.

Being a stay at home parent is not the easy job some think it is. There's a lot to get done in the day and dealing with the stress of not contributing financially can be difficult. The expectation in many cases these days, after all, is that both partners contribute financially, and changing that expectation is not easy.

One thing that should always be remembered is that the at-home parent is contributing in a very important way. She (or he) is raising the children and taking care of the home. She probably is also the one doing the grocery and other shopping and may be the one writing the checks to pay the bills, so she may be extremely aware of just how the family's money is being spent.

When times get tight the guilt starts. Many at home parents start wondering if it's time to head back to work, putting the kids in daycare, only working when they're in school or working nights, missing a lot of family time. In many, but not all, cases there is a better option. It's time to start reviewing spending habits and see where money can be saved. This is not a fun process. Most couples do this when the decision is made to have one parent stay at home, but often finances need to be reviewed later as well. The process is pretty basic: Write down each and every expense your family has through the month, then see what can be cut.

I won't get into the details of the easy stuff to be cut - excess phone options, cable and so forth. Instead I'm going to go over some of the less obvious ideas.

Food is not a favorite place to save for many people as you do get used to eating a certain way, but it is possible to change your shopping habits as well as your eating habits to maximize your savings. Even the time you shop may make a difference. I can buy ground beef for about a third of the price they sell it at during the day if I go to the store at about 9 p.m., which is when the butcher department staff have left and marked down the remaining ground beef. This lets me buy the 15% fat ground beef for $1/pound when the higher fat ones are typically over $2.50/pound, and $3-4/pound for the 15% or less fat in my area. You can also find out when other meats are marked down.

If you have the space, a garden can serve multiple purposes. It lets you grow food, of course, for the cost of seeds, fertilizer and water. Gardening is good exercise. It's a great way to teach your kids about where food comes from. You have to watch that you do not spend excessively on your garden, but for most it is a very worthwhile investment.

Shopping for clothes at thrift or consignment shops may not sound like fun, but with some patience and persistence you can get some great-looking outfits for far less than you would otherwise. For babies in particular it is not uncommon to find brand new clothes at consignment shops, simply because the parents are given so many outfits that baby never gets to wear them all. But you will sometimes find new clothes in all size ranges.

Think about walking rather than driving. It's healthy and saves you gas and wear and tear on the car. I've been known to walk to the grocery store when I've lived within a reasonable distance. Take your kid's wagon along and lock it up outside like you would a bicycle.

Making the cuts to balance your home budget is rarely easy or pleasant, but it allows you to do things you couldn't do otherwise - such as be there for all your children's milestones. The sacrifice may be great, but the rewards will be greater.

About the Author:
Stephanie Foster runs http://www.homewiththekids.com and offers resources for stay at home parents. Visit http://www.homewiththekids.com/newsletter/ to sign up for her free newsletter.

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