Financial problems are cited as the number one issue that sparks arguments among married couples. And wouldn’t you know it, they are even more complicated in a blended family. Why would this be? We’ve learned from our previous mistakes, haven’t we?!
Here are a few of the roadblocks to our family’s financial freedom… and what we do to stay afloat in spite of them.
Anyone who’s been through a divorce knows that it comes with a big price tag. Whether it was a custody fight, an ex-spouse skipping payments on a vehicle for which you co-signed, old credit card debt, there are so many ways to come into a 2nd or 3rd marriage dragging with you an over-sized bag of debt.
While it’s hard to get excited about paying off debt that you didn’t contribute to, and possibly knew nothing about, you and your spouse need a plan to attack it (the debt, not each other). It doesn’t matter why it’s there, or how it accumulated. Plan it, pay it, move on.
We’ve taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which is a fantastic resource for getting out of debt. We haven’t followed it perfectly, but we did cut up every single credit card. I had about 20, so I’d say that’s real progress!
DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING
Do you plan ahead for big expenses? This can be tricky when life takes a sudden left turn. For instance, four years ago I would have been shocked if you’d told me I’d be filling out college financial aid applications today. My kids aren’t old enough! How could I know that I’d marry a man with a college-bound son? Newly married blendy couples have so much to adjust to, one might forget to ask a question like, “so who’s paying for this kid’s college anyway?”. (Do not assume the ex is planning to pay)
The good news is there are resources to help. And we have been blessed with assistance coming from unexpected people and places, for which we are extremely thankful. A big lesson has been learned here… Plan ahead! What’s up the road for your kids? For your spouse’s kids? Cars and college and weddings, oh my!
You might not like hearing this but it could mean you need to cut back now in order to save for tomorrow. Do you have an emergency fund? Sit down and talk about it. Getting on the same page now will prevent stress and fights later.
(more about college-bound kids in When Birdies Leave the Nest)
CHILD SUPPORT CHALLENGES
Our child support system is severely flawed. Wish I knew how to fix it. I see some parents bending over backwards to make ridiculously large payments when others don’t even bother to pay the minimum. I’ve seen fathers avoid filing taxes just so the refund won’t be used for back child support. I’ve seen mothers agree to turn over custody in exchange for a promise not to sue them for support.
When did money become more important that the well-being of the children? The only people winning here are the lawyers. Oh yes, I could go on about this for hours, but until I have a plan for real change I’m just going to focus on what we can do.
The way we approach this issue is one day at a time. For some of our kids we pay support, and for some of our kids we are owed it. The only side of that equation we can control is that we pay what we owe. As for what we should receive, well, we don’t count on it. But we do remember to be thankful when it comes, and to be good stewards in those times. I encourage you to do the same. Let go of anger and resentment. It only hurts you and your children.
I have to add an additional note here because I’ve been struggling with this one lately… don’t dwell on the money that isn’t coming. It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking about what you could do with the support you should be getting. God will provide what you need. Remember that and let go of any bitterness. And then do it again tomorrow.
(More about coping with the ex in Love Your Enemies)
HABITS & EXPECTATIONS
One more roadblock to financial freedom that creeps into a blendy marriage has to do with trust. You may have developed unhealthy spending habits either during your last marriage or while you were single. It’s time to stop those. You may have expectations of what your spouse should or shouldn’t spend based on your past experiences. Both of these are dangerous ground because they deal with a lack of trust in each other.
I have to trust my man enough to tell him when I think a particular pair of shoes are so important I’m willing to skip lunch for 3 days in order to buy them. He needs to trust me enough to tell me he sent money to a family member, even if he knows I wouldn’t be thrilled about it. Couples won’t always agree. We must trust our spouses enough to do what it takes to get on the same page. And sometimes we have to live without the shoes.
Just so you know, we had a little issue come up on this front as I was writing this very blog. I responded with sarcasm because my man questioned a purchase I made. I assumed he was judging my decision, or that he didn’t trust it. Time for me to take my own advice and get to work on our budget… and apologize for the attitude. What would you do?
(archived from Oct. 8, 2013)