A while back we had a long conversation on this blog about the cost of working. If you’ve got little kids, we asked, and you have to pay for childcare, then does working outside the home even contribute to your income in a substantial way?

For instance, one of the things that stay at home moms can do is to figure out how to live on less. We do have more time to do things like cook from scratch, make our own gifts, spend more time shopping for bargains, etc. We can only have one car, even though that may mean chauffeuring hubby to work so we can keep it for the day. I also find that when I’m tremendously busy, either because of speaking or because of events with the kids, it’s harder to make dinner. That’s when we go out or eat prepared foods, which adds to the budget. I know if I were working full-time I’d do the take-out thing more often, and so that would become more expensive.

Therefore, I’m not sure it always pays to work, depending on your potential income. But what do you do when you just really need money? I want to throw this question out there, because several of my long-term readers really need answers, and I thought together we could come up with something.

So here’s the scenario. You aren’t highly educated, and the maximum you could probably make would be $15/hour, and that’s if you hit the jackpot. But you really need to bring home about $1500 a month just to make ends meet. So what do you do? Here are some choices that I see:

1. Work part-time. It sounds silly, but part-time work may be able to bring in more money. When you’re not paying for childcare because your husband has the kids, and when you can still live on one vehicle, part-time work may actually leave more money in the wallet. Work two nights a week and Saturdays. Be a waitress, or work at a call centre or something. The disadvantage: you never see your husband. You don’t really have family time. So I’m not a big fan of this one.

2. Sell Mary Kay/Tupperware. I’m not an overly big fan of this one, either. I’ve gone down that route briefly, and gone to all the sales conferences, and gotten all pumped up to sell stuff, and become a leader, and have people work under me, but it just doesn’t work that well. You can work so hard at it for a few years and still have little to show for it. It works great for some–but for the majority it doesn’t. And you spend your life out at nights and trying to convince women who don’t really want to go to parties to go to just one more. Let me know if you think differently, but I know one of the women who needs money advice has already tried this and won’t do it again.

3. Become a foster parent. Don’t balk at this one right away. I’m not saying we should do it for the money. I don’t know what all jurisdictions pay, but in mine, if you take in two kids you make up that monetary gap we were talking about. It’s a lot of work. It’s a big sacrifice. You have to define your boundaries.

But if you are willing, it has a lot of upsides. You’re really making a difference. You’re living out your values. You can be a life-changing home for some desperate kids. I can’t think of a better way to live out the gospel than that!

You are still able to stay home and be with your own kids, and if they’re in school, you’re able to get them on and off of the bus or be there for their field trips and sports games. You have to be careful who you take, but this can be an option for some, and given how desperate they are for good foster parents, it’s one more of us should consider (even forgetting about the money!). It’s just such a great way to make a difference in this world. Any foster parents out there? I’d love for you to comment on this option!

4. Help your husband to make more money. After all, you need more income. It doesn’t really matter who gets it. So how can we help our husbands boost their incomes? Can we help them start a business? Can we help them with that business by doing some of the work at home? Can we support them going back to school for a time to get more training? Any thoughts on this one?

5. Save more money. The other way to make money, of course, is simply not to spend it. If you’ve got a major shortfall, look at what you can change in how you spend money to perhaps make some of that up. That’s not always possible; I know a lot of people are already living pretty close to the bone. It’s just a thought.

6. Start your own business. Lots of people are doing it. Sell on e-bay. Turn a hobby into a business. Especially at Christmas it’s easier to make some money. Any concrete suggestions here?

So what do you all think? What’s the best way to boost income when you want to continue to stay at home with your kids? And if someone absolutely had to get a job, any suggestions on what kind of job to get?

By the way: an anonymous commenter took offense at my post a few days ago, saying that I was denigrating working moms in my “stay at home mom” rant. I addressed that in the comments, but in case she doesn’t read them, let me just say again: I didn’t mean the post against working moms. I had no idea it would be taken that way. I meant it against PEOPLE in general. In fact, the specific individuals I was thinking of aren’t moms at all. Several are male. So I’m sorry if you were offended, but I really think it was just a misunderstanding.