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Cant balance my ideas of "whats fair" with my finances - help!

(76 Posts)
terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 07:49:08

I have 2 dc's and 2dsc's aged between 7-11. Have been SM for almost 2 years and have always believed in treating all the kids the same, including financially. Spend the same for xmas and birthdays, pay for everyones swimming lessons, take them all on holidays, and never buy treats for 1 without the others etc.etc. My dsc's have a full wardrobe of clothes at our house and we pay maintainence for them. This has always been my idea of what is fair.
Unfortunately we have never received a penny in maintainence from my ex for my dc's and he doesnt provide in any other way either.
However, we are really struggling financially and I wondered how other step families do things.
I have had it pointed out to me that actually my dsc's are getting double of everything (pocket money etc), as they get everything off us and off their BM. Due to the financial struggle I have had to stop everyones swimming lessons because I cant afford to pay for 4 lots, and pocket money has been halved since dsc's came. Birthdays and xmas have also been halved. It seems I cant afford to do the things I used to with my dc's anymore but my dsc's continue to do these things with their BM.
Am I selfish for thinking my dc's are missing out?
I know that if they were all our biological kids then that we would have to split things 4 ways, but cant help feeling that my kids are having less while dsc's are having more. Apologies if that sounds resentful, as I do love my dsc's and want the best for all of them.
I would like to start a monthly savings bond, but cant afford to do it for 4, so feel unable to do it for any.
Its really keeping me awake at night.
Any advice gratefully received. Thanks

mondaymonday Tue 25-Aug-09 08:10:43

I think you've fallen into the trap of trying so hard to be 'fair' to the dsc's that you're overcompensating. I'd agree with the view that it the dsc's are indeed getting double of everything at present

Given that you (or your DP) are paying maintenance for the dsc's, I don't see the need for them to have a full wardrobe of clothes at your house for example. In this way, you are paying twice for their clothes etc. Surely this is partly what the maintenance should be for. Re. the swimming lessons, do they only go to them when staying at your house? - does their mother pay for activities as well?

It does seem unfair to your dc's that they now need to go without, whereas the dsc's will still have all these things from their bm. I think this could lead to a lot of resentment

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 08:13:54

Whoever has pointed out to you that your DSCs are getting double of everything is quite right. What matters, and what makes life fair in the long term, is that each child in the family receives equivalent opportunities^ in life, not that each adult gives each child an identical amount of money/time/attention.

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 08:15:55

You really do not need to save for your DSCs by the way!

I have two DSSs and one DD. My parents have saved lots of money for DD's education, and DP has put aside money for all three children for their studies/a deposit on a house in later life. So DD is quite set up for when she is 18. But the DSSs' mother has plenty of money and they will get some from her side in the long run too.

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 10:15:36

Thanks - that does make a lot sense and makes me feel less guilty about wanting things to change. However, I still feel the need to save for all 4 kids as my dh and I have joint finances, therefore all money in one pot IYSWIM - therefore I cannot do for my 2 and not 4is 2. Does that make sense bonsoiranna? In your case you say that your dp has already set aside money for ALL children - so really I still feel that we have to do the same.
I do feel that the clothes issue is ridiculous because they do not get their wear out of them and cannot be handed down to my dc's due to the huge difference in sizes even though they are similar ages - my dsd is very overweight and dss is very tall! We would have to hang on to them for many years before they fitted my dc's!
mondaymonday - totally agree i have over compensated and misinterpreted the meaning of "treating them all equal" - really good point. Their BM takes them on lots and lots of treats ie bowling, cinema, macdonalds but does no exercise activities - hence we try to take them swimming to try to address dsd's overweight issue.

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 11:57:06

TBH I don't really think joint finances are a realistic proposition if you have a blended family. DP has put money aside from his earnings for his three children - that's nothing to do with me or with his exW.

Our DSSs only have one wardrobe, and clothes travel between the two houses - as it is, they don't get huge wear out of their clothes because they are growing so fast. The only thing they permanently have at our house is pyjamas and toiletries. Everything else travels!

Surfermum Tue 25-Aug-09 12:25:14

The way I look at it is that dsd gets two lots of opportunities - those she has with her mum and those she has with us. Dd has one lot of opportunities.

So if dd gets things that dsd doesn't, goes places that dsd doesn't and gets things from, for example, grandparents or aunties that dsd doesn't it is balanced out for dsd by the things she gets from her mum's side that dd doesn't.

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 14:05:14

The joint finances thing is because without it myself and my 2 dc's would have practically nothing as I only work part-time to balance the childcare issue - so not really any option of separate incomes in our house. My dc's also have a biological dad of their own who doesnt provide for them in any way - which means my dc's only opportunities come from me. The problem i get is i suppose caused by the joint finances situation because I feel guilty spending what my dh earns on my dc's (not biologically his kids), and not on his kids (my stepkids) IYSWIM. The whole thing is just so bloody complicated - when I was a single mum I didnt have any of these issues, and although there are good sides to our family, sometimes I dream of the simpler lifestyle I once had!

mondaymonday Tue 25-Aug-09 14:18:45

tbh terrier - I think you are making it really complicated. If you are working pt, you shouldn't have to think of how to afford to save for your dsc's! That is really not your responsibility. Your DH is paying maintenance, and it sounds like you certainly give your dsc's a good lifestyle when they're at your house. You really do not need to go beyond this.

mumblechum Tue 25-Aug-09 14:25:16

The maintenance your dh pays is supposed to cover all the basics inc. clothes etc. If he is able and wants to, HE can splash out on birthdays, christmas & odd treats, but that should come out of his money.

Your children's expenses should, imo, come out of your earnings.

I think in your circs it would be simpler to have an element of separation of finances so far as the children are concerned, even if things like the mortgage come out of joint funds.

Why's your ex not paying mtce? Unless he's unemployed, you should be able to get the CSA to get something out of him.

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 15:13:59

my ex doesnt pay maintainence cos he gave up his job so he wont have to - he also has other (biological and step) children living with him, so the CSA has awarded me NIL payment (this btw has been going over 6 years now!)

I think it would be all well and good to split the finances if I worked fulltime - but I am unable to due to childcare (I did try this for the early part of our marriage but was actually paying the childminder approx 90% of my wages!)

I dont think you quite understand my siituation - I only earn £60 per week, get £10 tax credit and whatever the child benefit is for 2 kids these day (bout £30?), so really myself and 2 children cant live merely on this and contribute towards rent and bills etc.
My dh has very willing taken us on as family financially and my wages go into the bank with his wages and thats just how we live.
When i was a single mum, I got 70% of my childcare paid, a lot more tax credits and help with my rent and council tax - so I suppose in a way I have become worse off financially (independantly) from getting married, but my dh has assumed the role of breadwinner for all of us.

Does anyone live in a similar situation? please there must be someone??

I agree though that the maintainence should be enough and will certainly be taking your advice on board re; clothes, pocket money and swimming lessons.
My dh's ex has asked for extra money for school uniform in addition to the maintainence - which we refused as we thought it was taking things to far.

I think you misunderstood me though - when I mentioned saving for my dsc's aswell as my own - I never meant it would have been out of MY money (as I dont have any separate/independant money), I meant save for everyone out of our joint money.

ChocHobNob Tue 25-Aug-09 15:25:17

I see where you're coming from OP. Our income in our house is pooled together as H works full time and I'm a SAHM at the moment. I get tax credits and child benefits. I don't think it's wrong that your H is contributing towards his stepchildren if he is happy to do this. You are a family now!

The only thing I can think of is you were trying to pay out too much. It might be difficult to recify this now if your partner's ex doesn't like the prospect of you both spending less on your stepchildren, but if you can't afford it, there is very little else you can do.

Maybe you should cut down to what you can afford and try not to feel guilty if your children get something the stepchildren aren't getting, because like has been said, they are being treated by their mother and her family too and in effect, they could well be getting double what your children are getting. No childre should lose out.

Your H is paying maintenance so any extra's should be what you can afford.

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 16:02:13

I think your problem stems from the fact that neither of your two biological parents are really covering the costs of their upbringing - basically your new DH is subsidising their lives, and you have very little cash to play with. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh - it's not meant to but I want to be clear. Your new DH sounds very lovely and generous! smile

I quite understand how you want to do lots of things for all your children but I think that, realistically, you are dreaming beyond your current means. How old are the children? When do you think you might be able to start working more hours so that you can earn enough money to cover all your (very laudable) ambitions for your children?

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 16:02:46

your children's two biological parents

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 16:12:50

Thank you chochobnob! I was starting to feel like a right freak there earlier because I cant independantly support my dc's without dh income! Not what the posters thought of me I shouldnt think - how I felt as didnt feel anyone else was in a similar position. They have given me some good advice though.
Thanks for you advice - will definately be changing the way things are done around here. Unfortunately every little thing gets noticed around here - for example - I recently bought my dd a new toothbrush and my sd noticed it in the bathroom and demanded to know why I had bought new 1 for dd but not for her (both girls are 9 btw). I had to explain that as dd lives here fulltime, whilst she only stays every other weekend and school holidays - that dd's toothbrush will wear out quicker than hers - she had a shout about how it was "not fair!".
Therefore i think I will have to tread carefully to minimise the effects it may have on everyone.
Still not sure about the saving thing - maybe this will have to wait until we are in aposition where I CAN work fulltime and then wwe start saving for all the kids.

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 16:21:44

bonsoiranna - yes my new dh is fantastic and we all love him and are very grateful for his generous support.
I suppose what you are saying then is that unless I can independantly support my children , then I shouldnt have married him?
The children are 7 and 9 and (before you say it) they are in fulltime school. The problem I have is before and after school (as there are no out of hours school clubs), and there are also the 13 weeks school holidays (not to mention teacher training days!) to think of! I have no family to support me with childcare - and (as previously mentioned!) I used to work fulltime when I got help with paying a childminder. But thanks for making me feel like a lazy sponger! I guess you live in a rather more rosy world than me - think yourself lucky!
Maybe I should have resigned myself (and my children - who adore their stepdad - and their real dad is shit!) to a life of single parenthood!
I am trying my best to meet my childrens needs in the best ways that I can - not just financially but emotionally too.

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 16:25:46

No, I'm not saying you shouldn't have married your DH! I'm saying that I think your dreams and desires for bringing up your children somewhat exceed your current means - that is quite different! Lots of us can find ourselves in that situation. But the difficulty of your situation is compounded by the fact that you are in a blended family, and you want to be fair to all your children. But there is always something inherently a little unfair about children being supported by someone who has biological children of their own and is also supporting other children. I don't know what one does about that.

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 16:31:13

Have to agree with chochobnob - we are a"family" now!
Might be that we dont all share the same view on what this means, but i dont feel anyone should be judged for that.

I know that bonsoiranna didnt intend to offend me with her comments, but whilst what she stated was maybe factually correct - the whole picture is a lot bigger, and it did hit a nerve. So before I get slated Im sorry if my response upset anyone.

terrier141 Tue 25-Aug-09 16:41:54

My ambitions for my dc's are not oustide our means for 2 kids, but are for 4 - which leads me back to my original question of what to do that is fair to all 4 kids? The fact that I cant work fulltime, surely shouldnt mean that I have no right to expect the same level of activities for my kids as my stepkids get at their mothers, without feeling that we have to do the same for them too? Thats what I was originally asking.
The family pot is shared - just unsure how equally this should be. I dont think its a question of it being dh money - as it is family money. But yet I do feel quilty spending what dh earns - if you read all my posts you will see that this is where my confusion comes from.

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 16:46:23

The facts surely are that your two biological children's parents are unable/unwilling to make as large a financial contribution to their upbringing as your DSCs' parents are. So yes, your DSCs will in all probability get more opportunities than your DCs and to some extent that is only fair.

I am a great believer in trying to offer all children in a family, whatever the relationship between them, equivalent (not identical) opportunities. But obviously that depends to quite a large extent on how much money children's parents (and grandparents) have to provide them with opportunities.

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 16:48:21

I think that you are not necessarily helping yourself think this through by thinking of "the family pot" of money. It might be easier if you and your DH thrashed out a budget with a clear allocation of money to be spent on each child.

ChocHobNob Tue 25-Aug-09 17:03:28

Just because the OP earns less than her husband, doens't mean she is worth less and I think it's a little bit harsh to say she is unwilling to provide for her own children as much as her new husband is! It's not about money. She will be at home more often than her H, she is making a home for him, she is bringing up his children (and it sounds like he regards his step children as his children as they are a family and he is the only father figure they have)

Everyone's personal circumstances vary and people's ideas of what is right do, but it doesn't necessary make them right or wrong.

I don't think there is anything wrong with having the money go into a family pot when one person earns less than the other. It can work if you can make it work .... but at the moment, Op, it isn't working.

I agree with you totally that waiting until you are working full time and earning more, so can afford to set up saving accounts for your own children is a good idea.

Can you really do a budget where you allocate exactly how much is spent on every child? I'd love to know how it works, and I'm not making a dig, it's a genuine query.

The bottom line is when the step children are in the house, they do not necessarily have to have equal money spent on them as the children living in the house because a) the step children have their mother and her family providing for them as well, she is receiving tax credits (possibly) and child benefit for them and b)their father is paying maintenance for them which is supposed to go towards a lot of their needs.

I appreciate it is very difficult to explain to a child though, as with the toothbrush incident.

I think you should do what you can afford, trying to ensure no children are left out and factoring in your H already contributes to his biological children with his maintenance.

But really, what the hell do I know? It's only my thoughts lol

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 17:07:41

"Can you really do a budget where you allocate exactly how much is spent on every child? I'd love to know how it works, and I'm not making a dig, it's a genuine query."

Yes, you can. We have had to do it as DP's exW was claiming squillions of euros in maintenance for the children and then not buying them any clothes, haircuts etc and DP ended up paying twice, and she expected him to foot the bill for all extracurricular stuff, while she took loads of jet setting holidays and went out to restaurants all the time. So we worked out a system whereby we have a budget for the boys that both DP and exW contribute to, and both parties know exactly what goes in and what comes out.

This also helps the boys learn about money!

ChocHobNob Tue 25-Aug-09 17:22:37

So how does it work? Do you put a certain amount aside every month and take it out of that if it's needed?

How is it done with the ex? Does she add to it? Or have a seperate "pot"? How would it work if the ex wasn't cooperative?

BonsoirAnna Tue 25-Aug-09 17:25:45

Both DP and exW have a standing order into that account every month, and both of them can access the statements on the internet, and both of them have credit cards on that account (so do I, in fact) to buy things that are "allowed" from that account.

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