7 money tips to help stressed-out moms cope
By Cathleen McCarthy
her husband lost his job in June, stay-at-home mom Aneela Marij was alarmed but
ready. Having saved for years, she's been able to keep up with household bills
while her husband looks for work. By signing up for reward giveaways on sites
like MyPoints and SwagBucks,
she even managed to buy her 6-year-old son a birthday gift without dipping into
the emergency stash.
has plenty of company. According to a September 2012 survey by CafeMom and Chase Blueprint, seven out of 10 moms feel
overwhelmed by financial burdens. Those who feel comfortable with their finances
are the ones who budget carefully, not those who earn the most. Moms who
identify themselves as savers, like Marij, felt the most secure, despite having
the lowest income levels. A few tips from the budget-savvy:
Tip 1: Live within your means.
"No matter how much you earn,
you have to be wise with your money, especially with the economy the way it
is," says Marij, who started a group on CafeMom for coupon swapping. "You don't
need to have the iPhone 5 just because your neighbor has it."
Right now, Marij shares a
credit card with her husband, but she may be able to qualify for one on her
own, thanks to an October 2012 ruling
by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau favoring stay-at-home parents. While
she's stressed right now, Marij says it won't take a big-money job to feel
secure again. In fact, the study found more savers like Marij among low-income
families than high-income ones. "Financial
security is not about income, it's about control," says Rachana Bhatt, marketing
director of the Chase credit card division. "Having
a plan in place gives you a sense of control and confidence."
Tip 2: Find a bookkeeping system that works for you.
Marij records what goes in
and comes out in a notebook but does her banking online, as do 87 percent of
the moms surveyed. Mothers are the
biggest users of online banking, Bhatt says, which is why Chase had moms in
mind when they designed Blueprint,
a set of free tools available to Sapphire, Freedom, Slate and Ink cardholders. Track
It allows you to track your spending in certain categories, then access graphs
online that show how you're doing. "Entertainment, for example, is one of those
discretionary spending categories you want to keep your eye on," Bhatt says.
Full Pay, another Blueprint tool, can
actually save money by allowing you to pay in full when you purchase everyday items.
"It separates out the items that are everyday spending like gas and groceries and
allows you to avoid interest on those transactions," Bhatt says.
Tip 3: Consider mobile banking.
"We are entering a digital age," Bhatt
says. "Moms are on the go with their kids, whether
they're dropping them off or picking them up, and they need to be able to
access their finances digitally, especially by mobile device."
Almost half of mothers
surveyed (43 percent) use mobile devices for
day-to-day banking. Ann Lundberg predicts three-quarters will be using mobile
banking in a year. "In another study, we found most moms would rather rescue
their smartphones in a fire than their wedding rings," says Lundberg, vice president of sales
for CafeMom, an online community for mothers. "It's like moms can't live their
lives without a smartphone any more."
Tip 4: Stay on top of your credit.
One in five moms don't know what
they're paying in credit card interest, and nearly half haven't checked their credit
scores in the past year. Lundberg suspects many women would find they're taking
on too many credit cards. "They think they're doing themselves a favor signing
up for another just to get 20 percent off a $300 purchase," she says. "Pretty
soon they have 20 store credit cards and they're messing up their score."
You can't effectively save for your children's future
and your own retirement and carry $3,000 in credit card debt at the same time.
CafeMom vice president, sales
Not surprisingly, moms who identify as
"savers" carry less debt than "spenders," who have $1,342 more credit card debt
on average and are 2.6 times more likely to be carrying $35,000 or more. While
half the savers have none, they reported nearly $3,000 of credit card debt on
This indicates savers may not be saving
as much as they think. "You can't effectively save for your children's future
and your own retirement and carry $3,000 in credit card debt at the same time,"
Lundberg says. "One day, you're going to wake up and realize the income isn't
coming in any more and you aren't prepared for your family's future."
Tip 5: Get your partner on board.
More than half of the moms surveyed (59 percent) say they
disagree with their spouses on how to manage household finances. "The numbers
suggest that not agreeing is one of the biggest barriers to financial security,"
Lundberg says. "If you disagree with your partner, how can you control your own
Yet women appear to be in the driver's
seat here, with 84 percent actively managing the family finances. "Moms really
do control the pocketbook," she says. "So they have to take the lead on
establishing and implementing the budget, and start a conversation."
Tip 6: Teach your kids to respect
Everyone agrees children should be
taught about money, but our kids have a
tendency to pick up on behavior more than talk. So put your money where your
mouth is. Most moms who identify as savers say their parents were savers too
and taught them to manage their money. They're doing the same for their kids.
Jody Mace, who blogs at Living on the Cheap, says her kids have had
savings accounts since they were babies. When they reached their tween years,
she set them up with prepaid debit cards in their names, funding them online from
her checking account. "When they earned money or got gifts, they had the option
to put it into their savings accounts or onto the prepaid debit card," she
says. "They could use the card at ATMs, in stores or for online purchases." None
of the cards ever incurred fees. Now that Mace's children are approaching
college age, they have a solid handle on managing their finances.
Tip 7: Talk money with other moms.
One of the best ways to get a handle on
household budgeting is to talk about it with other moms -- especially those who've
figured it out. "The trick is to make a plan, then talk to your friends about
the plan and share your ideas," Lundberg says. Money is a popular topic on the
Marij believes the most
important step toward financial security is tracking what comes in and what
goes out. "Whether you make $200 or $8,000 a week," she says, "you need to know
where your money's going."
See related: Poll: Mom matters most in shaping our financial habits
, 7 lasting money lessons from mom
, Can a new mom afford to stay at home?
Published: November 15, 2012