With the economy still wobbling and the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 topping a quarter of a million dollars (gulp), it's no wonder parents are stressed about money.
In fact, 7 in 10 moms told BabyCenter - the leading online destination for new and expectant parents - that they're worried about having enough money to raise their kids. That's a 10 percent increase over last year.Mum's the word!
Once they've bought all the clothes, food, and toys their kids need, there isn't much left in the budget for Mom and Dad. And that's when the truth gets slippery, according to BabyCenter's annual report on the cost of raising a child.
While only 15 percent of dads and 17 percent of moms admitted to hiding spending from their spouse or partner, those who do say it's because money is scarce and they feel guilty about buying things they need or want.
"I hide my occasional spending on myself," says one mom. "I feel bad about doing it, especially when money is so tight."
The majority of moms (61 percent) say they rarely make big purchases for themselves. When they do, moms go for clothes, meals out, and beauty treatments. When dads indulge, they also opt for meals out or new clothes, but are more likely to shell out for gadgets and entertainment.
"I have my own account for my fun money that I earn and spend as I please. That way it doesn't look like I'm using family money to buy fun things," says one dad.
And what's the preferred secret splurge for moms? It may surprise you. Moms say they love pampering their children. Three-quarters of the moms we surveyed are more likely to splurge on their kids than on themselves.
"I try to buy a lot of the kids' things secondhand, but sometimes the clothes are just too cute at the store," says one mom. "I don't hide them as much as not display them when I get home. He doesn't notice if I don't show him."They might be irresistible, but those cute clothes are a common trigger for parental money fights. Moms say they're on the same page with their spouse or partner when it comes to these purchases, but dads see it otherwise. The majority say they frequently or sometimes fight with their partner about kid-related bills.
"My wife will spend any amount of money at the drop of a hat, for anything, worthwhile or not. I want her to save, not spend," says one dad.
"She buys our son too many clothes he doesn't need," says another.
On the flip side, moms also say their husbands and partners spend too much on the kids - especially on impulse purchases.
"We mostly argue over the cost of clothes and toys he buys. I feel that more isn't always better, but my husband was raised in a family that expresses love and affection with material things," says one mom.
"My husband buys expensive impulse purchases for the kids, from toys to things in the checkout line to fast food to stopping at convenience stores," says another.
Problems arise because moms and dads have a very different approach to spending, says BabyCenter financial contributor and mom Carmen Wong Ulrich, a personal finance expert, journalist, and author of The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money.
"Moms feel the pains of the household budget differently from dads," Ulrich says. "Dad might say, 'He needs new soccer cleats,' but Mom will see all the spending related to that - she sees the new shoes, the new shirt, everything - the total spend."
Though it's tempting to hide - or avoid mentioning - some purchases to keep the peace, Ulrich warns that this can be poisonous to your relationship.
"If you want trust and loyalty in your marriage, you have to be transparent. The best way to deal with it is make sure you both sit down and look at the books (together)," Ulrich says.
Once you've taken care of the household budget, put any extra spending money in separate accounts - one for Mom and one for Dad.
"I highly recommend you both have your own accounts," Ulrich says. "That way, you know that money is yours, and what you do with it is your own business."
Marcella Gates is a mom of two and BabyCenter contributor.
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