family-finance

This article was written by Suzanne Rust and originally published on Citi’s Women & Co.

Forget being able to leap tall buildings in single bound and X-ray vision. The super power I would most like to have is excellent money management skills. Alas, I am a mere mortal and find that keeping on top of all of my family’s expenses can be daunting. According to a 2011 Prudential research study, 84 percent of married women are either jointly or solely responsible for household financial decisions. I have always fantasized about being one of those fully-in-charge-of-the-purse-strings kind of women, but quite honestly, it’s not my forte, plus, it’s too much work. I find that I really need help, so in my family we all pitch in. Here’s how we split the duties in my household:

The weekly money date.

No, it’s not as romantic as dinner and a movie, but neither is almost forgetting to pay the credit card bill! My husband and I try and set aside 30 to 45 minutes a week to go over our finances, and then decide what needs handling during the week, and who will take care of it. I don’t like talking about bills and money at night during our quiet moments — it stresses me out — but when we have our set “date,” I can relax knowing that we will focus on financial matters during that time frame. It simplifies things. To further simplify things, we also switched to the Citi Simplicity® Card. Since we are mere mortals, sometimes we do forget to pay the credit card bill, but when we do, the Simplicity Card won’t charge us a late fee or a penalty rate — ever.

Volley the monthly payments.

I know some people nip their bills in the bud as soon as they land in the mailbox. Others put their bills on autopilot. In my two-income household, we do things differently. My husband has a steady salary, but I freelance, which means my checks come intermittently, so sometimes we need to be creative and flexible when it comes to finances and bill paying. We usually take turns being in charge of monthly expenses, that way neither of us gets resentful of the duty. It also means we both know where to find all the relevant account information.

Delegating the student loans.

My husband recently got a degree, so he has a level of familiarity and comfort navigating the Web to pay student loans. He takes on this task and also helps our son manage his college loans.

Children of all ages should gradually be shown what it costs to run a household.

Wrestling with random bills.

The bills I dislike most are the pesky medical statements that can so easily get lost in the shuffle. But I happen to be the more organized half of the couple, so I usually wrangle these little buggers.

Teaching the children.

This is a work in progress. We try and give our children, ages 13 and 19, a weekly allowance, but inevitably, there are other expenses that pop up. Our daughter might have a class trip that requires spending money or a birthday present to buy; our son, a college student, inevitably needs a new text book or art supplies. Luckily they are old enough to keep track of their expenses, so they are responsible for giving us a list of what they will require for the week. Children of all ages should gradually be shown what it costs to run a household. I wish my parents had done more of that with me, and I want to work on it more with our kids. Even young children can help clip coupons (if you use them) for the products the family buys. You can also ask them to budget expenses for a family night at the movies. How much are the tickets? The snacks, the garage, or subway ticket, etc. What do things cost? Start them early, and get more information how, here.

Outsourcing taxes.

This is one thing we don’t touch on our own anymore. After submitting online unsuccessfully for a few years, we determined that this chore was best handled by a pro — one less major headache for us. It has definitely been worth the annual expense. I generally take the task of compiling all of our tax material and my husband submits it to our accountant.

A little delegation goes a long way; not only does it take a lot off this mom’s already-full plate, it also guarantees we’re all on the same page financially.

Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.’s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.