How to Stay Close After Baby

"We fought over our finances."

marriage finance

The couple
Ashley and Joshua Adler
Norfolk, Virginia
Parents of Sonya, 6; Eleanor, 3; and Abraham, 1 month

The conflict Ashley, 31, is a spender, and Joshua, also 31, is a saver. Money wasn't a huge issue until their expenses shot up after Sonya was born. Although Ashley wanted to quit working, the couple needed two paychecks to make ends meet. She changed nursing jobs twice in one year, taking salary cuts in exchange for more flexible hours, but continued to spend money freely. Joshua grew concerned about having a cushion for the future.

Her side "Growing up, I never had to save for something I wanted. I didn't learn the value of that. But I never ran up debt, and Joshua and I always paid our bills on time. Once we became parents, though, Joshua thought I spent too much on the baby. He questioned every nickel I spent, and I felt like he was trying to control me."

His side "It seemed like we were constantly writing checks for sitters, clothes, and impulse purchases. I nagged Ashley to cut back because we didn't have an emergency fund, which was even more important now that we had a daughter depending on us. Sonya needed clothes, but not every time Ashley went to the mall. And don't get me started on the little things, like coffee, that really add up!"

The stay-close plan "Couples often don't talk about finances before they become parents," says Bonnie Gordon-Rabinowitz, a therapist in Norfolk, Virginia. "Clashing money styles may not affect a couple without kids, but these differences will start to cause problems after a baby is born." So get your financial act together before your bundle arrives. Discuss your spending and saving habits and your long-term goals, Gordon-Rabinowitz advises. Review six months of expenses to see exactly where your money goes, and then add in the costs for baby must-haves. (If you're not sure how to estimate that, sign up for the free, ten-day Baby on Board Bootcamp at LearnVest.com.) Crunch the numbers to see if you can still achieve your goals based on your income and spending tendencies. Then set a budget -- excluding your salary if you plan to stay home -- so you can adjust to living on less even before you become a family. Designate a certain amount that the two of you can spend however you want.

How they're doing now Ashley and Joshua decided to see a financial planner, who helped them create a budget they could both stick to. They also went to counseling, which taught them how to talk through their differences. Ashley stopped spending as often and started shopping sales. Josh picked up extra work to help offset their escalating expenses. As for the emergency fund, they're still not able to save as much as they'd like. "Money will always be an issue for us, but we don't fight about it every day anymore," Ashley says.

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