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Plan to stay at home with the kids


Many couples start by trimming the basic fat out of their budgets, like deluxe cable and phone services or luxury spending on clothes and trinkets. Even getting into the habit of going to the library instead of spending money on books or video rentals can save cash.

"Often one of the easiest ways to trim costs is to cut back on food expenses," says Oleson. "When both members of a couple are working, they go out to lunch or dinner because they don't feel like cooking at the end of the day. Those entertainment and food costs can be enormous. Once people start to look at those habits, they realize they can save a ton of money just by cooking dinner."

Griffith found that she was able to cut her budget substantially without changing the quality of her life.

"We were used to spending money and going out as often as we wanted to," she says. "I didn't price-compare at the grocery store. We were spending $450 to $525 a month. Now we spend about $225 to $250 a month. I learned how to make pizza, started canning and making my own jelly and jams. I bake from scratch -- and anything I make, I make for more than one meal."

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Staying in touch with your career
Many stay-at-home parents do not want their work lives to end with the onset of mother or fatherhood. Working from home has become an increasingly viable option in recent years. Parents can also maintain or develop skills though civic and volunteer service to keep that resume brushed up.

People who've enjoyed a busy career and success in the workforce can find the transition to staying home all day, every day difficult.

"It's important for the non-working spouse to go to a conference now and then to keep current with the latest trends in his or her field. Or, even spend a night a week out with friends," says Oleson. "There is value in the stay-at-home spouse being able to maintain his or her identity. Some people feel they lose some of that just by being cooped up and not having contact with other adults."

Some people prefer taking a more disciplined approach to getting back to work. You may wish to set up a career timeline with firm goals that put you back on the working path in stages as your children grow up.

"You have to know what you want," says Jean Stafford, CEO of Executive Coaching for Women in Great Falls, Va.

"The first step is to write out a basic strategic plan -- goals about when you want to be working again. If you want to work from home, think about what service you have to offer and who the customer would be," suggests Stafford.

The workplace itself is changing, says Stafford, so if individuals run their careers as they would a company -- knowing their own value and who might benefit from their skills -- they will be better able to call the shots.

Loving the at-home life
Then there are those who, after being away from the workplace, don't miss the grind of the corporate world at all. Lancaster, who now feels satisfied in the business of raising children, admits that it wasn't instantaneous.

"It took a while for me to decompress," she admits. "I've used my time in some ways that would probably look good on a resume, but I haven't made it a focal point of my life to stay abreast of things that are happening in my former business world.

"It was definitely a growing process. I used to be in constant contact with people, but after a few months, you begin to separate your friends from your co-workers.

"I find that I now enjoy friendships much more than I did."

-- Updated: March 9, 2004
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See Also
Nurturing kids or career
From big business to the rugrat race
Living below your means
Frugal U. definitions
More Frugal U. stories

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