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It’s all a bit awkward really, not earning your own money. It has taken me a long time to get used to it. It still isn’t something that I am entirely comfortable with, even now that my son is ten years old. At the moment, I don’t earn a salary, as such, although I have usually found resourceful ways to bring in extra cash; such as Airbnb hosting and a short-lived – but very fragrant – spell as an Avon lady (not so much extra cash but extra bubble bath and nail varnish, come to think of it). It’s not like my pre-baby salary was any great shakes, but it was regular, and my husband and I earned similar amounts so we pooled our resources and felt satisfyingly squared up in the ‘contributing to the household’ department.
Just as spending (baby-related) goes up, most families suffer a significant salary chop. As you literally watch one person’s income disappear from the monthly checks and balances (at least, temporarily). How it affects your lifestyle is one thing, but how it affects your relationship (either with your spouse or your pocket) is quite another.
It’s all a bit awkward really, not earning your own money. It has taken me a long time to get used to it and still isn’t something that I am entirely comfortable with.
I admit that I felt a bit put out by the whole thing. I was unprepared for shifts in how I viewed myself. As I wasn’t contributing financially, could I still expect to have the same clout over spending decisions? What if I wanted to go out for dinner with friends, order something from Argos, or have my hair cut?
With two incomes, money wasn’t exactly growing on trees, but whatever was left after the various domestic commitments was mine. I found it hard to relinquish some of the control that I had taken for granted, and the change seemed to hold any minor differences in opinion about expenditure up to the microscope.
Need some guidance on how to navigate the, sometimes choppy, waters of adjusting to a one-income partnership?
Don’t take it for granted. The biggest mistake couples make when their household relies on one income is to take it for granted. Should the earner lose his/her job or become too ill to work, insurance (particularly, life insurance and critical illness cover) is a must.
Benefits. Look into any benefits that your family might be able to claim as a result of your drop in income. Citizens Advice can help, or use the HMRC tax calculator to check for entitlements to working tax credit or child tax credit.
Talk about it. Guilt for spending money on yourself is a common affliction. If you find that you’re giving yourself a hard time over personal purchases, a chat with your spouse should reassure you. Build a little ‘personal’ expenditure into the budget and agree a ‘no-questions-asked’ limit for each of you so neither of you feel like you need ‘permission’ for the occasional Starbucks or M&S sale bargain.
Budget by the same rules. Apply these equally, or risk one partner feeling like their lack of financial contribution is akin to lack of contribution full stop.
You deserve a little treat sometimes. Banish thoughts of ‘not deserving’ that little purchase. We all know that whether you care for young children or elderly relatives, it’s an all-singing-all-dancing, up-at-dawn existence, not for the faint-hearted.
Clare Lawrence, nicknamed 'Coupon Clare' at college, lives mostly in Cornwall. Proud mum to Gregory, she'll stop at nothing in her quest to save cash!