How to Get Your Spouse on Board with Paying Off Debt

By Jackie Beck   Updated 05/19/2021 at 5:18 pm

You’re sick and tired of being in debt, and you’re not going to take it any longer. In fact, you’re all fired up about getting out of debt.

There’s just one problem: your spouse isn’t on board. They may pay lip service, but they’re not following that up with action. Or worse, maybe they’re actually making things worse by going out and buying things on credit.

Start with why

If you’re having trouble getting your spouse on board, remember to start with why.

As Simon Sinek puts it in his book Start with Why, Martin Luther King Jr. “gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not the ‘I Have a Plan’ speech.”. And in doing so, he inspired.

It’s inspiration that leads to action, and action leads to changes.

Share your dream

You’re getting out of debt for a reason, so share your vision of a debt free future. What will things be like? What will you be able to do then that you can’t now? What would your spouse be able to do that would get them excited?

Clearly articulate that instead of whipping out a spreadsheet and a proposed bare-bones budget. Inspire and sell the DREAM. (Which can become the reality when you’re both working together toward the common goal of debt freedom.)

THEN you can create a monthly budget that works for your family.

Add time and enthusiasm

You’ve also got to give your spouse time. After all, you didn’t decide to change overnight. Your thoughts percolated, you struggled, you researched solutions, you saw possibilities, and then you got excited.

Give your spouse time to do the same.

I talked about how great it would be to have a paid-for house for what felt like a long, long time before my husband came on board with that idea. Even then, there were things he wanted to do first before working on paying off our mortgage.

So we did those things.

In the meantime, I kept talking about my vision, and gave him time. After all, his ideas matter just as much as mine. Now, sometimes he is the one talking to me about how great things will be when we’re completely debt free. We keep imagining debt freedom.

So start with why. Inspire, and then act — while coming back regularly to your inspiration for shots of motivation.

Sometimes though, that’s not enough.

If there’s a deeper problem…

If there’s a deeper problem, such as if your spouse agrees with the things you say about getting out of debt but then goes out and does the opposite, or if they won’t even sit down to discuss the situation, then chances are the real problem is something else. It may not be that they don’t want to get out of debt. It may be that they’re afraid for some reason, lacking respect, avoiding, or that there are deeper marriage issues.

Money fights can be a symptom of another underlying issue. If that’s the case, your best shot is probably the tried-and-true recommendation of couples counseling so that you can identify and solve the root of the problem.

Look for a counselor that gels with you and understands what you’re trying to solve, and don’t assume that all counselors are alike. If you don’t have insurance or it doesn’t cover counseling, universities and some community resources may offer counseling for free, at a reduced fee, or on a sliding-scale based on your income.

If you're having trouble getting your spouse on board with paying off debt, these tips could help!

20 thoughts on “How to Get Your Spouse on Board with Paying Off Debt

  1. I have so much trouble getting my wife on board with our financial plans. She simply does not want to be bothered with it all and leaves it to me to handle. I try to include her, but she is missing that side of the brain that cares about investing, retirement, etc. I struggle to include her, and I make it a point to tell her where we stand as a family about every month or two.

    1. Is she interested in what your life will be like based on the money decisions that are made? That may be a way to get more participation.

    1. Woohoo for retirement :)

      My husband and I talk about our financial future a lot too, but I think that has to do with my random talking + his desire to get a Lotus.

  2. My wife is on board. I actually am going to take over the finances because if I don’t control her she goes out of control. Not so much on spending sprees but without really thinking. That sometimes is more frustrating… So she has agreed to let me handle it all.

    1. Hm, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. It could set up a scenario where you are the bad guy and she is the little girl who has to ask permission. (Surely she is capable of controlling herself…) I guess it depends on how the two of you set it up. Are you coming to agreement ahead of time on what you guys will spend on what? Is it more a matter of her needing support? (Like, “Hey, remember we agreed on ___.”)

  3. It’s definitely taken a while to get my husband on board, but I feel like he’s really come around just by seeing all the things we can now afford because we don’t have as much debt hanging over our heads.

  4. I’m working to get my wife to take over the budget and manage the household finances. She is good about spending only what is necessary, but sometimes she thinks we have more funds than we do. I only get gas for my car once a week and do the grocery shopping, also once a week. She doesn’t work outside the home (has a web based business as income), but that means she hits Target, WalMart, etc to get other household items (I only do food grocery stuff) and if I have paid some bills that haven’t shown up on the statement she will look at what we have and then go hit the store, then the payments clear and there is less than expected. I figure if she pays the bills (5 utility bills, mortgage, student loan, and 2 credit cards) she will know how much is available and what bills are coming up that have to be paid.

    1. Maybe you guys could sit down together to create the budget and pay bills? I think you’re on the right track with her needing to know what’s going on, but taking over may be extreme.

  5. For years I left everything to my wife but in January of this year I saw the light and realized I wasn’t being fair to her. I had no clue what was coming in and what was going out. A friend posted a blurb about seeing Dave Ramsey in Atlanta, GA and how it inspired her. Since that time we’ve both read The Total Money Makeover and we’re working our way through the baby steps.

    Not only are we putting his plan into action we’ve given copies of the book to our three children so they too can get on board and as Dave would say “Live like no one else so they can live like no one else.” later in their lives.

    1. That’s great that you guys are working your way through the baby steps. It’ll be awesome when you’re out of debt! (And good for you on seeing the light and realizing it was important for you to participate too.)

  6. We are in a boatload of debt. My husband refuses to sit down with me to look at our big picture to make financial decisions. His answer is “everything will be fine.” I am trying to take control of this alone, as he is always “sick” or the football game is on, or has to cut the grass whenever we are supposed to meet to talk about finances. We have three children and make over 15ok a year. I have borrowed money from MY elderly, retired parents, and taken on an extra job to help make ends meet. I sincerely regret not taking a more active role in our finances earlier in our marriage as now I would like a divorce but don’t think I can afford one. I can’t even afford lunch at McDonalds. Financial stress is so incredibly paralyzing.

    1. Yeah, it really is. It sounds like your husband is in heavy avoidance mode. Have you considered going to counseling (ideally with your husband) to talk about how you stressed out you feel about money and his actions? If you would really like a divorce, depending on where you live it may not be that expensive.

  7. I love your positive comments and support! Please can you check out my blog – I started writing it last week – I am struggling to get my husband on board and would love your support and advice!

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