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Staying Home Instead

Making Do with Less

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 5, September-October 1998, pp. 142-44

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I am committed to staying home with my children, but we are starting to feel the financial strain. Our savings account is dwindling, our car is getting older and requiring more repairs, and we have debts from college. Does anyone have any creative ideas for stretching our income, refinancing, or adding to the family income that will help me stay home a while longer?

Response

One fairly easy way to bring in some extra money is to set up a breast pump rental station. You can get started with as little as $100. As a breastfeeding mother, you are probably well suited to helping mothers in need of breast pumps. Allow about three months to take care of all of the paperwork-licenses, application, credit check, establishing contacts (lactation consultants, childbirth educators, midwives, obstetricians' offices), and advertising (simple flyers advertising your products, prices, and services may suffice). You may find that you also want to stock some other products that mothers will find useful such as nursing pads or modified ultra pure lanolin. Or you may want to stock personal use breast pumps to sell.

Setting up a rental station has been very rewarding for me in many ways. Aside from the financial rewards, I feel that I am helping people. I share with mothers who are committed to the wonderful gift of breastfeeding. And I am maintaining a link to the business world for that day when my children are in school or grown, and I want to reenter the working environment. Good luck!

Linda Durante
Idaho Falls ID USA

Response

My husband is self-employed and his income is quite variable. It has become an adventurous hobby of mine to find new ways of getting the most value for the least amount of money. In my quest, these are the most important things that I have learned.

In everything, be frugal. I have become an expert at distinguishing between wants and conveniences and true needs. Does it have to be new? Could it be borrowed temporarily? Could we do it ourselves instead of paying someone else to do it for us? Do we need it today or not until next week or next month? Can I stretch this to last another month or another season? Is it something we could make ourselves, or scrounge? Could something else be substituted for what's needed? (We use toilet paper in an old tissue box, which is much cheaper and less wasteful than regular tissues. Also, I make my own baby wipes with paper towels. These cost about seventy cents compared to about $2.50 bought at the store.)

As much and as often as possible, use less or have less; in other words, simplify. I try to experiment with using less of everything until it is uncomfortable and then add a bit back. You can experiment with using or having less everywhere: from utilities to clothing to soaps to groceries. I have learned a great deal from a series of books called The Tightwad Gazette (Volumes I, II, and III) by Amy Dacyczyn.

Whatever measures you take to save or not spend money, be sure to budget a small amount (even $5 per month) to have fun with. If not, you can become so overwhelmed by not having money that you go out and spend a lot that you don't have, ending up worse than you started. When necessary, ease into money-saving ideas. It's much easier for your family to handle changes bit by bit over time rather than all at once.

Let your needs be known. Your place of worship, neighbors, friends, and other family members may be willing to help pay off debt or lead you to good deals. Or they may be willing to do fix-ups and repairs at cost, in trade for other services or goods, or even for free.

Alicia Leetch
Elyria OH USA

Response

Start today and write down every penny you spend. That way, you'll get a picture of where it's all going. The places where the money trickles out are going to be different in your family than anyone else's, so this step is indispensable. And you've got to save on "the little things" to have money for the big things such as car repairs and student loans.

Beware of coupons because they are usually for convenience foods. You'll be ahead of the game if you spend most of your grocery money on staples like dried beans, rice, pasta, flour, generic brands, and produce. These generally are not coupon items.

Get well acquainted with your library! Depending on your community, your public library may offer free video rentals, story times or other kid's activities, and even Internet access! With the wide selection of periodicals, you can cancel your magazine and newspaper subscriptions. And. of course, books! Look for anything by Amy Dacyczyn on successful "tight wadding."

Dedicating yourself to living cheaply really is a part-time job, so plan to devote the same effort, time, and resourcefulness you would give to an outside job. But it has two wonderful differences: money you save is not taxed the way money you earn is, and this part-time job doesn't have to take you away from your family!

Jane DeGisi
Shawnee KS USA

Response

My husband and I are also trying to raise our children with only one income. We have tried numerous ways of saving money. Rather than calling my parents and friends who live far away, I found a free email service for my computer. If you do not have a computer, ask a friend if you can use hers to send quick notes.

I try to cook from scratch and buy food and household supplies in bulk. We have a freezer so if we see a really good sale we can stock up while it costs less and use the money we save for other things. We eat vegetarian meals twice a week, which saves on the cost of meat.

We shop at rummage sales and thrift stores, and we find good quality clothes that don't look dated and often have never been worn. We find records, toys, and other things at a fraction of what they cost new. We try to keep the lights and television off, but this does not always work.

We look in phone books, community magazines, and other sources to find activities the family can enjoy free. Many cities and towns have things to do that are very inexpensive or free.

But most of all, we scale down our expectations and try to think of the things we really need. We feel we really need a mother at home. When your children are older, they won't care what your house looked like, where you went on vacation, what toys they had, or what kind of car you drove. They will remember that you stayed home to be with them, and that you thought they were your most important investment.

Cathleen Kennedy
Acton CA USA

Response

I empathize with you. Last year, I was in the hospital for two months and we accumulated more than $200,000 in medical debt (after insurance). Here are some things that helped us.

Speak with your creditors. They may be willing to accept $10 a month from you while you dig out of debt. Most creditors would rather receive something than nothing. For entertainment, wait for the movie to come out on video. Save the car for emergencies and use public transportation, if available. If you talk and act like riding the bus is a grand adventure, your children will think it's fun too. Save money on children's clothes by shopping at yard sales and thrift stores.

For income ideas, how about pulling weeds or planting bulbs for that elderly neighbor down the street? My husband's stepmother bakes bread and goodies for a local bed and breakfast. I know a woman who designs and sets up store window displays. Another woman plays the piano for weddings and Christmas music in hotel lobbies during the holidays. Remember that this situation is temporary; in ten years no one but you will remember where you lived or what kind of car you drove.

Kami Crum
Reedley CA USA

Response

How about consolidating your bills so that you'll only have to deal with one payment? Interest rates in the US are currently low, so refinancing debt may be a way to save money. Another way to increase your income is to care for other people's children in your home. But if being a full-time caretaker isn't for you, how about walking kids to and from school every day, or even offering after-school care? (I was in desperate need of this when I was working.)

Are you the creative type? You might design family scrapbooks for other people whose time is limited. I have a couple of friends who earn extra income by sewing. One sews darling baby girl dresses and the other does alterations. Both work out of their homes. Many people love to buy homemade muffins first thing in the morning, especially if the muffins are delivered to their workplace. If you own a computer, you may be able to type up resumes for job seekers or term papers for college students. Or you could learn to design web pages or do Internet research. I recently learned that some spas in my community often hire substitute caregivers for their child care facilities. On top of earning a small salary, some will let you bring your kids along. Good luck!

Lily Dale
Fresno CA USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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