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Alan Prahl column: Weigh options before staying home with children

9:31 AM, Aug. 3, 2013  |  Comments
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Do you know anyone who wants to be a stay-at-home parent? Many couples wonder if it's feasible for one person to stay home with the children. Parents like to be there to shape their child's thinking and development, but wonder if they can afford to live on one paycheck.

The benefits of staying home and not paying $300 or more per week for child care are pretty obvious. But there are pros and cons to consider before quitting the 9-to-5 job.

Some people who have quit work have struggled with losing their professional identity or missed interacting with other adults. The longer you're away from that career, the more difficult it may be to resume working in that field.

Quitting can have an immediate and long-term financial impact. The paycheck disappears, along with employer provided benefits like matching contributions to 401(k) plans and profit sharing contributions.

Quitting is easier when one person's wages don't cover the cost of child care. But, even when jobs pay generously, the long hours and weekend work can make parents miss everyday discoveries and milestone events. Kissing the stress and long hours goodbye can be enormously satisfying. But the million-dollar question is whether you can live on one paycheck.

Can you afford it?

If you quit work, your income and child care costs will drop. What else will happen?

Work-related spending on career clothes, commuting, lunches at work, and the daily latte' should drop substantially. Some motivated families save hundreds of dollars each month by eating more meals at home, rather than eating out. Don't assume that you will stop buying clothes or eating out, but many households spend a lot less on these areas.

Before you make the change, develop a household budget or spending plan. Determine what you can afford to spend in discretionary areas like groceries, lunches, entertainment and clothing. Include a monthly amount in your budget for occasional expenses like car repairs, car insurance, homeowner's insurance, vacations, holidays and gifts. Put money in savings for these occasional expenses.

Some couples find that quitting one job doesn't work. Instead they change their work schedules or work part time. Some resourceful couples work different shifts so one parent can be home most of the time with the children. Talk with other parents to gather ideas or visit online resources like www.parents.com to help you evaluate your options.

Major changes, like the birth of children, can lead parents to re-evaluate their options. FISC's "The Power of Money" workshop has helped many families to make lifestyle changes and to live on one income. It isn't always easy, but being a stay-at-home parent offers many benefits.

- Alan Prahl is with FISC (www.fisc-cccs.org),

a nonprofit program of Goodwill North Central Wisconsin. He can

be reached at aprahl@fisc-cccs.org.

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