Money and Power in One-Income Families

Making the emotional adjustment to not earning a wage

When I was working, my husband and I both made money and both handled the money. But most of the time, he was balancing the checkbook and paying the bills. This was fine with me since I never enjoyed all of the tedious details that went with the day-to-day money management. And when we were both bringing in money, there was less stress and more cash to go around.

Then I decided to stay home. We were doing fine on my husband's salary, but of course we had to watch our spending more. We had created a budget and followed it pretty well. But not long ago, I realized that I was feeling very "out of touch" when it came to our financial situation. Mostly my husband was still handling the money chores, but somehow this felt different now that I wasn't contributing a paycheck to our bottom line.

Feeling powerless

Then it hit me. I've heard many times that money is power. Where was my power if I wasn't contributing any money or making many decisions about how it was being spent? Sure, I spent money for all the household expenses and kid-related purchases, but I wasn't handling the bills much and I wasn't keeping up with our budget.

When I first mentioned this to my husband, he was surprised to hear I felt out of the loop. But then he admitted if the tables were turned, he would feel a little powerless too. So we decided I needed to be a bigger part of the process, even if I wasn't a big part of the income. Because in a marriage especially, money really is power. Stay at home wives and moms have to feel like they are still equal in the marriage, even if the career aspect of their identity is temporarily gone.

Staying on equal footing

Here are some tips that have helped others and me stay on equal footing in the money department:

  1. Know the bottom line. Keep up with your budget. Balance the checkbook. Know your financial situation so you will feel more in control. Plus you'll be better prepared in times of financial emergency.
  2. Have an agreed upon amount you can spend without explanation. Even if it's a very small amount, you (and even your husband) need an amount of money you can spend on yourself free of guilt.
  3. Set up a budget session. If you and your husband are going to handle the money together, you should schedule a time each week to sit down together and pay the bills, look at the budget, and decide together about upcoming spending and expenses. From personal experience, I will tell you that exchanging back rubs after these meetings can be highly beneficial.

Not every plan works for every family. You may want to handle all of the money now that you are at home. I certainly take care of the lion's share of our financial issues now, but we do still look at the money issues and make our choices together.

For a true balance of power when it comes to your family's money, you both have to have a say. That way, you both know where you stand and there is less blaming and finger pointing when things are going poorly. And you can both feel proud when you are meeting or exceeding your financial goals.

Aimee Meddock is a homemaker, freelance writer, and part-time student living in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. Aside from her family, her other passions are reading, sailing and political volunteering. You can email her at