10 Financial Tips for Female Breadwinners
The days when “homemaker” was a woman’s job are long gone. The latest female breadwinners statistics show that 42% of mothers were the sole or primary earner in their family. Another 22.4% were co-breadwinners, bringing in 25-49% of the family earnings.
As more women take on the breadwinning role, financial stress levels for women are increasing, too. Juggling family and your relationship, all while earning the big bucks, can be a difficult balancing act. These 10 financial tips can help you keep things in order.
#1: Set up a budget so you know where your money is going
Most people think of budgeting as a hassle, but with today’s technology it’s easier than you think. First, check with your bank or credit union through your online banking portal. Many financial institutions offer free budgeting that’s already integrated with your checking account. If you don’t have one there, do a quick online search for “free budgeting tool” and find one that’s well-reviewed and fits your needs.
Keeping a formal budget can go a long way to reducing your financial stress. Instead of wondering if you can afford all your bills, you’ll know. And, if it turns out that you can’t afford everything, find out ahead of time so you can make adjustments before you start juggling bills. The point is, you’ll know where you stand. I can vouch from experience, making a budget reduced the number of sleepless nights I was having because of money.
#2: Be strategic about asking for raises
Statistics also show that women are less likely to be proactive about asking for raises. It’s one of the stats people point to when they want to explain the wage gap. It’s women’s fault we don’t earn as much, because we don’t ask. That’s not exactly accurate, but it does point to a need for female breadwinners to be much more aggressive in seeking salary advancement.
When you’re the primary income earner, you can’t be shy about asking for more money. Check career websites to find out what the average salary is for your job. Then assess your own salary, as well as what you do for your company. Then you have a good foundation to negotiate accordingly.
I will say as a side note, make sure to check the average salary for your position in your state. I live in a “right to work” state (Florida), which means salaries here tend to be lower than national averages. In addition, a living wage for New York or California is very different from one for Ohio or Oklahoma. So, check salary levels where you work so you have a more accurate picture.
#3: Know your worth when taking side gigs
I made this mistake early on in my career, so I’d thankfully corrected it by the time my husband went back to school. Undercutting yourself on side gigs means not earning enough for the time you’re taken away from your family. If you’re going to miss evening or weekend activities, at least make sure it’s worth your while.
If your side gig is a part-time job or something like Uber driving, you don’t need to be as concerned with being undercut. But this is especially important for any freelancing position, like writing or graphic design. The best way to avoid giving your free time away for too little is to figure out your hourly rate. If you work a salaried job, divide the net income from your most recent pay statement by 40. That’s your hourly rate. Now you know at least what your company thinks you’re worth. And you can set an hourly rate for freelance gigs that makes projects worth your time.
#4: Consider job offers carefully
Getting a new job offer can be exciting. But as a female breadwinner, job security also matters. You don’t want to leave a job that’s secure unless you’re sure the new position will pan out. So, you need to determine what salary would make it worth it for you to walk away.
A good rule of thumb is that you’d want to aim for at least 15% more than your current salary. So, if you make $50,000 now, you would only want to go somewhere new if they offer more than $57,500. Of course, this also depends on how happy you are in your position. If you love your boss, have flexible hours in case the kids get sick and get a lot of benefits, then it might take more to walk away.
Whatever the case, figure this out now, before you get your next job offer. That way, if someone sends you a message on LinkedIn, you can decide quickly if the offer is worth your time.
#5: Don’t be shy about debt consolidation
Debt consolidation has become my favorite financial trick. I’ve used it twice with great success. The last time I used it, it helped me balance my budget when I realized we wouldn’t be able to afford all our bills. My husband’s school schedule changed, so he wasn’t able to work as many part-time hours. We consolidated our credit card debt, cut the payments by about 40% and everything evened out without a need for more side gigs.
If you have good credit, debt consolidation loans are usually the way to go. If you don’t have good credit, then companies like Consolidated Credit can help you enroll in a debt management plan. It’s like a form of professionally assisted consolidation that can lower your rates when you don’t qualify on your own.
#6: Make sure to build savings into your budget
One of the biggest mistakes people make when budgeting is to leave savings for whatever you have left over at the end of the month. This is a good way to ensure you don’t save anything. What’s more, it ensures that you always pull out plastic to cover unexpected emergencies. And let’s be honest, unexpected emergencies should be expected – they happen almost every month.
So, you want to build savings into your budget. Ideally, you want to set aside about 5-10% of what you bring home. This will give you a nice emergency savings fund to cover car repairs, broken water heaters, Susie’s lost headgear, whatever comes up. Once you have the amount you can save, set it as an expense in your budget. Then figure out which paycheck cycle it comes out of. Finally, set up a recurring transfer to your savings account so it’s automatic. This is the best way to ensure you save money consistently.
#7: Be sensitive about your partner’s contributions
Female breadwinners’ relationships can be tricky. Gender dynamics may be changing, but that doesn’t always happen without hiccups. This is especially true if your spouse went from being the breadwinner or co-breadwinner to contributing no income. In this situation, it’s easy for your partner to feel like they’re not contributing to the household.
So, you need to take time to acknowledge your partner’s contributions. Whether it be housework, keeping the kids occupied and happy or bringing in a little extra cash through eBay sales, make sure to thank them for picking up the slack while you bring home the bacon.
I even tell my husband that going back to school is contributing. He’s increasing his earning potential, so when he graduates in 22 months, we’ll be in a much better position as a family. We’ll actually be able to travel and really start saving for retirement, and even dipping a toe into the investment world. All important and all just over the horizon once he earns a higher degree.
#8: Don’t internalize financial stress – talk about it!
The stress of being a female breadwinner can be a lot to bear, but there’s nothing that says you must bear it alone. Even if your spouse doesn’t bring in any income, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be involved in financial discussions. It’s still their household and they still have a say; they also share in the responsibility to ensure your household maintains stability.
If money is tight, talk about it! Talking doesn’t mean you’re expecting your partner to bring in the extra income you need. But they may have an idea for cost-cutting that you didn’t think of. If they’re holding down the house and the kids, they may also be able to reduce expenses, through things like couponing.
This is important because internalizing financial stress could affect your relationship with your spouse and your kids. It could also affect your health, which you really can’t afford. Talk about it, get it out, and share in it. You can even include your kids in cost-saving discussions. They don’t need to know that the family is struggling to pay their bills. But make saving money a family activity and work towards stability together.
#9: Find time in your week to de-stress
Between your full-time job, side gigs, your spouse and the kids, this may seem impossible. But at least find a few minutes to do something for yourself that lets you unwind. It may be a bubble bath or just a few minutes for breathing meditation. For me, it’s weeding to my flowerbeds (I know that sounds like a chore, but playing in the dirt is my way to de-stress) and running (which sounds like exercise, but it’s really my way to run out annoyances built up at the office.
Any activity that makes you feel better and leaves you in a better mood counts. Vapid television that doesn’t teach you anything, an hour of video gaming, or just scrolling through your Facebook wall. Just make sure it serves the purpose of helping you unwind so you can forget about breadwinning for a while.
#10: Review your bills to find discounts whenever possible
This may be part of your partner’s cost-cutting, but just make sure it happens. Too often, people get comfortable paying bills, even when they’re overpaying. We also get too comfortable letting recurring auto pay costs tap our bank account, even when we don’t use services regularly.
At least once per year (better seasonally), review all your bills and see if there’s anything you can cut out. You may be paying for data you consistently don’t use or you have multiple streaming services that you barely watch. That’s money you could be saving for a rainy day or directing to a better purpose. Close spending leaks so it’s easier to stay afloat!