By Marybeth Henry
So you're a new mom (or a mom to be or a mom-for-ages-and-ages) and you're starting to think about staying home. Can it be done? Can you stay home and still make it on one salary? Let's start by looking at the pros and cons of staying home and then move on to how to actually realize that goal.
There are actually many advantages to staying at home that working women don't realize. My husband and I have been able to save more money since I started staying home than we did when we were on two salaries. Here are some ways you'll be saving money:
1) no daycare costs. My salary would've gone almost entirely to daycare, so it was barely a break-even for us. However, even if you're making enough to cover daycare, this is one big expense you won't miss. Additionally, as a stay-at-home mom, I have met several other SAHMs, and we have a babysitting co-op. End result: free babysitting almost anytime I want/need it. So I'm not paying for full-day daycare or even part-time.
2) no more (or fewer) dry cleaning costs. Those great suits you wear to the office every day can become a thing of the past (although you might want to throw one on occasionally just to feel like an adult again) and, with it, the high dry cleaning fees.
3) no more paying for your lunch every day. While you and your little one may occasionally eat out together (or meet a friend for lunch), you won't have to spend $5 (or more) every day. My lunch usually consists of left-overs (keeps the fridge much more organized!), sandwiches, soups or salads. And let me tell you, a soup and salad I make is much cheaper than any soup and salad I bought at the deli!
4) reduced wear and tear on the car and less gas consumption (or fewer public transportation costs). I can now go almost an entire month on a tank of gas (okay, my little car gets great gas mileage), as opposed to filling up once a week when I was working. That's a full 75% reduction in cost!
In addition, I also made some concessions. Since I am at home, I make sure I take the time to peruse the circulars every Sunday to find the best deals (especially on groceries) and to cut coupons. I do all the cleaning myself (it's a bore, but someone has to do it). And we used cloth diapers (that I laundered) and washcloths (instead of wipes) to keep baby costs down. We made our own baby food and are blessed to have family and friends that keep us well-stocked in hand-me-downs, so our clothing costs are low. And I cook every night, and we eat a lot of casseroles to stretch our food budget (every Friday, I do a "restaurant night," where I cook a meal you might get at a restaurant (Italian, Chinese, etc.), but it's a lot cheaper when it's home-made). But I don't see these as sacrifices. They allowed me to stay home and play with my beautiful little girl from the day she was born.
Now, on to choosing your home-business. First, recognize that a home-business is WORK. It will take time before the money starts coming in. There will be ups and downs. If you don't love what you're doing, you won't stick with it.
The first thing to do is sit down and brainstorm every single business you COULD do from home. These will include your hobbies, your skills and even some things you don't necessarily find very appealing (like doing other people's laundry, for me -- but some people LOVE to do laundry and make good money at it). Check into local companies that might want to hire moms as telecommuters (data entry, word processing, desk-top publishing). Look at transcription (if you have the skills). Talk to other moms who already work from home and find out what they do. Scan your classified ads. Give yourself a minimum of a week to brainstorm (I took almost 9 months, from the time I first found out I was pregnant)
From that list, narrow it down to what you might LIKE to do (so drop the laundry!). Then sit down and take a good look at each of the businesses on your list. Start doing some research. Are there others in your area who already have the business you want, who might be able to help you (or is the area already saturated)? Can you find information on-line? Visit your local library and see what you can learn about the businesses you're interested in. Also be sure to check with both your county and state tax offices about any requirements -- zoning, licenses, tax forms, etc. -- you might have to fulfill.
Whatever you finally choose, network, network, network. Network with people in your town (start with your family and friends and work out), network on-line (there are a million great on-line communities for moms), network through your church, your Chamber of Commerce, your Small Business network. If you sell products, consider offering to do fund raisers for your local schools or your religious community. Donate products (or services) to charity auctions and raffles (and make sure your business card goes with each of your donations). Hold open houses (and offer door prizes, free food (nothing too expensive) and a prize to whoever brings the most guests), especially near holidays. Look into setting up (or having set up) a website (I suggest starting with a free website provider) and moving into some of the on-line malls (many offer you space for simply a commission on every sale, so you don't pay them if you don't make money).
Home-based businesses are the quickest growing sector in the business world today. There are so many opportunities out there -- you just need to find the one that's right for you. One last word: if at first you don't succeed, try again. Some of us try 3 or 4 businesses or jobs before we find the one that suits us. It's okay to jump around. The important thing is: are you enjoying your life? Do you feel better being able to be with your children at home? Are you comfortable where you are? Then I say, "GO FOR IT!!!"
Marybeth Henry is the Director of WAHMfest '99, dedicated to helping moms stay home by bringing them face-to-face with business opportunities and resources. Visit our site for more information on working from home and be sure to check out our Resource Library for helpful information. She is also the Editor of The Backyard Fence, a FREE weekly ezine for parents that offers money saving tips & recipes, and a place for parents to call their own.