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The SAHM Salary

This was originally written as a guest post at Almost Frugal last spring. But I’ve been thinking about it more, so I’ve dusted it off.

Whether it’s because women are more likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome and not speak up for themselves or because people in general just assume that staying at home must be easy because so many do it, the contributions of women to household finance are widely unappreciated. But when you’ve observed the mommy bloggers (or SAHM PF bloggers) swapping money-saving techniques, couponing tips, as well as plain old coupons and CVS challenges, you have to acknowledge that a stay-at-home mom makes huge contributions to the family finances.

First, SAHMs often bring in money. It may not be regular or a large sum, but many SAHMs I’ve met online make a little something every month from blogging, crafting, or even a little freelance work. Or they work online surveys for gift cards.

Even if they’re not doing that, many read or write personal finance blogs. Just learning from those about how to better-manage your finances is earning money. Maybe it’s finding out about a new bank which offers better interest on savings accounts. Or perhaps it’s learning more about CDs and using them to story money.

Vered of MomGrind, for example, commented on the guest post:

I was a SAHM for six years. During those years, I was (still am) in charge of managing our investment portfolio. Our portfolio did very well over that time.

Second, most SAHMs I’ve met online are huge family money-savers. Just as there are many ways a SAHM may earn money, there are numerous ways that she saves.

Just start with the cost of child-care. Bringing it up is almost trite but it’s still a huge money-saver. Child-care alone makes it economically worthwhile for many families to have one parent stay home.

Next, many SAHPs do more cooking than working parents, so the family doesn’t spend as much money on going out, getting take-out, or even buying prepackaged foods. And because they’re not trying to juggle what are essentially two full-time jobs, SAHMs can spend a little extra time making frugal choices like comparison shopping and couponing. Budgeting the family’s money so that the savings actually goes to savings? Very important!

Everyone’s “salary” is different, depending on their situation, personality, and choices. Some things are virtually guaranteed—like savings on child-care (unless the child spends as much time in daycare or with a nanny as they would were both parents working). Some SAHMs don’t have the time and inclination to focus on frugality, but they may make money tutoring. Others don’t bring in any money but manage the family’s finances so the money goes twice as far.

Want to raise your salary? Well, like all jobs you have to be realistic-you may not have time to save every penny possible and to take 5 hours of online surveys or run 4 blogs. But most likely you can find small changes, mid-sized changes, and big changes which will increase your salary.

In the end, you’re a productive and awesome member of your family just by being ther for your kids. But don’t forget that you’re also important to the family finances even if you don’t get a handy earnings summary!

Everything I’ve written here can be applied to all stay-at-home parents. It’s just that I’ve met more SAHMs and seen more people write off the SAHM role as a non-economic, if nurturing, one.


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Friday Link Love - Still Recovering Edition | One Caveman's Financial Journey
November 7, 2008 at 11:03 am

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda November 5, 2008 at 11:07 am

Mrs. M – Where can you do online surveys for giftcards? πŸ™‚

Vered - MomGrind November 5, 2008 at 11:35 am

Needless to say, I agree. The only problem is, SAHMs are at risk of finding themselves in a bad place financially if something happens to the marriage. Thank you very much for the link.

mrsmicah November 5, 2008 at 11:41 am

@Amanda, e-mailing you more details, but MyPoints is one place to start. It has a number of ways you can earn points (which can be redeemed for gift cards) including surveys.

@Vered, that certainly is a risk. I think that in such a case, having a healthy awareness of the value (financial and otherwise0 she brings to the family should help a SAHM get proper settlement/alimony. Whereas if she’s not confident of her worth she may accept a great deal less than she should.

Amanda November 5, 2008 at 11:42 am

Thanks!! πŸ™‚

John Graden November 5, 2008 at 11:43 am

Good post. It’s interesting that you mention the impostor syndrome.

The Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you are not as smart, talented, or skilled as people think you are. It’s the feeling that you are a fake and have been getting away with something and are about to be found out. It affects 70% of adults and is especially prevalent in high achieving women.

I’ve spent the past two decades living with and learning about this common condition.

The Impostor Syndrome is a fascinating topic and the subject of my new book.

http://www.TheImpostorSyndrome.com

Jannie November 5, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I think Stay At Home Moms rock in so, so many ways.

Parenting is the most demanding job there could ever be. 24 /7. Not 9 to 5, then come home and the rest of the day is yours to put your feet up or go to a movie or out with friends for a drink or whatever. You are on duty always and you have to be as patient and loving as you can be at all times too, with small children that’s a Major Feat in itself.

I really like your point about saving money cooking meals instead of eating out, that makes a tremendous difference in finances.

Thank you for this SAHM-affirming post.

Michael November 5, 2008 at 1:37 pm

My wife does more valuable work than I do, since I only make money.

Dad November 5, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Very interesting. I’ve heard before of the uncounted cost of a mother working outside the home, but you listed a number of positives with a SAHM. Another problem I’ve seen working moms facing is when their income is used on a mortgage application because housing prices were so inflated, if something happens to one of the incomes, they are worse off than if they had only reported one of them. I know of a case where cancer has disabled one of them to the point where going to work is too exhausting but the mortgage payment needs to be met.

daddy t November 5, 2008 at 2:36 pm

I enjoyed your article! Maybe one day, I can even make some money staying at home, as I am a SAHD (stay-at-home-dad).

MrsMoney November 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I read something from a SAHM once that said that she felt it was her husband’s job to bring home the paycheck, but it was her job to make it stretch and cover their needs. I thought that was interesting. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I like the thought of a parent staying at home with the children to raise them if the parents are able to do it mentally and financially. πŸ™‚

plonkee November 6, 2008 at 4:15 am

Of course SAHDs can do all these things too πŸ˜‰ .

I think that you should be a SAHP for reasons other than financial, but all these advantages certainly help to make life easier. And easier is better.

Frugal Dad November 6, 2008 at 6:11 pm

My wife works much harder than I do! In fact, the few times she’s been sick to the point where I’ve had to take off work to look after the kids I tell her, “Hurry up and get better so I can go back to work and rest.”

Dana November 27, 2008 at 12:58 am

I consider myself a feminist and probably will til my dying day but there are some people out there with serious issues who apply that label to themselves and yet have not a nice word one to say about women who stay home with their kids. You’d think we opted for frontal lobotomies or something. It’s always the same old lines: raising children isn’t work, raising children isn’t “real” work, raising children isn’t “meaningful” work, doing household drudgery is demeaning, etc., etc., ad nauseam. I notice it comes most often from the hallowed halls of academia. Well, I never thought I’d want to be an academic when I grew up; I didn’t know there was any such line of work. I didn’t exactly aspire to be a mom, either, but now that I’m in the thick of it I know it’s just something you do, just like making and keeping friends or preserving extended family ties or being involved in the civic life of your community. It’s all part of being human. The universities could all disappear tomorrow and we’d still have the rest of it. So you learn to let it roll off your back for the meaningless noise it is.

Melinda December 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I’m a SAHM of 11 years with both kids in school and now both Parents in Care.
I’m having my first LONG Service Leave and lovin’ it – thanks to my Counsellor!
When people ask me what I do I gladly tell them and they just as gladly take their full-time paid work and run……………

NB: The basic unit of Society is The Family.
When that erodes – what have we left?

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