Stay-at-Home Moms & Money

Have a Spending Plan

Every family needs a household budget, but it's even more crucial when one of you decides to forgo a paycheck and you're living on less. Even though you'll need to cut costs and make sacrifices, there are two things you shouldn't give up: paying off any debt you may have accumulated and saving for retirement. Bahr recommends that the first 10 to 15 percent of household income go into a retirement fund.

Work with your spouse to create a budget that allows for those expenses, as well as for your weekly and monthly bills. Then figure out the most comfortable way to divvy up what's left of that single paycheck. Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of having to ask your husband for money every time you need to get your hair colored or buy a new pair of jeans.

One strategy is for both of you to agree on a monthly sum each of you can spend for discretionary items (clothes, haircuts, gym dues, and golf outings) with no questions asked. Then you deposit that amount into two individual checking or savings accounts. Use your joint account for paying bills and buying things for the house and the kids. Another option is to keep all funds in a joint account but to set a dollar limit on the amount one partner can spend without consulting the other.

"Either way allows both the husband and wife to feel they're retaining their independence," says Stifler. A caveat: The agreed-upon amounts need to be realistic, so there's no temptation to use credit cards, hide spending, or secretly dip into the household funds for personal expenses.

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