Parents: Making Working (Outside the Home) Worth It – 7 Ways to Do it!

working outside the home

Let’s talk about motherhood, money, and work. For a lot of mamas, working outside the home is less a choice and more about financial necessity. And yet, sometimes you can’t turn around without seeing a headline proclaiming how a mother’s career just isn’t worth the expense when you put it all down on paper.

To summarize the majority of these articles: “If you’d only look at how much having a career really costs in morning lattes, designer shoes, hired help, and restaurant lunches, you’d see that you, too, can stay home with your children!”

It’s an alluring idea! After all, if it’s going to cost more to work than you’re earning, there’s really no point in even considering a career. Except that in many cases, it’s also false. Working doesn’t automatically lead to extra spending outside of childcare expenses, and even there you can spend smart.

Let’s assume that no one here is battling a latte addiction and let’s talk about seven ways you can make sure working outside the home is worth it, where money is concerned.

For Moms: Making Working (Outside the Home) Worth It – 7 Ways to Do it!…

1. Get your W-4 in order

People might suggest that working isn’t worth it because you’ll jump to a higher tax bracket, but that’s like suggesting you shouldn’t pay off your mortgage because you’ll lose the mortgage interest deduction. You might be in a higher bracket, but you won’t lose your entire salary to Uncle Sam. Make sure you’re claiming all you can as a working parent. Childcare and commuting expenses, yes. Work clothes, no.

2. Don’t let little expenses add up

Trips to the vending machine are one thing – the office betting pool, weekly happy hour, and monthly employee-funded birthday parties are another.

3. Get creative with your lunch-time networking

Brown bagging saves money, sure, but you may miss out on valuable team bonding when you’re eating alone in the break room. Look, pack a lunch most days, but think up creative ways to get that precious lunch hour face time with your co-workers. A couple ways to make it budget-friendly: suggest that the e whole department participate in a weekly potluck and make it competitive, or petition HR for a weekly pizza day.

4. Put together work outfits from separates

Something to wear is a must but a shopping trip probably isn’t. Can you put together work outfits using separates you already have? If you do need to buy work clothes, think about thrifting, and focus on classic cuts in solids. Black is always stylish, accessories can go a long way toward augmenting a wardrobe, and never buy dry clean only pieces.

christa terry

5. Prioritize and share chores at home

Frankly, the assertion that two professional parents (or even one) can’t handle putting a meal on the table or scrubbing a toilet is insulting to anyone who can’t afford a house cleaner or convenience foods! It may take awhile to achieve work-life balance, but you don’t have to eat frozen dinners in the meantime.

6. Use mass transit

Do you really need a second car? If you do live and work near a subway, commuter rail, or bus route, consider taking mass transit instead of driving. How about walking or biking? Ridesharing? Bonus points if you can ditch your wheels entirely. Extra bonus points if you can convince your boss to let you telecommute!

7. Alternate childcare arrangements

The biggie, of course, is childcare. Some parents are lucky enough to have access to free or low-cost on-site daycare, but the rest of us we have to figure it out ourselves. This is one area where I don’t recommend skimping! But do consider alternate childcare arrangements like nanny sharing, asking a relative to help out, or integrated preschool programs (which are often free).

Why work? Pick a reason! No more financial stress or maybe you simply love your career. A job can mean money for extras like ballet class. Or you might want to show your kids that moms can do anything! Working outside the home may not be the right choice for every mother and every family, but for those who have to work or just want to, a job really can mean saving money… not just spending it.

 

What do you think? Do you have any tips, insights, or pointers on making working outside the home work? Is it worth it to you?

 

Christa Terry is an editor and author who blogs at I Know How Is Babby Formed when she’s not writing for ‘the man’. Her next big thing, Mom Meet Mom, will launch later this year.

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14 comments


14 thoughts on “Parents: Making Working (Outside the Home) Worth It – 7 Ways to Do it!

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  1. The Norwegian Girl

    I`ll be saving this post for the future. My “sister-in-law” is expecting a baby this summer, so this might be a good post to share with her when the day comes when she has to go back to work!

    Reply
  2. Ida

    Hi! When I found your blog I read through the whole thing in three days, fascinating reading I must say.

    However, when I read this post I got very curious about how the parenting thing works in the US (as I’m a Swede myself). Is only the mom staying home with the kid(s), never the dad? Is the mother usually staying home until the child is grown up or only the first year or so and then goes back to work? I got the impression that it is a choice the mother has to make to either work or be a mom and, well, it sounds sad in a way.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    Reply
  3. Samantha

    In the US, you get up to three months off from work as the law requires that en employer save your position for up to 12 weeks and after that you have no promise of a job to return to. For many people some of that isn’t paid leave (paid leave is usually and earned benefit), so they often have to take off less time in order to pay for everyday expenses. OR you end up quitting a job all together because the benefit of working is completely outweighed by the cost of childcare (about $1500-$2000 each month here in Denver, and that for a full week of infant care) and everything else that comes with a full time workload and full-time family.

    Also it isn’t always the mother who will stay home with the children. Many fathers are the stay-at-home parents if there is a stay-at-home parent. I think up until the last decade or so, having a father stay home with children was far less common. These days, not so much.

    In my personal situation, I was the one working, and my husband was finishing up school when our child was born. For the first year we didn’t need childcare and it worked out very well. Now we both work, but I have a different job that is scheduled for weekends and evenings, and my husband has traditional Monday-Friday hours. This requires us to only pay for 2-3 days of childcare a week and thankfully it does get progressively less expensive as they get older.

    Reply
    1. Ida

      Thank you for your explanation, it is very interesting to get an insight into how it works in other countries than your own. And I can fully understand that it might feel waisted to work full time and then spend most of the money on child care in order to be able to be at work, I never understood child care was that expensive… I hope I didn’t come of as judging in my previous post, I am just interested!

      Reply
  4. Desi

    Very good post. In our case, me (or my husband) not working isn’t an option right now. We both negotiated alternate schedules/some telecommuting arrangements with our employers so that we are only paying for childcare 3 days a week instead of 5 (it allows us to get higher quality childcare for those 3 days at about the same rate – having a nanny means the baby doesn’t get sick as much which saves in lost work time and in Dr. bills). We did, after really trying hard to avoid it, need to buy a second car, but we went with a cheap but dependable and fuel efficient car we could pay cash for.

    One thing you forgot to mention is to check to see if your employer offers a childcare expense FSA, which allows you to put up to $5000 in an FSA pre-tax that you can use to reimburse for childcare expenses.

    And most importantly, my employer has free coffee!

    Reply
      1. Desi

        Hi Anna – A dependent care FSA (Flexible Spending Account) is a special type of benefit some employers offer. Its like a healthcare Flex Spending Account where you can deposit tax-dollars pre-tax into this account and use for the defined purpose (in this case, reimbursing for childcare). It allows you to save money by reducing your taxable income on the year. If you deposit the maximum of $5000 into the account, that lowers your taxable income by that much money.

        Reply
  5. susan

    I’ve been a stay at home mom for 12 years and something to consider for moms who stay at home for a few years, when you finally re-enter the workforce, many times you’re starting over in an entry level position. On the other hand my friends who went back to work have earned raises, bonuses and climbed the corporate ladder to new positions with higher pay. Although I do not regret my decision, it’s one of the things I didn’t think about when considering being a stay at home mom. If working part time or from home is an option, I think this can be a way to have a bit of both worlds.

    Reply
  6. Amanda

    It was fun reading this article and hearing your perspective. I am a stay at home mom pretty much. For me personally it definitely would not be financially worth it if I were to work but I understand that for some it is. I like #2 and #7 on your list. I think it is important to realize how much money you are spending vs how much you are making and make it count if you are going to work outside the home!

    Reply
  7. Jill Williams

    Hi Anna and Christa,

    Thanks for posting this! (I’m a little behind, and catching up on posts…) I want to give a shout out to the stay-home-dad option…we’ve been doing it in our family for 11 years and it’s PERFECT! Your article inspired me to write a similar post on my own financial fasting blog–check it out!

    Reply

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