Things I’ve Learned About Money by Not Having a Lot of It.

Last week I told you about my biggest financial success: becoming a stay-at-home mom. Today I’d like to expand upon the things I’ve learned along the way.

When I quit my job a month before our first child was born, nearly half our income went away. We were left with $19,000 a year to live on. Yes, $19,000. Right now you might be saying that me quitting my job was possibly the stupidest thing I could have done. But I think it was a smart decision.

I learned really quickly that I had to prioritize financial obligations. Sure, it would have been nice to have lived in a single family 3 bed/2 bath home with a big yard. Instead we chose a single wide manufactured home in a park. The price was right, and the park was family friendly. Yes, we lived near a rock quarry, but when my daughter became a toddler, she LOVED looking at the trucks from our kitchen window.

Having a nice new 4 door car or SUV would have been nice. A triple digit car payment was out of the question, though. Instead, I drove around in a 1990 Toyota Celica. Yes, it only had two doors, but we managed to fit a carseat safely in the back, and we made do with what we had. And that Celica was a blast to drive!

I also learned that it’s OK to accept help, and it’s important to give back when you can. I received a lot of hand-me-downs that first year of being a stay-at-home mom. I think I bought maybe a half a dozen outfits for my daughter, most from a consignment store. She had plenty of clothes, thanks to the generosity of our friends with older children. At times it was humbling to accept help from others, but through that experience I became more sympathetic toward people who don’t have a lot of resources.

I was fortunate to have a large network of friends and family. Some people aren’t so fortunate. Even though my husband and I are currently going through some rough financial times, I think it’s still important for us to give as much as we can. If we don’t have extra money, we can give our children’s outgrown clothes or our time. No matter how badly off I think I am, there’s always someone who needs more than me. By helping others, I have learned to become more mindful of the blessings in my own life.

One of the most important things I have learned as a stay-at-home mom is to ignore peer pressure. Just because my friends are all driving newer cars doesn’t mean that’s the best choice for me. A few years ago, my husband and I considered buying a home. In some ways we felt like we should, because all of our friends own their homes. Still, we sensed the timing wasn’t right, and we passed. It’s a good thing we did, because we’d certainly be in foreclosure by now had we moved ahead in buying a house.

Instead, we continue to rent our terribly outdated little duplex. I will admit that this place gets on my last nerve from time to time. I hate the kitchen cabinets. I hate that the washer and dryer are in the kitchen. I hate the bland “rental cream colored” walls. But we have everything we need, and we can afford to live here without busting the budget. So we count our blessings and don’t worry about the fact that everyone else seems to be ahead of us in the financial game right now. Our time will come. And if it doesn’t, so what? It’s not the end of the world.

Finally, I have learned that money isn’t the most important thing in life. Relationships are the most important thing in life. My relationship with God, my relationship with my family, my relationship with my friends, and how I treat other people…that’s important. If I live my entire life without a lot of money, I will consider my life a success if other people see the love of God through me.

So now that I’ve gone on about how little money we’ve had over the years (and don’t worry…that $19,000 annual income has increased over the years), why do I consider being a stay-at-home mom my biggest financial success? Simple. Because being a stay-at-home mom has taught me how to manage my money well, and it’s forced me to have a proper perspective on money in light of the more important things in life.

This post was written as part of the first ever group writing project at Get Rich Slowly. There’s still time for you to participate! And be sure to check in with Get Rich Slowly on Saturday for the full list of participants!


By , on Oct 17, 2007
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. Brigitte:

    As the product of a stay-at-home-dad and working mom, I can say without a doubt that I did not regret for one minute that the first brand new, bought-for-me pair of jeans I ever owned was a pair my grandma bought me when I was 16, because it was on clearance for $10. And I was thinking she was crazy for paying $10 for jeans, but I recognized the value of buying $150 jeans for $10. I prefer hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, finding the best deals, and having to be like everyone else.

    If you raise your kids with the idea that we’re all individuals, and not to be sheep, they’ll struggle a lot less in the long run. OTOH, it’s very difficult for me to cut any “extra” out of my bdget, because there is very, very little extra.

    Although I have to say, only once as a kid did I get the impression we were struggling. We were a bit short on foodstuffs, and I was actually allowed to have ice cream for breakfast, because it was literally the only thing available that day. Best bowl of ice cream I ever tasted, but later that day, my dad never did let on that he knew I had taken money out of my piggy bank and “found it in the chouch cushions so can we have some milk and cereal for tomorrow?”

    It helped that my parents always had a logical reason for things. We didn’t have cable because TV rots your brain (and really, we watched so much TV anyway, I could see my mom’s point that we’d be couch potatoes if we got cable), we had a smaller house so that we could actually feel like we lived together as a family, my brother and I didn’t need cell phones in high school (or, at all that our parents paid for them) because if we weren’t at home we were at school or a friend’s house, always had a phone available, we couldn’t get cookies because “it’s not on our grocery list”… things like that.

  2. Kate:

    Wow this sounds so familair to me. When i left my job (just couldn’t take working nine to five any more) me and my partner were left with half the money coming in and a mortgage snipping at our heals.
    However that was over three years ago and i still don’t work or rather i do but i don’t really get an income from it and we still have the house. I truely discovered that the money we thought we needed to live on, is just a misconception. We now live a frugal lifestyle but we feel that we are still living life to the full.

  3. Just stumbled on to this post. Geat walk though. Every path we choose is a path that we actively choice against. You priorites are clear and you march on the path of those priorities.

    Good for you!

  4. I’ve only begun to read your blog, but I’m already liking what I see. I am the mother of 4 grown children. I chose to stay at home and raise them myself. It was always a financial struggle, but when your kids are grown the thing they will remember most is you being there. They need you more than they need an extra toy, karate lessons, designer clothes or vacations to Disneyworld. I always enjoyed the challenge of making the best of what we had and I still do. It takes a whole lot more character and imagination to be poor than it does to be rich. Trust me, someday your kids are gonna thank you and even more they’ll respect you.

  5. My wife is a stay-home-mom and we know exactly the sacrifices you have made. I admire you and your husband, and am glad I stumbled on your blog to learn more about your story.

  6. I can see how that would be a tad bit annoying. =Þ

    Hey! Thanks for replying so quickly; a very Happy Thanksgiving to you. =)

  7. What a great post! It’s really been a great reminder to me of how much I have to be thankful for.

    What’s funny is that your washer and dryer in the kitchen drive you bananas….but I think that’s the perfect place to have it. =D Being English, it’s what I’m used to.

    Consider this: because your washer and dryer are right in your eye the whole time, you never forget there’s clothes in there so they never get all mildewy and stinky. =) It also means you are less likely to have piles and piles all over the floor because then you couldn’t get in the kitchen to cook dinner. =)

    It’s like being thankful for the fleas. =) (Now I’m hoping you’ve read “The Hiding Place” or that last comment will sound really odd to you. =D)

  8. Lynnae:

    @Keeley – It’s mostly the noise of the washer & dryer that drives me crazy. Our kitchen is right next to the living room, so when the laundry is going, it’s hard to hear the TV in the living room. Maybe I should just turn the TV off. :)

    And I have read “The Hiding Place”. It’s on my all time favorite books list!

  9. Akire:

    Thanks for sharing it with us your experience. We all learned something from it I’m sure.

  10. Very impressive!
    You are right to concentrate on what’s important for the kids right now because they grow up so fast.

    You’ll have plenty of time later on to make money.


  11. Valerie:

    Lynnae- Thank you for this post. I am a working Mom about to go onunpaid maternity leave and scared out of my mind that we won’t beable to nake ends meet. This has been a huge encouragement to me. God bless you!

  12. Lynnae:

    @Rob – I’ve definitely considered going to work part-time. My youngest is still in preschool, though, so it’s not an option right now. When Sam is in school full time, my plan right now is to work part time during school hours. I may get on as a substitute teaching assistant at their schools. That way I can be involved while earning money. :)

  13. Rob in Madrid:

    We’ve generally been on the higher wage side of things (not that it helped much, up till recent anyways) so I’ve always wondered how people survive on a low salary.

    As an aside did you not considering working partime as the kids got older. I can understand wanting to be a SAHM when the kids are young but do you need to stay at home when they hit the teen years etc. I only mention this because it’s hard on the kids growing up wearing hand med owns always feeling out of place because the clothes house or what ever are so out of date. At least that’s how my wife felt growing up. Even with her Mom working partime there was never enough money.

  14. You could’nt have said it better! Relationship with God, relationship with family – Amen! :)

  15. $19,000! That’s amazing. You’re a truly frugal person. I am very impressed.

  16. Sean:

    I’ve lived frugally for the last 7 years of my life, if not longer. I’m in my mid 20’s and I’ve saved up quite a nest egg. Now that I can buy what ever I want I realize I can’t buy what I really want.

  17. Lynnae:

    Thanks everyone. I don’t want to come across like I’m perfect and never struggle with contentment. I do sometimes. But when I think long and hard about my blessings, I really have nothing to complain about. :)

  18. Wow, way to go!! And I am glad you learned some great lessons along the way!!

  19. Jane:

    Fantastic!! I believe most people would be a lot more contented with your attitude. And more kids should be so lucky as to have a stay at home mom.
    Yours is the most important job in the world.

  20. “No matter how badly off I think I am, there’s always someone who needs more than me. By helping others, I have learned to become more mindful of the blessings in my own life.”

    I was just going to write something similar in the next few days. Maybe I still will. Great post!

  21. great post Lynnae! I’ve discovered recently that we seem to struggle more financially when I’m working than when I’m staying at home with the kids…definitely something to think about.

  22. Hilda:

    I agree with Erin. I’m impressed with your sense of contentment. I have to admit that from time to time, I struggle with finding contentment with what I have. Your post reminded me to be thankful for what God has given me and not feel jealous of my friends who make insane amount of money.

  23. Erin:

    Wow Lynnae. I think you’ve done an amazing job, and have shown the true power of being content with what you have.

  24. Sylvia Boldt:

    I’ve been through all of these experiences and more. Just keep thankfulness in your heart. It seems you are doing that. I love that you are making this sacrifice. My children tell me how grateful they are that they didn’t have to grow up in childcare. Even now with my grandsons, I love just spending time with them. I like to sit at the table and color right along with them. Childhood is the time to make wonderful memories. Keep up the good work.

  25. Very inspiring. :-) When we have kids I’m going to stay home with them, at least for a few years if not more (I hope to become a freelance writer, which I could do from home anyway). It’s inspiring to hear from other women who’ve made it work, even on low salaries. :-)

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