How New Parents Can Avoid Money Conflicts

The experience of raising a child is priceless but the cost is something else.

It’s hard to imagine how something so small can equal big costs, but a 2014 report by the US Department of Agriculture estimated the cost for a middle-income family to raise a child to age eighteen is (wait for it…) $245,340. For one child!

We found that the more we avoided talking about money, the more amplified our differences became.
— New Mom

But don’t panic—it’s a “kitchen sink” estimate including housing, childcare, medical expenses, transportation, education (not college), etc.  Also, every family is unique and depending on your circumstances, money may or may not be a hot topic. Either way, organizing your household finances is always a good idea, and it will offset areas where you feel less in control. Like, when you’re home is suddenly upside down as you adjust to life with a newborn.

Here are some common reasons new parents clash over money:

  •  Increased Costs
    (Refer back to the USDA quote!)
  • Long View vs. Short View.
    Dad is worried about paying for college while you’re worried about day-to-day costs.
  • Different Values
    You grew up viewing finances one way and your husband grew up with a different take. Now there’s a child and bigger stakes, and suddenly you’re in a standoff over how to manage money.
  • Division of Labor
    In a one-income family, the full-time parent may become frustrated with the money earner’s smaller contribution on the home front, and the money earner may become frustrated with the full time parent’s smaller spending.  
I over-planned and I didn’t need half the stuff, and that’s just a testament to the fact that you don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.
— New Mom
I took on the role of protector when she got pregnant and I felt like a big part of that was making sure our family finances were in order, which started with making sure the hospital money was handled, all the way to starting a college fund.
— New Dad

Okay, so how to avoid money conflicts? Here are some strategies:

  • Build a Budget. If you agree on a basic budget for short and long-term goals, it will alleviate any surprises. Sort through all your expenses and be sure to allocate funds for you and Dad to do something fun together. With a new baby, there will be activities you’re doing less, so consider putting those funds towards time spent together.
  • Keep it Simple. There is no end to the amount of baby gear available, but, truthfully, you’ll probably end up using half of it. Gladly accept gifts and donations and check out consignment shops.  Also, the high chair with flashy gizmos that converts into a rocking chair may seem cool, but chances are it’s more than you’ll need. Stick to the basics and remember your baby will cruise through ages and stages pretty swiftly. 
  • Say YES to Deals. Register with online sites such as babycenter.com to receive coupons and discounts on products. And stock up on diapers; this daily necessity really racks up a tab.
  • Money Talks. It’s common to want to avoid the conversation, but this will only create more conflict down the road. Talking about finances is addressing your future together and will keep you on the same page. Be sure to go into conversations with a gentle spirit and mutual respect, and remember your perspectives may differ based on individual upbringings. Make weekly/monthly finance conversations the norm to stay in sync and keep any negative feelings from festering. With a new baby on board, successfully working as a team is a big stress reducer.