Can I Afford To Be A Stay-At-Home Parent? Three Families Reveal How They Make It Work Financially
For many considering becoming a stay-at-home parent, one worry that may prevent them from taking the plunge is money.
Going down from two incomes to one is no small matter. It can make the idea of giving up the day job seem like an impossibility, yet mums and dads in their thousands are making it work for their families.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently around 2,020,000 women and 247,000 men not in paid employment for the purpose of looking after the family or the home – many of these are stay-at-home parents.
So how do they afford it?
Three stay-at-home parents spoke to The Huffington Post UK to share how they make it work for their family financially.
John Adams, 42, from Chaldon, Surrey, worked as a government communications specialist before becoming a stay-at-home dad to Helen, seven, and Izzy, three. He blogs at Dad Blog UK.
“It was one of the best decisions we ever made, but the financial impact was greater than I expected,” he explained.
”When we decided I would become a stay-at-home parent, we were both working full time and we were so busy we lived in a state of constant domestic chaos,” Adams continued.
“We were paying the best part of £1,000 a month for childcare. I did some calculations and worked out our finances wouldn’t suffer too badly.
“If I’m to be totally honest, my calculations were wrong. The impact was much greater than expected, but we have managed to struggle on.
“At first, I was a bit of a fool. I didn’t really budget or watch where we shopped. I basically carried on as if I still had a job.
“Oh how things have changed. These days we do our food shopping in stores like Aldi and Lidl. We also take steps to monitor our electricity and gas use and I regularly review utility bills to see where savings can be made.
“I’m not bothered by this. I think being a parent involves sacrifice and this is just one of the sacrifices I have chosen to make. To complain about the position I volunteered to put myself in would be vulgar and wrong.”
Parents should treat becoming a stay-at-home parent as a major ‘life event’ (such as buying a house or getting married) and work out the loss of earnings (end of salary, statutory maternity pay) against money they’d save (mainly on childcare costs and commuting). You can make the best of your situation by doing a full budget.
“I have faced a few financial worries,” Adams added.
“I used to work in the field of pensioner poverty and I knew that by becoming the stay-at-home parent my future pension would be reduced. I am worried about this and the impact on my National Insurance contributions.
“I also worry about my future earnings potential. We hear a lot about a gender pay gap. This talk makes me uncomfortable. It’s more of a carer pay gap. Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, if you take on the caring role for your family you are hitting your future earnings potential.
“The advice I would offer people considering becoming stay-at-home parents is: You have to think about money, but your children should be at the centre of your decision making process. If it will make for a happier home and happier children it may be the correct thing to do.”
Charlene Allcott, 35, from Brighton, worked as an admin assistant before becoming a stay-at-home mum to Roscoe, two. She blogs at The Moderate Mum.
“We knew we wanted to keep life as simple as possible until we had the hang of the parenting thing and at the risk of sounding a bit 1950s it was easier to divide the labour into – you deal with home; you deal with getting the money in,” explained Alcott.
“When we looked at our budget before having Roscoe we included saving money for emergencies,” Alcott continued.
“My husband works for himself so we both spoke to his bookkeeper about how the change might affect our household income.
“In retrospect I wish I had sought advice about benefits and other entitlements such as childcare vouchers, then my decision would had been more informed.”
Parents should make sure they start to claim child benefit as soon as the child is born, especially if they plan not to work, to ensure they protect their state pension.
There’s no set amount parents can expect, as some benefits are dependent on circumstance, however you can check what benefits you could be eligible for using this calculator.
Parents should also check if they’re eligible for child tax credits.
“I think financially we came out pretty evenly,” Allcott continued.
“If I had worked most of my money would have gone towards childcare; I also didn’t factor all those extra spends associated with working – lunch, travel, work clothes, cheeky Friday wine…
“However, it can get quite expensive keeping a baby entertained. In my area classes range from £4 to £12. I had to do my research to find free and low cost groups.
“My advice to others would be to try and save some money for the first few weeks as it will take some adjustment.”
Simon Ragoonanan, 45, from Hertfordshire, worked as a TV producer before becoming a stay-at-home dad to his four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. He blogs at Man vs. Pink.
“We were worse off financially and we have had to budget more carefully,” he explained.
“But we didn’t decide to have an at-home parent because of financial reasons. We took the decision despite it.”
“When my wife was set to return to work after six months maternity leave, we realised we weren’t comfortable without one of us not being home with our baby,” continued Ragoonanan.
“I had always loved the idea of being a stay-at-home parent, and my wife was keen to continue her career.
“We haven’t really had any major expenses as yet, but we have used credit cards/overdrafts for ones that have cropped up so far – budgeting repayments onto our monthly outgoings.”
If you’re debt-free then a savings safety net can be useful. If you’ve done a budget then you’ll know how much money you need to live on and you’ll know how long you’ll be without a second income, so while there’s no set monthly amount, you can roughly work out how much you need if the worst happens, for example if the other parent loses their job.
It may seem counter-intuitive but – in many cases – if you have debts it can often be better to pay these off with savings as the costs of interest will probably be higher than interest you’d earn putting it away in a savings account.
“When it came time for me to venture back into the workplace, the true cost of childcare was a shock,” said Ragoonanan.
“I was seeking roles that were a better fit for family life than my former career, and that required starting on lower salary than before – yet when childcare, travel and other deductions were taken into account, many roles would be net losses for us.
“We knew we would take a financial hit with me being a stay-at-home parent until our daughter starts school and that’s still having ramifications for us.
“But in the meantime we’ve managed to provide a happy and nurturing environment for our daughter, my wife has been able to carry on with her career, and I have had a blast being an at-home dad.”
Financial journalist and founder of founder of MummyMoneyMatters.com Kalpana Fitzpatrick, told HuffPost UK there are some easy ways stay-at-home parents can make money go further.
“Review your service providers every year – broadband, phone, home insurance, energy and so on,” she advised. “Switching enables you to get onto a cheaper deal.
“It’s important to be frugal in every way – walk more, shop at budget supermarkets, take advantage of free children’s activities, such as play groups.
“Having a baby is also a good time declutter– so start selling unwanted goods for extra cash in your pocket.”
If after taking a close look at your budget you don’t think being a stay-at-home parent is financially viable for your family, there are other options that will enable you to spend more time with your children.
“Take a look at how you might be able to continue working but with more flexibility,” Fitzpatrick advises.
“First step should be to talk to your employer and ask for either part-time or flexible working.
“Some parents take the opportunity to change careers or even set up their own business; mumpreneurs and dadpreneurs contribute billions of pounds into the UK economy and are a powerful force.”
This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver will be guest editor on 15 July 2016, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.
We’ll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we’d like you to do the same. If you’d like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email ukblogteam@Babyquater.com to get involved. Jamie’s new cookbook Super Food Family Classics, published by Penguin, is on sale at £26.