Are you ready to tackle your mountain of debt but can’t get your spouse on board? If you’re having a hard time getting your husband or wife motivated to start paying off debt, keep reading for tried and true methods from couples who have been in your shoes.
Mike and I are transparent in sharing all of our finances with the world, but we are just one couple doing what works for us. There may be other solutions that will work better for your situation. We’re all so different!
Hooray for Crowdsourcing!
Every month in our Debt Smash-athon report, I ask our faithful Debt Smashers a “bonus” question in addition to finding out how their debt payoff and savings goals are going. Being able to crowdsource some of the tougher financial questions has been great way to have lots of ideas to share with you!
If you have ideas for questions you would like to ask our Debt Smash-athon participants, leave them in the comments OR email me with “Debt Smasher Question” as the subject line.
Getting your spouse on board with paying off debt
I loved reading all of our Debt Smashers’ experiences about getting on the same page financially. I divided their responses into a few categories so I could keep related comments together.
Everyone’s personalities and relationships are different, so you might want to try a few different approaches to see what works best for you. There’s not one right answer.
Let me know in the comments if you have additional ideas that aren’t mentioned here! I would love to add them in!
At the end I’ll share some of our ideas. But first, here’s how our some of Debt Smashers have been able to get their spouses on board to pay off debt and reach their financial goals.
“Time and patience has done the most wonders. I wish I had been more patient with our differences in the beginning as I think that would have brought him around earlier. Also, trying to explain to him the financial reasons behind paying down debt faster–like how much DAILY interest we were paying. He wanted to ignore it, but knowing I had a plan for us made us able to face it together.” ~Jen
“Take it S-L-O-W-L-Y. It took time to get to this point, it will take time to get to the next. This isn’t magic and neither of you has it all exactly right. Teaming up rather than squaring off makes for better results, so don’t turn it into a fight. Step back and try again another day if it gets too prickly.” ~Shannon
“I just kept dreaming out loud about how wonderful being mortgage free will be… all the options we will have. What we can do. How wonderful it’ll be to be to save and invest the mortgage payment every month instead of paying the bank. I didn’t push… just kept day dreaming aloud. After two years one day the husband says, ‘Oh yeah. I agree with you. We gotta pay that mortgage off… I’m all in.’ It’s so wonderful to daydream together now.” ~Linda
“A slow drip feed of information over the years rather than making him look at the budget regularly. We have regular chats about long term goals and where our money needs to go to achieve these goals. I also consult him on large/extra amounts of money coming so we can make these decisions together. Otherwise I do the monthly budgeting myself so as not to bore him!” ~Jane
“Having a mutual retirement goal got him on board!” ~Ingrid
“We keep track of our debt payment on our fridge so we both stay motivated.” ~Tiffany
“Get a better WHY. For me, numbers and budgets are like fun puzzles to solve. Just watching the numbers change is enough to get me to do it. That’s not a good enough WHY for most people though. Not for my hubby or my kids. Debt free for…travel…college…retirement…fun…adventure…adoption…home ownership…etc. Those are WHYs most people can see, support and work toward with purpose.” ~Shannon
“I asked my husband to make a wish list of things he’s been wanting to get that aren’t necessarily in the regular monthly budget and prioritize them. Most of our extra money still went to debt this month, but being able to budget for a couple of non-essential items helped.” ~Jackie
“My husband is not all that interested in the monthly budget, and his desire to be debt free is not quite as large as mine. We do, however, share the same goals for the future. Discussing timelines, and how payments/purchases can affect payoff dates, is what gets him interested. Attaining our goals is what he’s focused on.” ~Jessi
“I have a spreadsheet with pie graphs that show where our money went for the month. One page has places for me to update my net worth. It is helpful to persuade someone to get on board when they can see progress.” ~Kolia
“Mainly talking about our visions for the future together, and then discussing how we can manage our finances to make those goals happen.” ~Stephanie
“Having my husband listen to Dave Ramsey. That was what made it finally click for him!” ~Daniella
“Since the day we got married, I was the one responsible for paying our bills and taking care of our finances. We had separate accounts and my husband would put enough into our joint checking each week to cover his portion of the bills. I always felt horrible asking for more money, so I tried to handle unexpected expenses on my own, often putting them on credit cards to avoid the confrontation.
I found Dave Ramsey in June 2014 and started trying to follow some of his methods to pay of our debt, putting my own special spin on the things that didn’t work for me. I would do great for a while, then get frustrated that my husband had extra spending money and I didn’t, and fall off the wagon.
Finally, in March 2018 I was tired of being stressed out and feeling broke all the time and knew something had to change. I asked my husband to attend FPU with me, which he did begrudgingly. He quickly turned his mindset around and we got on the same page. We combined our accounts and goals and made a plan to reach them, using YNAB for tracking. Since March 1, 2018 we have paid off $31,556.89 in debt!! For comparison, the total debt reduction since 6/1/2014 is $60,524.81… so together, WE were able to accomplish in 1 year more than I was able to do in 3.5 years on my own!!! I honestly think this is the biggest key to getting out of debt!!” ~Alasa
“Had him start listening to Dave Ramsey with me” ~Andra
“I play Dave Ramsey podcast each morning plus on weekends when cooking or cleaning so my husband can hear it.” ~Brickney
“I started early and often talking to my partner about my finances. Being honest with him about my struggles has allowed him to feel safe being honest with me. Every time I have a financial goal change, I tell him, because I’m excited about it. I also tell all of my close friends- having a support network that I can talk about finances with helps me feel supported and less alone.” ~Jessica
“My husband is a spender, I’m a saver. We have lots of conversations about finances. We’re constantly wrestling (with ideas, not against each other) with what the right balance is. I’ve learned that life shouldn’t always be about saving and denying yourself little pleasures. He reminds me that it’s okay to have fun and spend on ourselves occasionally, when it’s thought out and planned, even in the midst of hacking away at debt. That keeps a good balance for us both and also helps him be more receptive when I ask him to pull in the spending so we can knock out our goals.” ~Dessa
“Listen more than you talk. When I stopped “telling” and started listening, things went better. Turns out he used different words and thought pathways but was thinking much the same thing as me. I needed to stop and listen to where he was and then we could move forward much more unified.” ~Shannon
“The biggest thing has been having open communication. The more we talk about our budget and our goals, the easier it is to be on the same page. Of course, the talking only works if there is a willingness on both sides to listen. It’s not always easy but it has definitely helped us so far.” ~Tara
“My best piece of advice would be to understand that your way is not the only right way. Listen to your partner and have an open mind to their ideas. Ask questions about their goals and how they want to achieve those goals. In most cases, it’s easy to agree on goals, but hard to agree on how to get there, so try to develop a plan together that is not just “your” plan that they have to follow. You may have to compromise, but having a partner who is on board is worth the compromise.” ~Jessica
Lead by Example
“Be sure to cheerfully sacrifice things YOURSELF and not wait for your hubby to get on board! Your own enthusiasm can put you miles ahead in winning him over! Then you can show him the results! A fair allowance helps him not to feel deprived and gives him freedom to splurge on wants without feeling like he’s controlled by a warden! Treat him as you would want to be treated if the situation were to be reversed. Finally, look at yourself and your reactions/responses with a jaundiced eye…we’re rarely justified in our defenses!” ~Shirley
“My husband has no interest in our finances but is from a financially successful family so has never had to think about money. I come from a below poverty level family and I’m naturally extremely frugal. I handle all finances and spend as little as possible on every thing in life so my husband can have the few splurges he really cares about which are things like nice vacations, good coffee and dessert with every meal. I buy everything used and cook everything from scratch so as to spend as little money as possible, I treat it like a fun game and totally enjoy it since I really don’t like spending money. The key to our happy 20-plus year marriage is not doing finances together, but balancing what we both care about when it comes to finances. We never fight about money since I don’t spend it and he gets the splurges that are important to him.” ~Nancy
“It has helped to have a set amount of cash every week set aside for each of us to spend. This is a small amount of cash that we don’t need to explain, justify etc. It’s not much- but seems to be enough to keep my spouse on board while we pay off stuff!” ~Pam
“I tried implementing YNAB when I was married – it worked (and still works) phenomenally for me but he wasn’t receptive to anyone telling him what to do with his money. What didn’t work was me trying to compensate for his lack of regard for the budget by increasing his spending money at the detriment of mine. It’s so important for both spouses to find common ground on how money will be handled.” ~Winnie
In the video below, Mike and I share some of our ideas about working together and being on the same page as a couple to pay off debt and achieve your goals while strengthening your relationship. But that’s just our way. We’re grateful to have so many readers willing to share their experience too.
Thank you so much to all of the Debt Smashers who were willing to share their experiences. It’s so helpful to have a variety of approaches to try. If you have another idea to add, please share it in the comments! It’s so encouraging to hear everyone’s perspective!
It wasn’t until my husband heard our pastor say these words that we finally became united regarding our finances: someone is going to earn the interest, either you or the bank. Since then we’ve paid off a terribly large business loan, he has gotten past the mantra that you need to spend money to make money, he’s found contentment in his job and no longer feels like he needs to run his own business, and he tracks our 401K fervently. We’re not where we can say we’ve crossed the finish line as far as being successful in handling our financial future is concerned, but like the tortoise we’re finally at a steady pace. Having the same goal is so stress-relieving and makes life so much more pleasant. I do wish those magic words had been heard years ago – goodness knows they’ve been preached before! – but it’s quite possible he wouldn’t have been in the right mindset to actually hear and apply them back then.
Thanks for sharing your story, Karen! He must have just been in the right frame of mind that day to hear those words. You guys are doing great! And you’re right– slow and steady does win the race!