While we already know getting out of debt is no easy task, it’s even harder when you’re doing it by yourself – and definitely more difficult when your spouse isn’t on the same page as you.
We know some of you have been encouraged enough and you are ready. You’re tired of the situation you’re in, and you’re ready to become debt-free once and for all. So here you are, putting one foot in front of the other, but the problem is your spouse may not be ready. We’ve received several emails about this: you are ready to tackle this debt and be debt-free once and for all, but your spouse just isn’t ready.
One of the major things that holds us back from living a life of purpose is the amount of debt that we’re in. We spend so much time going to work every day just to keep up with all the payments that surround us. And when your spouse isn’t ready to join you, it can really make the journey seem impossible.
We’re all about encouraging, empowering and equipping you to be debt-free, so we’re going to share some of the techniques we’ve used personally in our marriage to help motivate each other. There have been certain points in our marriage where one of us was more excited than the other when it came to certain financial goals, so we have both had to encourage each other.
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Understanding your ‘Whys’
In the beginning of our marriage, I admit I was a spender. I was reckless, had a bunch of bad debt, and I had no clue when it came to personal finance. Fortunately for me, I met Tai, my wonderful savior! All I knew how to do was spend, but Tai was debt-free, had an education in Finance and was working in the Financial industry.
Tai’s background ensured that from a very young age, she learned the value of money. She grew up in a family with five siblings, and her parents were hard workers who spent money sparingly. Tai knew the importance of saving money and not using credit to buy something she really wanted. She even completed college completely debt-free!
Naturally, she thought her marriage would be no different, but she was highly mistaken. As soon as we got married, we suddenly shared Talaat’s massive debt. At the time, we were complete opposites, so we had to figure out along the way how to get on the same page.
One of the very first things that needs to happen in order to be on the same page is that you need to both have a clear understanding why you want – and need – to get out of debt. If you don’t understand the need behind it all, then you’re going to just be spinning your wheels. It’s not just enough to talk about the ‘what,’ i.e. we have $50,000 in student loans. That’s great to recognize, but certainly not the most important thing. What you need to focus on and figure out is why those student loans need to go. Ask yourselves, “What would our life be like if we didn’t have student loans? What could we do with our life if we didn’t have student loans? How could we help others? What type of message are we passing on to our children by staying in debt?”
The answers to those questions are your ‘Whys’. These are what you pull on in those times of trouble where you’re tired of working toward getting out of debt, or where you are at a point of contention with sacrifices; keep your ‘Whys’ in your mind: the goal that you’re reaching toward, the end game! That is what helps you both to see the same picture and head in the same direction.
Sitting Down with Your Partner
Open communication is important in this journey. If you are ready to begin working for financial freedom and your spouse isn’t, just start by sitting down and having the conversation. Do this without any expectations of an immediate return on your investment in this conversation, because it doesn’t click for everybody at first. What matters is that you have the conversation. You need to share your heart with your spouse; let him or her know why you think you all need to change things and work toward getting out of debt.
Don’t be aggressive with your conversation with your spouse. You two have to realize you didn’t get to this position overnight, so it’s not going to take overnight for you to become debt-free either. When you approach your partner, do it in a loving way and tell them about your ‘Whys’. Explain all the reasons, and get excited about all the benefits of becoming debt-free.
You want to be patient and loving when you sit down with your partner. Sometimes this conversation can be difficult; often times, people in debt are afraid to hear their spouse speak about change. They immediately think that all the fun is going to end – no more shopping sprees, no more vacations, no more Prada purses, none. They think their life is pretty much coming to an end. But it doesn’t have to! You can live a life so rewarding being debt-free, that you can eventually buy any purse that you want, take all the vacations that you want, you name it.
Although you may face some conflict, we can’t repeat enough how important it is to remember to have these conversations with your spouse, coming from a place of love. You have to do it in a way in which you’re partnering with the Lord and softening your partner’s heart. You have to come to them with love and respect.
Trusting in God
We do know that not everybody is going to be on board right away. Our suggestion as Christians is to pray. Pray to God; go to God every single day and pray for your spouse. This is one of our biggest tools. I pray to God, ‘soften Talaat’s heart, or give me the words that I need to say when I approach my husband. Show us both what you want us to do.’
We also searched the scriptures to find out what the Bible says about being in debt, about finances, and about money. Coming to the Lord together really helps to put us both on the same page. We dream together, and we are both goal-minded. One of our goals was to be able to give and to help others. It is such a joy to be able to help others and help someone financially – even when they’re not aware of it.
Leading by Example
If you have a spouse that is not on board, you should be the change that you want to see. Lead by example. If you get to the point where you’ve had the talk with them about how you feel and you’re still not seeing that they are on board, then you be the change. You cut back in some personal areas that you can, and lead by example.
Your spouse will see you making sacrifices in order to save money. Maybe you don’t get your nails done as often as you once did, or maybe you canceled your gym membership and you’re taking that money and you’re applying it to the debt. Your partner is going to notice all of this and that often leads to more conversations, putting you two closer and on the same page so you can begin to steadily chip away at the debt.
We interviewed Toni from Debt Free Divas on our podcast and she and her husband paid off over $120,000; the story is remarkable. That’s how they started their journey. Her husband was not on board right away. But she led by example. She started to put forth the action; she started to put forth the work and believe it or not, her husband joined in after she did. They ultimately paid off over $100,000 in debt. So don’t lose focus. You two can do it together.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Knowledge is key, and knowledge is power. We encourage you to read. We do that a lot to this day. We’re constantly sending each other articles via email, and we read books together. Get with your spouse and learn about different topics centered around finances. We have a video on our 5 favorite books currently right now on the topic of money. Read together and grow together. You will see that you can win together. Remember that you two are a team; there is no “I” in team. Sometimes you’re going to have to encourage yourself, and it won’t be easy when you’re striving to do this on your own. You’re going to have to stay encouraged, and part of that is in reading articles or reading books (or listening to our show on iTunes) for motivation. Stay encouraged to take this journey. Your spouse is going to see that there is a change in you and is going to take note.
Becoming mortgage-free is one of our biggest ‘Whys’. We want to pay off of our mortgage completely. That goal is really high on our priority list, and that helps motivate us every single day to keep putting one foot in front of the other when it comes to handling our finances.
We’re not going make this sound like all rainbows and sunshine. There are still times in our marriage where we both need a little kick in the rear. All we can tell you is to continue to put forth the action.
Early on in our marriage, I found myself very frustrated, because I felt like I was sacrificing a lot. I felt like I was sacrificing that new purse, or that new coat, and I noticed that with my husband he still liked to spend. That bothered me at first, until I realized, ‘Hey, Talaat can spend his fun money however he chooses to – I can spend my fun money – allowance, if you will – on whatever I want. I just choose to save my money. I shouldn’t be getting mad at him because he decides to spend his allowance. That’s why we set these parameters in place within our budget.’ So we both communicate with each other, we allow each other room to make mistakes, and we choose to love each other and take this journey as a team.
It’s not going to happen overnight. But we promise it is a process that is worth taking. It’s a journey worth going on. Maybe you’re not going to be able to do it as quick as a household with both spouses on board, but that doesn’t give you the reason or excuse to quit. You just have to work at it. Stay with it, and things will come around. Continue to lead by example, trust in God and keep putting foot in front of the other.
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