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He says, She says


I loved when Adam and Emily did the “he says, she says” post. So fun to see their different personalities and spending-styles emerge. And like most couples, my husband and I don’t always agree on where to put our money (which currently is being thrown toward debt hand-over-fist).

Now, don’t get me wrong – husband is 100% committed to eliminating our debt. Most of it is mine and he agrees that it has to go (and he’s been involved in creating our budget and debt-reduction goals, so even though I’m primarily the one who writes out the checks and pays the bills, he’s totally involved in the process). However…..sometimes I find that even though he wants to be debt-free, he would perhaps prefer to do so at a slower pace that allows us more “free” money for spending, or adding money to our savings instead of putting so much directly toward debt each month (we put nearly $1700 per month toward debt when our bring-home is about $5,000 per month; so about 34% of our income goes straight to debt).

Side Note: You can see our full budget here, and our debts here.

Although I typed this up (husband isn’t much into blogging), this is almost verbatim transcript of a conversation we had the other day, so I think I’m representing him and his thoughts fairly:

Our Thoughts On Spending…


He Says:

Imagine going to the gym for months and months. You’re killing yourself by waking up early to hit the gym, eating clean, and passing by lots of opportunities for “fun” that could side-track your health and fitness goals. But then you step on the scale (or have your BMI checked) and you’re still in the exact same position you were in before starting your exercise regiment. Would you continue it? No way! You need to see results in order to be motivated.

It’s the same thing with money and paying down debt. Especially since my job is a very physical one. I go to work everyday and kill my body. I do it to provide for my family and improve our quality of life. If our quality of life isn’t going to improve for 5-10 years, then what’s the motivation? I need to see something that shows me my work is getting me somewhere. Be it a nice home, a new shirt, or a little family vacation. Those are the rewards that make killing myself at work worthwhile.


She Says:

I definitely see the analogy, but at the same time – the only way to true wealth is through being debt-free. Rewards aren’t on the short-term; they’re on the long-term. I never should have accrued so much debt, but it’s done now. And I think our focus should be on paying it back as opposed to continuing to spend money elsewhere.


So, what to do? The conversation had no real resolution. Just him stating his feelings, which I think is fair to do. He works very hard and his job truly is a physically exhausting one. It can be difficult to do that type of work and not see the fruits of one’s labor, since we continue to cut back more and more instead of gaining…I don’t know…wealth???

I listen to the Dave Ramsey radio show and LOVE the segments with REAL PEOPLE telling their debt stories and doing their “debt-free screams.” Dave always asks the same questions (what made you start this journey? what was the hardest? what was the secret to getting out of debt?) One thing I hear over and over is people say that it was absolutely crucial to be on the same page with their spouse.

I wouldn’t say my husband and I aren’t on the same page (at the end of the day, we both want to be debt-free), but maybe I’m one chapter ahead? Or I’m just reading the book at a faster pace???


What’s your money-relationship like with your spouse? Are you on the same page? What do you do to help motivate and encourage your partner?


  • Reply Joe |

    You are both right. 🙂
    You gotta figure out what will be sustainable. The only choice you DON’T have is to not pay off the debt: that money is already spent. The only question is how much additional money you are willing to pay for the sake of making the journey “sustainable”.

    For instance, let’s say it will take you 7 years to pay off all of your debt (from Sunday’s discussion) and your effective interest rate is 8% across all of your loans. That means that every $1 you spend now (instead of paying off your debt), you will pay about $1.75 over the course of your payoff. Every $100 will cost you $175, etc, etc.

    Is it worth it? Maybe it is. Maybe you decide that this 7 year strategy is sustainable by striking a deal that additional future income will go to savings/fun/etc.

    I’d bet that once you see how the snowballing works (which is the above math working in YOUR favor), you will realize that you don’t mind living with less for longer just to crank it out…

    We lived in a 300 sq ft apartment for three years after finishing school while we got our debt in order, saved for a down payment, etc. That time seems like so long ago now, and we have such fond memories of that place…

    • Reply Ashley |

      Joe, I’m hoping you’re right! I hope that as we continue paying off debts we build momentum and THAT is the motivation to keep us chugging along. This kind of relates to the Sunday “what rate will you pay down your debt” conversation. Both husband and I are 100% on the same page regarding the credit cards (GONE – NOW!), but we’ll see what happens with the rest of the debts after that time. We were talking about it last night and realizing that once the cards and car is paid off we will officially “OWN” everything we have (since we don’t own a home we don’t have mortgage debt). Kind of crazy to think about it that way.
      PS: 300 Square feet?! I’m super impressed! Right before we got married we were living in a tiny 500 square foot duplex. I LOVED that place so, so much! It was small, but cheap and perfect for us at the time (we moved to a slightly larger 900 square foot place when I got pregnant).

  • Reply Jenna |

    I once heard one of the dave ramsay couples actually took plastic number magnets [you know, the colourful ones for kids] and placed on their fridge door the total of their debts. With each month, they physically changed the number to their updated number and it became one of their motivators – a/ to get the number lower each month, b/ to get the numbers off the fridge all together because when people would ask – they would tell them what the total represented.

    In a similar vein, I do two things to keep me motivated.

    I have stacks of pennies on my window ledge in on front of my kitchen sink – each penny represents a $1000 worth of debt. I see the stacks every day, and sometimes have to restack the pennies because they’ve toppled. At the end of each month, I total my amount of debt still owing and physically removing any extra pennies. Some months it is none. Other months it is one or two.

    The second thing I do each month is total my net worth. It isn’t huge and it sounds kinda uppity. But, there is something about reflecting on the positive gains [purely a function of my debt going down], that helps me to feel like I’m moving forward instead of just treading water.

    • Reply Ashley |

      What awesome ideas! Of course, our stacks would probably fall over because they’re too tall lol. Maybe we could start with stacks for just our non-student-loan debt. I like this idea!

  • Reply Kili |

    I think Joe has some very good points… How much are you willing to pay in the end for every 1 Dollar you spend now. 1.75? 1.8? 1.9?

    I also like Jennas suggestions of helping visualize the debt and the process of it decreasing. Like someone answered on a thread over the weekend, maybe also a big thermometer print will help you visualize it, or this other suggestion of the little squares that can be crossed of for every x amount of money paid.

    My reply to the gym analogy: yes, it’s super frustrating to not see results yet. at my gym there is this lady who says “aren’t we just doing this to prevent things from getting worse?” So even if the changes are not measurable in lbs or a change in the BMI yet, at least, things are not getting worse. At least you guys are on the right track.

    And of course I do believe, you guys need to make sure to have some fun as well, to reward yourselfs if you reach some milestones… doesn’t have to be dinner at a fancy restaurant, but i am sure you can come up with some budget-friendly fun ideas for date nights, family nights or other things you enjoy.
    You can do it!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Good point regarding “not getting worse.” Obviously the goal is to have serious improvements, too, but at a minimum there’s some pride to knowing we’re no longer “bleeding” and things are starting to improve!

  • Reply Donna |

    Seeing results is why Dave Ramsey wants you to knock out the smallest debts first. This gives you that kick you need to keep going. Otherwise it truly does fill like you’re spinning your wheels and people often give up. You & your husband need to come up with small treats that don’t add to the debt that you can give to yourself when you hit a milestone.

    I like the visuals of magnets on the refrigerator. But if he isn’t motivated by seeing the total debt go down that’s going to be a problem.

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s hard coming up with “small treats” that aren’t associated with money. Though, another commenter suggested free/very cheap stuff (trips to state parks, camping, free community stuff). We’re lucky to live in a place with a lot of free community-sponsored events so that’s definitely something we can do.

  • Reply Theresa |

    I think it is very difficult to manage exactly how fast and how slow to pay off debt. My husband and I are maybe in the same book but not on the same chapter and definitely not the same page. It is very stressful. So in a way I envy you guys. Maybe you could use some visuals mentioned in an earlier post to help both of you? Also because you have so much debt maybe after you pay off the credit card there could be a splurge purchase? Weekend away or new clothes, then when you pay off the car another splurge. He might really need that and it could help him stay committed to this journey. I have and can be very disciplined with money. I can have a bare bones budget and be very happy. My husband not so much. I can’t impose my way of doing things on him. He probably give up on any debt pay off immediately. I also think you two have some fluidity in your debt payoff journey. Your husband’s health is a factor that is out of your control you also have the potential to get a new job and drastically increase your income. I don’t think you have to have it all mapped out today. You have an immediate plan to pay off the credit card debt. Once that is paid of in 8-12 months you can reassess (maybe splurge and celebrate) and pick what is next and then tackle that challenge then maybe splurge a bit then reassess. Somewhere down the line he may want to forgo a splurge to keep pounding away at the debt. Who knows?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Very true. I think its helpful to break the debt-reduction journey into chunks. I think it’s “okay” to reassess once the credit cards are paid off and go from there. Like you said, we have a lot of “unknowns” in our life in regard to health and job situations.

  • Reply TPol |

    Visuals do help me. I have an excel file with sheets dedicated to: 1. My budget, 2. My net worth, 3. My long term plans and forecast budgets, 4. debt payment, 5. Tax Calculations, 6. Weight 🙂 Every sheet also has a graph for me to visualize the status of each category.

    On May 6, I will be completely debt free and it was a major motivation to look at the downward sloping graph for 36 months. At first, I was overwhelmed by having to pay debt for 36 months but once I passed the 18 month mark, I knew it wasn’t too bad.

    Your hubby has a point because sometimes one can feel deprived. In order not to feel it, you need to get creative to come up with inexpensive entertainment such as camping, staycations, visiting national parks close to you and etc. With summer approaching fast, I am sure there will be plenty of free concerts, recitals, art shows and etc. that you can find in your community. Make sure you celebrate each debt payment by doing something, simple and inexpensive. I like the above stack of pennies idea very much.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the ideas! I don’t know how motivated husband would be from visuals – I am definitely more the “nerd” in our relationship…his eyes tend to glaze over when we go over our budget, etc. But finding some cheap/free “rewards” would surely go a long way!

  • Reply Jim |

    Hey Ashley,

    If he is using the gym analogy that way, there is a way to flip it around on him. Yes, it is the same. Muscles take up a much greater density than fat. You can very well look and feel trimmer and way the same amount. Just because you don’t see your debt going down by huge percentages, you can feel much better with the small victories.

  • Reply adam |

    hey, thanks for the shout out! – although we also stole the he said/she said format from another blog.

    It seems your husband isn’t as motivated by seeing the numbers and charts and stuff as you are. He is motivated differently than you. We still go through this. But his comments seem to focus on very short term goals (new shirt, family vacation) that may distract him from the long term goals such as a nice home. You need to figure out what kind of markers of progress will motivate him.

    As we continue to approach debt-freedom (still a long way off), I can understand his perspective, though. We can see how dramatically our life will change immediately when we are debt-free. We will have thousands of dollars more every month!

    So I’m not sure how to help your husband or resolve your differences, but maybe some suggestions:

    1. Talk together to visualize how your budget will change when you are out of debt, and talk about what some of the things you will suddenly be able to afford stress-free when you are done. We dream about this a lot.

    2. Try to focus on stuff that is more important than vacations and short term goals like new shirts – time together, being financially stable, stuff that’s not stuff. We got a lot out of reading The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley. He talks about how the millionaires he studied often drove used American cars and wouldn’t touch the fancy food they set out at their research groups, they preferred beer and hot dogs. Read the book with your husband, but the lesson is that millionaires often don’t look like you expect they would. It can help get your focus off of the material things.

    3. On the other hand, consider a little reward here and there for him playing along with the plan. If spending $20 on himself every few months, or every time you knock out a debt, will keep him motivated to stay with it to the finish, maybe try to find a way to fit this in.

    4. Think about doing the Dave Ramsey FPU course together – we watched the videos online, and they really helped us understand each others’ perspectives. http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/home/

    • Reply scarr |

      I was trying to articulate exactly what you said! I think it is normal and even okay to want to see your money go toward things you care about – not that Ashley’s husband doesn’t care about paying off debt, he sounds absolutely committed. Paying off debt doesn’t always feel like a reward for yourself, so it can be easy to want things money can buy. Like Adam said, getting to a place where you don’t want “things” as much as you want experiences or the security of no/lower debt helps curb the debt cycle.

      Great post!

    • Reply Ashley |

      LOVE this! Especially #1! : ) Kind of like the “if we were to win the lottery….” game.
      Side note: we do not waste money on the lottery, so that was just a hypothetical : )

  • Reply Shauna |

    Just another quick thought. I try to remind myself that by being debt free I can retire many years earlier than if I only paid minimums on my debt. While there are many things that can happen in life you can somewhat calculate when you can retire. So figure out for you every say $1000 you pay off debt how much earlier your husband can retire and enjoy his family and home.

  • Reply Slinky |

    I’m going to make a suggestion that Dave Ramsey and other hard core debt haters might object to. Your budget doesn’t seem to have any sort of allowance or spending money for each of you. Add one. Just a little something that you each can spend on anything you want. This is your pressure valve for when everything seems just too hard and you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. Spend it on whatever you each want the most, whether that’s a new video game or debt payments or saving for a house. Anything goes! It’s often helpful to feel like you aren’t giving up EVERYTHING for some nebulous future reward that seems forever away.

    Then, (and here’s the part people might really hate) each time you pay off a debt, take 10% of the monthly payment (or whatever sounds good to you guys) and add half to each of your allowances. It might not be a lot, especially when you’re paying off the smaller debts, but there would be a sense of things getting better as you go on instead of just one giant reward at the end. It’s like a water station at a race. You might have to slow down or go out of your way to get there, but it’s going to do a lot to keep you going all the way to the finish line.

  • Reply hannah |

    I agree that you are both right. You need short term rewards as well as the long term rewards. I get extremely motivated by figures and seeing those numbers shrinking, but my husband doesn’t. He is also motivated by physical rewards such as increased purchasing power or quality of life.
    I second the person who suggested a spending allowance. Ours right now is only $15 each. You might start out with $30 each – and you could always put YOUR $30 toward debt and let him feel free to spend his on whatever he wants.
    Also, does your husband enjoy his job? It sounds like he is being a great provider and doing a hard job for the sake of his family, but doesn’t enjoy it too much. Is that something you could talk to him about changing?
    My spouse had a good paying job, but hated it – so we abandoned that idea and he is back in school changing careers. It’s added student loan debt which I hate, but I care more about my spouse’s long-term happiness. He deserves a job he loves, and that will make it easier for him to focus on paying things off.
    Anyway, just a thought. I think your spouse is all for paying the debt off.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi Hannah! Good idea(s)!
      Regarding the husband’s job – he actually really loves what he does, but its very hard on his body. He’s been slowly building a small wood-flooring business for about 3 years now. His ultimate goal is to build it up with people working beneath him so eventually he doesn’t have to do the physical part (actual installation) and can focus on managerial/office stuff. Right now he works LONG hours because he has to do both. So he does installations during the days and often goes to do bids in evenings and on weekends. Right now he only has 4 employees (thats two 2-person crews). Financially, he would need to have 3 crews running full-time for him to be able to “retire” from the physical work and be able to focus on just the managerial stuff. One major roadblock has been difficulty in finding quality, skilled workers. He’s been burned before when he’s hired people who have done botched jobs and he lost a LOT of $$ having to replace floors (and eat all the associated costs). Sooooo, long answer to your question but wanted to give you an idea of the current situation and future goals.

      • Reply hannah |

        Oh man I can see how tough that would be! It’s hard to get quality workers for anything these days!

  • Reply Abingham |

    Ahh…the spouse issue.
    I would say that you are not both on the same page. Your husband wants to spend what he wants to spend. He contributes, but doesn’t tell you how much he makes, he has a hard time putting all the money towards debt reduction, and he buys cute things you can’t afford ( I’m still reeling over the $60 on 2 pairs of baby Nike’s ! )
    This is really hard. He obviously loves you and your family. But I’ve seen the results when one spouse just NEEDS to have more fun, or CAN’T live on an allowance. My friend and I are living on two different ends of this – her husband ‘deserves’ to have some fun. And so even though they are approaching 60 years old, they are in debt, and don’t have the money to help their grown kids, or go without a pay check.
    Another friend ended up divorced because of it.
    And my spouse drove me crazy because he felt EVERYTHING was too expensive (yes, we had to have a talk that even shopping at Walmart it costs $$ to buy underwear for 4 kids). But we worked together and discussed the best things for the family as a whole. Ballet lessons were expensive but worth it. Saving for college was not fun , but worth it.
    Since we were careful, we weathered lots of financial storms – multiple job losses, huge medical bills. But now we can got without a paycheck, and we can take trips and we can help our kids (3 out of 4 of our grown kids don’t need any help, so then we can spoil them ).

    I wish I knew the solution. But pretending he is on the same page isn’t realistic. He doesn’t need to ask you for an allowance but he does need to know that EVERYONE has a limit on what they can spend.
    I’d recommend his telling you what amount he wants to have as his own fun money. Then he should keep only that much and whatever else he earns should go to the budget. Because that is being a grown up. Not as much fun as being a kid in a candy store with someone else buying.
    Still… he wants the best for his kids. It will be a lot worse for him if the kids are older and can’t do things that you want them to be able to do, because you are still paying off debt.

    And I’m puzzled why the debt is yours, Ashley? Education or living expense debt when you two were together should be considered as both of yours. If you got a fantastic job as a prof at a prestigious university, would you then consider that only YOU were making money? I don’t know…we always thought of it as a together thing — we were working as a team to raise our family.

    I am enjoying reading all about you and your family, and I don’t mean to be this as a rant.. I just want you to be realistic.

So, what do you think ?