What If I Can't Afford to Work?

Learning to Support Your Family on One Income

What If I Can't Afford Child Care?
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It can be expensive to have children. One of the most expensive aspects of having a child is the cost of childcare. In reality, you may not be making enough to justify continuing to work, and you may be better off staying home with your child for the first year or two until childcare becomes more affordable. However, if things are really tight and you are worried about the long-term financial goals such as retirement savings, and college savings for your child, it may be difficult to decide what you need to do.

If you are a single parent and making minimum wage, you may need to see if family can help with child care to reduce the cost. Additionally, you may need to see if you qualify for help with child care costs through the human services department in your area.

How Much Are You Really Making?

The first thing you need to determine is how much you are actually making taking away the cost of childcare and commuting. The number may surprise you. The cost of after school care may also surprise you, if you are planning to return to work after your children are old enough to attend school. If you have more than one child,  you may be able to save more by staying home and focusing on doing things that save you money rather than working outside of the home. Also childcare is more when the child is under two years old, and so staying home for those two years may be enough to save you money.

  • Begin by looking at how much you are actually bringing home each month in your net pay.
  • Subtract the cost of childcare, transportation costs, and convenience purchases you are making because you are working.
  • Look at what you are bringing home and determine if you can cut that amount from your budget instead of working.

Working Out Alternative Schedules

If you need more money to make it each month, but the cost of daycare is eating into your budget too much, you may want to look at alternative ways to make money.

If possible one of you may decide to work a job in the evenings or at night, and stay home with the kids during the day. Another option is for you to work out a telecommuting or part-time schedule with your current job. You may work weekends or another alternative schedule as well. Additionally there are work-at-home opportunities that you may want to explore so you can be at home and save on childcare costs. Some of these jobs are difficult to do with children underfoot, but may offer more flexible schedules so you can work after your kids are asleep or before they are awake in the mornings.

Who Should Stay Home?

Traditionally, it is the woman that stays home while the man continues to work. If you are struggling financially, it makes more sense for the partner that makes less money to stay home with the kids. In some cases this means that the husband is the one to stay home to look after the kids for a few years. You should also consider the job security and the career goals for each spouse before making a definitive decision about staying home. If your career is one where stepping away for a few years will virtually end it, you may want to work out an alternative such as part-time work or telecommuting in order to make the situation work out.

Alternatively, you may simply need to plan to work or take the classes required each year to keep up your license.

How Do We Make Ends Meet?

If you find that it doesn’t make sense financially to keep working, you may be worried about how you will continue to make ends meet once you quit working, especially if you have been struggling financially to this point. First, you need to get on a written budget and you will need to cut back on your spending, be sure to make changes to your budget to cover the extra expenses of having kids. This means you should stop eating out, and that the spouse who stays home should focus on finding ways to save money. You can save on groceries and food by shopping the sales and planning a menu each week. You can also find inexpensive activities to do instead of going out.

You may need to cut your gym membership and exercise from home, as well. The first thing to do is figure out a plan, and then stick to it. You may also look for work-at -home opportunities to bring more financial independence to your situation. 

Planning If You Have to Work

If you are a single parent, you will need to work even if you cannot afford childcare. Consider applying for help with childcare through your county. Although it may not pay all of the costs, it can help make the expense more manageable. Additionally, many preschools and some daycare centers will offer needs-based scholarships. You can ask if the programs offer these options when looking for childcare. Additionally, you may find someone that works the opposite shift that you do and trade childcare with them. This can help you save money while working. Working from home may be a better option, especially if you can find a job or shift that allows you to work during the times your children are asleep.

What About Retirement, College and Financial Security?

It is important to think about your financial future when you make the choice to stay home. You should include retirement savings in your budget, and you should also plan a way to pay for your child’s education. If you are going into debt each month you should not be staying home. If you were going into debt each month before you quit working, you need to address your income issues, and work on getting back on track. If you need to lower the amount you contribute to your retirement each year you can do that until your children are in school, but that really depends on how long you plan to be home. Up to five years will not be that bad, but more than that and you may regret the decision to stay home. Additionally try to have an emergency fund in replace before you quit.