When You and Your Spouse Aren’t on the Same Page About Debt

By Jackie Beck   Updated 02/14/2022 at 3:21 pm

If you’re in a relationship, chances are one of you is just a teensy bit more gungho about getting out of debt than the other.

(And if you’re reading this post of your own volition, that person is probably you.)

So how do you deal with a spouse or significant other who isn’t as fired up about getting out of debt as you are?

Start where you are

There’s no doubt about it, being on the same page when getting out of debt helps immensely. But that’s the ideal world.

Since we live in reality, you’ve got to start where you are. That means doing a little bit of evaluation first to get an accurate idea of where you each stand.

Be objective when figuring out how far apart you really are. Don’t just look at the other person’s words and actions. Look at the things you are saying and doing, too.

You’ll find that you each fall somewhere on the scale between “totally dedicated fanatic” and “not even remotely interested in becoming debt free”. The amount of space between is the distance you’ve got to cover if you want to be on the same page.

How do you tell where the two of you are?

It’s all about behaviors. Are you scrimping and saving as much as you can, while the other is out there actively racking up credit card debt or borrowing to buy a shiny new car? Those are signs that you’re really far apart, and its going to be harder to get on the same page.

On the other hand, if you’re both in agreement about the basic plan (no new debt + plus pay off existing debt) and neither of you are just paying lip service to it, it’s going to be a lot easier.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. For example, you may both agree to a budget, but then not always follow it. Or you may agree in on the most important principle (“no new debt”), but then continually agree to exceptions.

If you’re very far apart…

It’s hard when one of you is trying to get out of debt and the other is sabotaging your efforts, either on purpose or without realizing it. In that situation, you may alternate between being gungho yourself and falling off the wagon because you get discouraged and don’t see the point of trying. (Be especially careful in that situation, because you could be blaming your spouse or partner for things that actually ARE within your control.)

If you find yourself very far apart, start by talking about it during a time when neither of you are angry, tired, hungry, busy, or in a hurry. In other words, get agreement ahead of time on a good date and time to have the discussion in peace and quiet. Then listen much more than you talk. If you’re hearing things you don’t like, listen anyway and write them down. Don’t get defensive, or drawn into an argument. Give yourself a little time to think things over, and see if you can see the other person’s point of view. Ideally they should do the same for yours.

If you can’t come to an agreement that’s somewhere in the middle, you may need to involve a counselor. This is especially true if you do come to an agreement, but then one of you doesn’t stick to it without the other agreeing to changes ahead of time. That’s a sign of a deeper issue — one that goes beyond money. Fix the real issue, and the money part will probably become easier.

If you’re not very far apart….

If the two of you are mostly on the same page, things will be much easier. This is the case if you both agree that getting out of debt is a good idea, but have different opinions about the pace of debt reduction or the methods.

If that’s the case, remember that patience is your friend over the long haul. You may feel like you can’t stand what appears to be a glacial pace when YOU want to be racing ahead, but ANY progress is progress.

You’ve got the hardest part down (getting actual agreement that’s backed up by action) and so you will succeed. Backing off on your desire to go even faster (while celebrating every little bit of progress) is probably the way to go there. Everyone goes through the process of changing the way they see debt at their own pace.

When your spouse isn't as into debt reduction as you are

14 thoughts on “When You and Your Spouse Aren’t on the Same Page About Debt

  1. In many relationships one person tends to be the spender, the other the saver.
    Until recently i was the spender. My wife is very pleased that I’ve turned the corner. Its made our relationship much stronger.

  2. We’re closer together; a real turning point for us was agreeing to build up an emergency fund together so that we weren’t forced to use plastic when an unexpected but necessary expense came up (i.e. car repairs.) Thanks so much for linking up!!!!

  3. I think that over the years we have gotten closer together. I have to stop assuming that my husband will act like me and track every penny and become a cheapskate. He’s not a spendthrift but he doesn’t pay attention and spends way to much money on eating out and miscellaneous purchases. So I have to meet him somewhere in the middle and learn to work with our strengths and weaknesses. I also have to remember that my way isn’t always right and sometimes we should spend money on something we need, which he will encourage me to do. We agree on a budget and review it each month and I track our pennies. I keep him updated on where we stand in budget categories and we both have to agree on purchases. Over time I have found him become more thrifty as he has become more aware of our spending. We both want to reach our goals and we try to keep each other on track. Thanks for posting this since its such a common problem and something I am always griping to my best friend about.

    1. It’s definitely a common problem, but it sounds like guys are on the right track and moving toward common ground :)

  4. I’m having some trouble in my newest relationship regarding spending priorities (it’s not paying off debt, but still financially similar). For now it’s just a test of my willpower- refusing to go out to eat (which is hard), etc. But if we continue to move forward (move in together, get married…) we might need to have that talk.

    1. It’s common for people to have different priorities. The trick is either getting to a place where you’re ok with that, or coming together toward common priorities.

  5. It’s taken years for my hubby and myself to be on the same page about our debt. We both wanted to tackle our debt for a long time but it was only when we finally joined finances that we were able to see a way out because we were taking our situation seriously at last. Joining together on this means that we can identify savings in places where we weren’t looking beforehand if that makes sense.

  6. My husband and I have slightly different spending personalities; I like to save and he likes to spend. However, we’ve been on the same page this past year, paying down debt and putting off purchases. It drives me crazy when he talks about cars because I know he wants a new one. I just ignore him for now and he knows better than to go out and buy one. ;)

    1. Hehe, as long as he knows better that’s good enough! Tell him to save up and pay cash for that new one once you’re out of debt :)

  7. We are somewhat on the same page because we are both trying to get out of debt but Dave Ramsey is a curse word to my husband. I’m a spender but I’m trying to curve my habits and my husband is a spender too. It wasn’t until recently that he has stopped spending money.

    1. I hope he’s still spending a little though. It’s definitely hard to change habits. It takes time, but it sounds like you guys are on the right track.

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