The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage

Written by Emily Bartnikowski on August 11th, 2015

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Balance, Finances, Practical Home Help, Work and Family
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Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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financial advice

Many years ago, shortly after we got married, Steve and I visited a financial planner. She helped us set some goals and navigate self employment. Now many of those goals and priorities have become irrelevant to our current lives, but one has stuck with us through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing:

Allowances.

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A sliver of our budget – the numbers you see are estimated costs for items we know we’ll need in the next few years.

You read that right. My husband and I are Grown Ups with Allowances. At the point we set them up, we were each earning a decent living and had enough disposable income to not really worry about how or who pays for pedicures and steak nights. Now that we’re no longer self-employed, other aspects of our finances have shifted but the allowances have stayed put. When I tell people this, there are two basic responses:

1) That is the best idea ever. Tell me more.

2) But he’s the only one working, so why does he need an allowance? Isn’t it his money and he’s just letting you use it?

I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir when I say that being a Stay at Home Parent is work. Hard work. Yes, there are perks – like when the boys had back-to-back stomach bugs that kept us quarantined in our apartment for two and a half weeks and I didn’t have to worry about juggling childcare and taking time off and getting work done. I had the not-at-all luxurious luxury of just focusing on pushing liquids, cleaning up barf, and sanitizing everything. No one was paying me to do it, but it was still work.

I digress.  We have some wonderful budgeting software, and written under “savings goals” is a line for Steve’s allowance and a line for mine. Here are the perks of having an allowance as a grownup:

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Shopping is my cardio. (Not all of these are mine.)

  • Steak Nights. Steve has been doing regular steak nights with the guys for as long as I’ve known him. I enjoy steak, but I don’t enjoy it that much, and instead of pointing out how expensive that can get, I point to his allowance. (Were I to go, the meal would come out of our “Date Night” budget.)
  • Pedicures and Shopping sprees. We just got back from visiting our families in Dallas. My mom, sister, and I spent a day at Northpark and  instead of asking Steve how much I’m “allowed” to spend on things like palazzo pants and ballet flats, I checked my allowance.

One of the most common questions I get is how do we decide what “We” pay for versus what “I” pay for. This is obviously best left up to you and your partner, but for us it boils down to necessity versus splurge. So “We” pay for regular hair cuts. “I” pay for peek-a-boo purple streaks. “We” pay for socks and underwear. . . Steve pays for fancy wool cycling socks. No more arguing over shopping sprees or being annoyed that he went out for steak and I had leftovers after I put the boys to bed. No one gets reprimanded when the budget for family clothing allows for $12 socks but the socks cost $40 (because they’re fancy wool cycling socks) – that extra $28 comes out of his allowance, and not the budget lines of things for which we are saving. Our house fund remains untouched, our new bed fund is just sitting, waiting to be filled and used . . . but those dollars don’t come from our allowance any more than our allowance comes from those dollars. Our allowances allow for us to play a little without worry.

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Peek-a-Boo Purple Streaks were coming out of my allowance until I decided the maintenance was a hassle.

A very detailed itemized budget is a lifesaver on its own (we have lines for pieces of furniture and appliances that we know will need replacing), and I personally like the accountability that comes from manually tracking every penny that comes in and goes out. But we have avoided an untold amount of arguments, reprimands, and guilt trips by having these allowances. So I just bought frivolous beach pants – so what?! I saved my allowance. Just like we teach our children to do.

So look at your finances, see what you’re spending that could be considered “personal splurges,” and give yourself an allowance that feels reasonable. This part is important: regardless of who’s bringing home the paychecks and how much they are – if you both earn, don’t look at whose is bigger, just look at your household income — both of you get the same amount. Whether it’s $5/month or $500/week – keep it equitable and keep it peaceful.

Happy Budgeting!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

Photo Credits

Title photo modified (words added & cropped) with permission from Daniel Chang via Flickr Creative Commons.

All other photos credit Author.

About The Author: Emily Bartnikowski

Emily B emmieb My NPN Posts

Emily is a wife, mother, photographer, and aspiring novelist. She blogs about parenting and life at Embrita Blogging.

7 Responses to The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage

  1. Dionna  

    We’ve been super pleased with your YNAB recommendation. We don’t have allowances, but I’m showing your post to Tom!

  2. Life Breath Present  

    These are great tips! We don’t budget in this way, quite yet, but it is definitely something to keep in mind. As a family, we choose to share our indulgences, but that’s probably just part of our nature as individuals which now translates to family 🙂

  3. Donna @ Eco-Mothering

    Budgeting has always been a double-edged sword for me. At times I like knowing exactly where every penny is going and knowing exactly how much I have to spend. However after years of tracking our family’s spending, it became a chore where I felt focused on the “not enough” part – always feeling we never had enough money coming in. Allowances are a nice idea, though. We just started one with our daughter, maybe it’s time to look at one for ourselves.

  4. Lauren Wayne  

    Can I just say I’m aghast that someone in this day and age tells you your husband’s money from working is not yours?!?!?!?

    Ok, but moving on…this allowance thing is a great idea! I love the idea of knowing what I can spend guilt-free. I’m shopping-phobic and always feel bad about spending money, so it’s kind of the opposite of limiting sprees, but I think it would work the same way. I’d know it was ok to buy some things I crave, because the money would be budgeted for it.

  5. Kellie

    I love allowances! My husband and I have taken turns doing the budgeting/finances, because if we are both doing it, it doesn’t go well. We’ve done a system where whoever isn’t in charge of the general finances has an allowance, so that they can spend without worrying about it. It is really helpful.

  6. Survivor  

    Excellent idea! Money use seems to be one of the issues that come up over and over again between my husband and I. Having an allowance seems to be a great way to nearly eliminate the problem!

  7. Amy  

    Love YNAB and allowances and budgeting. Thanks for highlighting the importance of all three.

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