Should I Pursue My Dream Job or Not?

Today we have two questions from two readers, but they’re along the same lines.

First, Faye asks,

I am immigrating to the US soon, and I am contemplating on going to part-time law school at a not so reputable law school while I also work full time.

Is it worth it? It has always been my dream to become a lawyer.
I am working out ways not to pay my law school tuition, books, and
miscellaneous needs for studying like bar prep so that I will not accumulate debt. Plus, I’m already frugal.

Is it worth going after your dream with the possibility of getting a job at a legal aid office or prosecutor/public defender office? I am not after the money when I become a lawyer really.

What are your suggestions?

Then Jessica asks,

I work full time as an epidemiologist at my state health department. Last year, my husband lost his job and he was out of work for 6 months. We did okay because we’re frugal and live below our means. He started a job in March, also with the state, and he enjoys it so far. However, due to budget cuts, my job was
changed. I no longer have any interest or passion for what I do. We have a 19 month old daughter, and it pains me every day to leave her at daycare.

We do want more children. I’m breastfeeding (very, very frugal!), and my fertility hasn’t returned yet (think of what I’m saving on tampons, Midol, chocolate cravings!), so it will be a good year probably until we’d be having another baby. So anyway, I earn more than my husband does- and I have, for the past 5 years. We’re 29 years old, and we own a home (well, we have a mortgage). We do not have any other debt. This summer we’ll be paying cash for a “new” used car.

Okay, I really do have a question coming up here! See, I really want to be a stay at home mom. Yes I have a masters degree and am a professional in my job. But I hate it. It is stressing me out. I would love to walk out the door right now. We’re aggressively saving money and we live well below our means. How can I convince my husband that we could, indeed live on his income of roughly $50,000 a year after we have a second baby?

The issue at the heart of both of these questions is the same. Is it worth it to go after a dream, when there’s not a big (or any) financial payoff? And if it is, how do you get your spouse on board?

I believe in following your dreams, as long as it’s the responsible thing to do.

To Faye I would say, it sounds like you have a good plan. I think if you can go after your dream without accumulating debt, and you are willing to live on a lower than average income, go for it! Just be aware that some of the pitfalls of having a lower income are possibly not being able to afford a home or other nice things you may want.

Since you’re already frugal, I don’t think you’ll have a problem with this. Best wishes with your chosen career path.

Jessica’s situation is more complicated, because there is a spouse involved. I obviously believe it’s worth it to be a stay at home mom, even when your household income is under $50,000, because I’ve been doing it for over 10 years.

Jessica, I can’t guarantee that your husband will ever be on board, but there are some things you can do to make him feel better about what you want to do. First, sit down with him and have a frank talk about your hopes and dreams. Tell him why you want to be a stay at home mom.

Then ask him if he’d agree to a trial run. No, I don’t think you should quit your job right away. You say it’s going to be another year or so before you have another baby. Try to live on his salary until then. Use your salary to pay for things like daycare and other expenses you won’t have if you’re a stay at home mom. But for everything else, use his income.

With the rest of your income, you can build up a good emergency fund, sock away a nice retirement plan, start planning for your children’s educations, or even pay off your mortgage early. Since you have no debt other than your mortgage, you’re in a good position to be a stay at home mom, if you can come to an agreement.

By taking a trial run at living on your husband’s salary, you can see if you’re both willing to make the sacrifices necessary to give up your income. If your husband doesn’t come around, perhaps you could negotiate to take a job that will let you be at home more than you are now.

Marriage is full of give and take, and if you’re open and honest with your spouse, hopefully you’ll be able to work out a solution you can both live with.

Best wishes to both of you!

And now I’ll turn it over to the readers. What do you think? Should Faye pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer? Do you have suggestions for what Jessica could do to make her dream of being a stay at home mom a reality? I’d love to hear your ideas!


By , on Jun 20, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Faye:

    Sorry it took me awhile to reply. I’ve been a little busy.

    Lynnae, thanks for answering my question. :) Over the week, I have been contemplating my situation on law school. I would really love to be a lawyer, but I have to make sure that it is the right decision for me. I have been and will still be praying for it.

    When I immigrate, my situation would be like this: I’ll be working as a registered nurse at a rehabilitation center. I’ll work a minimum of 36 hours, but I think to break it even for bills and other needs, I’ll have to work 40 hours. I think I can volunteer at least one day per week at the local legal aid so that I can show possible legal aid/government employers that I am dedicated to public interest law.

    Marci, I’m already going through online paralegal school, and I’m 3/4 done. :) Which is a relief. Going through a Master’s degree and online classes is tough! My parents have encouraged to get the NALA certification.

    As for the law school situation, I’ll probably have a hard time going to an accredited school. At the town where I’m living, there’s an accredited school, but they only take in full-time students. I don’t think I can do that. I’ll have to pray about the situation more.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving notice to this question of mine.

  2. Lynnae:

    Thanks for all the great advice! I knew you all would come through!

    And all the comment links are fixed, I do believe. Hopefully. Maybe… :)

  3. Marci:

    Pamela – the frugallife worked. The twitter didn’t. Thanks tho – the frugal link works a-ok.

  4. Yvonne:

    I’m a stay at home mom…have been for twelve years. We successfully live on one income and it’s FAR below $50,000.00 a year. (Emphasis on far below) Being at home full time with my children has been the single best investment we have made. We’ve had to sacrifice lots…but it’s been worth it. I don’t regret it at all. I DO regret all the years I worked while my children were being cared for by someone else.

  5. Marci:

    Pamela – your blog link wouldn’t work for me… and the one at thriftyfun looks great! Thanks.

  6. Marci – nice to get feedback on the quality of my links! I AM on, tho – have to check that out. Thnx

  7. Rob in Madrid:

    what about you working and your husband staying home? Have quite a few friends do that, I also was a house husband (no kids) for five years and now work partime. just a thought

  8. The link doesn’t work? Arg – Go to and look for Pam’s Pennypinching With Style – it IS there – or go to – I report new blog posts there – Glad you like thriftyfun. I know the Tightwad Gazette – but I like this better!

  9. The way I understand it is that you CAN go to a lesser law school (there are lots in California) but it’s harder to pass the Bar exam – Apparently, the Bar Exam in California is hard because access to law schools is easier – so they figure it evens out. Do check the graduation rate and so on!

    Also for aspiring Stay At Home Moms – besides Lynnae – I recommend
    I have my thrifty blog parked there at
    And I am writing a book on stylish pennypinching with tips and thoughts. Keep you all posted on its publication!

  10. Marci:

    Any chance of a Job-share? Like 2 days a week? or flex hours? or any work at home from present job? Seems the best of both worlds that way. Plenty of stay at home time, but keeping your shoe in the door in case hubby’s low seniority becomes an issue?

    In my opinion, time is more precious than money – and time with kids is fleeting. Hope you can work it out.

  11. Granny Annie:

    On the school situation – be sure the not-so-hot law school is at least fairly good. It would NOT be frugal to spend money to go to school, then not pass the bar exam. If possible, work in a law office. Certain parts of the law will become familiar, which will enhance learning! Additionally, your boss will become a wonderful resource. Remember to network as you go!

    Regarding the SAHM situation- I wanted very badly to be a SAHM my entire life. My husband at that time wanted “the finer things” in life. My desires were essentially discounted. We had beautiful houses, nice furniture, and autos that were new and shiny. We ate out several times a week, and went to Disney several times a year. But our home was also filled with fatigue, irritability, and growing resentment. There was disharmony with one person getting needs met but not the others (note the plural). The marriage itself did not survive. All of those beautiful THINGS were left split on a piece of paper, along with visitation rights.
    Now my current husband and I live on 1 income. We are frugal with spending and saving. We have used cars and our clothes wear out. However, we have mutual respect and needs get met. We spend several hours a week with our grandchildren and children and birthday parties RULE!
    I’m not about to tell anyone whether they can afford to stay home. I don’t live in your shoes. I can tell you, however, that more than money must be considered. If you want to stay home very badly, THAT IS IMPORTANT.

  12. Michelle H:

    Hi Everyone!
    Great post and comments.
    My comment is to Jessica. You can do it! I stayed home with our two daughers (one born in 84 and one in 89) My husband was in law enforcement and then a pastor and never made more than $25,000/year while they were growing up. We scrimped a lot but we had fun and enjoyed our kids so much. They’ve both told us they are so grateful now that we did. You just can’t put a price tag on that. My advice is to read “The Tightwad Gazette”, pray a lot and show all these comments to your husband. Don’t forget to factor in how much money you’ll save on daycare, workclothes, eating out etc. plus GAS!! Also when you’re at home, you can research lots of ways to save on practically everything. This site is one of the best!

  13. Laura:

    I attended law school a few years back, attending the evening program at a decent law school (top 60) and worked full time during the day. However, I was not terribly frugal at the time = student loans. For the past five years I’ve worked in small firms with salaries typically below $60k. Now I’ve married and work two days as an attorney so I can stay home more with our 15 mo old daughter. If you can do it with minimal or no student loans and are comfortable with a moderate salary, it’s not a bad gig. I’m not thrilled with being a lawyer, but it’s decent. And I realize that I can work 12 hours a week or so and pull in a much better hourly rate than if I had not gone the professional route. But the loans are a killer. Add that to my husband’s loans on a Master’s degree, and we see a good chunk of our monthly income head to Sallie Mae. We’ve adjusted our lifestyle accordingly, and we’re happy with it, but just a word of caution.

  14. Marci:

    I believe in following one’s dreams, and doing the research/homework to make sure you pretty much know what you are getting in to. Yes, make sure the college is accredited. And have you considered being a paralegal and, while working, take the rest of the classes for the lawyer degree? At least you’d be in ‘law’, with contacts, and know for sure that’s what you’d want to do.

    In my opinion, every kid should have a stay at home parent (dad OR mom or a live-in Grandparent) – but I realize that’s not life today for a lot of kids.
    Do your research, do your budget, figure out a timeline for leaving work, and returning to work. Realize that there are a lot of little things that will have to go by the wayside if you stay at home – like maybe the 2nd car? More scratch cooking and clothes sewing. And yes, bank your income (or pay off debt) and live off only one income and see how that goes. How stable is hubby’s job and what’s the emergency plan if he loses it? Any chance your job description will change back to something you like to do?

    I’d say this is one thing that you both have to be in agreement on or it’s not going to work for the marriage. Good luck!

  15. susan:

    Remember that stay-at-home with babies is not a forever situation, and does not mean a lifetime out of the workforce. It requires a few very lean years, when the demands/rewards of childraising take precedence over “adult” life’s demands and rewards. So long as you can pay your mortgage, have enough food, and sufficient emergency funds, then take the break and enjoy(?) your children. The career will be waiting for you when they start school/get older, and the money can wait.

  16. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments about my situation. I have a few more thoughts/responses to your responses…

    *My husband also is in state employment. Since he’s only been on for 4 months, and he’s the newest hire in his agency, if there were a layoff at his agency, he could be the first to go. I have 5 years in and more security, in that regard.
    *We do have a 6+month emergency fund, which is in addition to the plan to pay cash for a newer car. I do agree that we could do without a 2nd car if/when I become a SAHM. We currently take our daughter to daycare, then park at the park’n’ride and ride the bus to work.
    *we pay more in daycare than our mortgage! And that is just for 1 child. other expenses that would go away if I didn’t work: disposable diapers (I have cloth also but only use on the weekends currently- daycare won’t accept cloth diapers), we could have fewer clothes since I’d be able to do laundry more frequently
    *as far as my position- we’ve got a hiring freeze right now. I’m as high level as I can be (I’m in the union) without moving out of the union and into a supervisory position. Supervisory positions have even less flexibility that the small amount I have currently. So the chance of me moving into something else is fairly low

  17. sodaker:

    Like a pp said – take on some other children. my daycare provider does just that – she watches my 2 plus 2 more @ $2.25/hour per child (a pretty average rate in sodak… i’m lucky, i know) but she’s still making $9/hour to be home with her children and her children have some playmates during the day. not to bad for a sahm! in my town, $9/hr is a pretty good wage outside the home.

  18. Faye, make sure that is an accredited law school. For Jessica, I am a single mom and have lived on less than 20,000 a year for the past ten years (but I rent.) Anyway I have run an in home daycare and still am home with my kids, it is alot of work, but if after the trial run of you being a stay at home mom (which I strongly believe we should be) and your husband feels you need more income maybe you could do in home daycare. I love the trial run idea of living on just your husbands income (except for your work expenses) I think that is a great idea.
    I have felt it a desire of my heart to be home with my kids and God has truely blessed me on that. Thanks! -Becky in NJ

  19. Really great advice. I think you’re spot on in both cases. We’re considering moving to a one “real” income family soon. I’m going to give being a SAHM a whirl if we ever manage to get out from under this one (non mortgage) debt we have. Your blog is one reason I think it’s possible to do. You provide lots of encouragement to us out here. Keep up the good work.

  20. My husband has made under $45,000 for all the years of our marriage (he works from home and could make for if we were willing to move away from our families and he would work away from home but we have decided it is not worth it.) I have stayed home with our 3 kids, despite my degree which would allow me to bring in about the same amount, or possibly more.

    We figured out that even if I did work we would only actually get about half of my income due to numerous obvious (like car, gas, clothes) and less obvious costs (convenience foods, less work getting done for him, paying for babysitters, etc.), and that my being home making his earnings go further is worth more than that. One of the blessings about being home is being able to cook from scratch, not go out so often, buy cheaper clothes with no need for dry cleaning. I have also found numerous small ways to bring in a little bit extra to pay for trips, treats, and other extras. It does mean giving up a lot of things others do or have but it is more than worth it.

  21. jessica, six years ago i decided that i wanted to stay home with my daughter even though i made more than my husband. i made up a budget (two things stood out — no more daycare costs and my husband’s take home income would rise because we’d be in a lower tax bracket) and i didn’t think we could do it unless i made about $5K in freelance work. i was able to talk to a former employer who promised me that amount of work and we took the plunge.

    we lived frugally and i worked at home during naps and after my baby went to bed. we had a second child and my husband got a better paying job so it got a little easier. but it’s always been a struggle. my freelance income dried up and i have become a family photographer (which i love). but we spend very little on ourselves, we don’t go to disney world and we eat out about once a week.

    i am very glad we made this change because i like being here for my girls. but life at home can be very stressful, especially when you are having to cut costs all the time. i agree with lynnae’s advice of living on your husband’s income, and also try to save as much of yours as possible.

    one more thing — when i was proposing my SAH lifestyle, i wrote up a job description so he could see how much i’d be taking on. and me being home did alleviate the crazy get-the-kid-to-daycare-pick-the-kid-up-from-daycare life.

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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

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