Handling household finances--boyfriend--my kids - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 06-17-2012, 01:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi all. My boyfriend and I have been together for 3+ years, living together for most of it. I have 2 daughters, ages 7 and 11, and our lives are intertwined in every way, most of the time happily. But we're fighting about money a lot lately and I've run out of ideas. Hoping you can help.

I'm a nursing student, working part time... Including child support, I bring in $900-$1200/month. Not a lot. My boyfriend makes twice that, but handles everything with cash because he doesn't have a bank account. All of the household bills are in my name, but sometimes he will log on to the bill accounts and pay with his prepaid debit cards.

he generally feels ok about each paying for things when we can, and he feels that he pays for stuff that is "not his responsibility", because he helps pay for the kids when we're going out for meals, movies, etc, and groceries, even though he doesn't eat much of the food.

Most of the time, I'm ok with us paying for what we can, when wee can. But sometimes it feels out of wack, like lately, especially when I don't have money t do extra curricular activities, but we're still doing them, because he offers to pay for them. I spent $300 on groceries and household stuff (mop, sponges, TP, etc) this week, and Things are getting automatically debited from my account, and so when I expected him to pay for groceries yesterday because I have spent so much, things blew up.

I just don't know how to handle household finances. I'm usually on food stamps, so normally groceries wouldn't be an issue because mine are covered... But I'm super broke and can't cover bills. He feels that he pays out a lot, and I feel I pay out a lot. When I started to add up receipts so we can see how much we're each paying for things, he got furious because he doesn't keep receipts, and insists that he won't. So I have no way of knowing who is spending what, and basically he doesn't want to "nickel and dime."

How do any of you handle household finances with a step parent or live-in boyfriend/girlfriend? How do you work out what is fair for you each to pay for, especially when the person with less money is the parent? Do you split the bills? How often do you keep track of who's spending what, without seeming like you're counting every penny and owing each other for stuff? (he hates the words "I owe you" or "you owe me").

greensad.gif. Thanks y'all.
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#2 of 7 Old 06-17-2012, 04:58 PM
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Hi there,


I don't really have a solution but will try to offer some advice. 


Wait 'til things are a little calmer before broaching it again.  Sit down at the table or go for a walk. Discuss it when neither of you are stressed or wound up.  Have a conversation - not an argument.  There's no need to fight.  Look at it as a puzzle to solve rather than an impending argument.


When you're having the conversation, talk about how you feel.  Don't say "You need to stop .... etc".  Say things like "I feel like a lot of pressure and stress has built up around this issue and we should talk about it rathionally".  It takes the harshness out of the conversation.


Find a list of free things to do around your area.  There must be free museums, exhibitions or places to go walking. It'll show him that you're making an effort to still do things with him without expecting him to pay.   He may only see 2 options - stay in and save money, or go out and have him pay.  Providing a third option might help. 


If you have to stay in because of money, light a few candles, stick on some music and make him a nice dinner from all the groceries you've bought - make a night of it so it doesn't feel depressing and boring.  


That's it.  Sorry I can't solve your problems but hopefully that'll help even a little.


Best wishes. 

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#3 of 7 Old 06-17-2012, 05:11 PM
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I stay home with our 3 kids, the older two being from a previous marriage. We've also been together around 3 years. The way we do it is, he pays me a certain amount from each pay cheque (it's a significant portion of what he brings home) He pays for car insurance, gas and his phone bill. I pay the household bills out of what I get from him, child tax benefit and child support. That being said, whenever there's extra expenses on either side, the other person tries to contribute some extra money. It's not set in stone. He doesn't consider anything around here "not his responsibility". He treats the kids equally and provides for them all. 


I'm seeing this through the filter of having a financially abusive past, so please excuse me if I'm totally off base. Do you feel that the dynamic between you and BF will change once you graduate? What happens when all of a sudden you're the higher wage earner? From the way you describe his defensiveness at you deciding to tally up receipts, it sounds almost like he might know he's not contributing his fair share, and he doesn't want you getting wise to the fact. Not having a bank account and being paid in cash sounds like maybe he has a habit of not living up to his financial responsibilities.


Not wanting to nickel and dime is totally okay, but if you're spending every penny you have on keeping a roof over your head and food in the fridge, and he's got a bunch of spending money it can seem really unfair. Maybe you need to change up how you're doing bills or something. Like maybe he can cover rent and you handle groceries and the smaller bills? He probably feels like you're 'taking' a lot more from him than you are, when it's in smaller increments throughout the month (especially if he's not so hot with money, he doesn't know how much he's blowing on lunches or whatever each week) If he only has to deal with one number, maybe that'll help ease things between you two. I don't know what the cost of things are where you are, but $900. - $1200 would be a decent amount for covering groceries, utilities and other incidentals here. 

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#4 of 7 Old 06-17-2012, 08:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks ladies.


I totally understand why you're asking those questions, Mummoth, about defensiveness about receipts. It's not a power trip, though... it's just some unproductive approaches to finances,and some stubbornness about changing them. Yes, he's been irresponsible with money, which is concerning... and I've struggled greatly over the past 6 years of being a single (for lack of a better term, lately) parent, and I"m not the best at managing my finances either, but I can still have a bank account and credit cards etc. We both have our blockages about handling finances, and we both have our patterns that don't work, and we both feel taken advantage of in different ways.  


Thanks for your tangible suggestions on how to manage things. I'll ponder them and see what we can come up with.


I'd love to hear more ideas, if you and others have them. Keep em coming.


Funny how there's so little info out there on how to handle step-family stuff, when so many families these days are not classic nuclear families. 

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#5 of 7 Old 06-18-2012, 05:17 AM
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Please take this response as the best advice I can offer, based on my personal experiences, not as judgment of your situation.  I lived with my BF, too, the father of my oldest kids.  We broke up and never got married.  So I'm certainly not trying to come across as holier-than-thou, about the living together.


It's hard for me to conceive how a couple can avoid fighting over money - when there's not quite enough of it, and the kids in the household belong to only one of the adults - unless there's a very clearly-defined plan for marriage, or a clear understanding that both sides consider this arrangement permanent.  That way, it's reasonable to start thinking of all the money as "ours" and making sure "our" bills get covered with "our" total income, instead of worrying about whose money is paying for whose responsibilities.


Perhaps this sounds like adding gasoline to a fire:  if you're already fighting over money, why would you choose now to "pressure" him over whether he wants to get married, or will he at least promise that he's with you for good...in which case, why isn't "his" money also yours?  But it doesn't need to be quite like that.  If you're arguing, then he's also under stress - and suffering from the lack of clarity about how things should work between you, financially.  Personally, by the time I get to the point of arguing over money, I feel pretty emotional about it.  This makes discussing it worse, because I'm not entirely rational, I'm more likely to be defensive, and it frustrates my husband, who feels torn between wanting to say whatever he thinks I want to hear, to make me feel better and his instinct that money ought to be discussed rationally.  He may feel manipulated, even if I'm really not trying to manipulate him, I just feel worried and upset.  If this dynamic sounds familiar to you, your BF might be relieved to have you sit him down for a rational conversation about money...which necessarily includes a discussion about your level of commitment.


Basically, you need to establish:


- If you were married, or if you both felt this was your "forever family"...if you had a child together...would both of you then consider your incomes one pool of money, to meet the needs of everyone in the family, including your daughters?  (Or do you envision a marriage with separate incomes and separate expenses?  Or a marriage where you and he and your mutual children might pool resources, but you would always be separately responsible for your daughters' needs and when he contributed toward them, it would be above-and-beyond?)


- How far away are you, from feeling that committed?


- If you already are that committed, then what's keeping you from thinking of all your money as joint?  Are you looking at your wedding day as the defined moment when things will become shared?  Or is it simply that, until now, you've only had need-by-need discussions about money?


- Does he resent that you bring in less than he does, but you have two extra people to pay for?  On the surface, that's not an unreasonable way for him to feel, so don't beat him up over it.  But discuss it.  How much do you expect your income to change, once you're a nurse?  Does he agree that this time you're spending, not working (or working P/T?), so you can study, is a good investment?  Or does he feel you could manage things differently and better cover your own needs right now, but you're not motivated because he takes up the slack?  If he does feel that way, be honest with yourself.  Is he way off-base and unfair, or does he have a point?


- If you're going to start sharing everything, should you open a joint account?  


- Either way - if you're going to start sharing everything, or you're going to keep things separate but have some overlap - you need to work out a budget together.  Don't add up receipts, if he's uncomfortable with that.  But get statements from the utility companies about how much your monthly bills are.  Then agree on how much of what's left over it's reasonable to spend on food, clothes, gas, fun...and savings?  To argue less, you guys have to quit feeling surprised about where your money's going.


Obviously, there's a fear factor in this.  His answers may hurt.  But if he's always going to feel like paying for your daughters' meals at a restaurant exceeds expectations and should reduce what he contributes at the grocery, you need to know that.  That's not sustainable.


If his resistance to totaling up expenses is because he doesn't want to mar your relationship with accusations of who owes what to whom, then don't bring it up that way.  Nickel-and-diming is no way to live.  Tell him you don't want to fight, or make him feel taken advantage of.  So you want him to know ahead of time what expenses to expect - and you want to be sure he has a voice in how money gets spent, even though you may be the main one doing the shopping.  But if his resistance is a childish refusal to think about where his money goes...that's not sustainable, either.  Adults with children can't go through life never keeping track of their spending.  That's a formula for always spending every cent you have, not saving for the future; and making impulsive, not wise, decisions about what to buy.  If he's committed to that and will always get angry if you suggest making a budget, then you will always fight about money.


FWIW, my husband and I argue about money sometimes.  I assume most couples do, especially at times when not enough is coming in.  Arguments are usually resolved by discussing and adjusting our budget.  But, even though we both have kids from prior relationships who live with us, we both agree that whatever money we have coming in needs to cover all the kids' needs.  Sometimes, he's had a super-slow period at work and child support I receive for my kids has covered expenses for his kid (for whom we receive no child support).  Yes, I want to know my husband feels motivated to get things moving again at work, as soon as possible.  But I don't feel it's unfair that "I" paid tuition for "his" kid.  We agreed to be a family.  Obviously, we each knew the other was bringing kids into the arrangement.  We agree on what the kids should have.  We pool our resources to make sure everyone's needs are met.  I think a couple has to be like-minded on that basic principle, for a blended family to work without excessive fighting over money.

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#6 of 7 Old 06-19-2012, 08:20 AM
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My husband (not legally married) and I never argue about money. I have four children from a previous relationship and am owed $22,000 and counting in child support arrears. I have been to court numerous times and still it's rare if I get a payment. We have one child together. When we moved in together we opened a joint bank account and both of our checks from work direct deposit. All the bills, including medical, food and extracurricular are paid from that account. My 11 year old son is special needs and has HUGE medical and educational expenses.  We are a family and a family pools it's resources. I would not be in a relationship with someone who resents "paying for my children". My husbands sees all the children as his responsibility. I use an excel spreadsheet and Quiken to manage our monthly budget. Anyway if you are arguing over who pays what, instead of putting all your money together than I would say he is more like a roommate than a husband. If there are trust issues that are causing either one of you to be uncomfortable combining money then it's time to reevaluate the relationship. Sorry if that sounds harsh. Good Luck!

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#7 of 7 Old 06-22-2012, 09:52 AM
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This is all probably coming across as worse than it seems, because you are both honestly uncertain about how much you are spending on the household. The best solution is receipt-keeping, but he won't do that. 


Another good solution is to establish a joint account and each pay an equal amount into it each month. If you can pay a thousand, then it's fair to ask him to pay a thousand. 2k/month is your household budget. He can expect to be modestly housed and fed and clothed on that money. The rest of his money, he can save it or blow it or whatever. Since you are not his wife and the kids are not his kids, that's fair. 


You say you are in nursing school. Once you have more to contribute, you can say "Hey, Bob, how about we both up our monthly household contribution to $1500?" and suddenly you have a more luxurious home life AND you have established the precedent that you each control your own money in excess of the household allocation. Which you need to do, because he is not your husband and your kids are not his kids, and saving for their future needs is YOUR responsibility.


None of this is meant to imply that he does not love the children. I'm sure he does. But he is not on the hook to take care of them in any way. 

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