Sheila's Books
Click on the covers to read more or order autographed copies!

My Webrings

Crazy Hip Blog Mamas Members!



Medical Billing
Medical Billing

For ALL Your Graphic Needs

Dine Without Whine - A Family 

Friendly Weekly Menu Plan
How Much Does it Cost to Work?
A few of my friends are in this all too common situation.

The budget is really tight, and they think they better start working outside the home. Or, in some cases, their husband tells them they better start working!

For some, it's necessary. But before you take that plunge, have you really thought it through?

I think many people don't realize how much working actually costs. If you're making $15/hour, perhaps that job is worth it. But when you factor in all the costs, like a second car, work clothes, eating take out because you have less time to cook, let alone child care, that $15/hour can quickly become $4.50/hour. Then is it still worth it?

It may be, but perhaps it no longer is. Don't make any decisions until you really count the cost!

Today's podcast walks you through this basic financial conundrum, to better equip you to make an informed choice for your family. (UPDATE: Sorry, it's no longer available!)

My book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, dedicates a whole chapter to this question, with handy charts that can help you figure it out. You have a chance to win that tomorrow in our awesome blog relaunch party! Just fill out the entry form for your chance to win!

Labels: , ,


At 8:56 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

It often amuses me that upper middle class families who are rich even though they'd tell you they aren't, always think that families that don't make as much money "can't afford" for the wife to work. You calculate these costs based on your own cushy lifestyles instead of the real world. One lady I saw the other day honestly thought it cost $750 a year for a woman's work clothes and dry cleaning. Interesting to see that SHE could afford fancy clothes that need dry cleaning on her husband's salary. Mine are thrifted clothes that don't need dry cleaning and there is no way I spend $750 a year on clothes for my entire family.

So it really does get old that stay at home moms with enough money think that those of us who struggle somehow "can't afford" to work. We don't have the fancy things you do and so since we know how to live on much less, sometimes we can afford to work.

My husband has been considering wanting me to get a job, and, even with paying for a nanny for the kids, I could still bring home $600 a month just for us. That would be a huge deal. Right now we are sinking instead of swimming.

I really wish those of you that could afford nice things would quit trying to stick your noses into the lives of working moms or those that may need to go to work. It appears that you want us to keep living on nothing while you live fancy yourselves.


At 9:07 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


I'm not sure you listened to the podcast. I very clearly just listed all the costs, and I don't think I exaggerated them.

By the way, when my babies were young my husband was a resident, making a very small salary. But I stayed home. We lived in a small apartment, we bought everything second hand, we didn't have a car.

To do grocery shopping I walked half an hour with a stroller, and loaded the groceries under the stroller and tied the bags to the handles and walked back.

We didn't have cable. We didn't have new clothes. If we had to go somewhere, we took the bus or the subway. We didn't eat out. That was my life.

I'm really not sure why anyone would describe that as cushy. I didn't have a cushy lifestyle. But I was with my kids, and the cost of day care at the time would have been really high.

I think most people reading this blog would agree. They make sacrifices, and their lives aren't cushy either. People who stay home don't always do it because they can afford to; they do it because they don't feel that their family can afford for them not to. Do you see the difference?

I clearly said, as well, that for some women the income would be necessary, even with the costs reduced. In your case that's obviously true. But for others it's not. I think it's necessary to count the cost.

Don't you? Would you really suggest that people go to work without counting the cost? I really fail to see what's wrong with this.


At 9:29 AM , Blogger Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said…

I have done it many different ways- stayed at home, worked at a daycare so kids could come, worked full time outside the home when they went to school and have found by far, what I am doing now- writing and running a website from home is most cost efficient.
While I don't make near the salary I made working outside the home, we don't have near the expenses either and I have more time and energy to devote to managing the house hold frugally. JMHO.

And, by the way, we don't live fancy =D


At 9:42 AM , Anonymous Ann Dunagan said…

Hi Sheila!

I've been a stay-at-home mom all throughout our nearly-25 years of marriage. My husband is a missionary evangelist, and our income has always been very modest. God blesses us and meets our needs in crazy ways. For years, we lived way-below the poverty level (on paper) but God provided things for us in other ways, and often just by-passes the money part. My parents often joked that we lived "richer" than any "poor" people they had ever met. God provided for us to vacation in Hawaii several times (with FREE tickets and a free house and a free car - a whole week, including eating several times at restaurants, for $200!!!)

Our heart is not for stuff. Our heart is to do what God has called us to do. And God is amazing how He takes care of us. Even just this week, I was needing a pair of black slacks for an upcoming speaking engagement. It's often hard to find ones that fit just right, but I was kinda in a hurry. Instead of rushing into the store, I PRAYED specifically. "Lord, I could really use a pair of new black slacks for Alaska, but I just don't have time right now to get them. Could You speak to somebody my size, who's stylish, to give me some?" Five days later, my new sister-in-law came over with a HUGE box of clothes for me from her stylish sister who was cleaning out her closet! And guess what? About 25 items fit perfectly!!! - including a brand-new pair of black slacks EXACTLY my size!!!

When a woman stays home, no matter what her husband's income, she can brings her family to a more peaceful and blessed standard of living. And God can more than make up the difference!


At 9:58 AM , Blogger Sheri said…

I recently had to go back to work. We made some poor money decisions and are trying to fix them, in addition my FIL dying and my hospitalization hurt financially.

I'd rather be home with my children, I think they'd do better and so would I, but it's really not in the cards right now, not until some debt is paid down or

It does cost to work though, you are right about that! Some are physical costs (gas money, wear and tear on the car, clothes money) but there are also often times emotional costs. ( I am not saying there are always emotional costs, it just depends on the person, for our family there is an emotional cost).


At 10:36 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Melissa, Ann, and Sheri, you've all hit on something important: it's not always about what we make, but about what we spend (and how much we need/want).

I think that's the crux of the matter. Katy-Anne said that after day care she was pulling in $600 a month. That's a good place to start. So are there other ways to make $600 without working full-time? Melissa took kids in. Ann speaks. I think even a part-time job where there wouldn't be a need for a second car or day-care might do it.


At 11:11 AM , Blogger LAURA said…

You said "sometimes the way to get more money is to need less." That's exactly how we do it! (Along with some great advice from Dave Ramsey!)

I have two kids at home and if I went to work I know I wouldn't make enough to make it worth it. The daycare costs alone would eat up my paycheck. I figure if at the end of the year if I only make a couple thousand it isn't worth giving up all this time with my kids. Instead we put off vacations, fancy cars, big houses, and all those things that can come later in life.

It's not always easy to sacrifice "things and stuff" now... but I know as I grow older and look back I will know it was always worth it for our family.


At 11:21 AM , Blogger Cassandra Frear said…

I have seen some fascinating studies done on this topic,and I did the figuring myself, only to find that it's really true.

You only bring home half, and out of that half, extra expenses associated with working eat a sizable chunk.


At 12:28 PM , Blogger Amy said…

I stay home. Financially, things are bad. They'll get even worse at the beginning of the year. I have to find the money to make necessary repairs to our home, fix one of our vehicles (easily a $1200 issue), and I somehow need to save a few thousand for an overseas move.

My husband isn't home right now (he's deployed) but he spends money without a care. He's sneaky about it, too, but I check our bank account online and can see how much he spent and where. You should see the faces he makes when I confront him!

We had so many problems this time last year that one of our vehicles was nearly repossessed, we weren't able to buy anything for our baby girl (she was born Nov. 25), so my parents very generously bought what we needed (if not for them she wouldn't have had a car seat, even), and a few months later, even though I made some payments, a debt was put into collections and now I have to pay $200 more per month on that debt than I was before.

I get the blame because the bills are my responsibility. Never mind that I wasn't the one spending the money.

But? I stay home. I HAVE applied for jobs. Repeatedly. Six or seven at a time. I've been a SAHM for almost 7 years, though, and before that had little work experience. I do volunteer work but no one wants to hire someone whose only accomplishments and efforts have been in the area of birthin' babies. Heh. We desperately need extra money but, again, no one would hire me.

The cost though? Daycare for my sweet girl & travel would probably eat up any pay check I would get.

The cost emotionally is more rough. I have a special needs son who has regular appointments that would have to be worked around. He NEEDS these appointments. I can't just brush it off and hope he turns out ok. Worrying about him just eats away at me. Also, I'm not sure that leaving my baby girl and not being more available to my other two kids would be worth it. The thought makes my heart ache.

We're stuck. I try not to think about it or I can literally feel my heart racing.

I'm not sure that any of that is helpful to the discussion at hand.

Honestly, if I could find one that could offer me the opportunity to pay the outrageous daycare costs plus leave enough to help make a dent in our bills, plus allow me to take my son to his appointments without repercussions, then that might make it worthwhile. That, however, is extremely unlikely.


At 2:27 PM , Anonymous Ann Dunagan said…

One more thought:

One BIG thing that has helped me to spend less is to not go window shopping unless I actually need something in particular. I've found that it's way-easier to stay CONTENT and happy with what God has already given us, and to stay focused on making our house a home.

I know many families, of all different incomes, who established from the get-go that "mom" would stay home while their kids were young; with determination, I know that God can make it work. And He can also help moms to find God's PURPOSES even beyond the home (for me, it's included writing, speaking, and motivating families for missions).


At 6:52 PM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

Sheila, I understand that you didn't always have what you had now, but were you lecturing moms about not working back then? Probably not.

It's also insulting when people who don't know anything about people in our situation assume that I just want to work so that we can have money for vacations and stuff.

We only have ONE car now, and it's falling apart. We don't go on vacations, we don't go out to eat. We need money for real life things like, you know, GROCERIES. Funny thing is that people do actually have to eat, and you need money to eat.


At 7:03 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


First, I wouldn't say I was lecturing women not to work. I have a chapter about this in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and I sell an audio download of a talk I gave related to this subject called "Making Decisions Between Work and Family" here. In both the book and the talk what I say is that it is up to the family, and there's a lot of things that need to be weighed (including, obviously, GROCERIES! :) ). I just say that it's important to look at everything first, including income and what you actually need. And I end by saying that for some women, the $4 an hour, or whatever it is after you deduct for cost of working, may be worth it. For others it's not. I don't take a firm stand.

As for whether I was saying this before we're in the financial situation we're in now, you bet I was. The book was written when I was still living in Toronto in that small apartment! But even if it wasn't, does it make what I said untrue? If what I'm saying is right, it's right. If what I'm saying is wrong, it's wrong. It really doesn't matter what life situation I'm in at the time.

For the record, I never said that I thought you just wanted vacations and stuff. For most it's a big issue.

But again, let's look at it this way: if a full-time job, with day care, in the end nets you $600, then perhaps there's another way to earn that $600 that doesn't take as much time. For instance, if you work part-time, when your husband is home, you may only need to do 8-10 4-5 hour shifts as a waitress when your husband is home to make that same amount of money. No day care. No second car.

Or you may be able to work online at something, or watch people's kids after school.

It's hard to figure out another way to make $3000 a month, for instance, if that's what you'd make full time. Deduct the expenses and figure out what you'd actually make, and perhaps it's easier to come up with another alternative.

That's what I'm saying! I'm sorry I wasn't clearer earlier.


At 9:31 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

Hey Sheila,

Sorry, the comment about vacations and stuff wasn't directed at you, it was directed at the lady that said something about women only working so they can have nice vacations. Some of us need to work just to have groceries lol. My kids are allergic to several things and so I need to be more careful with shopping for them.

The cost can be hard to weigh sometimes. We have a girl who could be a nanny for us that we trust. We've already told her that if she agrees, we'll pay her $500 - $600 a month, depending on the hours I'd end up working. She doesn't make that now in her minimum wage job, and she loves my kids. I don't want to leave my kids during the day. We have tossed up also me working part time at night when my husband is home, of course, but then my husband and I would pretty much never see each other except for 30 minutes to an hour between our shifts and possibly 30 minutes at bed time if he waits up for me. Having the nanny, and working more to get the same amount of money would allow both of us time together, as well as time with our kids in the evenings and weekends, and seems like a much better deal for our family in the long run.

That's cool that you believed the same thing even when you weren't doing as well. I know a lot of women who worked when they were in a rough situation that now that they are doing well, they teach that other women shouldn't ever work, and if they do that it's just out of selfishness.

I really don't think putting groceries on the table that don't make my kids sick is selfishness.

I want to have a garden next year, and I want to preserve my own food, but we have to buy all the stuff for that. I have looked into other ways to make money, my husband is not keen on any of them. I wanted to sell Mary Kay or Pampered Chef and he said no that it was too risky because the kits cost $50 and $65 right now, and he isn't convinced I'll get my money back. It's difficult because I feel like he doesn't believe I have the ability to sell anything.

I have made a website to review products and stuff so that I can get some products for free that our family needs as well as helping out the company that makes them.

I already do stuff like using cloth diapers, and I want to make cloth menstrual products, but you need a working sewing machine for that and I haven't got one of those either. There are other things I am more than willing to cut back on but my husband says no because he thinks it's nasty. If I'm being asked to go get a job, I ought to have some say in what we cut back on or not. We hang dry our clothes on a clothesline, it's MUCH cheaper than using the dryer, and I only turn on the a/c when it gets to the very hot part of the day and only for an hour or two to get over the hot hump.

Anyway sorry if my previous comments seemed snarky. I was really upset about this whole situation yesterday.

Oh and by the way, this is "Mrs W", I just changed the name I use on my blog.


At 9:49 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

By the way, at heart I am a writer. I want to write and earn money from it. However, many people have wanted my articles for free, but did not want to pay for them. I didn't pursue writing like I could have or should have since my dad told me when I was little that writing didn't "make money" and that I needed to work a real job. But my heart is in writing, and it appears now that I can't even use it.


At 12:09 PM , Blogger LAURA said…

Oh no!! Katy-Anne... I am so sorry if I offended you with my comment! I came back to read through what others thought and when I saw yours I was like "Uh-oh I said something about vacations!" I understand that some people DO need to work to get groceries and that is OK! You do what you have to for YOUR family and don't let anyone tell you it is wrong!

I was just simply stating that for my family to make it work we have to give up a lot of "wants" right now. Some people put vacations in the "need" department. That's all. I apologize if it came out insensitive. I hope you can forgive me! I hate upsetting people. :(


At 12:17 PM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

It's ok, I was really cranky yesterday. My body is going through the hormonal shift of adjusting back from having a baby. My husband says I am cranky about everything right now.


At 12:17 PM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

If I do go to work, we are hoping that it won't be a long term thing, unless I enjoy it and WANT to.


At 12:25 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


Oh, wow, you are in a bit of a mess, aren't you?

Okay, there's enough women reading this thing that we have to be able to figure out something that you can do. I agree that you don't want to work shift work and then never have any time with your hubby (my brother and sister-in-law split up, largely because of that), but if it's only a few shifts a month, I think it might work.

As for making your living writing, that's something I'd like to do more training in. I make a comfortable living writing and speaking now, but I'll tell you that you make more money writing articles than you do writing books. The problem is that so many magazines are folding, and you're right: everybody does want you to write for free. But that doesn't mean you have to say yes!

So maybe that's a post for another day.

It may be that you just do have to work to pay the bills! Some people do, and if that's where you're at, do it. Don't feel guilty about it. Your family needs to be supported.

But what about the rest of you? How can someone make money from home when they really don't want to work? I agree that Mary Kay and some of those other companies don't always work well, and you end up out of the house pretty much as often as you would if you were a waitress or something. So how can we help Katy-Anne?

Maybe I'll make this a separate post next week, because this is something we really need to talk about!


At 12:34 PM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

I'll look forward to that post Sheila. I wanted to make cloth diapers and cloth menstrual products to sell, but my husband said he's not buying a machine right now especially as we don't know how skilled I'll actually be at sewing, etc. I have tried to come up with so many home business ideas. So far my husband doesn't like any of them.

We just have to get over this hurdle. As soon as we get out of debt (which we should be fully out of debt in six months at the most with what we know now) then things will be a lot easier and we'd be able to manage ok on the paycheck my husband has now. But until then, we still have to make more money.

I was considering trying to get a part time shift job over Christmas ONLY, and then taking the lay off when it came as that would be a pretty good solution and we are busy that time of year anyway and don't have quite as much time together so we are used to that would be the perfect time of year to do it, the time of year when we are used to doing it for two months before everything dies down.

Or, I could make and sell Christmas cards, except that would take money up front too and my husband is not too impressed about that.

Post a Comment
<< Home

About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

See my complete profile

Follow This Blog:

 Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Follow on Twitter:
Follow on Facebook:

Important Links
Previous Posts

Popular Archived Posts
Christian Blogs
Mom Blogs
Marriage/Intimacy Blogs
Blogs For Younger/Not Yet Married Readers
Housework Blogs
Cooking/Homemaking Blogs
Writing Links
Blog Design by Christi Gifford

Images from

Related Posts with Thumbnails