Being a Stay at Home Mom Near the Federal Poverty Level

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This is a post I have debated writing for a while, but here I am, putting it all out there, because I know so many families are in this same situation. My family would be considered part of the “working poor” we have our struggles, but somehow make it all work. Being a stay at home mom was a decision my husband and I didn’t take lightly, knowing that we would have it harder than we would if I did work.

The 2017 federal poverty level for a family of 3 is $20,420. While my family income is over this level, the difference is not significant enough to really make a big impact on our lives. There are so many families facing these same issues.  I’m not looking for this to become a political debate about the minimum wage, maternity leave policies or the poor families in america. I am writing to help encourage moms who are facing these very same decisions that my husband and I have faced.

For some background information, I grew up going to day care. We had a wonderful babysitter who our family is still friends with. I pretty much grew up with her kids. It was a great experience. So I am in no way against day cares. My husband grew up with a mom who was home until all the kids were in school. He loves that he had that time with his mom. That being said, he doesn’t have any issues with Day cares either

Why am I a stay at home mom?

It goes without saying that if I got a job that our financial situation would change drastically.  I have my bachelors degree from a good school, I have experience working for a jeweler and other retail jobs. I absolutely could be working.

The decision was hard to reach. It was extremely hard for me to decide that I would give up contributing to the family income and stay home. I have always had a job and paid for the things I want and need. I haven’t relied on anyone else to pay my way since becoming an “adult”.

We decided that until our kids are in school that I will be home with them. It is just what felt right for our family. I wish I could say that A,B & C were the reasons we decided this, but the truth is our reasons may not be the same as yours and this decision was made over 2 years ago making it a little foggy.

Before entering my maternity leave I had pulled back to part time, my pregnancy had complications and I had several appointments a week. Even after giving birth my complications wreaked havoc with my health, so staying home was easy.  What wasn’t easy was learning how to make it work.

How we make it work

Learning our new budget took some time, and even now there’s so many times I get discouraged wanting to do something but not having the budget for it.  Living on a strict budget isn’t easy, it is a constant struggle between wants and needs, but it can be done.

We cut the easy stuff first, we live in an apartment within our means, we cut cable & internet initially but got it again with a bare bones package. We also got rid of our cell phone plan. We both still have our old iPhones and we use them online.

I may write about cutting our phones because it is quite freeing to get rid of them. To be able to go out for a walk, or on a drive together and not be looking at phones all the time.

For a phone we have a home phone, just like the old days. It was $5 more to add to our cable and Internet plan, so it made sense to payback for that over a single cell phone.

We stopped eating out. Our food budget is used at the local butcher shop, grocery store, and fruit market. Afternoon church inn Sundays we do go out to eat, but we aren’t treated to lunch, so it doesn’t come out of our budget. There is a week during the month that we have a little extra money and that week we will occasionally treat ourselves to a pizza, or carton of ice cream.

Our only real bills we have are cable/ internet/ phone, car insurance, fuel, rent, electricity, and food.  We have scaled it all back to a point that we can afford this life. There isn’t much wiggle room but we make due.

Our food plan

This isn’t a plan for the faint of heart, it’s a lot of repetition but it’s what works for us. Our local butcher shop offers 10lb sales where we can get 10 pounds of pork steaks (1 feeds our whole family), or boneless skinless chicken breasts for under $20. The price fluctuates weekly, but it’s never over $1.89/ pound.

We also like to get their “budget bundle” because it is such a good value.  That gives us 10 pounds each of chicken leg quarters, ground beef, pork steaks, and hot dogs. This bundle easily lasts us a month, and we share the hotdogs with friends and family.

From there we buy fruits & veggies, or get them from my mother in law who has a giant garden and cans veggies. We buy sides and things to go with the meat.  On really tight weeks we will make a chicken and veggie soup in the crockpot and make it stretch enough to last 2 meals or more.

Providing the other things

Depending on the week, it can sometimes be difficult to get the little things, but we always make it work. We have managed to keep our daughter fed, clothed and diapered for 2 years now (thank the Lord we are potty training). It isn’t always easy, but we do what we have to do.

For birthdays and Christmas we ask for clothes or gift cards. This is how we manage to keep ourselves clothed and pampered ours with other little things. It doesn’t generate come out of the family budget.

We have had luck getting gently used kids clothes at yard sales and on Facebook mom to mom or yard sale sites.  We have a local mom to mom sale that is huge, but it always seems to be held on a day I have something going on.

My hubby is a welder and he can ruin a shirt in 2-3 wears. For him, it is pointless to pay for a brand new shirt to wear to work, so goodwill and yard sales are places we stick up on clothes for him to wear to work.

Since im home most of the time, I wear what I own. Unfortunately, from a life of dressing professionally, most of my clothes aren’t suited for every day mom wear.  I have gotten used to a more comfortable style. I would love to dress nice more often, but I will get there again one day.


This one is a little more difficult because it isn’t necessary for survival. We don’t put a lot of money into this budget.  Some of our favorite things to do as a family are go for walks down the local nature path, have movie nights showing E “new” Disney movies from our collection, and going to the park.  Sure, we make time for going on my parents boat and things like that as well. It’s always about how you structure it.

When we stay the night at my inlaws they always watch E, which allows us to go spend time with other family or friends in that area. Sure, it isn’t a glamorous date night, but we make the most of that time.

It took time to get here

It has been about 2 years that we have lived this life; It took time to get comfortable with the strict budget. There are time so I really resent the lack of extra funds. I would LOVE to have a nice romantic date with my husband or to take a fun shopping trip to Ulta or Kohls.

Yes, it’s a struggle, but I also wouldn’t change much about the situation. I love that I get this time with my daughter. It’s time we will never regret having. Watching her grow and learn each day is the greatest feeling.

How am I trying to improve the situation?

My goals are to work from home and earn money. I have been a sales rep for Norwex. It’s an a wonderful company, and I love their products, but that kind of sales isn’t for me. Before I ran out of parties I was making a decent income with it. Then things dried up.

As my sales dwindled, I was being thinking more and more about blogging. After a ton of research, I saw that it is possible to make a living, or at least supplement an income by blogging.  I am also looking at tutoring options other work from home opportunities.

In an ideal world, none of this would even matter.  We are lucky to live in a rural area where rent is reasonable. There are plenty of things I wish I could do or provide, but I will keep pushing to get things established and be able to make money from home. I won’t be here long. We are working hard as we can to make it through this time of struggle.

You aren’t alone

I know many of you reading this probably is facing many of the same struggles. You might be considering staying home because of the price of childcare, I know, it’s expensive. You can figure it out, you will get through this time. Know, you’re not alone!  There are thousands of us facing the same mountain of being part of the working poor. We might climb it differently, but we all know the struggle.

Being a stay at home mom when money is tight isn't easy, especially if you're near the poverty level. You can make it work with sacrifices and determination.

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  1. Jacqui

    October 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    We can relate to this! I work from home doing search engine evaluation, it’s only 20 hours a week but it’s still extra. Even with the extra it never feels like enough… sometimes I feel guilty for experiences the kids are missing out on. Trips to the zoo, Disney etc. We are working on changing that this year!

    1. Becky Miller

      October 22, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      Thank you, Jacqui! I completely understand. It’s hard not to compare when you see other people taking lavish vacations to not want that for our families as well. We are also working hard to change things, and every day we work as hard as we can to do everything we can for our little family. I definitely understand the struggle.

  2. Sunny

    July 16, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you for this honest peek into your life as a savvy, budgeting work-at-home-mom! Regardless of income level, your tips are SO helpful in many ways for all kinds of families.

    1. Becky Miller

      July 17, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      Thank you Sunny! I can’t imagine changing much when our financial situation changes. Some things seem so superficial once you do without them.

  3. Tiffany Staples

    June 30, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    This is inspirational! I really admire you for living this lifestyle – consciously! There is no kimit to what we do for our kids.

    1. Becky Miller

      June 30, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Thank you Tiffany. 💜 It’s worth every sacrifice to be home with her.

  4. Crystal

    June 28, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Thank you so much for your honesty.
    I was laid off from my job just a few months after my daughter was born, so the decision of whether to stay home with her was kind of made for me. It’s been a tough adjustment financially and emotionally, because it’s so far from what we’re used to, but the time I’ve gotten to spend with my daughter has been priceless.
    Reading your story has taken away some of the feeling of isolation I’ve had lately. It’s a wonderful reminder that we’re never experiencing hard times in a vacuum. There’s always someone out there who understands and can offer a word of encouragement.
    Thank you.

    1. Becky Miller

      June 29, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Crystal, you’re so right, we aren’t alone in this. It is a hard adjustment financially. I am so used to having my own money and working for what I want, it was hard to give that up for now. You’re not alone at all. I understand the struggles. 💜

  5. Jennifer

    June 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I know this post was hard to write and I am very proud of you. There are so many people in this same situation or VERY close to it. You have provided a lot of useful tips that everyone can use. Thank you!

    1. Becky Miller

      June 28, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Thank you Jennifer for your encouragement. I’m happy I wrote it and didn’t hold back.

  6. Elizabeth

    June 27, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    This is a great post. We’re down here in Texas, in much the same situation. I came home from work when my oldest was 6 months old…I just couldn’t take being away from her so much. She’s 8 now, and our 5th is 3.5 months old. We also homeschool, so I’ve added teacher to my unused resume 🙂 My husband is a research scientist with an advanced degree, but here we are, still barely above poverty level…though I don’t suppose that’s hard with a larger than average family. We have a small farm…we couldn’t afford rent in the college town where my husband works, so buying about an hour out of town was the best option…plus we raise a lot of our own food, we wouldn’t make it otherwise! Thanks for putting yourself out there and writing this. It helps sometimes in moments of frustration to know that there are others out there who know what you’re going through!

    1. Becky Miller

      June 27, 2017 at 11:13 pm

      Elizabeth, It really does help to know other women know the struggle, because it can be quite isolating. I have actually been considering homeschooling our daughter, but I have time to figure that out. It is worth every sacrifice we have made to be able to be home and watch our little one grow. As we get a little more stable we will be adding another one to this tight budget, and that’s where me making money from home will help most. You got this momma! 💜

  7. Alexandra

    June 27, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Becky, thank you for your transparency and your example of commitment to your family. I was blessed reading your story and am sure others will be too. May God reward your efforts.

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