There were a few things we always hoped for in our family life. The first was that I would be able to stay home with our brood until they were all in school. Thankfully, the Lord blessed us with that option and we are so grateful as we realize it’s not an option for everyone.
However, we’ve also realized that there are things that you can choose to do to make it more of an option should it be a priority for your family too. It might mean some sacrifice, but for us, it was well worth it.
So here are the top 6 things that made it possible for us to have one parent stay at home with the kids.
Let’s face it, vacations are costly even when your kids are little. Even if you’re not flying anywhere there is a cost involved with road trip travel. Gas and hotels or even camp sites, should you decide to go that route, can add up. Never mind the cost of all the equipment needed to cook and sleep and eat in the great outdoors. When it comes to hotels, with a family of 5 you need to book a suite or get two rooms, both of which are ridiculous when your kids are little, but it’s still the case. So it’s difficult to find a cheap and easy way to vacation. We simply chose not to dwell here. Not to worry about vacations or the lack thereof and to simply know that for us, having me home day-to-day with our children, was more important than travel memories at a young age.
No Eating Out
Restaurants hold the record for one of the biggest percentage of mark-ups on what you’re actually getting. Think about it, paying $12 for some eggs with some vegetables mixed in and 2 pieces of bread (called toast) is crazy! Or $15 for some noodles with tomato sauce on top? Just as ridiculous.
Of course, the beauty of eating out is that you don’t have to do dishes, or grocery shop, or cook! (swoon) But the price for all of that is high. Our family of 5 could not eat out without spending a small fortune, even when the kids were little. We learned very early on (like once they weren’t just eating off our plate anymore but needed a meal of their own!) that it was more economical to let go of eating out and just cook at home. Besides, I learned that most of the family friendly restaurants don’t make amazing food and I’d have preferred to make my own spaghetti sauce. It just tastes better!
No Pre-packaged Snacks or Juice Boxes
I don’t know if I’m just a frugal shopper but when I see the price of those little individual serving packs of fishy crackers or craisins, I just about die. Sure, it’s easy to grab a pack and throw in a bag for a trip to the park, but the mark up, not to mention all the extra packaging and the toll that takes on our landfill, was never worth it to me. Being home with the kids meant I had time to make and bake our own snacks and we could forgo the very expensive option of prepackaged granola bars or pudding cups. I made everything from cookies to granola bars to cereal, throw in fruit and veggies, and there was never any need for the packaged snacks. Same thing with juice boxes. I simply bought each of the kids a great reusable water bottle and that’s what they got. They still use them and take water to school every day. They just don’t know any different and the cost savings is huge!
Purchase Clothes that Last and/or Buy Second-hand
Having 3 boys I knew that we would be working the hand-me-down system like pro’s but I quickly found out that certain cheaper options would barely make it to boy number 2, never mind boy number 3. When I figured out the cost for buying cheap and new for each boy and weighed it against buying a bit more expensive and it lasting through all three, the choice was clear. Paying a bit more to start with is the better choice for most things like jeans, hoodies or sweaters, good running shoes, even pyjamas. I go cheaper on things like white tees because they don’t stand a chance in the boy world but other clothes are worth the investment and the savings in the long run are astronomical. Even now, all jeans, tees and hoodies and most shoes get past along in our home and again, the earth thanks us for this.
I did a lot of second hand shopping when the kids were young too! Winter coats or snow pants? Less than a quarter of the price. Jeans and sweaters? Same thing. Plus, I could find good name brands that I would never buy brand new and they’d still be cheaper than the fall apart versions. Being home allowed me the time to do this, and doing this allowed me to be home. Win – win!
Don’t Worry About House Decor
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I’m a fan of making a house a home and having it be cozy and lovely for your fam. An oasis or haven of sorts, even. However, it can come at a huge cost, especially if you want to stay up on the latest trends in home decor. I decided early on that I just had to let it go. Our home would be cozy and lovely because of the blankets and books and time spent snuggled up on the couch, not because I had the coolest sofa or the latest cookware. It helped when I understood the cost benefit. I could go to work and put my kids in childcare and have a gorgeously decorated home OR I could be home with my kids and we could paint together in the back yard and laugh all day long and really make our house a home simply by living in it. I knew the latter was what our goal was and so we purposed to that end.
Limit Out of the House Activities
We all know that swimming lessons can start as young as a few months old and the cycle just keeps going. You can enrol your baby in music classes and baby gyms and early, early preschool. From there the list can get crazy with a billion types of toddler sports or art or music classes. Once they start school it carries on and by the time they get to grade 4 ish they can’t just play baseball but they need to play baseball plus be in pitching class twice a week and hit the batting cages twice a week and cross training and a million other things if they want to keep up. We knew that this was not how we wanted to live our life, whirling after our kids to a bunch of different events, all of which cost cash. Of course, we also didn’t want to deprive our kids of things they found fun or educational but there had to be a limit. The one we set for our kids once they reached school age was one activity at a time. (of course this is times how many children you have so that still meant 3 activities for our family at any given time) If you were in swimming then you forgo baseball. If you are in baseball, that’s it, no pitching academy. This saved us loads of money and gave us the opportunity to spend our evenings and weekends as a family instead of in a rink. We have never regretted this choice for one second and we find the things we did when they were little as a family, we still do. They want all of us to head down to the field and play a family game of soccer or baseball or shoot hoops all together on a Sunday afternoon. It’s how we prefer it to be.
Also, activities like waterslides or aquarium trips can seriously add up for a family of 5 for just one afternoon! Instead of doing these types of things regularly we asked for them as gifts from grandparents. Even sports gear or musical equipment became Christmas gifts instead of just being expected. This helped save us loads of money!
All of these very intentional choices helped make our family who we are today and allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, just the way we planned in our marriage counselling that we wanted our family to be. None of them actually felt like sacrifices at the time, but rather alternative ways of doing things to keep our life simple! In fact, many of them remain in our lives as normal, even now, some 15 years later!