Posted in Family

Having These 5 Skills Can Make You A More Effective Stay At Home Parent

Woman holding a child.
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When most adults hear the word ” skills” we automatically start thinking about jobs and resumes. It’s not a term one usually associates with parenting.

But parenting in and of itself is a job that requires many of the skills that we use in the business world and in everyday life. Some of these skills we learn in school and some of them we learn through life lessons.

These are the skills that many stay at home parents need to call upon if they want to have an enjoyable experience as a stay at home parent.

I am going to share with you the top 5 skills that all stay at home parents need to master to be an effective and happy stay at home parents.

1. Money Management

Piggy bank with coins on the floor around it.
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I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you, when you sign-up for some of the cashback services using the links I provided. Thank you for your support.

Unless you’re married to a billionaire or are fortunate enough to have your own personal accountant learning how to manage your families money is an important skill all adults should learn.

However, as evidenced by the amount of debt most Americans have it is a skill that most of us have not mastered. This skill is even more important when you are living on one income.

A few basic money management techniques that all stay at home parents should master are budgeting and couponing.

Budgeting

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who was a big fan of budgeting. But budgeting has several benefits such as:

  • Allowing you to take control of your finances.
  • Help you keep track of your spending.
  • Help you save for family vacations, emergency expenses, and help pay down deb.
  • It can help you produce extra money.
  • It enables you to communicate with your spouse about finances.

If you would like to learn more about budgeting you can read my post on budgeting and the different kinds of budgets here.

Couponing

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s watched extreme couponing and wished that they could buy $500 worth of food for .30.

Besides paying for a place to live your monthly food bill probably takes a huge chunk of your paycheck. A family of 4 can easily spend $400- 500 a month on food.

Couponing is a great way to help you reduce your family’s monthly grocery expenses. You can usually find coupons in the Sunday paper, but you can also get and print coupons online.

MoneyPantry has a list of 61 sites that offer free printable grocery coupons.

If you’re not sure how to use your coupons to get the best savings check out The Krazy Coupon Lady. She compiles all of the best deals and shows you how to combine your coupons to get the most savings.

Coupons are not just great for saving on groceries, they’re also great for saving on clothing and other nonfood related items.

Cash Back Apps

Cashback apps work just as well as coupons and can be used with coupons to help increase your savings.

Popular Grocery Cash Back Apps

There are several different grocery apps that you can use to get cash back on your grocery purchases. My favorites are Ibotta and Checkout 51, but there are several other cashback apps out there.

Popular General Cash Back Apps

There are also cash back apps that can be used on general purchases such as clothing and gas.

You usually have to link these apps to your credit card so it can track your purchases. My favorite general cash back apps are receipt hog and ebates.

  • Receipt Hog– gives you points for uploading receipts every week. These points can be used to redeem gift cards or cash.
  • Ebates gives you cash back on items you buy from select stores like JCPenney, Amazon, Kohl’s etc
  • Dosh cash back on purchases made in select stores online and instore
  • Paribus– monitors price drops from stores that you’ve made purchases.at and gets you a refund on the adjusted price.

All of these apps can help you save money on your everyday purchases and help you keep and maintain your family budget.

2.Time Management

Red clock sitting in the grass.
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Another important skill that we all need to brush up on is our time management.

As a stay at home parent, it’s tempting to think that you have all the time in the world to get the things you want to do done.

I know I did when I first started my stay at home journey. I didn’t take me long to realize that trying to get things done with 1-4 kids running around the house was a lot harder and a lot more time consuming than I thought.

Your time is a valuable asset and we should use the time that we have during the day wisely.

One of the best ways to make sure that we are using our time wisely as stay at home parents is to create routines and find ways to keep organized.

Routines

Before I became a stay at home mom I didn’t really give a second thought to creating or sticking to a routine because my day was already planned out for me. Work, home, food, bed, repeat.

It wasn’t too long into my transition as a stay at home mom that I realized that not having a daily routine was not going to help me keep my sanity or keep my kids alive.

Every family can benefit from having a daily routine. Having a daily routine will:

  • Help you be more productive during the day.
  • Help you break bad habits (like procrastination).
  • Improves your mental health by providing you time to relax.
  • Allows you to decide how your day goes.
  • Benefits your kids.

Some people like to schedule every minute of the day and some like a more flexible schedule.

I would suggest creating a schedule that works best for you and your family. If you have smaller kids a more flexible schedule might work better for you, then a ridge one.

Here is a peek at my family’s morning routine:

5:00 AM- Wake-up/Read the Bible and Pray

6:30 AM Wake-Up Kids & Get Ready for school

7:45 AM Drop off kids

9:00 AM Work-Out/ Baby Nap Time

10:00 AM Clean up

11:00 AM Cook Lunch

12:00 PM Pick Up Kids/Lunch

As you can see there are some big gaps in parts of my schedule, but that just gives me some extra time, just in case things don’t go as planned.

If I could emphasize one thing about creating your daily routine it would be to schedule some “Me” time during the day. Even if you can’t manage it every day at least shoot for once a week.

Dealing with kids all day can be fun and stressful. You need that time to just get away and relax, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Trust me it will make a huge difference.

Organization

I will admit that being organized is something that I struggle with a lot. When I taught high school I was that science teacher that had piles of paper all over the place. I liked to call it organized chaos.

As you can imagine some of my organized chaos habits spilled over into my home life, which when your only living in your house from 4-9 pm every day it’s not really that big of a deal.

But all of that changed once I started being home all day. I went from spending 5 waking hours in the house to 16 waking hours in the house. A very cluttered small house.

I quickly realized that I needed to get organized and quick. One of the best techniques I’ve used for organizing and decluttering my home is fairly simple.

Step 1- Pick an area to declutter.

Step 2- Create three piles (you can use bins if you want) keep, toss, donate

Step 3- Set a timer for 30 minutes – 1 hour (depending on the size of the room)

Step 4- Organize and put back everything in the keep pile.

Step 5- Get rid of everything else ASAP!

The last step very important. If you don’t throw away or donate the stuff in those piles it will slowly make its way back into your house. Trust me I know.

Declutter and organizing your home can be very overwhelming. That’s why I think it’s important to start small and set a time limit. Even better you can enlist the help of a friend or your family to help with the process.

If you don’t finish in the time limit you can either keep going or start again later. Don’t expect everything to be perfect, but having an organized home makes cleaning and finding things easier.

I don’t even want to imagine how much time I wasted searching for keys, book bags, and coats because everything was all over the house.

Once you’ve managed to get everything organized you should make decluttering a regular part of your cleaning routine. If not you’ll find yourself back in a state of organized or not so organized chaos.

3.Communication

Woman texting on a cell phone.
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The next skill that we will need to brush up on is our communication and networking skills.

Setting Expectations

The transition from financial independence to dependent can be a hard one for both spouses. It is important for both spouses to learn how to communicate clearly, respectfully and openly with each other.

You should both sit down and discuss what your expectations are for yourself and for each other.

I can tell you for a fact that most stay at home parents set unrealistic expectations for themselves and other people set unrealistic expectations on them.

Despite the fact that being a stay at home mom is a choice that many women and some dads choose to make it is still clouded in negative stereotypes and false beliefs about what it is a stay at home parent does all day.

Most people think that we just sit at home baking cookies and watching Netflix all day. That raising kids is easy and since you’re not doing anything all day, then you must have ample time to cook, clean, fold laundry, and save the world.

The fact is that being in the house with kids all day is hard work. Cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, picking and dropping kids off at their various activities, going to playgroups and arranging playdates, grocery shopping, managing the household budget all take considerable time, effort, and skill. *steps off soapbox*

It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination especially when you’re first starting out. So dear stay at home parent if you are feeling overwhelmed please communicate this with your spouse. And both of you set realistic expectations for each other.

Social Networking

If you are an introvert, like me, social networking is a hard skill to manage. This is the part of parenting that requires you to make friends with/ or at least talk to other parents.

If you were a social butterfly in high school, then this process will be a bit easier for you. Better yet if you already have friends with age-appropriate kids that’s even better.

Making friends as an adult is just as complicated and awkward as it was when you were in school. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I made friends in high school or as an adult. I guess it helped that I was an athlete so I had some form of social skills.

Still, my idea of a good time is sitting at home with my family watching anime or Netflix. Going to birthday parties, play groups, and other social functions kids might attend is way outside my wheelhouse.

But I love my kids so I make an effort to get out there and try to make grown-up friends or at least to be friendly.

Maybe you’re socially challenged like me here is a great post about making parent friends. Apparently, there are also apps to help you make mom/dad friends.

4. Basic Homemaking

Person moping the floor.
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Every stay at home parent should brush up on all the basic homemaking skills: cooking, cleaning, and sewing. The main reason we became stay at home parents was to spend time with our kids. So my philosophy is that we should work smarter, not harder in these areas.

Cooking

Earlier we talked about budgeting and how your food budget is usually your largest expense. This is especially true if your family eats out often. The average family of four can spend anywhere from $20- 30 on take-out per meal.

So if you go to McDonald’s for lunch and Burger King for dinner you’ve easily spent $40 on food alone. If that happens once a week that can easily add up to $160.00 for the month.

Making meals at home is cheaper and healthier for you and your family. It can also be time-consuming.

Meal planning can be an effective way to save time and money on groceries every week.

Thekitchen.com has an excellent post on meal planning called beginners guide to meal planning.

I’ve only tried meal planning in a very limited capacity. My family does theme meal days. For example, Monday is Meatless Monday. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, and Thursday is Takeout Thursday.

While I don’t know what meal I’m making for dinner I do at least have an idea of what I need to buy for those meals during the week.

Another tip that I read was to use your kid’s school lunch menu to help you plan your meals.

If you have kids that don’t go to school you can easily use the lunch menu to plan what you kids at home will be having for lunch for the rest of the month.

Cleaning

Like cooking, cleaning is another basic skill that we could all brush up on. The best way I’ve found to keep my home clean is to set up a cleaning routine.

My personal routine involves cleaning one spot in the house daily for 30 minutes. On Saturday I spend an hour cleaning and decluttering a specific area in the house.

Monday-Bathroom

Tuesday- Kitchen

Wednesday- Hallways

Thursday- Bedrooms

Friday- Living Room

Saturday- deep cleaning 1 area

Saturday cleaning usually doesn’t take to long if I’ve stuck to the weekly schedule.

If you have older children it is important to remember that they can help keep the house clean as well. Don’t be afraid to put them to work.

Some other cleaning routines that you might want to check out:

Sewing

While sewing is not a necessary skill I do think it’s a worthwhile skill to have when you have small children. My youngest son is constantly getting holes in his shirts and pants.

Learning how to patch the holes in his jeans and how to sew closed the holes in his shirts has helped extend the shelf life of his clothes.

You don’t need a fancy machine for basic sewing all you need is a needle and thread. It will definitely come in handy one day.

5. Research

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Locating Free Resources

Every city has a host of free resources at your disposal. The question is whether or not you know about them.

Being able to locate these resources will come in handy when you need to find things to keep your little ones entertained during the day.

Check the following places for information on free family-friendly activities:

  • City website and facebook page
  • Local recreation center
  • City Parks
  • Local library
  • YMCA

All of these places should be able to direct you on the right path. You can also find free parenting classes, money management classes, and health and nutrition classes.

Final Thoughts

Before I wrap up my list of skills there is one more important skill that I forgot to mention above. The final skill that all stay at home parents need is having a sense of humor.

Sometimes as adults, we take ourselves too seriously and we forget the reason why we even decided to become a stay at home parent.

This a time for us to enjoy our children and to spend time with them. So if the house is still a little messy that’s ok. If the routine gets thrown off because the kids put yogurt all over the floor, don’t stress.

Just take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the messiness and silliness that is our kids.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. So remember not to take yourself too seriously and to make plenty of time for laughter and smiles with your kiddos.

Whether we are stay at home parents or working parents we could all use some brushing up on at least one of the five skills discussed today.

In my opinion, no skills are more important than the others and we need all five of them to make our journey as stay at home parents a positive and effective one.

Is there one skill that you think is more important than all of the rest? Do you have a particular routine or organization strategy you like to use? Or maybe you think one of these skills makes you more effective than the others.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. If you thought this post was really helpful or insightful please feel free to share it.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Family

Save Money & Pay Off Debt by Paying Your Bills Weekly

25% of Americans do not have an emergency savings.

Anna Bahney, CNN Money

In the wake of the recent government shutdown, it has become even more apparent that a vast majority of the American population is not prepared to deal with a severe financial crisis.

According to CNN Money, only 29% of Americans have the recommended six months worth of living expenses saved in case of a financial emergency.

25% of Americans do not have any emergency savings and only 50% of Americans have 3 months or less of their living expenses saved.

However, when you are struggling financially and living paycheck to paycheck it can be difficult to find money to set aside.

Before we became a single income household we were living paycheck to paycheck and like most Americans, we didn’t have an emergency fund set up.

Before we transitioned to one income we were able to set aside some money in our emergency fund.

However, we have not been immune to various financial emergencies and have had to dip into that account on several occasions.

Even after dealing with these major issues we have been able to save a little each month to put back into our emergency fund by paying our bills weekly instead of monthly.

This payment strategy has allowed us to save money and pay down our debts.

I’m going to walk you through the 3 steps I used to set-up a weekly bill payment plan and how you can use it to save money and pay down your debts.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1.Gather Your Bills

The first part, and the most tedious part, of the process, is fairly straightforward.

You will need to gather all of your monthly bills and write them down. Sort your bills into two categories: Predictable/Recurrent bills and Irregular Bills.

Predictable bills would be things like: rent/mortgage, cell phone, internet, credit card, and car payments. Pretty much any bill that is the same amount every month.

Irregular bills would be things like your gas, electric, and water bills that fluctuate depending on how much you use.

Depending on where you live you may be able to turn some of your irregular bills into predictable bills. For instance, our electric company will allow you to enroll in their budget billing plan.

Once you are enrolled in the plan your electric bill is the same each month no matter how much electricity you use that month.

For example, our monthly electric bill is $160 every month. Before we joined the budget billing plan our electric bill would range anywhere from $120- $200+ depending on the season.

Now that you’ve divided your bills into two separate categories write down the due dates and the amount for each bill. Use these numbers to calculate how much you spend per month.

(If you can gather bills from the previous months you can use this information to get a better understanding of how much you spend on average per month.)

This is also an excellent time to create a budget if you haven’t already.

Since you already have all of your monthly bills in front of you might as well kill two birds with one stone.

If you’re interested you can read my post on budgeting here.

2.Create A Way to Track Your Spending

There are many different methods you can use to calculate your weekly spending. We record our bills in a Google sheet like the one below.

I like using Google sheets (you can do the same thing with excel) because all I have to do is input the due date and the amount due and it will automatically break down how much we need to pay per week.

However, unlike Excel, you can share a Google sheet with other people and all of your information is automatically saved when you put it in.

I share our Google sheet with my husband, which works out well because sometimes I forget to put in how much we paid onto the sheet. He can easily go into Google sheets and add the information for me.

It took me about a year to get this Google sheet to look and work the way I wanted it too. But I’m going to let you download it for free.

If you would like to use the Google sheet above you can download it for free here.

All of the formulas have already been entered into the cells. All you have to do is enter the information in the spaces provided.

I’ve also set it up so you can see how much money you’re spending per month, how much you should be spending per week, and how much you actually spent each week.

3.Automate Your Weekly Payments

Once you’ve set up your spreadsheet and you know how much you should be paying towards each bill every week, then you’re next step is to automate your payments.

Most bank accounts have an online bill pay system. Once you enter all of the necessary information you can arrange to have a recurring payment monthly, biweekly, or weekly.

In step 2 we determined how much we would need to pay each week. Now all you have to do is put in the amount you want to pay and set the payment frequency to weekly.

Now you’re all done. You can sit back, relax and let the system take care of the rest.

All you have to do now is fill in your spreadsheet and keep track of your due dates.

That’s it. You’ve just created your weekly bill payment plan!

Now we’re going to look at how you can use this method to save money and pay down any debts you may have.

How To Save Money & Pay Down Your Debts

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Saving Money

Now that you’ve gotten everything set up let discuss how you can use this method to save money and help build your emergency fund.

On average the total amount of money my family spends for a whole month is about $3000. Now, that total includes things like food, gas, etc. But these are all expenses that we include in our monthly budget.

I added them to our spreadsheet because it helped me see what I should be spending per week on food.

But I find it easier to keep track of our budget expenses using our budgeting app, Mint, there are several free budgeting apps out there. I just prefer to use Mint.

If I take out all of the other expenses and just look at how much we spend on our bills we average about $2500/month. If I divide this number by 4 our weekly bill expenses are on average $625/week.

My husband is our primary source of income. He makes about $900/week after taxes. After we’ve brought food and other necessities we usually have about $50 left over at the end of the week.

Or a total of $200 of extra money at the end of the month. This money can be transferred into a saving account or used to help pay down debt.

Paying Down Debts

Maybe you don’t want to use this system to pay all of your bills, but I highly recommend it as an effective way to pay down your debts.

Credit cards, students loans, car loans, etc take forever to pay off because we are paying the financed amount plus interest.

One of the best ways to pay off your balance, outside of coming into a large sum of money, is to pay on your debt weekly.

When you pay on your loan weekly more of your payment goes to the principle, which reduces the amount of money you owe on the loan at a faster rate.

When you pay on your loan monthly most of the payment goes towards the interest. If you don’t believe me try it and look at your next statement to see how much you paid in interest vs how much you paid on your principle.

In addition, any extra money you manage to save weekly can be put towards paying off any debt you’ve accumulated.

Issues To Be Aware Of

Like all new things that we try there can be a few issues that we may encounter when trying to incorporate a way of doing things.

Here are a few that we ran into when we made the transition to paying our bills weekly.

Adjusting to The New System

Adjusting to paying your bills weekly can seem like a challenge if you get paid monthly or every two weeks.

We are fortunate that my husband gets paid weekly, so it’s easy for us to keep track of what has been spent.

However, no matter how often you get paid if you’re disciplined paying your bills weekly can still work in your favor.

I would suggest having at least three accounts that you transfer money into one for your bills, general expenses, and savings.

Getting Behind On Bills

Initially, you may get behind on your bills. When we first started paying our bills this way we ended up being a week late on a few of our bills.

The nice thing about paying your bills weekly is that you can adjust the amount you pay based on the number of weeks you have to pay them.

For instance, if my power bill is due in 3 weeks. I can change the number of payments and divide by 3 instead of 4. Now here comes the fun part.

I could decide not to pay anything that 4th week or I can pay something towards it. Preferably, whatever the payment would be for 4 weeks, and effectively get a week ahead of my bill.

This should also solve the due date issue and put you back on a 4-week payment plan.

Forgetting to Pay Your Bills Weekly

Most of us are used to paying our bills monthly. So changing how frequently you pay your bills can be somewhat of a challenge.

That’s why I strongly encourage you to use your bank’s bill pay feature to automate your weekly payments from your account.

Some people don’t like using the automated system and prefer to take a more hands-on approach to pay their bills.

You can do it manually, but in my experience, it’s better to just have it automatically taken out of your account.

It eliminates the hassle of remembering to sit down and pay your bills each week.

We’ve tried it this way before and it never fails that we miss at least one payment each month because we got busy and just forgot to pay it that week.

All Bills Are Not Created Equal

Now, there are some bills, like your mortgage/rent, that you may not be able to pay weekly. You will have to call your mortgage company or talk to your landlord.

Some mortgage companies will allow you to make payments every two weeks and some won’t even let you do that.

You can still use this process to pay these types of bills, but instead of paying it to your lender you would have that money transferred into a saving account you created specifically for your mortgage/rent payment.

Then you could have the money drafted from that account once a month.

Unlike your credit card company or the car loans, which apply your weekly payment to your balance, most mortgages will just hold your weekly payment in an escrow account until you’ve sent the full amount.

I learned this lesson the hard way.

If you want to tackle paying down your mortgage I would suggest seeing if they will allow you to pay your mortgage every two weeks.

This will add up to 1 extra mortgage payment each year. It doesn’t seem like much, but it will make a difference.

Parting Words

Alas, we have come to the end of this blog post. In my opinion, paying our bills weekly has been the best financial decision we’ve ever made.

We’ve had some ups and downs adjusting to this new method of paying bills, but it has been worth it.

However, what works for us may not work for you. It’s all about finding what will work best for you and your family.

If you would like to use the Google sheet I created you can download it here

If you are interested in learning how we transitioned to living on one income you can find that post here.

Please feel free to leave any questions you may have about the spreadsheet or any comments you have in general in the comments section.

If you thought this post was helpful and insightful please feel free to share it with others or pin it for later.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro