Managing Finances With a Stay-At-Home Parent

Managing Finances With a Stay-At-Home Parent |

Hey Anna,

How do you approach managing money as a couple when one person is a stay-at- home parent? How can the couple avoid feeling like the money earner is “in control” and maintain equality in money-making decisions?
– We Both Work


Dear WBW,

The ability of one half of a couple to stay home and parent children while the other goes to work to earn a living indeed has many benefits. Some benefits include: avoiding the costs of childcare, commuting time and expense, and other work-related expenses. Additionally, the spouse who works outside of the home is usually given more flexibility in his or her career – perhaps allowing the spouse to earn additional cash for overtime, or a deserved raise. However, there are also some potential drawbacks for single-income families.

When it comes to money and family, conflicts can quickly come to the surface. In a single-income family situation, there may be feelings of resentment and frustration when the income-earner takes total control of the family’s finances. As the stay-at-home parent does not bring home his or her own paycheck, he or she becomes financially dependent on the working spouse, and if he or she feels that they have no say in family money matters, issues can quickly arise. Different individuals have different ideas on the topic of money and couples need to discuss their expectations and feelings on the topic openly and honestly.

Keeping Financial Equality
Open communication is important when dealing with all money matters in a relationship. The person staying at home should express his or her feelings if the working spouse tends to exert control over all of the money coming in. There should be a discussion about how the money is used and how the spouse without an income can access cash. A budget should be established that breaks down income vs. expenses for the household. Budget in a set amount each week to be placed in a separate account for the stay-at-home parent to access as he or she wishes for personal use like gifts and necessities outside of the normal household budget.

The stay-at-home parent should also remain active in the financial life of the household. Even if the working spouse handles the majority of the bill payments and other financial information, the non-working spouse should be kept in the loop with expenses and cash flow each month. Couples that tend to rely on just one person in the house to take care of all money matters may develop problems in the future when one half of the couple if left in the dark for both the small and larger financial decisions that should be made as a couple.

Ideas for Financial Freedom
For couples that do not have a lot of “leftover” money at the end of the month for the stay-at-home parent to access, it may be time to consider ways to supplement the marital income while staying at home with the kids. There may be telecommuting opportunities to consider, or offering of paid childcare services for neighbors and friends. Money earned can be used for the stay-at-home parent’s own needs and occasional pleasure spending as well as a contribution to the overall household.

Before couples decide to make the transition to one half staying at home, it’s a good idea to sit down together and consider both the benefits and drawbacks financially. Decide in advance how to fairly manage the income from only one person’s paycheck, and set expectations for how the stay-at-home parent is allocated cash for his or her own personal use.

Are you in a one-income family? How has having one parent at home helped you financially, and what are some obstacles you’ve run into?

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