When two families come together to form one, there’s more to manage than just the wedding and living arrangement. Both parents likely have their own financial obligations, and you’ll need to split mutual expenses.
Often, figuring out how to split bills in a blended family requires some thought. Not every situation makes a 50/50 arrangement appropriate, so you need to examine yours to find a plan that works. Continue reading
It’s no secret that finances are a touchy subject in relationships, and I’ve talked about this before here on Suburban Finance. But, one of the best ways to prevent issues is to be very open and honest about money in the household. How do you do that, though, if you have a hard time getting your spouse on board with a budget?
When my beau and I moved in together four years ago, we had to talk about all the unexciting (but important!) stuff like who is going to handle what bills, how we would split the rent and so on. As our relationship and lives have evolved, we have had to revisit this conversation over the years.
Ryan made the decision to go to medical school, a decision of which I am very proud and supportive; however, this means our spending habits have to change. Between the two of us, I am typically the one always thinking of ways to save. I had to get him on the frugal life bandwagon as well so that we will have less to worry about once he is in school full-time.
He may not be my official spouse yet, but here are a few do’s and don’ts on how to keep the money conversation from turning into a war:
Don’t be controlling
Household decisions need to be made together, not forced upon one another. Everything Ryan and I do, we try to make it a team effort. Money decisions are no different. Over the last seven and a half years, we’ve learned that the way we view money and saving do differ. So, try to pick ways to save that work for each other instead of against each other. Ultimately, you only have control over yourself. You can encourage change, but the more you push, the more resistance (or resentment) you may get. Realizing this first is the initial step.
Do set aside time for the conversation
Conversations involving finances in the home should not be rushed. Set aside time with your wife or husband to discuss one another’s financial goals. Be understanding of your spouse and their point of view as you try to explain your own.
For me, I mentioned wanting to use money we would have spent on ordering food three weeks in a row on a nice (much needed) date night out. Ryan agreed, and so he is much more conscious of this before dialing the phone for take out. This is just one real-life example of many, but I began my own conversation with bringing up this point as well as the amount spent and how it could be better used in our lives.
What might work for you is trying to find that common ground of things you may want to do together but can’t due to other financial obligations. Working together to find ways to accomplish those things is so rewarding in so many ways. Perhaps your matching goals are as simple as wanting to pay off your credit card debt within the year. This is a great starting point in developing a savings plan together.
Don’t judge your spouse’s spending habits
Ryan has a lot of outdoor hobbies, so he often likes to spend his extra cash on items for his mountain bike or new running shoes. My current spending habits are very focused on my business as well as updating our home. If either of us judged the other for how we spend our money, it would put an extra strain on our relationship.
If you want to make changes, start with yourself. Then, you can bring this up in casual conversations as follow-ups from your previous money discussion, such as:
“So, I decided not to buy all those new clothes and put that money in my retirement fund instead.”
“I’m doing this thing where any time I want to buy coffee out, I put that money into our travel savings instead. I was hoping we might be able to do that weekend getaway in the mountains we’ve been talking about.”
As mentioned in point number one, don’t try to force actions; encourage them.
Do be open and honest
If you are finding that you still have a hard time getting your spouse on board, it’s time to get a little more straight forward. Bring up the household expenses and income and go over the numbers in more detail together. Show your husband or wife why you are concerned and ask for his or her input on suggestions for change. Of course, you can discuss your own ideas, but again, finances should be a team effort; therefore, you really need to focus on gaining their insight on the situation as well. Find out their concerns and work it out together.
This may be a good time to call on an expert. Your expert of choice does not have to be a therapist. You can simply look to a financial professional and/or purchase a well-received book regarding money saving tips and building wealth. Ask your significant other to read it as well. When you are on the road together, you can download an Audible version to ensure you are both absorbing the information together. Personally, I recommend Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
Usually, what I have found works best (and what seems to also work best for my friends and family) is simply showing the numbers. There are a lot of great apps out there to help calculate where you are spending your money the most, like Mint.com, but I typically just refer to my online banking account, which does this for me as well. Choose what works best for you.
Household budgeting is no easy task, and it can take just as much as work as your relationship, I have found. It seems the biggest issues is just not knowing how much money is being wasted. But, realizing one another’s goals and expressing interest in achieving them together has proven successful for me and my relationship. If your spouse knows how important it is for you to not only see your own savings goals met but his or hers, you’ll find saving to actually be pretty fun and exciting.
Is this a challenge you have faced? What has worked for you?
There are times when things will be inevitably tight around the house. When you are the only mouth to feed, it is easier to understand your current situation. However, as you dive into the family life, budgeting is not so easy to comprehend if you aren’t the one paying the bills.
Growing up, my parents were always very open about our financial situation at different times in my adolescence. They made sure to include my sister and I on what was happening very early on, and I am so glad that they did. At first, I had a hard time understanding, but as I got older, it began to make more sense.
The less involved the family is with finances, the less they will understand. It can be difficult for your growing kids to see why they can’t get those new clothes they want or go to the movies with their friends. The term “money doesn’t grow on tress” may not be enough to get them on the same page. Now is a great time to not only teach them, but show them the value of a dollar.
Making household budgeting a family affair will set positive habits for the future as well. So, how can you get the family involved?
Organize the information
Prior to holding a family meeting to discuss finances, gather up all of your bills and household expenses. This includes groceries, gas, car and house payments and so on. Also include those expenses that are not monthly but may only be quarterly or annually. Be fully prepared to also answer any questions about money that your kids may have.
Be open and honest
Lay everything out on the line. Don’t try to hide anything from your family, even if the news does not look so hot. This is the first step in everyone grasping the reality of the financial situation rather than their fantasy. By hiding certain pieces of information, they may feel money exists where it doesn’t and the problem will continue.
Show them what’s left
Try to have a personal spreadsheet of the expenses and income in the home to really make the point visible. List the pay dates and how each expense is paid. This will be a great way to actually show them what is left each month.
Encourage applying for jobs
Should you have a teen that is old enough, encourage them to get a job so that they can fund their own entertainment. Household chores are an excellent way to earn an allowance, but not all families have the finances to even provide such. I had my first job when I was 15 working in a greenhouse. It was seasonal from spring to early fall, so it worked out well with my school schedule. This taught me personally how to save money as I would save up my paychecks over the course of the months to use throughout the year.
Get everyone’s input
It may be wise to share the budgeting system you have in place for your home. I was around 10 years old when I began to understand that money was not endless and that some months were more difficult than others. Depending on the age of your children, you could ask for their input and have them be a part of the household budgeting process. Your kids may end up having more ways you can end up with more money at the end of each month by being willing to give up some of their own desires. It is likely that through this process, everyone would be willing to give up those additional unnecessary expenses like satellite TV so that you can do even more with the family income.
Younger children may not fully understand, but you can still find ways to show and teach them that your money supply is not endless. (Be on the look out for an article in the future about this topic.)
Your financial situation may not even be bad, but still informing the family of what is coming in and out will help enhance the household budgeting. Budgeting is never really a comfortable topic, but when you include the family, everyone begins to take on more responsibility. You’ll most likely find some pressure alleviated off of you as well.
How do you handle household budgeting in your own home?