75% of mums feel guilty buying things if they earn less than their partners, according to social media poll, and the comments section was part heartbreaking, part inspiring

Some mothers felt guilty for spending their partners money, while others saw it as household money instead

Woman feeling guilty spending while shopping online
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Managing your family's budget can be hard work at the best of times, but harder still if there are extra dynamics at play, like your partner earning more than you do.

It can help to know how to talk about money with your partner, but if you happen to be earning less than your partner for whatever reason, it's not unusual to feel a power imbalance in your relationship. Maybe you are on maternity leave and getting maternity pay, or maybe you returned to work part-time after having kids so you could juggle childcare commitments.

Becca Maberly, post-natal expert and author, the name behind Instagram account @amotherplace, posed the question 'Do mums who earn less or don't earn feel guilty about spending money on themselves?' and it sparked an interesting debate.

The question was posted with a poll, with three out of four respondents saying that they did feel guilty, while only one in four said they didn't.

Some mums who did feel guilty spending spilled into the comments section to share their experiences.

One mum said: 'I saved as much as I could while working so I don't have to spend my husband's money while on Mat leave. We both still pay into the joint account as well. I somehow can't bring myself to spend 'his' money...', while another explained why she feels guilty: 'Currently on mat leave, when I used to be the higher earner. Really struggling to spend the money from my husband's job, albeit my husband really pushes for me to have treats. I just know how hard it is to earn money and I don't feel like it's mine to spend.'

Another added '100%! I hide my deliveries!!'

But those who didn't feel guilty were quick to explain why. One responded saying: "My husband reminds me that he can't do his job without my support and looking after the running of the house and the kids...' while another explained that '...it's a household income not individual when you share and home and children.'

Mums also explained that the sacrifices they'd made when having children assuaged any guilt they might feel at spending money on themselves. One explained: '...We sacrifice so much physically, mentally, emotionally...' while another said '...Looking after kids is a full time job. I deserve to treat myself if we can afford it.'

A couple of mums also explained how they set up their finances with their partner to avoid any guilt spending. One mum commented: 'We've set up our finances so I don't have to be beholden to him. Everything goes into one pot, but we have equal discretionary spends. I work full time now but it still worked when i was on mat leave and working part time.'

Another said: 'Both our wages get paid into one account, we pay all the bills and put an amount away in savings and then split what is left equally to spend on ourselves as we wish...'

Mothers earning less than their partners is part of the motherhood penalty, which we are a way away from eliminating, demonstrated by the findings that working mothers earned 43 per cent less than fathers in 2023. This can often leave mothers having to weigh up whether it's actually financially worth returning to work after having a baby.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.