When I first became a stay-at-home mom (or homemaker, as I later started to refer to myself), I felt this intense need to find ways to make money from home. As though it somehow validated my decision to be at home with my kids - because we all know that earning a paycheque is the only TRUE value we have, right? :) (I hope you picked up on the sarcasm there!!!)
Well after trying just about everything - various home party plan-type companies, babysitting, sewing, teaching bagpipes (yes, you read that right!), and doing some freelance work for the university (I've done transcription for various studies, research work, and I am currently tutoring students through the disability centre), I decided to turn my focus from earning money to saving money. I realized that my income was almost completely negated by the tax disadvantage of having both spouses working anyway. Also, any time I was spending earning money, I wasn't spending saving money. For instance, I'd be frazzled and tired, and end up ordering in pizza. Or things would get disorganized around my home, which ultimately costs money. So I decided that until I had plugged all of our financial leaks, attempting to make money was really a waste of my time, since it was going out almost as quickly as it was coming in. Also, I consider my time to be very valuable - and if I only had a couple of hours a day to focus on earning money, I wanted to make sure it was worth my while!
I didn't really equate "saving money" with "earning money" until I took a good hard look at our budget, and realized all the areas we were wasting money. A little drib here, a little drab there, and we were leaking money like a seive. I realized there were SO many opportunities to save money while being at home, that it actually left very little time for earning money!
Some of our financial leaks included:
- buying disposables
- wasting food
- wasting energy (both heat and electricity)
- bank fees
- lack of organization (it still amazes me how much money we waste when we're disorganized!)
- clothing - most of which can be repaired or altered, or sewn, rather than buying
- not checking receipts while still at the store - more often than not, there are errors on my recipts
- buying pre-packaged food
I generally evaluate our budget on a weekly basis (sometimes more frequently!), and try to cut back wherever we can. It's not so that we can completely deprive ourselves - it's so that we can direct our money to the areas of our lives that are important to us. For instance, having a sense of security is very important to us - more important than say, entertainment, or eating out. So I'd rather direct money to our emergency fund than waste it on those things. I also like to travel home to visit my family once a year, so the more money we can free up from our various other categories, the more we can direct to the "travel" fund.
One of the biggest financial leaks we had was interest payments! Between our mortgage and our other debts, we were spending several hundred dollars a month on interest payments alone. So paying down our debt is a huge priority for us. One thing I've done to save money in this area is to apply for various low-intorductory rate credit card offers. Each time one expires, I move the debt to another one, so that we are not throwing our money down the toilet when we make those debt payments - we are actually paying down the principal! We currently have a card that is 0% interest for one year, with no fees. So just by transferring some debt to the 0% card (which took all of about 20 minutes), we saved about $100.00 per month in interest. My 20 minutes of time translated to earning $300.00 per hour! There's no way I could have brought in that much money by going out and trying to earn it.
I am not totally opposed to earning money from home - and once I get my coursework finished up, I will once again be on the lookout for some opportunities to bring in income - so that we can knock out some more of that debt! My point, though, is that it's even MORE valuable to plug your financial leaks FIRST (okay, I'm shouting again), and that way when you DO bring money in, it is that much more valuable, and goes much, much further.