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Seven ways stay-at-home parents unexpectedly save money

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File

(Read caption) Stay-at-home dad Darrell Humphrey plays with sons Ethan, 3, and Owen, 1, in Charlotte, NC.

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Are you a stay-at-home parent? Or are you perhaps considering becoming one? It's a scary jump — and that's something I understand personally. There are a number of factors I considered before leaving the full-time working world to stay home with my daughter almost four years ago. But thankfully, there are ways to find unexpected savings just by staying home. Here are an important few to consider as you prepare your new budget:

1. Work Wardrobe

Of course, we all want to look nice and be fashionable. But when you stay home, there's less pressure to maintain up-to-date work clothing and other sets of wardrobes. Not only that, you can also experiment with second-hand shops for your family's clothing. I'll admit, it feels strange to see my closet shift from workwear to mostly casual duds. At the same time, I've been able to adopt a more minimalist approach with my apparel. It's saved us lots of money, at least several hundred dollars a year.

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2. Meals Out

When I worked my last job at a local university, I would often grab lunch in the union or elsewhere around campus. Little by little, the dollars added up. I'd spend $25 a week (okay, probably more) when I had plenty of food spoiling at home. Dinners, too, would present challenges. All too often, I'd find myself getting out of work late and browsing a takeout menu.

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Staying at home leaves more hours open for meal planning and cooking. Not only that, you can try out bulk cooking, which saves time and money. You'll also have more motivation to survey your grocery store choices. I love budget stores like Aldi, where I can usually pack a whole cart full of food for less than $100. Every bit counts.

3. Daily Commute

I left my 9-to-5 when gas prices were at their absolute highest. Though my commute wasn't terribly far, I have friends who travel an hour or more to their jobs. All that money on transportation and upkeep is blown away like so much exhaust. Parents who stay home can work to schedule activities and errands to maximize efficiency. In fact, you may even find the opportunity to become a one-car family in the process. We've been living this way for the past year. It was challenging at first, but the money back in our pockets (gas, car insurance, maintenance costs, etc.) has made it worthwhile.

4. Daycare Costs

Obviously, if you stay home with your kids, you won't need much or any childcare. Since I do work part-time from home, I have my daughter in a preschool class a few mornings a week to give us both a breather. It's a fraction of the cost of full-time daycare. And I can write-off this expense during tax season. For those of you on the fence, try calculating how much you might spend on full-time childcare. How would this expense impact your monthly budget? My old salary, for example, would have been cut in half or worse, making staying at home a more viable option.

5. Basic Living

I've also found that staying home allows me to return to those old fashioned ways of living and, therefore, saving money. When I was working outside the home, I didn't have the time or desire to make my own cleaning supplies. Now I mix up batches of all-purpose cleaner, homemade laundry detergent, and other scrubs like it's my job. Well, I guess it is my job. You get the idea. Staying home allows me to take better stock of what we're spending and how we might less expensively run our household from the inside out.

6. Free Stuff

During nap times or other breaks, you can take a look around at local calendars to find free activities in your area. I've collected coupons, vouchers, loyalty bonuses, and all other sorts of stuff in a binder. That way, when we're looking for entertainment, I can find fun on a budget. And you'll be surprised by the number of free or low-cost things you'll discover when you have the time to seek them out. We have saved a huge amount of money this way and often spend less than $25 on a weekend.

7. Sound Budget

After I left my job, I had more brain cells to focus on our operating budget. As a result, I have an extremely good handle on how much money goes in and out of our home. I'm able to adjust our budget accordingly. This keen attention to detail has been invaluable to us. It's also an action that's allowed me to stay home without feeling as much financial pressure. We no longer waste money on extras, like magazine subscriptions and gym memberships. Overall, we're just more mindful in our spending.