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Money and Marriage: Tightening of the Financial Belt to Fight Debt

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A reader asked me a question, “Your situation is similar to mine, in that my husband trusts me 100% to take care of our finances – and he supports me, but sometimes he rebels against the tightening of our financial belts in order to pay off debt – how do you combat that, or does it even happen in your house???”

Probably the hardest point for me with our debt reduction was when I told my husband he couldn’t spend any money for a while because we didn’t have money in our checking account (I was overly agressive with paying debt) and I actually had to put groceries on the credit card. He looked right at me, and said “How can we be so broke?” I could see that his spirit was breaking right there, and I knew I had to make some changes to what I was doing. For this to really work, we have to be on the same page.

The little argument that we had lead to some compromising. He, at the time, was quitting his job and we decided that he would keep working for a while longer. We also made a bigger purchase that my husband really wanted to make (our inflatable kayaks which have been a lot of fun). A little bit later, we also spent some money to buy a game that he really wanted as well as a bass guitar that I have been missing for some years.

It means we spent almost $500 on things we really didn’t need since starting our journey in February. Sure, it could have gone towards our debt. But if we did that, and lost our overall steam…it would have cost us a lot more in the long run.

I believe that much about debt reduction is about the psychological aspect of it. For us, having certain designated periods where we would technically “splurge” to buy things we really want helps to keep the feeling of not spending money to enjoy life at bay. I have found that these splurges are best when they are planned, you still budget for them and you pay with cash. Being able to pay for our splurges with cash (after so many years of just doing it with credit cards) felt pretty awesome.

Every relationship will be different, and it takes a bit of investigate work as well as trial and error to find the perfect balance needed to satisfy both partners. But, if you already have a common goal of getting out of debt, the rest may fall into place with a few heart-to-heart talks and some compromising.


7 Comments

  • Reply Aimee |

    I totally agree with you! The main problem we have is that it is him who gets to splurge and not me… this is something we are trying to work out. But I feel like since he is the one working hard to earn the money, he deserves the splurge the most. 😉 We also try to budget a little wiggle room so we can pay cash for our fun purchases too.

  • Reply Tricia |

    In our relationship, it’s a little bit different because I make the bulk of the money. He sort of gives in to me sometimes, I think. But I am fairly low maintenance and now that I have my bass guitar I pretty much have all the “toys” I want (there’s an LCD TV calling my name still, but that’s been controlled). For my husband, though, he drools over every computer magazine that comes in the house. He could easily spend $50,000 on computers and electronics if he had it. Me, I wouldn’t know what to do.

  • Reply Chris |

    I hope it is okay to respond to older posts, I just started reading your blog.

    When my wife and I started tackling our debt, we did it together. We sat down and made a spreadsheet that we could both read periodically to keep ourselves in the loop. While I handle most of the finances, we both look at the report and make big decisions together, such as what debt to tackle first, where we should put our extra money, etc. And we always report to each other when we spend, and ask before we buy something big.

    It will be nice when we can be financially stable enough to have our own checking accounts to spend as we like, but right now our system works for us.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Hi Chris,

    It’s perfectly fine to respond to older posts. The blogging software I use lets me know of comments in the order they are received so I see them coming in.

    I think you and your wife have a healthy financial relationship. You are on the same page and are working towards a common goal. You guys should be really proud of yourselves! That’s awesome what you are doing.

  • Reply Carried |

    The reason you have debt in the first place is because you are living beyond your means. You apparently are unconcerned about that and are easily able to rationalize your expenditures for “wants”, i.e. “toys”, instead of sacrificing and limiting yourself to “needs” only. You’re just like most people in today’s materialistic society who have little self-control, an inflated sense of entitlement and that’s why credit card companies are laughing all the way to the bank and the foreclosure rate is skyrocketing. I highly recommend you read Good Debt..Bad Debt by Jon Hanson.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Carried – point taken about living beyond our means and that is how we got into debt in the first place.

    There is much to be said, however, about spending money (CASH only) on some things that will bring benefit to our life. The kayaks for one, mean that we are out exercising versus perhaps going out and going to the movies for entertainment. My bass guitar provides a great deal of musical pleasure and the stress relieving qualities are unmeasurable.

    The above could sound like rationalization and in part it is. But the point of my journey isn’t to pay off our debt as quickly as possible. It is to foster a lifelong habit of spending less than we make.

    Fast forwarding to today, with paying off over $17,000 of our debt in less than a year and a half is quite an accomplishment since we only made around $48,000 last year and are making less than that so far this year. We are spending less than we make by leaps and bounds.

    It’s all about balance, and I have learned a lot about that.

So, what do you think ?