Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Should a spouse stay home with the kids?

Here's an article, "When parenthood pulls on the purse strings", which goes to extreme lengths to convince you that one parent should stay at home. Personally, I'm all for a stay at home parent in the first few years of life, but I'm not going to go out of my way to convince myself of the benefits that MSN would have you believe. Some of these are stretching it!

Child Care: $600 to over $1,000 per month for adequate day care or in-home child care takes a big chunk out of second paychecks.
True, but spouses can also work part time to cut this down. As well, if the spouse isn't making plenty more than $1,000 a month, he/she probably isn't in a great career or has much education anyway.
Wardrobe: Even in a "business/casual dress" office, you need work clothing and possible dry cleaning.
I have to ask: What did you wear to work before you had a baby? Did all your work clothes magically disappear? Clothes, properly cared for, last many, many years. Unless you were sitting at home doing nothing in before having the baby, this just isn't a factor.
Commuting: One spouse at home frees the other to take public transportation or use ride sharing, possibly requiring only one car between the two.
How, exactly? Couldn't both take public transportation to work, or ride share? If it's an option for one, why not the other? And what does "replacing a sporty car with a family car" have to do with a spouse staying home?
Food: Most couples can reduce dining out and, with good planning, cut take-out food bills as well. Furthermore, careful, coupon-laden grocery shopping might yield huge savings. Don't forget that one spouse will no longer eat out for lunch at work – nor grab premium coffees on the way. That change alone can up the savings by $5 to $25 a day.
Eating out for lunch everyday is just silly. Ever heard of a thermos and brown lunch bag? You know what I would save in food and coffee if I stopped working? $0. Eating out all the time and drinking $5 cups of coffee is a luxury, not a necessity that comes with a job. Did we forget that at some point?
Taxes: Second incomes usually push part of the joint incomes into a higher tax bracket."
Quite possible!

My wife and I both work and our house is always spotless. We clean up after ourselves and do heavy cleanings on the weekends. Having someone home all day makes more of a mess than working and having a kid at day care. The key is good organization and to always be cleaning. While you cook, the dishes get rinsed and put in the dishwasher, right after you cook, the counters get a quick wipe-down. Clothes go in the basket, things you take out get put away when you're done. I can imagine people who make a huge mess find weekend house cleaning to be a monumental task. There is a better way.
Home-Based Income: Through a combination of spousal help, part-time child care or nursery school, and older kids starting public school, many stay-at-home spouses start home-based jobs
Whoever wrote this doesn't have kids! Its nearly impossible to get a full days work done while tending to a kid at the same time.
Simple-Life Savings: If you use your family transition as an opportunity to overhaul your entire lifestyle, you might save a lot more through simple living, dollar-stretching and other philosophies that emphasize second-hand shopping, spending less on personal wants and choosing functional, energy-efficient housing over size, amenities and over-priced neighborhoods.
Uh, you should be doing this already.

This sums it all up:
Budget-Resistant Budgets: If you're already thrifty, your main savings items when dropping one income will be limited to child care and taxes.


Mike, Nicki, and Josh said...

I really enjoy this blog of yours - been lurking here for a couple weeks now.

My wife stays at home with our son and we wouldn't have it any other way... for now.

That being said, we're in a unique situation. We're currently on a multi-year overseas appointment set up by my employer, who pays our rent and utilities. My wife doesn't have a college degree, so it's unlikely of her (esp. overseas) to find a job with a salary that justifies the cost of childcare. And, my son is still a preschooler. Once he starts school, my wife would like to work towards getting a college degree. Then, we'll consider other alternatives if my wife no longer wants to be a stay-at-home mom.

I think the choice is more of a personal one than a financial one. Yes, finances should be considered, but there are also non-monitary benefits to both choices that have to get thrown into the equation, too.

Personally, I enjoy the challenge of being a one-income family. It drives us to think creatively about finances, planning, and living as simple of a lifestyle as possible.

Beyond the Consumer said...

Thanks for the comment! Absolutely I agree it is a personal decision.

Personally, my belief is that spouses should both be contributing equally to the household. If a kid needs all day care and the family can afford one income, great! If they are in school, the stay-at-home should certainly be doing something during that time. A part time job is a great idea and can be used for something like a 529 or Roth IRA if it really isn't needed.

Education, I think, would be even more valuable. Imagine if your wife educates herself while the child is at school, and by the time he/she is ready to be independent you now have 2 college educated professionals bringing in an income after having adapted so long to just one. Wow!