New Marriage, New Budget

by Michelle Kennedy Hogan

Recently a reader asked, "How do my new husband and I divide our finances when I am the only one with children?" Having been in a similar situation, I think you and your partner should consider a few things.

First, I like to consider marriage a partnership, I think most people do. With the multitudes of financial information available now and the interest women have taken in their finances (not to mention the interest the media has taken in women and their finances!), I think we have gotten away from this concept. So, let me say that ideally you and your husband should have a financial partnership, not just a romantic one.

What does a financial partnership entail? Well, let's start with the basics (we won't go into investments here). You should both agree that the children and their expenses are part of the household budget...they go right up there with food, electric, phone and everything else (mostly since they consume the majority of these things!). Sit down and determine your household budget and then get a joint checking account to cover those expenses. Each partner should also get a separate personal checking account for personal expenses. You will have to decide what is determined personal and what is determined a "household" expense. You will also have to decide how much you will spend on each child for activities, clothing etc. Again, these come out of the household budget. If you receive child support, this money will go into the household budget, however if you receive alimony, that will go into your personal account.

Other factors also come into play. If you are receiving a wage for your work, you and your husband should determine a percentage of each of your incomes that will enable you to jointly pay all of your household expenses. A percentage is a fair way to determine this, particularly if one of you makes less than the other, that way a fixed dollar amount won't totally leave one of you without a personal reserve. If you are not receiving a wage and/or are a "homemaker", then you should still, if finances permit, maintain a personal account and receive a wage for your work from your partner. If finances do not permit for you to receive a wage, then you may want to look into the various, scam free, home business or work at home opportunities available.

Now, if you are having issues that relate to a "They're your children, you pay for it" type of thing then your issues are more than just financial and you may need family counseling. Determine how you want your family to operate before worrying about where the cash goes, and be consistent! It may be that a new, previously childless partner is having difficulty adjusting to "new father or motherhood", so these items will have to take precedence over monetary ones. Be patient, remember that a formerly single person, perhaps never married, all of a sudden has to share everything, not only with a new partner, but with new partners. Making concerns, both financial and otherwise, will serve everyone better in the long run and help everyone feel in control of a new situation.

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