A woman sits in a rocking chair rocking her baby.

Can I Afford to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom?

For some pregnant women, the prospect of never going back to work after maternity leave seems like a dream. But for some families, making it on a single income can be really difficult. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to quit working after having your baby, a good old fashioned budget breakdown can help provide some much needed perspective when it comes to paying the bills and while keeping a respectable savings. Here’s a look at how to break down your budget to see if your family will make it on one income. 

1. Keep every receipt. 

If you’ve never been REALLY tight with your money, with a clearly defined budget and an awareness of where every last dollar goes, prepare for a major change. Over the next month, try to track every single cent you spend and record it diligently so you can easily see where your money goes. 


The easiest way to really see where your money goes is through financial software, like You Need a Budget. Keep every receipt and label everything clearly. You can be incredibly specific -- groceries, utilities, lunches out, make up-- or you can be more general -- food, bills, fun stuff, etc. If you aren’t computer savvy, make a list on a piece of paper, or organize your receipts. 

2. Figure out what you want and what you need

The great thing about budget software is that you plug in the numbers, and it pliainly displayed exactly where yourmoney is going. If you’re doing this the old fashioned way, you'll have to create categories and add up amounts. In either case, divide your expenditures into “wants” ($40 blush) and “needs” (toilet paper). The goal here is to figure out how much money you can spend on wants, how much you need to save, and how much you must spend on needs. 


You should have four numbers: income, necessary expenditures, unnecessary expenditures, and leftover money. Come up with a rough estimate for how much you’re going to need to take care of your baby (and don’t forget to include childcare when you’re looking at the difference between a one and two income household). 

3. Find budget cuts. 

If something is a need, there should be no debate, money must be allocated towards that -- rent and insurance must be paid and food must be bought. However, if your leftover number isn’t as big as you’d like, there are some ways that you can save on the essentials. Shop around for cheaper car insurance. Start a coupon drawer; look for promotional codes, special discounts, and free trials. Make your unnecessary spending money a little less, so your leftover number is a little more. 

4. Decide if it’s going to work. 

For some families, living on a single income simply isn’t possible. For others, it’s tight but duable. If it’s close, you may be able to compensate by working from home. Talk to your partner, and do a little soul searching. Some moms want to keep their career -- and that’s okay too. 

Last Updated: October 19, 2017