Sadie has been a proud stepmother for over 25 years. She writes about blended family issues and modern family dynamics.
5 Rules for Blended Family Finances
A well-planned, realistic budget can help you and your spouse reduce money-related stress. Being a stepmother is challenging enough as it is. Stepmoms don't want to be the bad guys in the family. Many second wives already feel like outsiders as it is. By creating a family budget with your spouse and clearly communicating the money rules with your kids and stepkids, you'll have a consistent set of principles to point to when conflict arises about how money should be spent.
Here are some commonsense tips and tricks on how to develop a family budget while taking into account your blended family's unique needs.
1. Plan for living expenses beyond your month-to-month overhead payments.
Many families can easily manage planning for their typical monthly expenses, but blended families can’t always easily predict when an ex-spouse will ask for more money for clothes and school supplies. There’s also the challenge of your stepkids having two different social lives. They may be part of a soccer team in one neighborhood, and involved in art classes when they are staying with you. When you are part of a blended family, the reality is that there is a whole other household, one that you have little control over, that could be making demands that stretch your budget.
When you map out your budget, make sure that you don’t forget to factor in those fees and expenses that are payable annually, bi-annually (i.e., school fees, property taxes, insurance premiums), or on a seasonal basis (i.e. Christmas holidays). Itemize non-monthly expenses and then find a way to set aside money each month to save up for those bigger but less frequent expenses.
2. Keep track of your monthly net income as a stepfamily.
Most couples know how much each spouse earns in gross annual salary. Knowing what each of you brings home in after-tax income is essential for creating a household budget that works. You can’t accurately assess how much you should spend each month if you don’t know what you are each bringing home. If one of you has a fluctuating income because you are self-employed, look back over several years’ worth of annual tax returns and make a conservative estimate of your net income.
3. Talk about the importance of budgeting with your children and stepchildren.
The only way that you, your kids and stepkids are going to be able to see eye-to-eye on how the household budget is spent is if they actually know what the family budget is and have been involved in its preparation. No, you don’t need to cave into everything they want you to put on the budget. Effective family financial planning is also about establishing clear boundaries. But it is important for everyone in the blended family to understand the rationale behind certain budget choices. For example, when you explain that cutting back on cell phone usage fees will make saving up for a family trip to Disneyland easier. You might even be surprised at some of the ideas the kids will come up with when they know about the positive benefits of saving money for really important things!
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4. Calculate the interest you are paying on consumer debt.
If you have debt, make sure you have properly budgeted your required principal and interest payments. Understand the financial consequences of missing even one credit card payment, or worse, two or more. Your interest rate will jump significantly. Always read the credit card agreement fine print.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of spare change!
If you have been diligent in tracking your expenses and spending money according to your monthly budget, that’s great! But what do you do if you have some money leftover at the end of the month? Should you spend it? Save it? Does it really matter if it’s only a few dollars? Technically, you could just go ahead and spend it, but saving it or applying it to a debt you are trying to get rid of makes sense. You’ll reach your money goals faster. Other things you can do with spare change include giving it to charity, using it to pad your emergency fund, contributing to the family Christmas gift fund, or putting it into a foreign currency account for a destination you plan to visit one day.
It Takes Time to Figure Out
These are just a few ways to make a budget that meets your blended family’s unique needs. If you are new to the art of managing money within a blended family, give yourself some time to learn. Budgeting as a family takes patience and practice. There are always ups and downs and highs and lows when it comes to the role that money plays in our lives. If you blow the household budget one month, don't panic. Figure out how to get your spending habits back on track, and then keep moving forward!
Note: The budgeting tips explored in this article are based on common sense living. The tips are not a substitute for professional financial advice. Always contact a qualified financial planner for more rigorous guidance on planning your blended family's finances.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Sadie Holloway
April on January 11, 2017:
Thank you very much for your post. I am new to this site and trying it out. As some of us may know that budgeting with a family can be very difficult and with having a newly blended family it can be extra difficult. I love the spare change section. I personally always break a dollar. The spare change I get from that dollar goes into a change jar that I later deposit in the bank. It helps out a lot.