When I first decided I was ready to seriously think about working from home, my first concern was money. Was I going to be able to feed my family?
My father and I were talking about it, and he asked me what I needed to feel comfortable. I told him I needed to replace my current salary. This is when he told me one of the most important things about running my own home business.
"You don't need to replace your salary. You need to replace your lifestyle."
While I freely admit that at the time, I thought he was crazy, I've since learned that this is incredibly true. It's easy to think that your lifestyle just incorporates what's coming in, that's not all there is to it. You also have to think about what's going out.
I'd read all the articles that said when you work from home, you save money on things like lunches out and work clothes. The very idea that I had money for either of those things was laughable at the time, so I didn't think they applied to me. Thinking about it more deeply, though, I realized that there was a lot of money I could be saving by working from my home.
1. Transportation. At the time, I was living in the suburbs of Toronto and paying over $350 per month on work-related transportation and I didn't even own a car! Working from home meant that expense was completely eliminated.
2. Food. While I was consistently good at bringing my own lunches to work, that was only a small portion of my grocery budget. I'd pick up a coffee on the way to the train because I hadn't had time to make any at home. I'd come home after a two-hour commute, look in the fridge, and promptly order a pizza. The kids had granola bars and stringable cheese and single-serving yogurt in their lunches. My vegetables came from a bag. When I started working from home, I probably saved about $500 per month on convenience food alone.
3. Child care. If your children are old enough to be in school during the day, you can essentially eliminate your child care costs. If they're still little and demand the attention of a caregiver throughout the day, you can still cut back your child care to half days or occasional help from a babysitter. Where I live, getting rid of daycare will save you $800 per month.
4. Retail therapy. One of the most surprising things that happened to me when I started working from home was that my discretionary purchases — the things I didn't need but wanted because I needed to feel better — virtually disappeared.
Part of it was lack of time to shop, and part of it was spending less time surrounded by stores, but a lot of it was that I was happier. I didn't feel the need to numb myself with a new bottle of nail polish or the latest novel. All of those little things I used to buy because I felt I deserved a treat faded into the background. I was working from home now— that was enough of a treat already! I'd estimate I saved about $200 per month on these purchases.
Your numbers aren't going to be the same — everybody has different needs and different weaknesses. But if you think about your requirements as qualitative rather than quantitative, you might discover that starting your own business isn't as far off as you think.