Money Talks, So Should You

Blended Family Finance: In a blended family, who pays for what?

Sarah Kinbar
by Sarah Kinbar, Dimespring 30 (@bigblendedfam)

Census data from 2011 show that in 66 percent of families with children, both parents work, and in 28 percent of those families, only the husband works. Because dual-income families are the norm, consider the implications for blended families.

When you blend, it makes sense for each of you to contribute financially to your combined household. Any other arrangement should be clearly stated up front.

READ: When should I teach my children about budgeting?

Todd and I both work, and as we blend, we're ironing out who pays for what when it comes to our household expenses. I've poked around online and talked to other blended families, and discovered that this issue can become a point of contention in a relationship.

Some of the most-mentioned issues were:

  • I was stuck with all the financial burdens in my previous marriage, and I don't want to shoulder that much responsibility again.
  • My previous marriage suffered because I was absent due to working so much. Can't we share the load?
  • Who is paying for my children's activities? Who is paying for your children's activities? Will they be raised with access to different activities and is that fair?
  • You brought a lot of debt into this relationship, and I don't want to get stuck with it.
  • I have huge child support payments, and I can't afford to support you.

Money  it can be dirty business. As much as you love your new partner and enjoy spending time with him or her, the practical reality of how to blend finances can't be put off forever. The last thing any of us wants is for our new relationship to be damaged by poor communication about money. So, before moving in together, have honest conversations about what the next five years hold, and what you believe each of you will be able to contribute to the combined household.

READ: Don't let your ex get your 401(k)

For long-term planning, meet with a financial adviser who is seasoned in coaching blended families, who can give clear-minded advice on saving, insurance and investments. Meet with an estate attorney and write a will that addresses all the relationships in your blended family, because the question "Who pays for what?" is someday followed by "Who gets what?"

Once you make agreements about how the finances will work in your household, one of the best ways to build trust with your partner — and this is especially important given your history of divorce — is to live up to your financial promises. Instead of being a cause for division, your finances can bring you together: it's inspiring to see your partner working hard, saving money and making wise spending choices with your family's well-being front of mind.

Sarah Kinbar of Blended Family Finances is a mother of two and stepmother of two who writes about the extra-complicated financial situations that blended families face. Sarah is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.