Stay Home With The Kids or Return To Work To Pay Off Debts?

The decision to return to work or stay at home with the children is a decision many couples have to face. It often comes down to if the couple can afford it or not. How do you make that decision, and is it worth it both in the the long and short-run?

I’m really happy to share Lisa’s story with you. Lisa and her husband recently had to make this difficult decision and they decided that ultimately they didn’t want their children to be left with their debts down the road. They’re doing what they need to do to eliminate their debt and have financial freedom for themselves and their children.

“We are very regular people. My husband is a plumber; I was a stay at home mom for almost seven years. We have 3 beautiful little boys ages 6, 4, and 2. Our house is fine, our cars are fine. Our children have everything they need and then some. We are fortunate. We also have no credit card debt. We can pay our bills easily with what my husband makes, and we even have a bit left over for my own retirement and for a little fun. However, we are $74,001 (not including our mortgage) in debt. Our debt is a combination of: a bad land purchase, my old college loans, and we’re still paying on one very average car.

After going over our finances we realized we were not living in our truth. We realized that our debt was going to follow us until we well into our 40’s and most likely beyond. We always had the goal of wanting to retire at 55. There was no way this would or could be possible if we still had debt hovering over us for the next 20-30 years!? We decided it was time to take action.

Our first step was to work on a spending diet. We stopped do a few things, but in all honesty we are not extravagant. I don’t get my nails done ever, I get a haircut four times a year, and we very rarely go out. My husband fixes everything himself, and he doesn’t meet up with friends at the bar. For us, our biggest frill is cable TV.

image by gep

Next I/we had to make the biggest decision in our spending diet. We decided that it was time for me to go back to work. It was not an easy decision to make, and I have been miserable at times. Often I long for the times when I was able to be with my children day in and day out. Sometimes I feel as if I am missing something I will never get back. And sometimes I resent my job (which is fine) for reasons unrelated to the work itself. I can’t begin to tell you the guilt felt with making this decision and with the guilt I still feel.

After I received my first month’s pay, and after we paid for child care and taxes, we only had about $570 left, and it went straight to paying off our debt. My paychecks continue to go to paying off of debts and because of the decision to go back to work we’ve been able to pay an extra $1000+ to our debts. It feels really good to be paying off the debt! If we continue to put my paycheck to our debt every month we will be able to pay off $28,000 in 13 months!

The decision to go back to work was not an easy one, and I do not know yet if I/we made the right decision or not. As hard as it is to be away from my boys we are going to keep on paying off our debt. We’re putting ourselves in a position to succeed in our goal of eliminating our debts because is very important and it’s something we care deeply about.

We also keep reminding ourselves that the best gift we can ever give our children is being able to take care of ourselves in our retirement, so they don’t have to.”

Thank you Lisa!

Have you had to make the decision to stay home with the kids or go back to work? What factors did you consider to ultimately make your decision? Was it worth it to go to work to pay off the debt or not? Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Would you like to be considered as a contributing writer on a topic related to personal finance? Send me an email with you post idea to: (Please know credit or lending companies will not be considered. Only real people with real experiences will be considered.)

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!


12 thoughts on “Stay Home With The Kids or Return To Work To Pay Off Debts?

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  1. Kaleigh

    I've just gone back to work after two months of maternity leave. I think that we could have managed on my husbands modestly decent income if I wanted to stay at home or only go back part time. The factors that we thought about though were that we would have hardly any extra income to have nice dinners every once in a while or be able to start attacking the big medical bills that we've recently acquired. Maternity leave has left us with little savings so we want to start re-building that and we also want to start saving for the little ones' future.

  2. cynfuldove

    So… 540 extra a month? why not just get a part time job when the husband is gone. Let him take care of the kids either on weekends or evenings with a back up plan for when he works late. Everyone wins.

  3. Lisa

    Actually, my son was really sick that first month and my other son broke his arm and needed surgery (when I wrote the article) so I hadn't worked very much. Generally it is right around 800-1000 per month after taxes and childcare. Since January we have paid off (with the spending fast and job) over $12,000!!! As I said in the article, I am not sure if I made the right decision, but I figured I would give it a six month trial and see how it goes.

  4. Catherine

    I’m struggling with this right now, sort of…I’m on mat leave right now and although me staying home after it’s done is NOT an option- with our current debt we cannot afford to live on hubby’s income alone, but I’m trying to decide to stay home with kiddo one day/week or work the full M-F….The extra money for debt is tempting but when I do work I will basically not see our daughter all day so that extra day home with her will be important I think…torn between two responsibilities!

  5. Liz

    I am interesting in how much your husband makes a year (on average)? I am a say at home mom and am thinking of a similar arragnement…

  6. veronica

    I wish all of us mommies could be stay at home mommies. That is my goal in getting out of debt. I want a better life for my family. I really don’t mind living modestly as long as my baby is happy and we can provide all that she needs.

  7. Michele

    I am in the same boat. I am thinking of finding an office job to help pay more of our bills. I currently am substitute teaching but it is just not enough. That being said, I enjoy that subbing allows me to be home when the kids are out of school, which is very important to me. If we didn’t have so much debt, this would be something I could do for a few more years…

  8. Arianna

    I went on a Google search and your story popped up. I’ve been a SAHM for just two years. We have a 2 yr old and 5 month old. We recently bought a house and with our budget we’re doing “fine” and even set to pay off our mortgage 8 years early! We have no other debt. But I got this crazy idea that if we paid an extra 3-4K a month our $240K mortgage could be PAID in 5-6 years! Imagine, debt free by 30! So I’m in the process of getting some credentials behind my RN and I hope to be working from home as a medical coder this time next year! It’s so inspiring to hear other’s stories of getting rid of debt!

  9. Kellee

    I wish it were that easy for us… we have $150K in debt, both drive really inexpensive cars (less than $5k each), and have pretty much nothing to sell. Hubs has been working a second job for years. It feels like we will never be free.

    1. Anna Newell Jones

      Hi Kellee. Thank you for sharing your experience. Finances can make life very difficult sometimes. Please don’t think that the situation is going to last forever. Small steps in the right direction add up in time.
      You have already found this blog as a resource, PLUS you are already thinking about what can and cannot work for you. That insight is very important. Are you part of our community on Facebook? Here you’ll find MORE tips and you can even share your questions and concerns and find support:

      Have a great New Year. Lots of LOVE,


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