In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the first significant decline in the number of new mothers in the labor force. If you, too, are thinking of not returning to work but aren’t sure if you and your partner can swing it on one salary, these 10 tips can help you make that dream a reality.
1>Do the math Take your net (after-tax) salary and subtract all work-related expenses. Those costs might include child care, commuting, dry cleaning, meals, manicures, birthday lunches for colleagues and other job-oriented upkeep. If there’s only a small amount left after all those costs, you may be able to afford to quit your job and stay home.
2>Take a trial run Simulate a one-salary income while you’re still working. This way, you can determine whether you can afford to stay home and also catch any potential glitches. Have your paycheck deposited directly into an account earmarked “baby’s future.” Then pay close attention to when cash goes in and out of your regular account. Does the arrival of bills correlate with the arrival of your spouse’s paycheck? If not, you might need to keep a little extra in your checking account at all times, and perhaps less in savings, to accommodate ebbs and flows.
3>Seek expert advice Have a financial planner help reevaluate your cash flow. “Learn to live on one income in advance of the baby by saving the second income in a secure investment that will provide a cushion in the future,” says Jeffrey Silverman, a certified financial planner and attorney in Huntington, N.Y. A professional also can set up a college fund and look into long- and short-term investment programs. Many planners offer free consultations.
4>Make lots of little changes Brew your decaf at home and you could save up to $20 a week. Buy generic items at the market. Scale down your cell-phone plan. Give up cable TV. Avoid take-out dinners. Even designate one spend-free day a week. Minor changes can add up quickly.
5>Make one radical change Sara Alai, a former English teacher in Long Valley, N.J., and her husband, Pete, cashed in thousands of dollars in stocks to buy their minivan outright. “The stocks were invisible to us,” Alai says. “But paying for our car with cash eliminated monthly car payments and maintained our monthly cash flow after I stopped teaching.” Other big changes to consider: Trade in your car for a less-expensive model, refinance or sell your home, cut up your credit cards, even temporarily move in with family.