The subject of money comes up a lot in any relationship. Couples living together before marriage seems to be the norm these days and what and how each person “contributes” to the household is one of those long debated subjects. It’s also the second biggest reason for divorce (after “lack of communication”) says “Making Marriage Last”. I’m often asked how we manage things now that I’m a SAHM and have talked with a lot of couples who wonder how they’re going to make it work once they’re married and then have kids.
Of course, being a SAHM things are a little different than when we were first married, living in Washington DC and both with very nice paying salary jobs. Julian has always been very good with money, he’s always saved his money and I never have to worry about him coming home with a new car or flat screen TV out of the blue. Some people have one single joint account for the family once they’re married and others choose to keep separate accounts and split the bills. I really don’t think this is a one size fits all kind of situation, there are a few choices that will work best for each couple.
We chose to keep our separate bank accounts and have one joint bank account that all our bills were paid from. We would get paid into our separate bank accounts and each contribute an equal percentage into the joint account to pay ALL the house bills. Of course, Julian was paid substantially more than I was so based on the bills that we had monthly (monthly bills are easy but for those bills that you only pay once or twice a year, like car insurance, we divide it up monthly so the money is already in the joint account when the time comes to pay those bills) we worked out a percentage that would cover all our bills. (For us, it was 50% of what we earned would go into the joint account)
Yes, Julian would end up putting more into the joint account but it worked out pretty equal that we were both contributing the same amount. This left us each with our own “spending money” in our separate accounts that we could choose to save or spend as we like. (The only bill that I would pay out of my account is my cell phone bill.) Now, this did mean that Julian usually had a lot more left over than I did BUT he usually would pay for any “date nights”, meals out or movies we would go to see. Thankfully, we never argued about who spent what because it was pretty equal and we never minded spoiling each other! He would leave me Starbucks gift cards in my car for my morning drive into work and I would bring home lunch or dinner for him as well.
Now, the transition to being a SAHM mom was something we always planned, well before we had kids. We bought a house solely based on his income and what we could afford because we always knew how important it was to us that I stayed home with our kids. (including the bills attached to our three horses: feed, hay, shavings, etc.) This made it a little easier to plan ahead of time, and yet even knowing that in your immediate future your income would take a huge hit still doesn’t seem to prepare you enough for it!
So now how does our family finances look?! We have a pretty strict budget…that works! We mainly only use the joint account that Julian still puts money into to cover the bills, only it’s a lot more than before and we budget out things for food, gas, family treats, etc. My job is to help make that money spread and go as far as possible! Instead of picking a recipe based on what I want to eat, I find out what’s on sale and in season and base my week on it. We do have quite a few organic foods that we buy on our budget and I’m getting my second Green B.E.A.N delivery this week which also helps stay on budget from week to week. I do take Luke to Mommy/Daddy and me classes, we do still have coffee treats on the weekend and I do still go to get my hair done every 8 weeks. We do a date night (movies, maybe dinner) at least twice a month (thanks to Grammy and Grampy!) We manage a couple vacations a year, they’re just not as “glamorous” as they once were out of the country. I would say more than anything, there’s less waste in general and our budget has taught us how to be more efficient with our spending.
I can understand that even saying the word “budget” makes some people cringe and trust me, I get it. BUT for us, our no.1 priority is our kids and the little sacrifices we make is worth it. I also chose a career early on that I could be home with my kids, hence the reason we have a 10 stall horse barn and 10 acres. I plan to do my lessons and horse training during the day when my kids are in school and be home for them when they get off the school bus. I’ve been planning this lifestyle since my last year of high school and loved my time at the Equestrian College I went to in England where I learned early on how to run my own business and be my own boss. For me, being at home with my family is a no brainer but it’s not for everyone. Any way you look at it, the transition from being a full time working mom to a stay at home mom is hard in so many ways, especially the finance side of it. I don’t think it’s something you feel comfortable with over night. It takes time to get into your “groove” and feel comfortable with such big changes. It probably took us a good year to find that groove and not feel like you’re a teenager asking for allowance. Thankfully, Julian’s always been really good about not making me feel like that. Every family has to do what’s right for them and when both parents are happy and positive, it has a very important domino affect on the rest of the household. Find your own balance and be happy! That’s what’s important! If you want to work, work! If you want to be at home, do it! Try not to listen to that silly debate amongst the working moms and stay at home moms, we’re all in this Motherhood thing together!