Finances can be stressful enough when you’re in a first family – then throw in kids from a previous marriage, child support payments, alimony, lawyer’s bills, financial strain due to divorce, different ideas about where to allocate funds, and moving into the house where you husband lived during his first marriage… when you’re in a second marriage – the topic of finances can get REALLY tricky.
A few months back I received this note from a reader, about her struggles with finances – today I thought I would answer it for all of you!
Thank you for all that you do.
Can you address the issue of finances when your partner has kids and you have none. How do you deal with expenses such as mortgage (I moved into his home, I am not on the deed, and I pay half), the utilities, and especially the groceries. We have the kids 50% of the time (just like you).
I think that this is an issue that many step-parents/partners wrestle with. I also think that we have a tendency to sugarcoat the issue. There is nothing wrong is saying that “I have no obligation to pay for your children.” That said, I still wonder how to go about dealing with finances in an ever evolving situation: Children grow and they will cost more money
I am sure that many people secretly struggle with the issue of finances.
All the best, my friend.
First, I want to start off by saying that it’s important to remember that what works for one family, may not work for another family! There are SO many contributing factors that come into play when it comes to navigating finances when you’re a stepmom, especially a childless stepmom.
Financial position of both the stepmom and dad
The stepmom’s relationship with her stepchildren – Do you see them as part of your family? How have they accepted you into their lives? For example, some stepmoms think of their stepkids as their own, while others see them as her “husband’s kids.”
Child support payments
How much the children’s mother contributes financially
The details of the legal agreement that stipulates Dad’s financial responsibilities
How finances were handled when your partner was with his ex (for example, some parents pay for the kids extras like cell phones or brand shoes, while other parents feel like the child should work for these things)
The way you view your partnership and marriage
…the list goes on.
When deciding how to navigate finances in YOUR relationship, it’s important to consider how aligned your views are in these areas. The more aligned you are, the better merging finances will be.
If you’re not on the same page, and don’t believe that you should be financially responsible for your stepkids, then merging finances is probably not the best thing for you.
At that point, you need to sit down and figure out what you will contribute and what you feel is fair. This is an area where communication is key!!
It should be noted that this may be a conversation you need to revisit several times. It may not be an area where you can come to an agreement after just one pow-wow.
I know that some of you want me to tell you how much a stepmom should contribute to the mortgage or to the groceries, if she isn’t financially responsible for the kids, but I can’t. Again, this is a situation where you need to do what feels right for you. I will say, it’s probably a conversation to have sooner than later, before financial habits and expectations are put into place. Ideally this conversation happens BEFORE you move in.
It may be helpful to start by thinking about how you would split finances if there were NO CHILDREN INVOLVED – then factor in the kids from there.
For example, maybe you split the mortgage (the cost of that doesn’t change based on how many people are in the home) but your husband pays for 2/3 of the hydro and the groceries on the weeks when the kids are with you. This is where the expenses will increase based on how many people are in the house.
If it bothers you that you’re not on the deed for the house or on the mortgage, that’s a conversation to have with your partner as well.
YOU MAY WANT TO ASK:
- What happens if your relationship doesn’t work out as you ARE helping him build equity in the house?
- Are you going to be compensated for the equity you’ve helped him build? Is this considered rent? Is there a long term plan?
- Is it necessary to put something in writing?
The more clear you are, the better! As much as legal agreements make marriages a little less sexy and way less romantic, they are often important to have in place.
Personally, I’m often asked how WE handle finances in OUR family, so today I’m going to share that as well.
Here’s the how (and why) of how we handle finances in our family
When my husband and I first started dating, I saw that he was struggling in the kids clothing department. With 50/50 custody schedule, he was responsible for getting the kids what they needed while they were with him. Like many fathers who weren’t used to this responsibility during their marriage, the guy didn’t have a clue.
I was actually quite excited to help out in this department, because I have always loved kids clothes. I loved taking them to the mall, or surprising them with a new outfit. Soon I found myself doing a lot of the shopping for the kids.
On the weekends, I’d also often whip to the grocery store to grab something to make for dinner. While I was there, I’d pick up whatever was needed at the house. I loved doing it but it left me STRAPPED for cash in a BIG BAD WAY. (Let me tell you the cost of groceries continues to blow mind! Kids are EXPENSIVE!)
This went on for a while, and as much as I loved contributing, it was also quite stressful. I remember one day, I logged onto my online banking to discover that I only have 5 dollars left in my account and that my VISA was maxed. My car payment was coming out the following day and PAY DAY wasn’t for a week.
I felt embarrassed calling my now husband to tell him I needed money, but I had spent my money on his kids.
Don’t get me wrong, he always paid me back, but sometimes we would just forget and the constant writing cheques back and forth got a little tedious.
As I became more involved, this stressful situation happened more than once.
To avoid this, within months of living together, we decided to merge our finances. My paycheques went into his bank account, and all of my expenses came out of it. My student loan and car payment came out of the same account as child support and lawyer’s bills. Everything was in one.
We’ve never talked about percentages or who contributes what. From day one it’s been this “what’s mine is yours” scenario … and that includes both of our debts and financial obligations.
THAT’S what works for us! It’s NOT what works for everyone.
Guys I have to say, this isn’t a decision I made lightly.
There was part of me that thought “I am giving all of my money to a man”, how stupid am I?!”.
I heard my mom’s voice in the back of my head saying “Jamie, you always need your own money, you always need a safety net.”
We weren’t even married yet!
But we followed our gut, and both agreed that if that either of us felt this arrangement wasn’t working, we would go back to separate finances. No questions asked.
I went into this relationship HEAD FIRST… knowing that it could either be the BEST thing that ever happened to me or that I could get BURNED really quickly. It was a risk that I was willing to take. So far it’s been the first of the two, and I’m grateful for that.
After we had our baby girl, we decided that I was going to stop working in Child Protection and stay home so I can be available for the kids. My husband’s job can be quite demanding, and with the extra-curricular schedule and all things “life with four kids” – he wasn’t able to leave work every day to get them to where they needed to be.
We sat down and realized that it was better for OUR FAMILY financially if I stayed home while he continued to work. Essentially, my job is to support him so that he can better support us. (I bet that sentence got a few of you wound up – remember THIS is what works for us.)
It’s a team effort – with me being home, he is able to work longer and harder, which ultimately benefits our entire family unit.
I take care of everything on the home front – except for taking out the garbage and cutting the lawn that is! And he handles most of the finances.
This arrangement lasted for a couple years, until I was able to start my own business from home. The truth is, me working wasn’t in the plan. We never intended on me being anything other than a stay-at-home-mom but I was getting bored! I still had this burning desire to help people. While I wanted/needed flexibility to be there for the kids, I was CRAVING more! I also very much wanted to contribute financially.
| SEE BLOG POST: How I make money from my blog |
Now, while everything I make goes in a SEPARATE account for my business, it’s still ours. When I pay myself, I transfer it to our account. There have been many times when I have been the one to pay financial obligations for the kids such as camp, winter coats, etc… It hasn’t changed the way we look at our funds.
DOES IT BOTHER ME THAT THE MONEY I MAKE GOES TOWARDS HIS KIDS?
Personally, no. I look at our marriage as a partnership and I see his financial responsibilities as my financial responsibilities and vice versa. I also don’t view the kids’ expenses as his responsibility. I view it as ours. When I married my husband, I also got three stepkids. I am happy to support them in anyway I can.
The reason why this works is that we (for the most part) are on the same page about what we will and will not provide for the kids, and how much we will allocate for what.
Yes, we’ve had disagreements. Yes, there have been heated conversations because we aren’t ALWAYS on the same page, but that’s normal for any family. The PROS of this arrangement far outweigh the CONS.
DO I RESENT HOW THE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES FROM HIS FIRST MARRIAGE IMPACT OURS?
Look, I’d be lying if it hasn’t crossed my mind – so to answer this question, sure I do. With divorces come legal agreements that stipulate certain financial responsibilities including kid’s expenses, child support etc…
These calculations don’t necessarily reflect what the financial responsibilities would be if there were no divorce. I think that there are aspects of the system that are flawed, unfair and unreasonable. BUT guess what…spending my time and energy dwelling on the Ontario Family Law Act isn’t going to change it.
Spending our time and energy thinking about what life would be like, if we didn’t have to worry about some of the thing we do, won’t change anything!
I hate this saying, but “it is what it is.”
When it comes to navigating your way through finances, it’s important to remember that A LOT of couples in first families have separate bank accounts and deal with their finances separately.
This isn’t an issue that is exclusive to blended families or stepmoms.
So, moral of the story is if you’re constantly getting into arguments over what is being spent and where… separate finances is the way the go!
If you feel that your current system is unfair, then sit down and talk to your partner about it and get on the same page.
Finances are very personal and people have different relationships with money! You have to do what feels right for you, and is best for your family dynamic.
PS. There is SO much more to cover on this topic! Like I said, finances is a COMPLICATED subject. If you have specific questions, be sure to leave them in the comments – a follow up post is coming REALLY soon!