One of the most common questions that I get from M$M readers (especially in the private FB group) is about getting a spouse on the same page financially. It's really common for one person in the relationship to care deeply about their financial situation, while the other doesn't seem interested at all.
I've never really been able to give a GREAT answer. I'm really fortunate that my wife Coral is just as interested in personal finance as I am…so I would really just be theorizing rather than drawing on my own life experience. But today, Jillian (a M$M reader) is sharing her success story with us and the strategy she used to get her husband on board with debt freedom. Enjoy! ~M$M
My husband and I have been married since October of 2011. Both of us entered the marriage with student and some credit card debt (his beloved Chase VISA card with a whopping 19% monthly interest!). In total, we had combined around $75,000 total in debt – $8,000 of which was the Chase card.
Throughout the first two years of our marriage, we were constantly in financial crisis mode – and I was in career crisis mode as well.
I feel I should mention that during this time – I never felt like we were in a financial crisis.
Our lack of money and our ever-growing debt just seemed to be how life was for us. We were both trying to wrap up our master’s degrees. I was seeing more and more with each student loan just how little I actually wanted my degree.
Fast forward to April 2013. I got accepted into a teacher certification program, so I was working towards my current career field and abandoned the prior degree once and for all. My husband had graduated the previous year and was earning actual “grown up” pay.
Yet, finances still seemed to be an issue. That’s when I thought, “Hey, I remember hearing about Dave Ramsey in high school. I need to listen to him and see if we maybe can’t make a change.”
I began subscribing to his podcast (and have been a listener ever since). I was so insanely excited. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband and get him on board!
Boy, was I wrong.
My husband HATED Dave Ramsey. He couldn’t bear to listen to the podcast. I thought he was crazy! How could he not love Dave just as much as me? There I was, excited and getting a plan in place and my spouse wanted none of it.
Over the next several months, I was putting our “get out of debt plan” together. Although my husband couldn’t get behind listening to Dave Ramsey, he did acknowledge that we had a lot of debt. He also acknowledged that we should try to do something about it, but didn’t necessarily want to be involved.
I was really pushing to use the “snowball” method by paying off our smallest debts first and not factoring in the interest rates. This brought up another issue for my spouse.
We had many small student loan debts from as little as $1,500 up to $15,000 and by the time we would actually get to his credit card, it would’ve been our second to last debt with its big hairy, ugly interest rate breathing down our necks.
This was a huge sore spot in our snowball plan. He was adamant that we tackle the credit card first because that 19% interest rate demanded $250 each month…not even factoring in the principal. I refused to budge on this because I felt that we had been doing finances “our way” and that was getting us nowhere. I wanted to stay true to the DR plan.
Finally, in the summer of 2014, we actually received an unexpected financial windfall. It came in the form of a bonus check that was just enough to pay off his credit card. I felt that in order to get my husband more on board the Debt Free Train, I would compromise the order of our debts and give him a win.
So with that bonus money, we paid off the credit card with the big ugly interest rate. Looking back, I have to admit that getting rid of that card did free up a lot of monthly income to put towards those little debts. After that, my husband was more receptive to the plan.
In fact, I was tuning in with him every so often to see if he wanted to attend Financial Peace University. In December 2015, he finally agreed to go and we began attending classes in January 2016.
If you had told me that attending FPU would make all the difference in the world in our debt snowball plan, I wouldn’t have really believed you. I was already working the plan. I listened to Dave daily. I knew what to do.
But when we both went to class, we were both fully on board. The change was unreal.
We still had over $20,000 in debt left at that point and were down to the last three student loans. Going to the class forced us both to look at where we were, make a budget, and challenged us to use the cash envelope system.
When we did those three things, it changed our whole world. There we were: two high school teachers and we cleared over $20,000 in just nine months’ time. That’s right. With both of us on board, we were able to clear roughly 25% of our debt in less than a year!
I still look back and wonder how much more quickly we could’ve done this if we had started on the same page.
Now, it is February of 2018. We are still out debt, aggressively saving for a big down payment for our first house and expecting our first baby in April.
Because we’re out of debt and are still laser-focused on where we stand financially, I will be able to stay home with our daughter. We would not have the choice for me to be at home if we were still struggling with debt.
Looking back, I know how fortunate I am that:
1. While apathetic to the details, my spouse was never really acting against me
2. Eventually, we both got on the same page
(My husband, by the way, assures me that I’m remembering this all wrong.)
He said to me today, “I was never against getting out of debt. You and Dave just got on my nerves.”
With that said, I may have started off a little too strong and I probably overwhelmed him. When I backed off and gave him a win with getting rid of the credit card, things did seem to run a lot more smoothly.
For those of you out there who have spouses who aren’t on board, you have my sympathy. Don’t give up on them. Use a different approach and always be willing to compromise.
However, I’m also here to tell you that between the two of you, one will always be way more tuned into the financial realm of things than the other. That’s okay. In fact, that’s normal. One of you needs reminding that there’s more to life that budgeting and bank statements while the other needs reminding that your money needs a plan.
It’s the perfect balance.