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You are ready to be free of debt, but your spouse isn’t. You two are stuck in bad habits that keep your mountain of debt growing. One of you is ready to pull yourselves up, do the work, and climb to freedom. However, your spouse doesn’t share your passion to be debt free.
“Debt will always be here so we might as well not worry.”
Actual words that spewed from my husband’s mouth. I wanted to poke him in the eye, but I wasn’t close enough. He was on the phone trying to calm me down after I found out he used a credit card to get gas. I could not understand how or why he thought it was okay to do that since I had just explained to him that we were using a cash only system. There was money in the bank, about $25, but it was there. That would have been enough for gas and enough left over to last until payday. I was upset because it seemed like he didn’t care that we were getting into more debt. It was time to stop living like this and become debt free.
We have always been on different pages about debt for as long as I can remember. When we were first married I asked him what he wanted to accomplish in 5 years. Specifically, I asked how much he wanted to have saved by then. He told me $5k. To me, that amount was too little. 5k in five years? You’re telling me you are only capable of saving $1k a year? That small amount to me wasn’t justifiable, but to him, that was more than he had ever had. We both came from poor backgrounds but our mindsets were different.
What are your money goals?
I needed security and money in the bank at all times. I needed a backup plan for my backup plan. He was happy when he could look around and see what he was working for. We would get all the latest gadgets. As long as I kept $250 in the bank, he felt secured. It didn’t matter if we were swimming in debt, to him, the world was right if he had a PlayStation and $250 in the bank.
At that time, we had about 3k in debt. I would stay awake all night trying to think of ways to pay it off. Whether that be working overtime or doing a side hustle, my focus was on getting rid of the debt. At that time, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be in debt with ONLY 3k. Times were rough. We were only making about 400 a week—which we thought was so much back then. Minimum wage was $4.15, I think, so we thought we had hit the big time. We were on our own and trying to make ends meet. We would buy packs of macaroni and smoked sausage to live on. Yet, we still bought as if the coffers were filled to the brim. I knew I wanted to live a better life but my habits outweighed my determination to live debt free.
Decide to do better
Growing up, I had read all about 401ks and Drips and about investing so that when I started making money, I could start working my way towards being rich. I still regret that I had all this knowledge and didn’t put my plan into action like I had dreamed of.
I try to tell myself that even though I’m 39, it’s not too late. When I was in my 20s I thought that I was an old lady and that it was too late to do most of the things I had set out to do. I realize now how stupid that was and I tell myself every day, I’m still a baby. I’ve got time to make my dreams come true. One of those dreams is to be a millionaire. But to do that, I’m am going to have to turn determination into action. And I feel like I can’t do it alone.
Get out of debt together
So, what do you do when you are ready to pull yourself out the gutter of debt but your spouse is resisting?
- Take baby freedom steps
- Share ‘blow goals’
- Plan debt free date night
Here are the things I’ve done to help my spouse get on board with getting out of debt:
1. Take baby freedom steps
I hate budgeting. Even now I still struggle with it. I am all for knowing where each and every penny is going, but I can’t lie, sometimes I’m like, “never mind.” I do my best to at least know what I am spending for the month and I always budget all our bills so I started with that.
Instead of me doing it alone, I asked him to join me. Talking and having anything to do with bills is Dashauns kryptonite so you can imagine the whining and bitching I got when I asked him to join me. All I had him to the first time was open the bill and read off the total amount, the interest rate dollar amount, and the minimum amount due. I use my Debt Freedom Tracker printable as an easy way to keep up with our expenses when going over the bills. Download it here for free.
I wanted him to get an idea of the total amount of debt we were in and the monthly amount that we were shelling out each month. I think before then he had no idea that we were in debt to our eyeballs. As he opened bill after bill, I could see he was getting agitated. He didn’t like talking about it let alone seeing it right in his face. I kept going because I needed him to get a kick. Once we finished, I asked him to total up all three columns. I think he fainted inside when he read the number aloud.
I wanted to say, ‘See? See how much debt were in? NOW can you start working with me to get this shit paid off?” But I didn’t but I think I said it so strongly inside that he felt it.
Still, he was hesitant.
Talk it out
The next time we sat down, I asked him to write up the budget and after we finished we talked about what we could do to start working on it. That was a bust, he had no ideas.
Oh yeah, he had one:
“Let’s just not pay any of the credit card bills.”
That was his answer. Just pay the house note but don’t pay anything else if it wasn’t absolutely essential. We talked about how it would be unethical and just plain wrong to not pay someone if we have the money just because we were in debt. As we talked it out, he began to open up about side hustles he could do to help out. Even though we were moving along, I realized I had to attack this a different way.
I know my husband likes playing video games. He loves all the latest tech things. Every year he wants to get a new TV. At one point we had a 4 room apartment and we had 4 TVs. Who does that? That didn’t make sense to me, but to keep him happy, we would spend. Also, this was during the time flat screens really started getting popular so we paid thousands of dollars as early adopters instead of the $299 for a 65in you see today.
Get anything you want
Because I know he is a materialistic visual type of guy, I decided to try something that would engage him to focus more on cutting down the debt. I figured if he was working towards something that would help keep him focused. I asked him what he really wanted that would be out soon. He talked to me about a few video games and gadgets he thought were cool that he wish he could buy. So I talked to him about blow goals. It was money that we would set aside specifically for him to blow on anything that he wanted, no questions asked. We would come up with a number that would go into a specific savings account that neither of us could touch for any reason. At the end of a designated date, he could withdraw it.
His face lit up like a light bulb. Instead of me telling him again that he couldn’t get something, this time I told him we could, and at least now I know we could plan for it. So we set up his blow goal account and that seemed as if we were on the right track with us working together to get responsible. We use Capital One 360 for our blow goals account and Mint to track the goals. I am not affiliated with them in any way. I just like that I am easily able to setup everything.
3. Plan debt date night
Eventually, we set a plan to meet once a week for 30 minutes to discuss our budget. He still has a hard time with planning but I know he is aware of what is going on with our finances and that’s what I need. Now when I say we can’t get something, I don’t have to take as much time explaining to him yet again why it isn’t feasible for us to buy it. We get the kids ready for bed, prepare dinner, and talk about what has happened over the week and what we need to do for the upcoming week. We are incorporating other things like menu planning and kid care planning into our routine so that we can plan accordingly for the week. Since we have so little time together, it’s also good for us because we get at least 30m just to ourselves.
You can do it
Remember, you can’t take on all the responsibility of getting out of debt.
You’ve got to take baby freedom steps. Try not to bombard your spouse all at once with your debt or plans. You want to take the least path of resistance.
Focus on sharing blow goals. When we work for something we want, it’s that much sweeter when were able to get it. You get the freedom of getting out of debt and he gets the thrill of getting something he really wanted. A win win for all.
Lastly, don’t forget to meet regularly for debt free date nights. Getting out of debt takes time and planning. It can’t be a one-time affair but a regular occurrence. Meeting also keeps you both on track with planning and executing.
It won’t be easy, but if you start with these steps, in time you’ll both be working together to be debt free.