So you have made a decision to get out of debt. That’s awesome and admirable and is going to make a big difference in your life. . . but before you were in this debt free journey mindset . . . you weren’t in this mindset.
If your partner isn’t right there with you, give them a chance to catch up. If you have been living with debt for a long time and just letting it exist in the background, a weight forever sitting on your shoulders, chances are, your partner has been doing the same. Just because you have decided you’re fed up with it once and for all, doesn’t mean they are there too.
Don’t demand. Invite.
You have a joint life, home, money, and debt. Think about the reasons you want to be debt free and what you dream of having or doing together once you are. Not only does your partner care about you and your hopes and dreams, they have their own! Talk to them about what they would want if you were both out of debt and brainstorm what that life together would look like. Visualization is incredibly powerful and once you’re IMAGINING what you COULD have together, you will experience a shift in mindset to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and start PLANNING what you WILL have together.
Remember what’s important
You want to be debt free because you want a better life for yourself and your partner. The goal is not to lose your debt and in the process lose your love. If I was on my debt free journey on my own I would work as many side gigs as possible, I would live bare bones and drive this debt free bus with an unbridled intensity. But I’m not on my own; I share my life with a wonderful, caring, honest, and intelligent man. As awesome as he is, he’s not so much for the budget intensity, and he certainly wasn’t when my money mindset first shifted.
Before we embarked on our debt free journey we had been on a long and drawn out debt incurring journey. You probably don’t need me to explain that each journey requires very different behaviour and decision making. When I got so sick of being in debt, pulled my head out of the ground , completely changed my money mindset, and wanted to speed up our progress, he was supportive and he was agreeable, but he also wanted what he wanted.
What he wanted was summer hockey. It was before we had time to build up any money to fund it and it was too much for his already maxed monthly spending budget. But how could I tell him no when he truly loves to play the sport, it's a great form of exercise in a busy schedule, and an opportunity to meet new people. BUT THE BUDGET!!!
It was important to him to play, but it was also important to him to try his best to stick to my plan. So I told him, “Go ahead and play hockey . . . but what do you want to sell?” And guess what, he agreed. His $400 truck tool box, purchased for a truck he no longer has, sitting in our garage brand new and in the box for two years, is now listed for sale . . . and he plays hockey Tuesday nights.
Here's a few things to keep in mind as you're going through this process:
Keep communication open
Talk about the budget a lot. When you talk about it also talk about those joint dreams you are working toward together. Share what you're finding difficult. You never know, your partner may be able to help.
Recently my husband did a grocery trip and spent a bunch of money on cleaning supplies at the end of our budget period. I couldn't be upset! He was cleaning the house for my arrival after being away with our kids for over a month. It was really the best treat to come home to. But oh, the grocery budget. I hate the grocery budget, it's just not where my strengths lie, but I'm working on it. When I mentioned a couple weeks later that I felt so burdened trying to plan and cook all the meals and stay on budget, I was surprised by the understanding and support I received from him. Now he's helping me keep this budget on track and I'm sure he won't be going rogue in the cleaning aisle again!
Be fair to your family and honest with yourself
You are going to have weak moments too so try to be understanding when your partner steers off course a bit. Talk about it again, get back on track and let that be that. Agonizing over your partner's mistakes and bringing them up over and over again is a good way to lose the support and motivation of your spouse.
I'm working on keeping this top of mind myself.
Do mini challenges to keep you focused
- How long can we eat from the pantry and freezer before hitting the grocery store.
- Who can have the most left over in their personal spending budget at the end of the month.
- How much can we conserve water and electricity to see a difference on our monthly bill. Let's beat that next month!
Take a break before you break
At times this journey is going to be hard. You will face setbacks, people around you won't understand what you're doing, and there will be arguments about money. There just will be, it's the nature of the beast called relationships.
Don't give up, you've got this. If you need to take a short break to get your motivation back, do it. I'm not talking about booking a cruise but perhaps a special date night, a day together without the kids, a family camping trip, or maybe a couple's massage.
Be intentional about your break and then be just as intentional about getting back on the debt free train; refreshed, motivated, inspired. Enjoy the short break and embrace how it will feel for every day to feel like that - when you're out of debt.
You're in this Together
The debt free journey is hard as it is. Taking the journey with another person requires a little extra care. Face your debt as a united front, as teammates, not adversaries.
There are going to be disagreements and there are going to be disappointments but with open communication and willingness to compromise on both sides, you can take this journey hand in hand and come out the other side better than you’ve ever imagined.