Budgeting is a real issue for many people. I personally take budgeting very seriously, but I’ve noticed some people use budgets as a way to justify their spending.

In the last couple of weeks a viral blog post titled “Fathers, you can’t afford a Stay-At-Home Mom” has attracted a lot of attention on social media. Author Steven Nelms argues that if he were to pay his wife for the jobs she does as a stay-at-home mom, then he would be paying her a salary of $73,960. It makes a great headline, but is this a realistic budget?

Stay-at-home moms don’t cost $74K

“With childcare costs it would’ve been a wash with her income at best. So we decided that she would stay home as long as it made sense”

I 100% agree with Nelms statement. If your childcare costs are similar compared to one partners salary, then staying at home just makes sense. What I do have a problem is the numeric value he assigns the jobs his wife performs for the year.

 After Child ValueBefore Child Cost
Full-time nanny$33,660N/A
Cleaning service$5,200$0
Personal shopper$13,520$0
Chef$12,480$0
Financial assistant$3,900$0
Laundry service$1,300$0
Professional Interactions$900$0
Total$73,960$0

It’s also absolutely absurd to assign a value to something that you weren’t paying for before. Nelms could easily add “Gardener, stylist, and tutor” to the list and make it an even $100k. Just because his wife is now a stay-at-home mom, doesn’t change the fact that he wouldn’t normally pay for those “jobs”.

Normal people don’t pay their wives to attend professional functions with them, nor would they pay anyone $3,900 annually to be a financial assistant. For perspective, if you owned a mutual fund that charged a 2.5% MER, you would “only” pay $3,900 a year if your portfolio was worth $156,000, yet Nelms wants to assign that same value to someone who pays his bills for him? Stay-at-home moms deserve much more respect than they get, but lets not manipulate numbers to justify decisions.

Some of these numbers he presents are totally unbelievable, this is nowhere near a realistic budget. What average person pays that much for a personal shopper? or for someone to do their laundry? Plus, full-time nannies do most of the additional “jobs” he has listed including the cooking, cleaning, and laundry so Nelms is basically charging himself twice.

Related: The cost of raising a child in Canada

Set a realistic budget no matter what you're saving for

Budget properly

By no means am I diminishing the value of stay-at-home moms but Nelms greatly overestimates the value of certain things to justify his decision. This is a common mistake that many people make with any type of budget.

Take for example new homeowners. Millennials are only used to the current low interest rates so when building their budgets, many will just use 3% mortgage rates to calculate their carrying costs. Sure some may have buffered in a little bit of flexibility but according to a recent study by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, that simply isn’t the case. Many people will also underestimate how much property taxes or how much you’ll spend on maintenance. When it comes to home ownership, not budgeting properly can ruin you

The same theory applies to people who are looking to finance a new car. Financing used to be 5 years at max but now it’s not uncommon to see 8 year terms being offered. If you can only afford a car with a low monthly payment on a 8 year term, that just means you can’t afford a car. That $30K car might end up costing you closer to $50K after interest.

Related: It’s time for a money reality check

Final word
Whether intentionally or unintentionally some of us will manipulate the numbers just to convince ourselves something is affordable, or the decision that we’re making is the right one. Instead of coming up with Frankenumbers, it’s a better idea to take a look at the numbers and make adjustments in our budgets. You know like cutting some expenses.

Potential homeowners could consider purchasing a smaller home to keep costs down. If you need a vehicle, buying a used one is certainly much more affordable than buying new. Regardless of what you’re saving for or what money decisions you’re making, you need to have a realistic budget.