For many families, home schooling means going from a two-income household to having one parent work while the other stays home.  This is a major lifestyle change, but it doesn’t have to be fraught with doubt and uncertainty.  A little planning can help you see how this shift will impact your finances and help you decide if it is a viable option for your family.

Before you even consider the financial aspects of home schooling, you have to have your current finances under control.  If you do not already, begin by keeping a thorough and honest record of your income and spending.  We keep an Excel sheet on which we categorized every dollar that we spend each month.   Do this for at least six months if not longer.  Your spending is likely to change during different seasons and as special events or unforeseen expenses come up.  The longer record you have, the more accurately you can account for these things in the future.

We have had our family budget well documented for several years, so to determine the financial impact home schooling might have for us, my husband started a second, theorhetical spreadsheet.  On this, we still track our monthly expenses but with a few adjustments.  We have removed my income, removed our current day care expenses, and decreased our budget for gas since leaving my job will also mean leaving my 50-mile per day commute.  Our goal is to see how these changes impact our ability to save from month to month.

Also consider other potential changes that may impact your budget.  Will you need to make any major purchases in the near future, such as a new car?  If you have a mortgage, could refinancing lower your monthly housing expenses?  If you are close to paying off your mortgage, could you potentially do that before losing that second income?  Do you have any other debt you can pay off first, incluidng  credit card debt,  auto loans, or student debt?  With these, always pay off higher interest loans first.  If you are considering having more children, don’t leave them out of the equation!

If you make these types of adjustments and cannot meet all of your financial obligations (including a healthy savings goal), you may need to consider either delaying home schooling or finding a way that your stay-at-home parent can generate some additional income.  If you can still get your budget to balance, you are ready to move forward with home schooling and lay some of those worries to rest!

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