Taking charge of my family’s finances helped me feel empowered again after becoming a stay-at-home mom

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This essay is part of “Home Ec: The Economics of Stay-at-home Parenting,” a series from Personal Finance Insider about the financial reality of staying home with your kids.

When I went full-time freelance a few months before my first son was born, I told myself I’d still be involved in our family’s finances, especially since I was still earning a respectable monthly income with my freelance writing business. 

Two babies and four years later, though, and the truth was, I wasn’t very involved in the day-to-day of our family budget, bill-paying, and cutting costs. Sure, I was well-versed in our investment strategy, long-term financial goals, and credit usage, but that’s about it.

But a few months ago, that all changed. My husband got busier at work, so I took over the finances, from auto-paying bills (and negotiating several to lower rates), managing our weekly grocery and Amazon budget, and using and paying off a brand-new credit card in my name only. 

Not only has it been incredibly empowering as a work-at-home mom, but it’s also helped our bottom line since I was able to cut costs and see things differently than my husband had when it was his duty. 

Our roles flipped

I’m a self-described feminist, so it was hard for me to be primarily with my children and not be in charge of our finances. It just felt a bit … outdated. Taking over the day-to-day operations helped me feel like a bigger contributor to our family and our bottom line, something that had felt lacking since I took over more parental responsibilities and my income decreased. 

And while this may sound morbid, I rest easy at night knowing that should something ever happen to my husband or my marriage, I can take care of things — I know the ins and outs of our financial situation, our expected monthly inflow and outflow, our investment portfolios, and our various account numbers and passwords. I’ve witnessed one too many elderly family members who’ve lost a partner not only grieve that loss  but also struggle to get their finances in order in the process to let it happen to me. 

Bill-slashing became my new hobby

My husband works full-time at a pretty demanding job, so he’s not able to make personal calls during business hours. But my schedule is a bit more fluid, with nap times and school days giving me a few hours of uninterrupted time during the day. 

When I took over the family finances and got a good look at all our bills each month, I couldn’t believe how high some of them were. Cable and internet, $300? Unreal! Cell phones, another $200? It really added up. 

So I made a list of our biggest bills and got to work. Some, like our monthly mortgage payment, were static. But others could potentially be lowered.

With just a few phone calls, a fair amount of waiting on hold, and eliminating services we no longer used or didn’t need, I lowered our cable bill by $70 a month, our cell phone bill by $50 a month, and cut our meal-delivery service costs in half. Finding money that we already had and allocating it elsewhere was so satisfying. 

Our bottom line improved

They say that, in every relationship, there’s a saver and a spender. I hate to admit this, but I’m the spender in my relationship. It could be because I’m the one who dresses our kids, replacing their clothes and shoes when they outgrow them. But I also enjoy nice clothes and shoes myself, so I suppose I can’t blame it all on them. I also take care of most incidental purchases for the house, which adds up. 

But once I had a more front-row seat to our finances, I curbed my spending a lot. It was easier to stick to the budget (and cut back where I could) when I was the one managing our budget day-to-day, making the inflow and outflow match, making sure we stuck to our investment and savings goals each month, and that we had a little extra leftover for fun, too. 

Our relationship to our money changed for the better

While I now manage the day-to-day of our spending, bills, and budgeting, my husband and I are both still involved in our finances. We both check balances daily, make sure bills are paid, and ensure we’re on track with our monthly investment contributions.  

And while me managing our money is working for now, it may switch again in the future — and that’s OK. We know we both are equally able to handle things, and that’s a huge win. 

But something changed for us, too. Since we were both actively invested (pun intended) in the daily management of our money, we talked about it more often. We started having weekly money meetings, making sure we were on track with our financial obligations and spending. Our fights about money drastically decreased, if not went away altogether. I thrived with the sense of agency my new role afforded me.

And recently, when we were discussing a big purchase, my husband asked me, “Can we afford this?” I could confidently say, “Yup.” And it felt pretty good. 

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