"My Husband Gives Me an Allowance"
"The kids get an allowance and I get an allowance as well," laments Dawn, who's a stay-at-home mom. Her husband gives her about $150 a week for groceries and all purchases for their three kids, leaving little to nothing left over for her to spend on herself. "If I do need money, I have to ask for it," she explains, an experience as "belittling," "frustrating," and indicative that they are not equal partners. Her husband, Chris, disagrees: "I don't think that I'm a tyrant with the money, I think that I'm more of a realist about what we can afford."
Rachael asks financial expert Manisha Thakor to help this couple resolve their budget battle. "What's the number one thing that we fight about in marriages? It's money!" says Manisha, co-author of Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey. "When you meet that someone special, your friends would say, 'Are you physically compatible? Are you spiritually compatible? But nobody asks you if you're financially compatible!"
Communication is key. "I can't emphasize enough the importance of talking about money with your honey. Really, money is the pink elephant in bedrooms across America!" Manisha says. "If it feels awkward at first, that's OK, you're not alone." Once you learn to communicate, more than your marriage will benefit. "What you're going to do is give your kids this incredible gift, because they're going to watch you working together as a family unit, talking openly and honestly about money in your household, and how many people experience that? None of us did growing up. So you're going to be trend-setters!"
Understand each partner's financial contributions to the household. To break the tension and start communicating, Manisha suggests putting yourself in your spouses shoes to understand where they are coming from in the discussion. For example, she asks Chris how much a roll of toilet paper costs and he admits he has no idea, which means he doesn't realize how his wife juggles the budget to keep the household running. Dawn admits she's equally unaware about the mortgage payments Chris is handling, which have led him to restrict the weekly spending. "I think what we have is a disconnect of information and the good news is, that can be solved."
Allocate "me money" for the stay-at-home spouse. "Dawn really needs some money of her own that she is allowed to spend every single month however the heck she wants to, and you guys together need to set that dollar amount."
Rachael suggests budgeting the funds by collecting loose change. "Keep a jar in the kitchen and the entire family throws their loose change in it. When you find a dollar in the pocket of a coat ... it's found money and it adds up. My husband and I do this and just with the two of us, we end up with a good $40, $50 bucks that we didn’t otherwise have!"
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