I have a lot of ideas for saving money. A lot of them don’t work. I had this idea for wallpapering my dining with the pages of Moby Dick. I got the idea from an Anthropologie store.
It looked way better in the store. But I started taking down the pages, which I glued to the wall with Elmer’s glue. And (of course) the pages did not really come off the wall. But I ended up liking the torn pages on the wall better than the whole pages.
I took a picture of it because it’s how I want to live my life. I want to be able to take risks and if things don’t work out how I hoped, I want to reframe the situation instead of judging things to have failed.
I am especially good at doing that with money, and I think that’s a big reason I’ve been able to stay home with kids and earn money at the same time. Here are three ways I’ve reframed my own financial situation to stay home with kids. And I think they’ll work for you, too.
1. Trust that you can make money later.
Before my first son was born, I started a couple of companies but they were always funded by investors, and between companies, I worked in the software industry and had a regular paycheck. Once I had kids I couldn’t imagine spending eight hours a day in an office. But I didn’t know how to make money at home.
So I taught myself. It didn’t come easily. And I had about twenty false starts. It took me a few years to actually start making enough money to live on. During that time, we often had only a few dollars to get through a week. We ran out of credit. We worried a lot.
But I realized later that this is totally normal for someone starting a business. Learning to make money is not going to be a problem for you. Of course you can find tons of free information online about how to get started, like Microsoft’s Business Academy. (Register here for that one)
The hard part will be having patience while you are not making money. Serial entrepreneurs call this period where there’s no money “the runway,” while everyone else calls it the time when they have no idea what they’re doing. Either way, you need to give yourself time to get through that.
2. Question the value of saving money.
Most people don’t have retirement savings. In fact, one third of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe you are saying you don’t want to be one of those people. But you need to make your own rules for what it means to be a responsible adult. And you have to wonder if our collective rules are really valid if most adults don’t bother to follow them.
A lot of people have savings but only at the expense of both parents working. So really, those families value money in the bank over time with their kids. I think we live in a society that overvalues money and undervalues parenting, and there would be a lot more parents homeschooling if society valued taking care of kids more than money.
I read an article Time magazine about reverse mortgages. It used to be that they were slimy and dangerous, but now they might be a smart way to deal with the lack of retirement savings. So I started playing with a reverse mortgage calculator just in case. And I noticed that knowing it’s a possibility that’s calming, whether or not I actually do it in 30 years.
That’s because so much of financial security is how you think about it.
3. Make financial stability a mental state.
The first thing about cutting back to one salary is you think about what you’d have to give up, and you tell yourself you can’t do it. But you can. Read the minimalist blogs like Zen Habits and other peoples’ experiences living without.
I have worked hard to reframe debt for myself. Instead of being scared of it I am grateful that it’s a tool that helped me launch businesses, and it debt helps me stay home with my kids.
I have also reframed what financial security means to me. You don’t have to use other peoples’ definitions of financial security, especially when almost all of them require two parents to work.
You decide if you have enough money. You decide if you’re making good trade-offs. Society has boxed itself into a corner, defining “having enough money” as something that doesn’t involve kids. Don’t be a part of that. It’s not you.