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 being a working mom 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 not exactly the truth. Working doesn’t automatically lead to extra spending outside of childcare expenses, and even there you can spend smart.
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 mom. 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. Just say no if these kinds of things are not in your budget.
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. Pack a lunch most days, but think up creative ways to get that precious lunch hour face time with your coworkers. A couple ways to make it budget-friendly: suggest that the 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 every season 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. You have kids, remember?
5. Prioritize and share chores at home
Frankly, the assertion that two professional parents (or even one single working mom) can’t handle putting a meal on the table or scrubbing a toilet is insulting to the vast majority of working moms who can’t afford a house cleaner or convenience foods! It may take a while 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 working moms are lucky enough to have access to free or low-cost on-site daycare, but the rest of us 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 be a working mom? Pick a reason! No more financial stress or maybe you simply love your career. A job can mean money for extras like ballet class. Fully funding your retirement account. 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.
This article originally appeared on http://andthenwesaved.com.