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.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Microsoft Office for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

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21 replies
  1. Tj
    Tj says:

    Working as an estate secretary for a law firm during university was a really useful experience. I know exactly what happens to those diligent savings – legal fees, court fees, government fees, estate executor fees etc. etc. Everyone is only to happy to dig into the pot.
    Oh yeah, there is a leftover something that’s divided between beneficiaries.

  2. Emily
    Emily says:

    I really enjoy your blog and your abrasive insight, and this post stands out as a disappointment. I agree that our society over-values money and under-values parenting, kids, families, etc. And I agree that a monomaniacal focus on hoarding money would detract from family life. It does not necessarily follow that it’s bad to have retirement savings or an emergency fund, though. Yes, debt is a tool, but so is money in the bank.

    Also, it’s false that one-income families can’t save money. And nobody actually knows that they will definitely always be able to make money in the future. To me, you’re also undervaluing the peace of mind that comes with being in compliance with the IRS, being able to pay out of pocket for negative or positive surprises, knowing that I’m not condemning my elderly self to hustling for money, etc.

    • Pirate Jo
      Pirate Jo says:

      I don’t disagree with your overall post Emily. I mean if everyone did what the original post suggested, every unexpected car repair would put us all into debt. But I am compelled to nit-pick what you said about “society” undervaluing family. Why lend credence to such a ridiculous statement? We ALL came from families – none of us hatched out of the ground.

      There is no such thing as society. “Society” is not a big pink grumpkin standing in the corner – it’s just an amalgamation of individuals. So when you say “society” doesn’t value families, you can’t just throw that out there in a fit of self-righteousness. Define what you MEAN by “society.” The 300+ million people living in the United States? Or where? How many people? Who are these individuals who don’t value the “families” they came from?

      Sure, there are people who choose badly when they marry, those who start having kids without the faintest idea what they can offer those poor little people they are forcing into existence, then get divorced, then fight over the kids with the ex, and so on and so on, until it doesn’t even rate the plot for a bad movie anymore, because everyone with their act together is just so sick of hearing about this sort of dumbshittery.

      But this is why parents want to homeschool, right?

      This is why Penelope herself has argued convincingly against divorcing your spouse, is it not?

      Then why this sudden lapse from reason? Just have kids because you WANT to, as if that in itself is a good reason? There’s no reason to think of anyone but yourself?

      I leave you all with a reading assignment.


      • Emily
        Emily says:

        I do not equate all of us spawning from the bodies of other human beings with valuing family as a society.

        And I was surprised that you would deny the existence of society because it is made up of individuals.

        I think the dumbshittery you describe often has less to do with IQ and more to do with self-worth, expectations based on experience, and real or perceived opportunities to seek an alternative. The Tina Nash story was sad. And I think it contradicts your point about society being a myth.

  3. Lehla Eldridge
    Lehla Eldridge says:

    I really think this is great and appropriate for us, you really have written this so well and I love the reframe on debt. I look at the kids and know that we cannot ever get back time. Money comes and goes, time with kids doesn’t.

    Thanks for this piece Penelope.

  4. Purva Brown
    Purva Brown says:

    YES! This post is everything I love about you! Seriously.

    “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.”

    Love it. (Yes, I know I’m gushing. No, I don’t care.)

  5. sarah faulkner
    sarah faulkner says:

    We use to be poor. If we made good money or not we were equally poor. Money flew out the window and I was always lacking. We had huge credit card debt.

    Then, one day my brain clicked and I learned how to make money. I found the reason why I felt like I always had to spend. Once I knew that reason the spending stopped. I started spending for the future instead of the past. Spending for the future goes against conventional thinking.

    For example, I traded in my paid for cheap car for a $17k debt of a mini van. I had realized I would need credit so I started taking care of my credit score and was able to get an interest rate below inflation (1.99%). The nicer car meant my mechanics bill significantly lowered. I shopped for what I needed, not for what I could make due with, or could afford. I have had many diff car loans in the past, many diff cars (I have paid cash for) and this is the first time I dont regret it. And because I have no regrets for the first time in 15 years, after owning this car for 2 years, I am content. Normally by this time I am searching for a new car due to a laundry list of needs that I miss labeled as wants.

    Learning how to change my thinking changed our finances. We are more secure financially now, with more kids on the same income, then we were with less kids.

    • Jennifa
      Jennifa says:

      Sarah, i really appreciate this comment. Perhaps you can expand on a future guest post. How did you change your thinking? Do you think your kids will now have similar thoughts concerning money?

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      One time Penelope wrote that her financial security came from knowing that one way or another she’d be able to make money to support her family.

      When I read that I embraced it and made it my focus.

      That has been a huge shift for me and being able to FEEL stable financially.

      Also, traveling. Seeing how other people live. Getting a grip on my anxiety about security. Knowing I could live anywhere. The world is huge and then it’s small. And I can work and make money anywhere. You just have to be willing to say yes.

      By the way, you’re hilarious on your Facebook posts. I love them!

  6. Rita
    Rita says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I always enjoy your January posts because you seem to start the year with gusto and there’s always something interesting to read when I check in. Having said that, the product placement in your post was jarring, and I hope this is not the future direction of your blog because for me it really compromises the integrity of your writing.
    The Purple mattress post was fun and well written.. this one seemed insincere. Since when do you recommend Microsoft Business Academy to your readers?

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I liked it.

      I thought it was sponsored post done right.

      Writing is hard work. Writing interesting stuff that will bring something good to the table is not just hard work, but you’re essentially distilling people’s life experience, hard work, soul searching, etc. into a post that we read in under ten minutes.

      The writer should get paid for it. If they don’t then they have to use that time and mental energy at making money some other ways. And we wouldn’t get the post.

  7. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    It is easier to get credit in the United States. We don’t have the same easy access to credit. We either save ahead, borrow from family, or make do with less.

  8. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    We are delaying parenthood so that we can have sufficient savings. Short of marrying a rich breadwinner, is it better to delay parenthood or to have both parents work?

    In the Philippines, most people value parenting but do not homeschool. So parenting values do not automatically translate to homeschooling.

    You are fortunate that credit is more accessible in America. Here, people must have sufficient collateral to apply for business loans. So people who launch startups like yours tend to be independently wealthy beforehand.

    It’s more like the rich get richer because they have no debt. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer because of debt. People will still have children regardless of the state of their finances.

  9. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I thought of the mention of reframing, zen, and the photo in this post after watching this four minute video on Kintsugi – http://lifehacker.com/kintsugi-the-art-of-broken-pieces-reminds-us-to-appre-1758773165 . We should seek to acknowledge and appreciate our imperfections rather than ignore or hide them. As you say, debt is a tool which can be used to your advantage when used properly. I believe financial security means different things to different people as does risk. It’s important to know the guidelines or rules. It’s more important to know when, where, and how they apply to your particular situation.

  10. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    This is one of my favorite posts!

    I went on a walk with my parents, my sister, and the kids this morning. And I was thinking exactly about this.

    I think a lot of people say kids are expensive and that a certain life is out of their reach but they don’t question the current rules.

    When I set out to go back to work after having my child I had no idea if taking my kid to work was going to pan out or not. Then we tried having a stay at home dad and we didn’t know if it was going to workout or not but we were willing to go with it for as long as we could manage.

    The truth is, we learned that making your own definition of what works, and success, is one of the most valuable things you can do. But be prepared for the backlash. It makes others feel uncomfortable if you do life differently. But it’s okay. Some people will be waiting like a tiger ready to pounce at he opportunity to say “I told you so.” But you just let it roll off your back and feel happy that you have lived outside the boundaries that make others both safe and caged.

  11. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Penelope, Thank you. That was an inspiring post. I think it funny that people think they “can’t” cut back to one income and live. I’m homeschooling my kids and living on half an income as my husband has a brain injury, is living elsewhere and is unable to contribute in any way to raising our children. I am often worried how I will continue to support us if my current business that allows me to work part time were to fail. You give me hope that I would indeed find a way. We exist on a very small income. I do not live on government assistance and am quite frugal. Do you have any advice regarding how to go about looking for a stay at home income? There are so many internet scams that I am not sure where to begin?

  12. Leeann
    Leeann says:

    When we burnt through our savings carelessly it was a big problem when we needed it again. Major austerity. I think everyone should have six months of savings. We really suffered not having it.

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