A Leap of Faith & Finances – One Mom’s story of becoming a SAHM

February 23, 2011

Branson is a stay at home mom who blogs at My Reflection of Something. She not only has the most adorable, eye catching blog around, but also a cute kid to boot. Branson does inspiring posts; ones that make you think about how you really feel about yourself, motherhood, and life in general. Be sure to visit her when you’re through reading her take on how she made it work to go from a full time job to staying at home.

When I realized I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, the idea seemed impossible. I looked at our finances, and thought there was no way we could make it work. Eventually, though, I just couldn’t spend another day trying to figure out how we could save up so that someday I could leave my job. So, I quit. Crazy? Maybe. Fortunately,  I had some great support, and quickly found out that what had seemed impossible was not so hard.

Here are some of the things I have learned: The first thing I realized is that our lives were full of conveniences. Because we both worked full time, we wound up spending a lot of money on things that we wouldn’t necessarily need if I were staying home. While it looked like it would be a struggle to cut our income in half, once we actually did it the change was not as substantial. Here are some ways we save money to allow for me to stay home:

Menu Planning – This one is huge. When I realized how much we were spending on food it was quite a shock. I mean lunch alone for me and the hubs was $12/day usually. Add in energy drinks, the husband’s vending machine addiction, and the fact that I had not cooked a real meal since early in my pregnancy and you can only imagine what we were spending (not to mention the calories we were consuming!). By menu planning I have cut our grocery budget to $40-$60/week.

I cook from scratch a lot, and we have gone mostly vegetarian so that helps. I bake big batches of muffins and freeze them for breakfasts, make a huge pot of whatever dish my husband requests and divide it up for his lunches (for the days when he doesn’t just take leftovers), and dinners are all nutritious and usually provide extra to freeze for later. Then of course we also go to my Mom’s for dinner once a week, so the hubby gets at least one comfort food meal each week (for free! haha). There are tons of menu-planning resources out there. The first place I would go to start learning is I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Baby Food – So I am just going to tell you straight up that I could not breastfeed. I tried, it didn’t work. Let’s not go there. That meant adding formula to our budget, which I totally had not expected. I did the research. I use Parent’s Choice. Aiden is healthy. I really don’t want to have a formula conversation here, but I do want you to know that I do not use name brand because that is a difference of about $30/week.

What I really want to talk about here is the actual baby food. I started out buying those handy little jars. I quickly realized that it was not how I wanted to feed my child. It was expensive, there was a lot of waste because he did not really care for the food, and let’s be honest… it didn’t taste great (yes, I tasted each of them before feeding A). So I found this website , and spent three days in a kitchen that looked like a produce department exploded, and froze 3 month’s worth of food. Not only did it save me major money, but my son also eats foods his cousins have never heard of! Persimmons, eggplant, parsnips, etc., and not only that but he does not spit up like he did when eating the stuff in jars.

Resale Shops – It is no secret that I had a big shopping addiction that was intensified by the vast array of adorable baby items calling to me once Aiden was born! So, imagine my excitement when I could get the most adorable clothes and high quality baby gear for next to nothing! I am a total resale shop convert. And it doesn’t hurt that I don’t have to keep up a nice work wardrobe.

Entertainment – We did cancel our cable. I know not everyone is willing to do that, but I will say that it was a much smaller adjustment than we expected. This also meant we stopped buying our movies on demand, which really adds up at $4/movie! We don’t go out like we used to, but with an infant that is not hard to do. We prefer to stay home and have people come to us for board games and other free fun. It also saves a ton on gas, because before we were driving the 30 miles to “the city” several times a week. We also cancelled our gym memberships, and either walk with Aiden or use our collection of workout DVDs. All of these little things really add up!

There are lots of ways to make one income work, and these are just the ones that stand out to me that worked for us. Really, I think the important thing is to realize that it can be done if it is really important to you, and there are plenty of other moms out there who have done it and can lend support. I remember a moment in mid-January when I realized that I had been home for 3 months, and we had gotten through the holiday season of all things with no new debt and no less joy. It was an amazing revelation. It may not always be easy, but the time I have with my son is priceless and absolutely worth every little sacrifice.


  • Alicia S.

    February 24, 2011 at 7:12 am

    I love this! I also thought that becoming a SAHM was an impossibility — I was excited to read through this and see that nearly everything you wrote about were things that we were already doing too. We do still use cable, but we’ve never purchased movies. In fact, we collect Coke Points (something I never would have thought was worth taking the thirty seconds to do) and we collect enough each and every week through different products (not just soda) to purchase a free Blockbuster night which includes any 2 free movie rentals, popcorn and two sodas — all for free!

    Also, we are right on the cusp of the baby food stage with our smallest one so thanks so much for the website!

    1. branson

      February 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Hmmm… I will have to check out the coke points!

      I might be nutty, but I loooove making baby food! It is fun. Like a mix of cooking, science, and art (it can be pretty and makes a good photo subject, hehe)… And because we started with store-bought, I know firsthand how much money it saves 🙂 I hope you have fun with it!

  • Courtney K.

    February 24, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Great post Branson! Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom was a big decision for us, but it’s been the best choice by far. When we sat down and really added it up, we would have spent more money on daycare than if I just stayed home. It’s easy to get lost in conveniences and needs these days. 🙂

    1. branson

      February 24, 2011 at 2:17 am

      Thanks, Courtney! Yeah, convenience is expensive! 😉

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    February 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Diana, Branson Merrill and Branson Merrill, Diana. Diana said: A Leap of Faith & Finances – One Mom’s story of becoming a #SAHM http://t.co/mMCBWoy written by @bransonlee […]

  • kim

    February 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    $40-60 bucks a week.I.so.need.help. Food is our greatest expense. I’m a major foodie and want a different meal every night all month. With out of season produce. And expensive bread. I suck. I also hate coupons. I have a problem. Anyway, you’re so smart in having a plan! We just wallow and fumble our way through it which is probably not the best thing. Do you have a set grocery day? And what happens if you need food in between days?

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      I am actually going to post some of what I have learned next Monday on my blog, but the shopping question is a great one! I do only shop once a week. If I need stuff on other days I have Matt stop on the way home because I am THE WORST impulse shopper and if I go for two things I come out with twenty! Plus he doesn’t have to deal with the baby when he just stops on his way home. (That sounds mean… A is the best baby ever at the store… I swear sometimes people look at him like he must be broken when I am gabbing for an our and he just chills in his seat. But it is still a pain to lug him around, haha)

      I cook a few new recipes every week, and I love that! I like to experiment too, so it is important for me to have that freedom. I just choose recipes that fit into our budget 🙂

  • Beckytwogirls

    February 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Gah! The baby food link is dead! I started making food for my 8 month old and was going to go out and search for other resources. I’m very interested in that part!

    1. Diana

      February 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Fixed it – thanks for letting me know!

      It’s a great site.

    2. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      It really is a great site, and I am always looking to see what to mix together! If you look up a fruit or vegetable you have it will tell you at the bottom of the page what it goes well with. I made some blueberries and plums today, and it really did taste awesome! 😉

  • Samantha

    February 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

    What a great post! I’m always looking for ways to become a SAHM, because I really hate having to work and let someone else raise my kid. I don’t know if it’ll ever be possible, but we may have to just take the plunge and go for it.

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:16 pm

      Honestly, if I hadn’t just quit finally I would have been trying to figure out how to make it work forever probably. Everyone’s circumstances are totally different, but for us it had to be kind of a “jump and don’t look back” thing… it really looked impossible when we were on the other side, but it worked for us! =)

  • Jen

    February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

    This was a really great post. I’m a full-time working mom, and some of these tips can be used for everyone, regardless of their circumstances. I struggle with meal-planning simply because after working 12 hours, the last thing I want to do is cook. I can barely stand sometimes. So I find fun, easy to make meals (that are also healthy!!) so the kids can “help” mommy cook!!

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      I think finding great freezer meals where you can crank out a bunch in one weekend is just awesome in that case! When I was working initially and Matt’s brother was staying with us I had to do that, and while I agree that cooking was not my favorite thing during that time, it was nice to have real meals waiting to just pop in during the week 🙂

  • Desi

    February 23, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I am currently staying at home because I moved to Canada (my husband is Canadian), and I can’t work yet. I have an 18 month old daughter. This city is expensive but somehow we are making it work. I have started meal planning because I also think its HUGE in saving money. If I go to the grocery store to just buy stuff for dinner, I usually end up spending $50. Great ideas!

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      Oh absolutely… if I make a random trip to the store I am the same way! I only shop once a week myself, and then have my hubby stop on the way home for anything I might need during the week. It may sound extreme, but seriously… I am the worst impulse shopper ever! (Plus, it is sooo much easier for him to run in without the babe!)

  • NainaDG

    February 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

    What a great entry, I too love hearing about how SAHM moms make it work financially. I was an unplanned SAHM, I got laid off right at the end of my maternity leave so we had to adjust to one income really fast. The first few months were really hard financially and emotionally, since I felt like we were redefining our relationship and we had a few rough patches but finally it seems like we have the one income thing figured out. I also work as a Realtor so I make some income (negligible the past year) but its a learning curve. I loved hearing your ideas and I know I need to get better about meal planning and organizing. Its almost like SAHM and financial sacrifices are sometimes like a dirty little secret on the blogosphere, nobody wants to talk about it but we are all curious how someone else does it.

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      Sometimes I wish I had planned on staying home all along, and had prepared better for it. I am sure those of us who just kind of jumped (or were thrown, haha) in might have had a bit more adjusting to do, but after we got it figured out it wasn’t bad at all! The meal planning is big for me, and I do post my menu every Monday. We do a lot of meatless meals, which really cuts our budget 🙂

  • Alexia

    February 23, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Yay for this post!! This is exactly the choice I made and the same sacrifices we decided to make. Though I am truly envious of the $40 -$60/week food budget. What are y’all eating? lol

    Seriously though, resale shopping, cutting out the cable, eating in, all of these things (and the many more sacrifices we make) are soooooo worth it for those of us who have always dreamed of staying at home with our kids. Yay for SAHM’s!!!

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks, Alexia! I couldn’t agree more! I never miss things like cable more than I missed A during my short attempt at being a working mom! As far as our grocery budget goes, I cook everything from scratch, and we eat vegetarian most nights. I do post my menu plan recipes every Monday, and I am also posting some of the things I have learned so far in that process NEXT Monday 😉

      1. Alexia

        February 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm

        I will def be reading those posts! Thanks!

  • Jess @ Bringing Up Baby

    February 23, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Great entry. I’m always so interested in how other SAHMs make it work. After getting unexpectedly laid off when I was 3 months pregnant, I decided I was going to find a way to make it work for me to stay at home once I had the baby. The Husband was very nervous with this plan and not necessarily 100% on board with being the sole income provider, but agreed to do his best to be supportive of my plans.

    I’ve been home with my son for 8 months and have found ways to make extra money here and there to help contribute, but my contribution is quite negligible. While I love being home with my son and honestly believe it’s best for him and me, I feel overwhelming guilt for saddling my husband with so much financial responsibility. Things are definitely tight around here and other than our cable, we live a fairly no-frills lifestyle and The Husband definitely feels the strain of supplying and living with such a limited budget

    Do you ever fear that your husband secretly resents you for your choice to stay at home? Was he always on board with you staying at home? Have you ever felt compelled to find ways to make money from home so that you feel like you’re contributing financially?

    1. Branson

      February 23, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      Oh my goodness I have the SAHM guilt BAD some days for sure! But my husband is very much of the belief that staying home is important when possible. I think he had more of a problem with me insisting throughout my pregnancy that I was going to go right back to work. Not because he is against working moms, but because he knows me better than I know myself! He would have let me do whatever I thought was best, but throughout my crazy back-and-forth time trying to decide what to do he always gently pushed me towards staying home.

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