5 Things Moms Can Do to Take Back Control of Their Money

Amy S.
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Being a mother is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have, but it also comes with a lot of financial responsibilities. Mothers are often the primary caregivers and providers for their children, and as a result, they need to be particularly savvy when it comes to managing their finances. Here are 5 things moms can do to take back control of their money.
“In the pandemic, I felt like I couldn’t control anything. What I could control was spending on credit cards to buy activities for the kids, new home decor, and things that made us feel a little better about the state of the world.” ~ Bolder Money Member and mom of two

Nearly 80% of women in relationships manage the household finances, and 70% of mothers can expect to be the primary breadwinner for their household for at least one year. 

At Bolder, we love seeing money managed by women, but we know parents face a harsh reality when it comes to their finances: according to Nerdwallet, 80% of parents with children under the age of 18 have credit card debt, compared with 58% of people who are not parents to children under 18. 

I interviewed our Bolder moms (members of our coaching program who have children under the age of 18) to find out what it feels like to manage the household finances while having credit card debt, while raising kids, and while earning income. 

(I also asked our coaching team, 50% of whom met this criteria at one point. And, I vividly remember my own experience of having $30,000 in credit card debt with two under the age of three). 

Here are the biggest challenges our Bolder moms identified

i. Guilt. Guilt about not working enough. Guilt about working too much. Guilt about not earning enough. Guilt about spending too much. Guilt about not spending enough. I could go on and on, but the message is clear: there is so much pressure on moms to get the balance of work and spending on our kids right, that everyone feels like they are losing. 

ii. Growing credit card balances. Spending on credit cards more than they are able to pay off each month is less obvious than we think: it looks like paying for groceries and kids’ expenses on the credit card, then making a big credit card payment when pay day arrives, and watching the balance slowly grow. 

iii. ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ I’ve heard this phrase from four different moms just in the last three days. It essentially means moving debt around instead of paying off the balance. We also see this in the form of saving money, only to transfer it back into our checking account to spend. 

iv. Being underpaid. This applies to many women, and the moms I spoke to said they felt they had limited opportunities as a new parent, and hadn’t considered that higher pay was a possibility. They had accepted that ‘it’s a balance’ and ‘you can’t have it all’ meant that they should be grateful for the income they have while mothering. The harsh reality is that many of these moms watched others get promoted who could work 10-15 hour days, while they couldn’t compete at that level.

v. Feeling isolated. Parents of young children have a hard enough time communicating about parenting, let alone money issues. And moms who  manage the household money can feel even more isolated from their partner if they aren’t aligned in spending, earning, or goals, and can struggle to find someone to talk to about their situation. It gets lonely out there. 

Navigating these challenges can take time, and may require a shift in one’s relationship with money. If you’ve made it this far, it’s probably because you’re a mom who relates to these issues, and wants to know what you can do about it. Based on what we’ve seen make a difference in the financial lives of our Bolder moms, we’ve put together a list of the top 5 things moms can do to take back control of their money. 

If you read the list below and feel overwhelmed or unsure of where to start, needing a guide to support you through these steps is ok (and can be affordable). Read the steps, and then scroll down to learn more about finding your own supermom money coach for only $40/month. 

5 Things Moms Can Do to Take Back Control of Their Money

  1. Breathe. You’ve been managing it all. Acknowledge what you’ve provided for your family, and what it’s cost you. Commit to trying something different, and set an intention to advocate for the care and money you deserve. Create an affirmation that reminds you of this, and block off 5 min of your calendar every day to look in the mirror and repeat it.
  2. Set your credit card minimum payments on auto-pay. And then stop feeling like shit about your debt. You’ve been doing the best you can to keep your family happy and comfortable in what has not been an easy time at all. You’re going to pay the cards off, as fast as possible, but you’re also going to prioritize other goals that help you get out of the debt cycle for good. 
  3. Develop an intentional spending mindset. Review your spending, and get your whole family on board with reflecting carefully on every purchase to see if it helps bring long-term joy, or is an attempt at a short-term fix. Total up all of your spending over the last month, and see what you spend in each category. Where can you find money? What can you cut out to make room for what really matters to you? Keep your own wellbeing in mind - if online shopping is your thing, see if you can re-route some of that money to a wellness initiative instead. If ordering food makes life way easier, see if you can block off time with the family to cook meals instead. Get creative! The idea is to be intentional, not restrictive. 
  4. Prioritize savings to reduce stress. You’ve been solving problems left and right, like a badass, but a lot of them have involved spending money. You need to get into a saver mindset, where holding onto money feels amazing (rather than spending being the only ‘happy’ choice with money). Set aside money each month for emergency savings and something you will need to pay for in the future, like kids camp or a family trip. If you don’t have much left over, do what you can to build the savings habit, even if it’s $10/month, and move on to the next step to increase income. Once you have upcoming purchases and events saved for, and enough emergency savings to keep your family secure, you can pivot back to putting as much money as possible towards the credit card debt. 
  5. Open up to the possibility that you can earn more money. First, get curious about what others with your experience and skills are earning, and start looking around at jobs you could do to earn more. One common theme we’ve seen in our clients is a general acceptance that what you are given, especially after motherhood, is what you deserve. This. Is. Not. True. In many cases, when our moms ask for more money at work, they hear feedback such as “yes, we’ve known you’ve been under market for some time.” We’re usually the last to know that we’re being underpaid, and our guilt about not working as much as everyone else keeps us from seeking out opportunities to earn more, whether at our current company or another. 

Next, shift to thinking about your value in terms of your impact, not your time. Can you only work 7 hours a day, while everyone else is working 18 hours? That’s their problem - what can you do to remind yourself of the impact you bring to the company in those 7 hours? Focus on that, and the projects you’ve accomplished, instead of how much time you’ve spent on them. 

Make a list of what you’ve accomplished, and what you plan to accomplish, and set regular meetings with your supervisor to work on getting a raise or a promotion.

Don’t assume that you are limited because of time - if the company that you are at doesn’t recognize that, find one that does. If you struggle with this idea, start small. Just get curious, and reflect on what you’re currently making. Our free Money Maker Assessment will guide you through this exercise! 

Read this, and know you can’t do it alone? 

You don’t have to. I co-founded Bolder as a mom who knows what it feels like to be stuck in a debt cycle, and not know who to turn to for help.

We’re a team of coaches who understand what you’re going through, and are ready to help you with compassion and expert guidance, for as low as $40/month. Select our 3- or 6-month membership option and use coupon code BEBOLDER to reduce your price. And you can always try before you buy with our two-week free trial. 

I’m here for you! 

Amy Schultz

Co-Founder, Bolder Money

Mom, Jake (6) & Tommy (3)

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