We learn about money by watching our parents. And we assume what we saw was the norm.
But then we grow up. Only to fall in love with someone whose experience was vastly different than ours.
At least, that’s what happened to me.
My Husband and My Financial Upbringings
Growing up, my family was upper-middle class. My parents saved and invested a lot of their income. They were responsible and not boastful, but also willing to spend to support their kids.
I always went to a full-time summer camp from the time I was young to age 12 or so. My parents put me in summer school to help me get ahead of my classmates and my family was a regular host of neighborhood pizza nights.
When the teenage years rolled around, my siblings and I got used cars paid for in full once we got our driver’s licenses. And my parents took us on modest to upscale vacations at least once a year. When it came time for college, I was lucky enough to have my tuition paid for.
That wasn’t how it went in my husband’s house.
My husband comes from a family of middle-class savers. Despite having money, his parents rarely spent it. Nor – to his knowledge – did his parents invest their money.
Money wasn’t necessarily an issue for my husband’s family, but they didn’t spend quite as freely as my family did. They limited eating out to special occasions and took vacations closer to home.
These differences in our upbringings definitely impacted the way we personally view money and plan for our futures. And those differences got sharper once kids were in the picture. So, over time, we’ve had to learn how to bridge that gap.
Here’s how we do it.
1 – Set “Free” Spending Amounts
I was used to spending money on just about anything I felt like, within reason. My favorite candle store is having a sale? I LOVE candles! And then suddenly, $100 worth of candles were en route to my house. Could I afford it? Yes. Could I have found a better, more productive use for that $100? Also yes.
My husband, on the other hand, was used to keeping a meticulous budget. He only had $10 remaining in his “eating out” category? I certainly wouldn’t catch him going over that limit, even if he really was craving that burrito.
How We Set an Amount
We’ve decided to balance our two mindsets by setting a limit on our “free” spending amount. After our bills are paid, the money for 529s is set aside, and our savings transferred, we each get a set amount of money each week to spend as we like.
For us, it’s $25 per week per person.
Can that be a lot of tacos and lunches with friends? Yes. Can this $25 be saved for a total of $100 and spent on candles? Yes.
Would I rather have margaritas with a girlfriend after work, a movie ticket, and an ice cream cone? Probably.
But this system keeps us in check with our spending. Once the $25 is up, it’s gone.
2 – Agreeing on a “No Need to Discuss” Limit and Waiting Periods
Similar to our personal spending money, my husband and I have also set a limit on how much we can spend without asking the other person.
Currently, it happens to be $150. Slightly over the amount of the “free” spending money we receive each month.
Why Have a Set Limit on “No Need to Discuss” Spending?
Neither of us wants to discuss every purchase. I’m not going to call to ask if I can spend $15 on the large pack of toilet paper if it’s in our budget. But we needed to remove the uncertainty from whether it was worth having a conversation about an expense.
New tires for my car? We should probably chat about it. Not so one of us can say no, but so we’re on the same page.
Setting our $150 limit has helped us learn how to work together to plan for major purchases.
Practicing Delayed Spending
Impulse purchases can kill your budget. And cause arguments.
A waiting period can solve all that.
For larger purchases, we’ve decided on a set waiting period before we pull the trigger. Unless it’s something clearly necessary (like a new car battery), it can wait.
Typically, my husband and I wait about a week before deciding to spend a larger sum of money. We do a lot of research, price comparison, and thinking on whether we really need or want the item we’re considering buying.
Our waiting period decreased overspending and kept everyone happy. But it isn’t just us in the picture. There is our daughter to consider.
3 – Handling Kids & Allowances
As a child, I never received an allowance. I did whatever my parents asked of me, whenever they asked (most of the time).
But my husband grew up with a certain list of chores that he completed each week for an allowance.
In retrospect, I wish I had gotten an allowance when I was younger so that I could have started to build healthy money habits at an early age. Luckily, this means my husband and I have an area where we agree. Our kids should receive an allowance. But how?
Should Our Kids Get an Allowance Based on Doing Expected Tasks?
We used to differ on if our daughter will get an allowance or whether chores are just part of being a member of the household. Fortunately, there are so many resources on this topic. We did our research, discussed, and decided to compromise.
For certain chores – making her bed, keeping her room clean, putting her dishes in the dishwasher, and etc. – she will not receive an allowance.
But for “bigger” chores – cleaning the toilet, vacuuming, dusting, etc. – she will receive a predetermined amount. Each “extra” chore will have its own amount, relative to the length of time it takes to complete and the difficulty level. For example, vacuuming the family room rug may earn $.50, while dusting the bedrooms might be $1.50.
There is More Than One Way to Do Allowance
There are many, many ways to determine the amount for allowance, from price-per-chore to set amount per week based on age. My husband and I have found our way to encourage our daughter to complete chores to earn money, while still holding her to clear expectations.
4 – Teaching the Value of Money
Our daughter has a clear bank where she keeps her money. Sometimes, seeing it there burns a hole in her pocket.
What should we do? How do we teach her the value of a dollar?
What Do We Let Our Daughter Spend Her Money On?
Deciding what we pay for and what should come from our daughter’s savings is still an issue we’re navigating.
The other day we were all at a bookstore and our daughter saw a book that she just had to have. We told her this item wasn’t in our budget, but that she could put it on her wish list for Christmas or her birthday.
Spoiler alert: That didn’t work. She wanted it now.
She negotiated with us, asking if we would pay for half of the book. At the time, I didn’t want to make a scene, but I believe she is old enough to pay a full $11 for a book that she wants. But my husband decided to split the cost with her.
To my delight, she proudly gave us $5.50 from her bank as soon as we got home.
Of course, the book has laid untouched since them. But that’s a lesson for another day I suppose.
5 – Teaching Spend, Save, Donate
To encourage a healthy mindset towards money, my husband and I set up jars for spending, saving, and donating in our daughter’s room. These are labeled and we encourage her to set aside a percentage of her allowance into each jar (currently it’s 50% save, 30% spend, and 20% donate).
While it might be tedious breaking down $5 into $2.50, $1.50, and $1.00, it really helps our daughter to see where her money is going.
How Do We Help Our Child Set Financial Goals?
Learning to save and invest is important for long-term financial health. So we take her to the bank and deposit her savings monthly.
As she gets older, we want to ask her about what she’d like to save for, help her set amounts, and automate her savings. I’ve seen pictures where you color in when you reach a certain dollar amount towards your goal, and I think the visual reminder would be just perfect for her.
6 – Should Teens Have Jobs?
This is a point of conflict for my husband and me.
In my house growing up, the rule was once you turn 16, you have a job. It doesn’t matter what it is (within reason), but you must have some sort of income coming in. Working provided valuable life lessons.
I worked as a cashier at a local grocery store. And while I was allowed to spend my income on whatever I wanted, I was expected to pay a certain amount of money each month towards my car insurance. If I wanted to drive, gas was on me.
Then, when my high school’s marching band announced that we were traveling to Italy during winter break, my parents told me that if I wanted to go, I’d have to pay for it. They fronted some of the cost, but I made a payment plan and was thrilled to pay it off with my earnings.
At my husband’s house, things we different.
He also had a job when we turned 16. But he wasn’t held responsible for gas, car insurance, or similar fixed expenses. Instead, he worked for more “fun money”.
So, what should we do with our daughter?
What Should We Expect Our Daughter to do with Her Income?
Clearly, we have a different idea of what our daughter should be responsible for once she starts working.
Ideally, we’d like her to continue the principles of her spend-save-donate jars once she’s old enough to work. But we would also like her to feel responsible for some of her college expenses. Even if it’s saving to cover textbooks, her own spending money, or a meal plan.
Setting Realistic Expectations
Can we expect our daughter to have $10,000 saved by the time she’s 16 for college? Probably not.
It’s important that we set realistic expectations and include her in conversations about money. She needs to know as soon as she’s ready to understand what we’ll expect her to cover for college and other expenses.
We plan to talk openly with our daughter about expenses we plan to split and go from there.
7 – Paying for College
My husband’s family didn’t actively save much for college. But my siblings and I knew that we had the pick of almost any school for “free”. (Well, not free. It was a result of my parents’ careful planning and investing.)
For our daughter, we have very different ideas when it comes to paying for college.
What if she doesn’t want to attend college? Would it be hers or would we use that money for something else? Should she have skin in the game and have to pay for some of her expenses?
Ideally, I’d love to pay fully for any school our daughter gets accepted to. Of course, I’ll expect her to apply for scholarships as well, but I would want to cover the difference.
Alternatively, my husband would like to fund community college or an in-state public university. But he doesn’t want to lose sleep over taking out parent or student loans for her to attend a more expensive private school.
Compromising on College Funding
After many conversations and a few tears, we decided to commit to funding tuition for an in-state public university for our daughter, nothing more and nothing less.
Honestly, I still struggle with this. Financially, we can afford to put more money away each month into her 529 plan. However, we do plan to have more kids down the road and we’ll also plan for them to attend college.
Open Communication Keeps Us On The Same Page
My husband and I have many different views about money. Sometimes that’s hard. But we’ve found ways to make it work and grow together.
In the end, our relationship and money mindsets thrive on open, honest communication.
No matter what your individual feelings about money, it’s helpful to find ways to work together and get on the same page. Your children’s feelings about money will be better for it.
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Do you and your partner have different financial upbringings or different ideas on how money should be spent or saved? How have you overcome your differences? Share with other moms in the comments!