Perhaps you have been reading my blog, and you are all inspired to get out of debt and gain some financial peace. You’re excited to start shopping at Aldi and cut down your grocery budget. You cannot wait to kick out your student loan that has been living with you for the past few years and keep that money in your pocket instead of dumping it into a pit.
BUT your husband (or wife/parents/kids) are definitely not on board. They laugh at your when you bring it up or they truly believe that debt is just a part of life. They believe that it’s normal to have a couple of car payments and some credit card debt. It is normal…to be broke.
My BFF Dave (we’re on a first name basis, Dave and I…) describes it like this. In most couples, one person is the “nerd” who is all about the numbers and the math and finds all of this organization to be fun…..and the other is the “free spirit” who likes to not do the math, but really likes to spend that money.
Which one are you? Can you guess which one I am?
To tell you my financial history before my husband and I got married in a couple short sentences will be tough, so I’m going to share just the highlights:
- I had my first debt collector calling me at all hours of the day/night at 14 years old
- As a freshman in college I was receiving threatening letters in the mail from credit card companies
- To buy our first house, my name couldn’t be attached to the loan because of my terrible credit
- When Tony and I were going through our pre marriage counseling, I had to come clean about 4 secret credit cards
- I maxed out our Target Red card the first month we opened it
I am the very last person to judge you or your spouse for having debt. I’m also the last one to judge your spouse for thinking all of this “Dave Ramsey nonsense” is for the birds. I am not sharing tips on how to manipulate your spouse into getting what you want. I am simply sharing, from my view point, things to say (or not to say) to get your spouse on board with you to get out of debt.
Do not point out how uncomfortable this will/could be
When Tony was reading Total Money Makeover, he would actually laugh out loud and yell from the next room, “Oh, Anna, you’re going to HATE this!”. Sometimes I would come home with a drive thru coffee and he would point out that Dave Ramsey would not approve. Once he read the Total Money Makeover, he was pointing out every single thing I was buying or spending that was, in his mind, frivolous. “There won’t be any more ____ once we start working on our debt!”
Is it any surprise that I thought this new plan was going to be the worst thing ever?
Communicate your WHY
Focus on the positives here. When Tony expressed his dreams for our future and what could be possible, I saw opportunity instead of sacrifice. I never even thought of the possibility of buying a car with cash, living in a house without a mortgage or sending for our kids to college without crippling debt following them around into adulthood.
Ask about your spouse’s hopes and dreams
The “light bulb moment” for me was when Tony added up our debt between credit cards, car payments and student loans. He told me that we were spending over $700 every month on payments. That is money that came into our checking account only to turn right back around and give to someone else. When he asked me, “What could we do with $700 every month if we got to keep it?” and my mind was blown.
Treat your spouse as an equal…because they are
With my awful financial history and irresponsible spending, Tony could have easily treated me like a child handing me an allowance. Often when one spouse is excited to start budgeting together, the other feels controlled. I thought this was going to feel like Tony was setting a budget and telling me what I can and can’t do, but it was just as controlling for me to refuse to listen or cooperate.
When Tony asked me what I felt was fair to spend on certain categories, I felt like I got an equal vote — and I did! We are never “asking permission” but instead openly communicating. We had some really big fights in the beginning. Instead of blowing up and avoiding, we had to push through all of the hard stuff together and agree on a solution. I talk here all about how our budget meetings are now my favorite date night.
Surround your spouse (and yourself) with support
If you know another couple or friend working towards the same goals, that’s great. We really did not have the support of friends and family in the beginning — we mostly got confused faces and judgment. I listened to the Dave Ramsey podcasts and that made a world of difference. I would absolutely encourage a “free spirit” spouse to listen to at least one episode to hear what they think. I wish I had found this podcast when Tony started reading the book, so I could absorb it that way instead of sitting down to read.
The podcast became my saving grace and support system. I listened every day for at least 3 years. Wanted to bum around Target to spend money? Turn on the podcast. Feeling bad for myself? Turn on the podcast. Losing motivation? Turn on the podcast.
I learned so much through other people’s stories and am still moved to tears when families call in to do their Debt Free screams. The more you listen, the more you hear people who are in much more challenging situations still working towards their goals and all of the principles become second nature.
We have never been through Financial Peace University, but would like to someday lead the class. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I have heard that the accountability and fellowship is very helpful!
One of the most popular questions people ask when they call Dave on his show is “How do I get my spouse on board?” He usually says things like “Sorry, but I don’t know how to tell a little girl to grow up and be a woman.” As much as I love Dave, I cringe when he answers this question because he answers with judgment and no practical, helpful solutions. That has a lot to do with why I wrote this post.
Lastly, I say the following from a place of love, not judgment — if your spouse is so against working together that you have become opponents instead of teammates, then you do not have a money problem… you have a marriage problem.
Money issues are often a symptom of something else. Being vulnerable and transparent with your spouse with money means being transparent in other areas too. If your spouse is so adamant about separating your marriage from finances, and unwilling to work together, there may be something else going on.
Your spouse is different than you. It is not only normal, but good, that you will not always agree on how to handle your finances. He/she has a set of skills you do not have. Working together, among all your differences, is the best gift you could give to one another. If the plan we have used is not for you and your spouse, that is ok…find something you can both agree on.