|Photo by bridgetroll|
Finding Your Way Home by Lucynda Koesters is the most complete book I own on figuring out how you can stay home with your child, and I bought every book I could find on the subject. Many are good, but this is the best.
Part I includes 10 compelling reasons, in full chapter detail, on why someone would want to stay home. She discusses the needs of infants, toddlers, grade schoolers & teens. She discusses mental and physcial health, your marriage, family life, and having no regrets.
Part II discusses your options, your finances (which is excellent), contingency plans, your new life, the Porch Swing Test, and even creating an action plan (very useful).
Part III discusses how to be successful at home. Daily schedules, managing your children and your house, staying motivated, creating a safe haven, weekly routines, and being at home. There is also an addendum for single parents and how they can come home too!
I came across an e-mail I had written to the author in early 2005 after reading an article she had written in Stretcher.com. I was only 8 weeks pregnant and making more than double what my husband made, because he wasn’t working full-time.
I wrote that we were spending $900 in groceries and another $300 eating out. Today my budget is $600 for groceries and $20 for pizza. I use the envelope method, so there is no fudging. But when we spend less than the budget, we can either buy something fun or go somewhere fun. When I have to, I can get the grocery budget down to $300 for the month.
|S. Branch notebk|
I mentioned the waste of food and not shopping frugally. She was very encouraging about how to get started, and suggested the price book. I simply typed up my grocery receipts with the amount paid, sorted it alphabetically, taped it inside a small hard-backed notebook in my purse, and began comparing prices to it. Over time I was able to determine the cheapest price paid at what store. For example, I had the big box of Fishy crackers listed as $X.xx from Ralphs, and then when I went to Target and saw the same box for $Y.yy I was easily able to compare which was the better deal. I noted the stores side-by-side in my notebook. Once this was established I then was able to make a master shopping list for each of my favorite stores on what items to buy.
Yes, it took a little bit of time to type the list (15 min?), cut and glue it into my notebook (2 min), and when at the stores compare and write down the different price. Was my time worth it? Of course it was! This is completely do-able. I also have my lightweight coupon carrier with me at all times. Since I’m only using coupons for things I really need, I don’t have a huge coupon binder. I put the coupons I think I'm going to use in my money envelope (so I don't forget to use them) but keep the rest in my purse in case I come across a great deal that will be even better with a coupon I hadn't yet planned to use.
I do my main monthly grocery shopping (see my top grocery tips) at three stores which carry the majority of our staples, rarely going off list. I’m fortunate that I live in an area where all grocery stores are within a few blocks of each other. I circle the best deals from the flyers and pop in for just those items. I do not overdo it, going to six stores in one day or one week. No, I have my top 3 stores that I visit once a month, and then the next three weeks, based on the sales fliers, I choose which store to visit for their deals.
This system has developed over time, and I do this shopping while I’m in the area running another errand.
Mrs. Koesters’ e-mail back to me was very encouraging: “I think you and your husband can make this work simply because you both have the same goal which is to have a stay-at-home mom for the baby. Keep this very important goal in mind as you work through the process of transitioning to one income. A key to your success is compromise. You both must be willing to compromise and negotiate in order to reach your goal. He is willing to be frugal and use coupons; you are willing to plan the meals he likes and do the shopping.”
I also followed her advice to set a weekly (monthly) budget for food and I estimate each item’s cost so I know an approximate total before checking out. I watch prices closely as I go through the store and consider substitutes or not getting something that week.
Being motivated, continually revising your budget until you can live on one salary, and strategic grocery shopping can go a long way to helping you find YOUR way home.