One couple had a big blow-up over what should stay and what should go in the family budget. It opened up a nuanced discussion about finances and stay-at-home parents on Reddit.

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Parenthood causes your priorities to shift. You may need to skip out on happy hour plans if child care falls through at the last minute—ditto for child-free wedding invitations. And kids also cost money—more than you think. A 2017 survey by NerdWallet found that the price tag for raising a child in the first year alone will range from $21,248 to $51,985, but that nearly half of parents expect it will cost significantly less.

A couple is finding these two things out the hard way, and it's causing some issues with their marriage. One mom took to Reddit to vent and get some advice.

"I'm…the breadwinner and have a toddler and a 9-month-old baby," started u/Throw_A3632ESD4, who says she's a 32-year-old mom, in the AITA subreddit. "Their needs are never-ending, and everything I buy is expensive. My husband…is unemployed but uses part of my salary for his subscription/paid streaming services which cost about 80 a month for Hulu (premium), Netflix, HBO, Amazon, ESPN , and more."

Original poster (OP) has realized she's skipped out on buying personal items to support the family and keeps feeling guilty every time she has to buy something essential. She decided it was time to speak with her husband, but it didn't go well.

mother holding baby with one arm, holding bottle of milk with other hand
Credit: Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty (1)

"I asked him to choose one channel, and he threw a fit calling me ridiculous to think streaming services are the reason I'm always short on money and blamed it on the 'expensive' and 'unnecessary'…I keep wasting money on," she continued. "I got angry and said he needed to respect that makeup is part of my personality and won't quit buying and wearing it."

The two kept going at it, with the husband accusing OP of trying to "financially control him," and her threatening to cancel all streaming services. And then there was this gem: "He suggested I stop buying formula and go back to breastfeeding since that is unnecessary and expensive," she said.

For some reason, "just breastfeed" is a default solution from non-lactating partners. A couple of years ago, a dad asked Reddit if he was wrong for refusing to split the cost of formula with his wife (Spoiler Alert: Yes.). Breastfeeding is hard, and conservative estimates put the time a person spends breastfeeding in the first year at 1,800 hours. Read: It's a job, and the person doesn't get paid or a day off.

At the same time, the husband is also doing unpaid labor by staying at home with a child, though the OP edited her post to say she does most of the housework. The two couldn't really talk it over because the husband called OP controlling and stormed off. Now, she wants to know if she was in the wrong. Reddit was split.

"He's contributing nothing financially. You are NTA, and you can spend your hard-earned dollars however you like," wrote one commenter.

But others disagreed.

"In some areas, the financial contribution is child care. Where I live, for example, daycare can easily be over 50k a year—which is a full salary for some people…We need to do away with this line of thinking that stay-at-home parents do not provide financial benefit to their households. They do," pointed out another.

And other posters shared personal experiences of being the non-breadwinner.

"If he isn't going to contribute, he doesn't get a say. I'm saying this as a man whose wife is the breadwinner (though I do work). If she asked me to cancel any of my subscriptions, I would without hesitation if I knew she was struggling," said one person.

"My partner is the breadwinner…We both pay a proportional share of what we make towards bills/expenses & still have a little left for ourselves…We recently moved, and our rent increased…They told me I needed to cut back on unnecessary purchases/subscriptions, and I immediately did so. They cut back as well," said another.

Ultimately, different strategies will work for different families. But financial experts agree that parents often underestimate the costs of having kids. Some ways parents can trim their costs include:

  • Use what you have. Buy what you use. Declutter your home to see what you already have and get rid of items you are not using. Make some notes as you go as to items you could have done without, and use this knowledge moving forward as you consider what to buy and what to skip.
  • Buy secondhand. Kids go through clothes and toys quickly. If an item is one you feel will have a short shelf-life, like rattles or newborn-sized clothing, see if friends or family have it and if they are willing to give or loan it to you. You may even be able to start arranging a swap with other parents.
  • Set a budget. Holidays and birthdays may cause you to splurge a bit. Setting a budget in advance can keep spending in check.
  • Check daily expenses. Skipping daily Starbucks lattes or canceling subscription services won't solve the student loan crisis, but it may be able to help your family afford items like formula.

Discussions about finances are never fun, but ultimately, they're necessary when raising a family. The more open, honest, and respectful you can be with your partner, the better off everyone will be.