You Can Stay Home With Your Kids Book Review

You Can Stay Home With Your Kids Book Review
It might seem strange that I would want to talk a book about being a stay at home mom when my kids are 20, 18, and 15. But this is a subject that is close to my heart. (Disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you buy from them, at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I know and love.)

My Story

I got married three weeks before my 30th birthday. When I was expecting my first child two years later, I had logged ten years in my career as a Marketing Manager for a software company. We bought a house shortly after we got married, and with that mortgage, I didn’t think that we could afford for me to stop working. My husband and I made just about the same salary, so quitting my job would cut our income in half. I was lucky enough to negotiate going back part-time after my maternity leave, but the day I brought that baby girl home from the hospital, I resolved to figure out a way to stay home. I could not bear the thought of going back to work and leaving this baby girl. (No judgement toward those mothers that feel called to continue their career–it just wasn’t for me.)
New mom
Baby Chloe, just three days old.
While baby Chloe slept (which was not often, by the way!) I sat at the computer entering numbers into a spreadsheet, willing the budget to balance. And, I did end up creating quite an austere budget! The food budget was razor thin, and our entertainment/eating out budget was a mere $20 a month–basically enough for a takeout pizza. I presented this idea to my husband, and thankfully, he was on board. I almost viewed it as a game at first–looking for ways to save, and basically just not spend money. A book like You Can Stay Home With Your Kids would have come in very handy back then. I discovered many of the tips that Erin lays out in the book myself, over time, but a primer like this would have been a lifesaver! I’m so glad we mad the decision that we did, because what I didn’t know then was that four years later I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, after the birth of my third child. That experience continued to shape my perspective–that I didn’t want to miss anything.
Parenting with cancer
My 37th birthday

Staying Home With Older Kids

One of the reasons that I wanted to read this book is that, as my kids have gotten older, I’ve seen a trend with other stay-at-home moms, that they tend to gravitate back to the workforce when the kids get to middle school.
Parenting middle schoolers
The middle school years get expensive!
What nobody tells you is that kids get more and more expensive as they get older. Sports, dance, braces, clothes, other extra-curricular activities add up quickly, especially with multiple children. We paid over $2,000 last year for our two boys to do participate in the high school music program. Granted, they are in multiple ensembles, but it was a real case of sticker shock! When my oldest was in middle school, and I was still a full-time SAHM, she got braces at about the same time needed to replace our van. All of a sudden, those two new bills put our budget out of whack and had me pulling from our savings accounts each month, and I new something had to change. But I did not want to go back to work full-time. I feel like being home in those middle and high school years are some of the most important years to be around. Seeing the look on your middle schoolers face as they climb in the car at the end of the school day can tell you a lot about what is happening at school. And being home when my high schoolers walk in, and just knowing where they are and who they are with are very important to me.

Part-Time Work

I was lucky enough to go back to the company that I had worked for fourteen years prior and pick up some part-time marketing work (just 10-15 hours a week). I could work from home, during school hours.  I know that I was very lucky. Finding decent paying part-time work, when you have been out of the workforce for over a decade is a real challenge. Erin actually addresses this in the book–adding income by working from home. She comes up with some ideas that I had never thought of. I’ve had that part-time job for about six years now, and I’m happy to be able to contribute to the finances of our family and still be home for my kids. There will actually just be one child left at home with us next year, but I don’t want to miss these last three child-rearing years! As both my husband and I have made more money over the years, our standard of living has slipped up as well. It’s so easy to get used to the small luxuries. The every-few-months latte from Starbucks treat can so easily slip into a twice weekly occurrence. And how easy is it to go from seeing something online that would be handy, to having it on its way to your home, courtesy Amazon Prime, in just a matter of minutes?
Parenting Teens
And before you know it, they are off to college!
I thought it would be a great refresher to check out You Can Stay Home With Your Kids to remind myself of some money-saving tips that I have loosened up on over the years, as well as check out the section on adding income from home.

So Many Great Tips!

This book is packed with so many frugal, eco-friendly, and doable tips. It’s not just an austere plan for shrinking your budget, but rather, how to change your mindset and really thrive on less money–whether you are a stay at home mom, or a working mom, looking for a way to cut expenses and possibly work less. I had to smile at a few of the tips that are just our way of life now–I don’t think about the fact that they are money-saving or even good for the environment. For example: getting disposables out of your life. We are a firmly cloth napkin and cloth rag family. In fact, I keep our roll of paper towels in the cupboard to discourage use and write the date inside the tube to see how long it lasts. Erin has lots of great tips about keeping the costs down for:
  • Cooking
  • Kids entertainment
  • Kids birthday parties
  • Date nights
  • Grocery shopping
  • Household utilities
  • Making your own eco-friendly cleaners (recipes included!)
And that is really just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been inspired to create a budget and start tracking expenses. I know that I can tighten things up around here a bit and save a bit more for college, some home maintenance jobs that are beginning to stack up on this 30-year old home, and even retirement. A quote from Rhonda over at Down to Earth (a great simple living blog)  has stuck with me for many years. I will paraphrase here:

For every dollar you save, you keep a dollar. For every extra dollar you earn, you only keep about 75%. 

Because taxes. So basically, you get more out of your money by saving it than just trying to earn more.

Making Income From Home

But sometimes more income is what you need. Sometimes there is just not enough money to cover expenses, not matter how hard you try to cut back. One unique part of this book is that Erin includes a section on how to create more income from home. She has a lot of great ideas, many of which did not even exist ten or fifteen years ago (thank you internet). Being able to contribute to the finances, from home, on a flexible schedule might just be what makes this work for a lot of people. It’s what worked for us, and I’ll always be grateful for that. While I would have gotten a lot out of this book back 20 years ago, when I was first trying to make ends meet on a single income, I think it is a great resource for moms of older kids that are trying to keep that budget balanced when faced with the skyrocketing costs of  activities, braces, and (especially) college! I read the whole book in just two evenings and Erin includes several resources on her blog to complement the book–menu planning worksheet, freezer cooking cheat sheet, and a brainstorming your purpose cheat sheet, just to name a few. I’m inspired to get take a look at our spending and make sure that we are good role models for our kids, who look to us as an example of how to manage  money.
You Can Stay Home with Your Kids by Erin Odom Book Review