From a reader:
I have been feeling really burdened by our debt- which keeps growing – but my husband seems to think it will magically disappear. He lived at home until we married and never had to “take care of himself.” How did you get your husband on board? I am praying, but not sure what else to do… Any suggestion? Thanks!
Let me start by saying that I can sympathize with this reader. For many years my husband and I argued about money. I was born a saver, he a spender. Early in our marriage we struggled to pay the bills with his small military paycheck and as the paycheck increased so did the spending.
We had debt, but it was manageable. We could pay the bills every month.
The problem, as I saw it, was that we were spending every penny we made, and occasionally more. If we wanted something we would put it on a credit card and get it that day. We had no savings and in my mind, no savings meant no security. My husband didn’t see it as a problem. Or if it was a problem it wasn’t a big enough problem to change his mind.
We argued about every single purchase. It took me 14 years, but I finally learned that you can’t argue someone into changing their spending habits. You can’t nag someone into cutting up the credit cards. While you might see results initially, they will go back to their old ways of spending in time and they’ll resent you in the process.
You can’t change someone’s mind about money.
So if you can’t change their mind what can you do?
Find ways to cut the budget that will not significantly affect your spouse.
If you are use to ordering pizza twice week try making homemade pizza instead. Turn the air conditioning up a few degrees when your spouse isn’t home to save on the electric bill. Hang out the laundry to dry instead of using the dryer. Shop at the thrift stores instead of the mall. There are many ways you can save money by yourself.
Many times my husband spent money on me. I would complain about something and he would spend money to make it better. Make sure your spouse knows you are happy with your current car or home. If you are constantly talking about the Jones’s, your spouse will probably be tempted to keep up with them.
Ask for a budget meeting.
While you might not agree on the budget, many people will agree to at least talk about it. I’ve found that many times people are in denial about how much debt they have or how much they are spending every month. Sometimes just sitting down and actually looking at the numbers can help a person change their view of personal finance.
Ask a friend to help.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes it takes the right person, at the right time, to influence your spouse? Sometimes people need to hear wisdom from a different voice (not yours). If you feel like your finances are destroying your marriage it is probably time to ask for help from a trusted friend. My advice would be to ask a mutual friend or one of your spouse’s friends. Getting a girlfriend to “help” probably isn’t much help at all.
Suggest going through Financial Peace University or a similar course.
When I say suggest, I truly mean suggest. Don’t nag, pester, cajole, or force your spouse to attend a personal finance class. When I started reading personal finance books I told my husband how much I really liked a few of them and asked if he would be willing to read one of them so he could better understand where I was coming from. He didn’t read it right away, but once he did he was on fire about getting out of debt and saving money.
Even though these authors weren’t saying things I hadn’t already said, my husband needed to discover it for himself.
If the mounting debt is causing you to feel insecure in your relationship it is important to share that with your spouse. Just avoid saying things like,
“Because you racked up $10,000 in credit card bills, I don’t have any financial security!”
A better approach would be;
“I’m thinking about our future together and looking forward to retirement. Do you think we should start planning for the future? I’d feel better knowing our plan for retirement.”
Pray about it.
The reader who sent in the question said she was praying about it. Honestly, that’s all you need to do. God can change people’s hearts, even really stubborn, stuck in their way spenders. I’ve seen people transformed by the prayers of their spouses. Prayer works.
Do you and your spouse have fundamental disagreements about money? What are some of your tips for making it work?
Photo credit: nouQraz