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Working Mom

What's Your Time Really Worth?

By Ellie Kay
Financial Columnist

CBN.comI love trying new things and a couple of years ago I was asked to be the financial expert on a reality show called “Simplify Your Life” on the Lifetime network.  The couple I was working with, Ben and Suzie, were blending a “yours, mine, and ours” situation and they were expecting their first child. Suzie wanted to stay home with the children, and while Ben thought it was a good idea, he was afraid they couldn’t make ends meet. He didn’t think they could pay the bills without her part-time job in a store.

We cranked the numbers on the “Working Moms Worksheet” and right there in front of scads of television viewers, Ben realized that after all the expenses, Suzie was making little more than 50 cents a day!

His mouth dropped open in disbelief as he tried to understand that all the rushed meals, all the tag-teamed events, all the extra hours away from home, and all the additional stress of two people working and managing kids was only yielding their family two bits an hour. I went on to show them ways to save those two bits (and more) and they’ve been living happily ever after on only one income. (Well, at least until the end of the series.)

Stay-at-Home Compensation

A one-income family finds that the partner whose primary work is within the home, including care for the children, receives a different kind of compensation than work outside the home. Compensation can’t be measured in dollars and cents exclusively. One woman may stay home because of the satisfaction of influencing her children. She doesn’t want a childcare provider to see those first steps and hear the first word. She has a choice and her decision is to stay home.

Other women work outside the home for a similar reason, so they can find the satisfaction of a career. They may still be paying off an expensive education or other professional fees. They may think their destiny lies in the workplace. She, too, has a choice.

Then there’s the last group, our “89% Factor.” These are women who want to stay at home but believe they do not have a financial choice in the matter. It is important to provide facts and tips that will help working moms see what their choices really are. This can help them make their decision from a financial perspective. It’s up to each family to decide where mom will center her work activities—inside or outside the home.

The Suzie Show

Let’s go back to our reality show couple and look a little more closely by putting ourselves in Suzie’s shoes. How would you like to do the work around the house, the volunteer activities in the community and school, and work outside the home as well? Maybe some of you already have this lifestyle. Now, how would you like to do all of this for no compensation whatsoever? This is not about volunteer work. No one expects a financial return for that kind of work—that’s why it’s called volunteering. I’m talking about the other work you do—outside of the home. Why would anyone work that hard for little to no compensation? Well, that’s exactly what Suzie was doing—and she didn’t even know it.

Suzie felt she needed to work outside the home. Ben believed the family couldn’t make ends meet without her financial contribution. Suzie made an average wage of $7.50 per hour and felt she contributed to the family’s finances. She only had one child in day care, traveled a short distance to work, and paid no one for after school care because she was home by the time the other children returned from school. Then Suzie and Ben and I crunched the numbers in front of those watching on national television. She completed the “Working Mom Worksheet” and was shocked.

The amazing fact Suzie and Ben discovered was that in working full time she was only making $17 per month! They didn’t realize how those extra pizza nights (because she was too tired to cook), the trips to the beauty salon (to maintain a professional hairstyle), wardrobe upgrades (to look presentable in her job), and all those lunches (away from home) added up!

Crunch the Numbers

Once you come up with a figure, ask the big question: Is my time, energy, and effort worth ______ dollars a week? You’ll be surprised at how painless it is to cut back and save your family a significant amount of money. It’s not magic; it requires work and dedication. After all, not all compensation is measured in dollars and cents.

Working Mom Worksheet
By Ellie Kay © 2008
“America’s Family Financial Expert” ®

Mom’s Monthly:

Gross income ________________
Taxes ________________
Net spendable income ________________
Extra Job Expense:  
Child care ________________
Clothing ________________
Transportation/parking ________________
Extra food (lunches purchased at work) ________________
Dining Out (rather than cooking at home)
Miscellaneous (at work expenses)
Other expenses (that could be avoided by working at home)
Total expenses (for working outside the home)
Net monthly income (contribution from a mom to work outside the home)

Total contribution of mom working outside the home ________________


Extra! Extra!

Some might prefer an additional assessment tool in the establishment of net usable income from the second paycheck, and there’s nothing wrong with a second opinion! Go to for the “Hourly Wage Calculator or the “One Income Calculator.” The second tool is found at and called the “Second Income Calulator.” You’ll need to be prepared to enter the filing status, income levels, taxes, and work expenses and answer questions on lifestyle as well. They will give you the results as well as a summary of facts that can help make your decision.

A wise man counts the cost before he builds a tower, and it’s a wise idea to count the cost of what your time is worth!

Ellie Kay

Ellie Kay is a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of ten books including her most recent release, A Tip A Day With Ellie Kay:  Twelve Months Worth of Money Savings Ideas (Moody, 2008).

For money savings links or to subscribe to Ellie’s free newsletter, go to   

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