The decision to go back to work or stay at home can be a hard one. It also can feel like a polarizing topic to discuss with friends and family, with most taking a hard stance with whatever side they most agree with.
But, that’s stupid. Every family has a unique set of circumstances, experience, and personalities that make whatever decision they make the right one.
Personally, I don’t think the choice is black and white any more. There is more flexibility being built into jobs and more opportunities to work from home or start your own business than ever before.
I have friends that are ROCKING their corporate jobs and I have friends that are ROCKING being a stay at home Mom. Me, I fall somewhere in the middle being the full time caregiver to my son but also having my own business that I put part-time hours into.
But no matter what decision is right for YOUR family, there are going to be financial consequences. If you stay in a full time job, you are going to have to figure out how to handle day care costs and you might also want some extra help at home. If you stay home full time, you are going to need to make your household run smoothly on one income (assuming you have a partner with a full time job, of course).
So, if you are even considering making major income changes to your family, here are my best practices for making it work and keeping your finances on track.
1. Start Early
If you have time to prepare and start to implement all the other steps below you will be in a much better place than if you are playing catch up down the road. So don’t wait until the paycheck is already gone to make adjustments. The sooner, the better.
2. Know your numbers, in detail
You have to start tracking your inflows and outflows to get an accurate picture of what is happening in your finances. This can’t be something you analyze using your bank statements or with a quick glance through your online banking system. You need a REAL plan with the detail you need to make REAL decisions.
3. Stay laser focused on fixed expenses
Your cable. Your insurance. Your subscriptions. You need to keep a CLOSE eye on these to make sure they don’t grow over time and get out of control. Yes, shopping your insurance is a pain in the butt. And renegotiating with the cable company requires wine after, but just those two things can save you thousands each year.
4. Cut back on the extras
I’m not the kind of Money Coach that is going to tell you you can’t ever go shopping again. That isn’t realistic. But you should use your numbers to figure out where your trouble spots are and cut back on those. Maybe you aren’t going to be able to travel as much as you have been, or maybe you just need to stay out of Target. Either way, most likely your budget can’t support your trouble spots like it used to.
5. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
This isn’t a once and done system. You have to keep checking in to make sure you are on track. It requires this diligence to keep an eye on all the moving pieces of your financial life and make sure they are coming together the way you intend. Check in with your numbers at least once per week.
6. Involve your partner
Often, the daily management of the household finances falls to one person. If that works for you, cool. But you both have to be informed about what is happening with the money. You need to be talking about money regularly and sitting down to have a formal money date once per month.
BONUS TIP —for you pregnant Moms out there
7. Make a list of activities you can do with your kids
Just because you won’t be working doesn’t mean you’re going to want to be stuck at home all the time. Make a list of free or low cost actives you can do with your kids (like story time at the library or parks you want to visit). When you need to get out of the house, pull out your list and stick to your pre-planned activities.
I have worked with lots of women who have become the CFO (chief financial operator) of their household. It might not feel like a natural fit for them at first but they end up rocking their new role by following these steps. I believe good money management takes into account what season of life you are in and knowing that just because you are making a decision for right now… it won’t be the way it is forever. I think all Moms need that reminder, especially when it comes to managing their young families.