International Women’s Day is a day meant to represent unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action. Reading this made me start thinking about the questions I get about money in relationships and business, and how these things we are already celebrating as women can be applied to our relationships with our money.
Since we are talking here about a group of moms in Richmond who share resources and ideas, I thought it would be great to give this a platform too. This is true for all women, whether they are in our community or not, but I found it particularly relevant for the moms working at home.
I’ve been teaching classes about personal finance for over five years now, and one of the most common themes I hear is about the disconnect between spouses/partners when it comes to financial topics in the home. Now, these can range from having different goals, having different styles of managing money, misunderstandings about how money is used, or a host of other variations. However, the most common mistake I discuss with people, particularly moms, is the lack of communication and understanding around the household budget.
It can be commonly thought that this is because one spouse works at home and the other for an employer, and the spouse at home doesn’t know much about the finances. I’ve found this to be incredibly naïve and counterproductive thinking. In fact, I more often see the spouse who is working outside of the home fairly oblivious to the needs of their partner and/or children. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. If I’m out of the house for 9-11 hours daily working for an employer I’m not going to see that our four kids need 15 pounds of food per day to survive, (I’m obviously exaggerating but for those of you with teenagers you feel my pain), or the equipment they need for their activities or the last-minute project that needs to be turned in tomorrow, etc.
I do want to be clear, I am not siding with one person or another. I’ve been on both sides and hopefully, both parties are doing their absolute best to support each other. But, what if there were a way to eliminate some of this frustration and have both of you feel heard, justified, and happy?
This is where I’ll circle back to the statement from IWD. As women, we have the strength and ability to broach this subject with our partners in a way that is approachable and beneficial to both people. We can apply the same actions they’ve laid out for us and build toward a stronger and happier position with our money, and in turn our relationships.
So how do we do this?
Let’s start with unity.
Pick a day or time when the two of you can have at least 30 minutes to yourselves. You can be creative and this can be a light-hearted conversation, so it doesn’t necessarily require Grandma coming over to watch the kids so the two of you can retreat to a government building for a top-secret conversation. (Okay, sometimes my imagination gets the best of me.) But a trip to the park where you can watch the kids but still have some time to yourselves would be fine. Or if you can swing a lunch out or a chat on the porch during nap time, just find a time that both of you can be relaxed and talk openly to each other. We apply unity to this situation by explaining that we want to make sure both people in the relationship are not only getting what they expect and need but are also able to dream for the future.
Begin the conversation with some celebrations.
Think of your wins big and small from the past six months or year. These don’t have to be financial celebrations, it could be anything the two of you connected on and supported each other with that you feel a sense of accomplishment about. This again cements the unity between the two of you and allows you to begin the conversation in a really positive mindset.
Take some time to reflect
What did you appreciate from the other person in those moments of celebration and support? You can also use this reflection period to discuss some things that maybe didn’t go so well and that you’d like to work to improve on in the future. This is a great way to position yourselves for the next part of the conversation, advocacy.
Advocacy can have a heavy tone to it, particularly in an election year and with all of the goings-on of our world recently. But advocating for yourself is critical. It doesn’t have to be in-your-face or let’s see who can be the loudest. Rather, as civilized adults and mothers, it is our job to advocate for ourselves in a respectful, kind, and firm way. We should also be open to other people’s needs and desires as well, (which can feel like all we hear with kids sometimes, but they’re a whole different topic).
As the two of you advocate for what you want to be sure, to be honest, and open. There’s no right or wrong answer in who should want what, there are only alternatives for how we can get there. So if you want a pink Harley to ride along Miami beach, and he wants a snowmobile to take to Aspen, (even though he knows you hate the cold!), they’re both fine! This is the fun part of communicating about money. Dream together, and dream big! It doesn’t mean that you’ll get everything this year, or even this decade, but it does give you a common sense of support and direction.
This first conversation may just lay the groundwork for these conversations and make you both feel excited to come back to the topic in a couple weeks. Or you may feel so motivated and excited you decide to move on to the more day to day things that you each want and expect. Either way, just keep the supportive and open mindset on both sides. If someone seems frustrated by one bill or doesn’t understand it you can dive in better to determine if it’s something that is of importance or can be compromised on.
Finally, take action.
You’ve taken the time to plan and have this conversation so don’t miss the opportunity to make some changes. You can start small and work up to bigger items as you see the improvements and work through any kinks. The implementation will look different for everyone. Some couples may choose to ‘divide and conquer’ the monthly bills with each partner being responsible for a few bills each. Some couples may have one person who feels particularly strong at handling their finances. Whatever works well for you is fine, just so long as the communication is open and frequent, particularly in the beginning while you both get the hang of it.
Good luck ladies, and Happy International Women’s Day!