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I recently realised that my partner is more anxious than I suspected about what we're going to do about money.

Principally, she feels guilty for spending money on herself, and is worried about the amount she's going to have to spend on new clothes "post-baby". We're both on good salaries for our age, our relationship is healthy, and I'd basically assumed that as I'd be cutting back on non-essentials (comics, DVDs, the various wasteful excesses of a late-20's non-parent), and reduced the amount being automatically channelled into my savings accounts, that would cover at least some of the additional costs.

What I hadn't really considered is that, apart from simply being more prone to money worries, she seems to feel like it's unfair to ask me to pay for stuff that is more related to her than to the baby, such as maternity bras, new clothes now that she's post-pregnancy.

She's going to be doing the majority of the caring for the baby once I'm back at work, and I want to make sure that she doesn't undervalue this and feel like she can't go out because she's not earning. Beyond that, I'd been mentally treating our available money as a shared pool which I happened to be contributing more to at the moment because of circumstances. At the same time I don't want to upset her by making her feel like a dependent (her salary is much the same as mine).

One thing we don't have yet is a set of shared accounts, which may help, but I was hoping for some experienced advice.

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migrated from parenting.stackexchange.com Apr 20 '12 at 13:53

This question came from our site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role.

3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I hear you (and those answering) use the words "my money" (or "me to pay for stuff") The sooner that ends, the better off you'll both be. My wife and I do have our own checking accounts that we maintain so she can write a check without notifying me, or I can buy her a birthday/mother's day/ etc gift without it showing in the joint account, but nearly all money flows through our joint account. Before we were married, the joint bank accounts were opened as was the joint brokerage account.

You need to work on the budget as a single project and without judging. It's good that your incomes are similar, it makes the dynamics of pooling seem more fair, but for those where one spouse is making far more than the other, the impulse to 'chip in' equally towards bills leaves the lower earner with nothing.

Will your wife go back to work after a maternity leave? Once she's back, and working for a time, things will settle down a bit. There's a postpartum time that's difficult. Women who have been through it will tell you that it can be pretty bad, and the best a guy can do is be understanding and supportive. As long as you are talking "we" with your wife, she'll see that you are both in it together. At the risk of sounding sexist, Women's clothing needs are different than men's. I could get away with owning 5 suits which could be replaced at the rate of one per year. If not for my wife, I can see in my own daughter how clothing makes her feel good about herself, and while I'm frugal with most of our budget, my clothing questions are 2 - Will it last? & Will it match other pieces you have? Therefore, clothing gets a line item all its own in the budget.

There are a number of financial things to consider, but I see you are in the UK, so I'll generalize. In the States, there are pretax benefits to help care for a child under 13 (called a dependent care account) and for medical expenses not covered by insurance (called flexible spending account). These let you take money from your pay pretax to use for specific expenses. If UK offers similar, I invite a user to edit the detail into my answer.

Last - once the kid comes into our lives, there's little room for many of the late teen/early 20's spending. Comics? DVDs? Those are the low hanging fruit of wasted money. Saving for retirement, and for University for the kid take priority.

I'm not one to quote cliches but a friend once offered this observation - "If you are not happy but your wife is happy, you are still far happier than if you were happy but your wife is not happy."

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+1 for ending the idea of "his money" vs "her money." When you are married, it's just "our money," and we decide together how best to use it for the welfare of our family. Also, +1 more if I could for "Happy wife, happy life!" –  Steven Apr 20 '12 at 15:20
    
Thanks! I'm used to dealing in facts, citations of tax code, etc. Great question here, it will be interesting to see what other responses come in. –  JoeTaxpayer Apr 20 '12 at 15:39
    
Many words of wisdom as usual, Joe, but I fear that some of your advice might not be applicable. The OP never refers to his partner as spouse or wife, except in the title and even that seems to be an edit by Chris Rea; and as you know, married parents can do things and have tax breaks that are not available to unmarried parents. In any case, I think that this question is off-topic for this site since it has more to do with personal relationships than personal finance, and I have flagged it for the moderators' attention. –  Dilip Sarwate Apr 20 '12 at 16:27
    
Good observation, Dilip. I read spouse in the current title and assumed that was accurate. In the US, the finance hints (for DCA and FSA) still apply, as I would hope similar benefits in UK would. Hopefully, the OP will be back and perhaps let us know the exact relationship. –  JoeTaxpayer Apr 20 '12 at 18:36
    
Couple of responses: We're not actually married (yet, baby kind of jumped the gun on that one), but now you've made the edit, we've decided we quite like "spouse" and we've decided to co-opt it for our situation. As I initimated above, I was thinking of it as an "us" thing, and it came as a surprise to realize that she wasn't. But I do understand the idea that I'm the one who's at work earning, even if it's going into a shared account. I disagree, but understand. –  deworde Apr 20 '12 at 19:21
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My feeling on this is that anything to do with a child and raising a family has to be a joint effort. It is very rare that both of you will have exactly the same income, or the same time to spend into caring for your family, so work out what you can do.

For us, I work 70+ hour weeks, my wife works 18 hour weeks. Far more of my money goes on clothes, kids, food etc than her money, because that is where the bulk of our income is from. It's just part of sharing - she doesn't feel dependent, and when she was on maternity leave (3 times) the agreement was that we would just rely on my income.

I have the same attitude as you - it is a shared pool that you each contribute to in your own way, and once the essentials are paid for (this includes post-pregnancy clothing) then you can worry about other bits and pieces.

Having said that, while most of our finances are shared, we do each keep a separate account for buying gifts, things for ourselves etc - which gives some flexibility.

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I think the biggest thing you need in this situation is a budget/spending plan that you both agree on. Look at what your income is going to be and what expenses you'll have, and make cuts where needed. If it's important to you that she be able to spend some money on herself, then make sure there's a budget for it. Often, knowing that there's a plan that will work will help put someone's mind at ease.

Also, make sure you're communicating, especially in the subtle non-verbal ways, that you're in this together, and that you don't think it is unfair that you're bringing in most of the income during this time. In general, make sure you're talking with each other a lot and being honest about your feelings about this major life change.

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