This next topic covers one of the most asked questions we receive from our readers. The question goes something like this: “I really want to pay off our debt but I’m having issues getting my spouse on board. Do you have any ideas?”
This is such an important topic because not having a spouse on board will thwart your efforts. If you’ve ever tried to pay off debt without the support of your spouse then you know exactly what we are talking about.
Granted, there are very abnormal stories that occur where both spouses jump on board immediately. Shortly after that Mother’s Day we mention in our book, Cassie and I had dinner at home where something very unusual happened. We both blurted out at the same time that something had to change with our finances.
But we also know the flip side of this as well. Earlier in our marriage, Cassie realized that we were headed into a very dangerous area financially. She had tried to get me (Alex) on board and I was anything but thrilled with the idea.
I didn’t want to give up everything I enjoyed (my mindset) to pay off debt.
This is a really great point to remember. When a family is preparing to start that debt payoff journey, very often they have got to a point where they are used to that lifestyle. They enjoy eating out. They enjoy the “freedom” to buy things (on credit) when they want. And sharing with a spouse that lifestyle needs to change is often interpreted by the song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” with the spouse ending the lyric with, “I don’t feel fine.”
This is where the crash diet approach to paying off your debt can run into so many road blocks. Doing anything cold turkey is highly unpleasant and no one ever runs into it willingly wanting to do it. See tip #3 for a different method!
It’s All About the Attitude
Now one thing we start with is mentioning the attitude of the spouse wanting to pay off the debt. Your approach, attitude and mental state will be critical in how successful your communication with your spouse will be. Our encouragement is to approach your spouse with love, humility, grace and kindness. That can be really hard to do especially if you think that the debt is mostly not your fault.
This is not only good financial advice but good marriage and relationship overall. Having that humble attitude is critical. It really helps disarm your spouse and keep him or her from immediately throwing up that brick wall. Sure, you might think that the majority (if not all) of the debt is not your fault and you might be right. But this can go a long way towards a successful discussion and start to paying off your debt.
Ways to Get Your Spouse on Board to Pay Off Debt
Here are those five ways to get your spouse on board to pay off debt.
#1 – Start talking about it
This one may sound like common sense and seem so incredibly simple. Maybe it is, but if you have seen our book you will see that this step was monumental in getting us starting paying off our debt. Communicating about everything, except money, was a major problem for us. Once we started that conversation, we found that we shared a lot of the same concerns and feelings about our finances. It then became a part of our everyday discussion, as it is today.
This does not mean to bring it up as you’re running by each other on the way to another event. Rather, this step entails scheduling an intentional time to meet, perhaps over dinner, to start that discussion.
#2 – Ask your spouse if you can sit down and review the bills and checkbook together
Sometimes this act alone can do the trick to get your spouse on board. Often one spouse is in charge of the bills and the checkbook. Maybe that spouse has tried to share a number of times that something needs to change. Sometimes sitting down together can help the other spouse start to see the big picture, even possibly what you’ve been trying to communicate along.
Now this tip starts with that initial conversation but it doesn’t end there. We also recommend that you sit down and review it together regularly as well. This doesn’t mean that both spouses need to be working on the bills and budget together from now on, but keeping that regular discussion and review can help keep both spouses on the same page as far as the plans with the finances.
We’ve mentioned in our book and throughout our site that often just knowing what you’re spending can make all the difference in the world. When both spouses then keep tabs on that spending, it can help open up your family’s eyes!
#3 – Use a gradual approach to pay off your debt (like The 2% Rule)
We have always struggled with a crash diet approach to anything. When you watch the next commercial touting the benefits of this new crash diet plan, what does the disclaimer state at the bottom? Results not typical. And even for those that do find that temporary success, what happens after that? Many of them gain the weight back and often more! There are a small number that both lose the weight and keep it off, but that is anything but the norm.
When it comes to using the crash diet approach to cutting your budget, we see the same thing. It’s not fun and it’s often not feasible. We know a few families that found temporary success; once they paid off their debt, however, they went back to their old lifestyle. This resulted in them going back into debt and in some cases even more debt than they had before.
We tried this early in our first attempt to pay off our debt. I was extremely more resistant because I didn’t want to give up my lifestyle. Even worse, I felt like I was giving up everything! And though I agreed to try to make it work as I knew how critical it was for us to succeed, I was more resistant each step of the way.
It was only when we decided to take a more gradual approach towards paying off our debt that everything changed. And by everything, I mean both our success and my attitude as well.
This honestly makes a world of difference! With this approach your spouse doesn’t feel like they are going to cut back on everything immediately. Instead, knowing only small changes are required can result in a much more positive response from your spouse.
As we share, those small changes can result in huge transformation. If you don’t believe us, we encourage you to read the book.
#4 – Use a Spouse Questionnaire
We encourage spouses that desire to walk through the process of paying off their debt to start with this spouse questionnaire. This tool allows both spouses the ability to work through important questions that should be addressed when starting a debt payoff plan. And the format we encourage helps to further facilitate those important discussions.
Remember, we are talking about a marriage here – your marriage. This is not a relationship in which one person is dictating to the other how things are going to happen. One person is not saying, “We are going to live this way as I have set our budget!” Rather, the two of you come together, list out the values each of you have, your long term dreams while not discrediting each other for his or her views. This is an attempt to help you understand your spouse, and your spouse to understand you more.
Don’t forget your spouse is the person you fell in love with. We take each other for granted too often! Shouldn’t we value our spouse and their perspectives when it comes to any subject, especially money?
The questionnaire should cover at minimum the following subjects:
- Do you want to get out of debt?
- Why do you want to get out of debt?
- What are your top financial priorities?
We encourage spouses to fill out the questionnaire separately. Then, exchange the questionnaires so you can both review the other’s answers before coming together to discuss them. This will help remove some of the emotions when you come together you discuss them. Additionally, it helps each spouse set the expectations from the other during that discussion as well. Finally, meet together and discuss how those top items on your lists can come together to form a united vision for your family.
Be careful when you come together that you view the answers from your spouse as this is something they value. It’s part of who they are. Be ready to try to work through differing ideas and goals with attempts to compromise and move forward together.
This step can also help spouses realize that they share common goals and were already very united on certain topics. Other times two spouses can be on totally different planes. Either way, using a spouse questionnaire will help you as a couple to find a way to move forward and to do so united.
Get the Spouse Questionnaire
While you can make your own spouse questionnaire, we would love to give you a copy of the one we recommend for free. Simply sign up to our Take Back Your Finances Podcast list and you will receive a copy of the spouse questionnaire a couple days after signing up. This will give you the questionnaire we used ourselves and help get you started without needing to develop your own.
#5 – Set up a regular time to meet with your spouse
Once communication has started with your spouse on your finances, the goal is to keep it up! Schedule a time you can regularly meet with your spouse to keep each other accountable as you march forward together. This doesn’t need to be a meeting with a strict agenda, but rather a safe place where you can come together and discuss the current state of your finances.
Our 2% Tip of the Week:
The 2% Tip is where we share an idea to either shrink your budget or increase your income by 2%. This week we discuss a topic we all need to review – water! We are not talking about showering once a week but discuss some real, actual tips that anything can implement.
First we mention how much water people use and how much it even costs. On average, a gallon of water is $0.01. That seems like nothing, but when you consider the average family using 100 gallons, per person per day. This is 379 liters for those of you using the metric system. And to visualize this a bit more, that would be like using 190 2-liter bottles of water.
There are a number of ways you can shrink your budget when it comes to using water. As you will note this is to help you shrink the amount you use or other tips surrounding your water usage.
- Set your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit – According to Energy.gov, the average household wastes up to $60 per year heating standing water. Turning down your water heater can help you reduce that expense by not overheating your water.
- Install low flow aerators in your sinks and tubs – For a cost as low as $1 – $2 per sink or $5 per tub, you can reduce your water usage by up to 40%. Just think, for a family of five, the cost of water can go from $5 each day for water down to $3 per day (40% reduction) which means you can save almost $60 each month just from this tip.
- Fix that leaky faucet – The average leak in a faucet wastes about 20 gallons per day. This means that fixing that one faucet can save you upwards of $20 per month. Check out this search on YouTube to get you started on how to do it!
- Convert your toilet to a low-flush toilet – Make your own toilet conversion by grabbing 2-3 1 L water bottles. Add sand up to a third of the way in the bottle and stick it in the back of your toilet tank. This can save as much as a half gallon each flush. As the average person flushes the toilet five times per day, for a family of five you can save nearly $0.12 – $0.15 per day, meaning you can save about $4.50 per month.
Separately, these ideas may not sound like much, but if you combine some, or all of these tips you can save up to $60 – $80 of savings per month. Each of these tips require a small amount of work but you only have to do them once. Then, enjoy the savings each month thereafter!
Resources mentioned in this podcast:
- Check out our book, The 2% Rule to Get Debt Free Fast: An Innovative Method To Pay Your Loans Off For Good. We discuss more detailed information on getting those conversations started with your spouse. Plus we also go into more of a deep dive on how you can save in all areas surrounding the topic of water.
- We created a 64-page workbook to give you the tools and the resources to help you pay off your debt. You can see the digital version or the printed version. In that workbook we provide you a copy of the spouse questionnaire as well as other tools and resources to help get you started and successfully pay off that debt!
Don’t Miss an Episode:
If you want to make sure that you never miss an episode we encourage you to sign up for our Take Back Your Finances Podcast list. As mentioned above, we will send you the free Spouse Questionnaire sometime during that first week just for signing up. Additionally, we will also send you other resources from the latest podcast episode like checklists or related worksheets. You just might receive resources on some of our favorite money-making or money-savings tool as well!
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