"If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing."-- Kingsley Amis, British novelist, 1971 t .
DH's income is well under the median income for our area. When I was working FT, I provided roughly 2/3 of our money. When DD was born, I RTW PT for about 1/2 of what I made and we were a little over. When my company was bought out, PT was no longer an option. I was offered a FT promotion and a raise, but it wouldn't have worked out for us, so I quit. We qualify for, but do not use government assistance programs, with the exception of our income tax returns.
Our mortgage is our only debt, and (mostly due to dumb luck) very affordable. We couldn't afford to buy another house, but we're happy with this one. No problem paying our utilities. I do clip coupons, and bargain hunt, but we've never been hungry, or had any trouble buying a variety of healthy foods.
Past that, we really have to watch what we spend, but we never actually do without. Everything we can't afford is either something we didn't do anyway, or something we found a low cost equivalent for.
I'm sure we can't afford extravagant vacations, but we didn't take them when we could afford them because DH is a homebody, and also afraid to fly. My grandma lives in Florida, and still flies me out year (would DH too if he would get on the plane) to visit her for my birthday gift, so that's vacation. But that was vacation before, too. Sometimes we put the tent up in the yard and roast marshmallows in the fire pit. Other times we make a tent out of the kitchen table, use the star thing I've had since I was a kid to put stars on the ceiling, and roast marshmallows on the gas stove.
Other entertainment, we check out what's free or cheap. We can't afford to get up and do whatever we feel like, but it doesn't feel like we're doing without since we have a lot of fun mostly doing things we'd do anyway. We spend a lot of time at the library, metroparks, or our children's museum, which is $2 for me on Monday, and free for DD. We check the paper--I never knew how many fun, local events there were for little to no cost. DD loves the zoo, so we bought a year long pass for $45. We go 2-3 times a week, plus most other zoos have reciprocal programs offering free or reduced admission. We get a free pool membership in exchange for me doing a week long class each summer to help the elderly learn the basics of computer use. Since I don't like to leave DD anyway, DH and I have a lot of at home date nights, playing board games, watching DVD's from the library, or playing old Nintendo games. DH loves to barbecue, and our favorite is breaking out a bottle of wine, and having an under the stars cook out after DD's gone to bed.
It probably wouldn't break us, but I'll say we can't afford cable. Still, getting rid of it went unnoticed since we didn't watch it anyway. Same with getting new clothes all the time. If I really, really need something DH makes it happen, but when I WOH, I bought several things a month--now maybe a couple times a year. That said, I hate clothes shopping, so it's a relief not to have to do it.
Then there's things I'm thankful we can no longer afford. Smoking and regularly drinking soda (DH used to drink about 10 cans a day!!) are the biggest. Can't afford my gym membership, but hey, our gas budget's gone down too, so DD and I walk to as many places as we reasonably can. Can't afford to eat out everyday like we used to, but we no longer need to and I'm sure this will be better for us in the long run. I never was a big fast food person, but DH used to eat it for lunch a few times a week, and it's good that he can't afford it now.
As far as savings, we still save. We get the big poor people income tax return and split it between our savings and DD's college fund. Since I'm not planning to got to work anytime soon, we can't just take the next 18 (+ if we have any other children) off from saving, so that money isn't even there.
We're also very lucky that what my husband doesn't get in his paycheck is made up for with some really nice benefits. Our health insurance, which is almost entirely paid by his employer is excellent. He also has enough life insurance through work that if anything tragic happened, as long as I was careful with the money, I'd be okay. I don't have life insurance, but I can be added for very little, and we plan to do that next time we can. If that stuff wasn't paid, we'd probably be struggling as I see those things as necessities. It's also nice that his job is very secure. He could probably find similar work for more money, but then we'd be paying for all the extras. Plus, he's comfortable and happy there.
So basically, no, we can't really afford very many extras, but we get lucky with some, and get creative with others. :)
Those studies scared the crap out of me during my pregnancy, and that was before I had even faintest desire to stay home.
Prior to DD's birth I made 2/3 of our income, and we didn't want children. Ever. She was a complete surprise. I figured I'd want to get back to work as soon as possible, maybe even before my paid maternity leave (4 weeks full, 2 weeks at 40%) ran out. After 12 weeks of maternity leave, I (unhappily) went back PT. After a few months, my company was bought by another company that required all employees work FT. I was offered a raise and promotion, but there was no way both of us working FT would have worked for us, and DH would have rather I SAH than him. The initial plan was for me to find a new PT job, but we realized everyone was happier with me SAH.
DD's first year did not cost anywhere near what the studies said it would. I was lucky in getting the costly items (crib, carseat, pump etc...) as gifts, and I honestly think the only things we spent money on in the first year were 3 or 4 boxes of disposable diapers for nighttime, wipes, a few special outfits (we got so many clothes, and she never out grows anything, so we didn't need much), a little extra laundry detergent, very little extra food (started table foods around 8 months, skipped baby food altogether), a little on fun activities, books, and toys here and there, and $5 copay for each doctor's appointment. I really think that's about it. I'd say altogether it was probably between $500 and $750 for her first year. Even if we'd had to buy all her clothes, crib, carseat, and such, I don't think it would have come close to the $10,000 I've heard.
ETA: Just for kicks, I ran what it would have cost if we paid for everything her first year--roughly $2,126. What we did pay for was about $695.
"IMO SAH is most about standards of living than anything. and that will always differ among individual families."
Makes sense to me. I'm solidly in the camp that each family should do what works for them. This works for us, and may also be part of why we don't feel like we're giving anything up. What good is a pricey vacation for two weeks every year if we're miserable the rest of the time, you know? On the other side, I have a friend who was miserable SAH during the first 6 months of her DS's life. What good are those extra 8 hours a day if wanting to be somewhere else makes her crabby and irritable?
Edited 10/28/2009 12:48 am ET by thegnomeofwrath
I guess my point was that we made changes or rather choices at different periods of our lives and it really didn't have to do with working status.
What about as the child(ren) grow?