Disagreements about money are one of the most common reasons couples fight. It can be about different views of wants versus needs, contention about the price one person is willing to pay for something frivolous, accurately planning finances so all the bills are paid on time, or simply the difficulties of trying to manage a joint income and joint expenses.
Kids cost money, groceries and utilities cost money, going out together, entertainment, basic necessities around the house, gas, school supplies, clothes, hobbies – all of these things cost our hard earned dollars, and deciding how to divide up monthly income is an ongoing challenge for, well, just about everyone!
To make matters even more stressful, many couples are also saddled with some kind of debt, and that puts an even tighter squeeze on their finances. This could be debt from buying a home, credit cards, student loans, car payments, backed taxes, or anything else. No matter where the debt comes from, it’s a burden on your current finances.
Making monthly payments (especially more than one) simply reduces the amount of money you have to make the rest of the ends meet, and that pressure can cause stress and arguments, or worse, can lead to real financial hardship that threatens your family’s stability and quality of life.
So, what can you do?
Direct solutions will ultimately depend on the kind of debt you have. Options for consolidation or refinancing exist for some types of debt, and others may be eligible for forgiveness, forbearance, or deferment programs. Your personal financial profile (as well as a number of other factors) will determine whether or not you qualify for assistance from your bank or lender – but if debt is causing problems in your life, these are certainly worth exploring!
Contact your lender, your bank, your loan servicer, whoever you need to, and ask about your options for reducing payments, locking in interest rates, consolidating debts, or any other options that may ease the pressure a little.
Beyond dealing with the debt holders specifically, there are a few tactics you and your family can employ to help survive the all too common burden of debt.
First, develop a budget and stick to it!
If you know your general expenses each month (debt payments included), and you know your average monthly income, you can develop a budget based on your most important needs, when certain payments are due, and the hardest part – what you can do without.
Being able to afford debt payments is sometimes a matter reprioritizing your spending habits (and this is something both you and your spouse will have to stay on top of). Every little bit helps, from being more frugal about electricity usage to downgrading cable or internet services, from carpooling or riding a bike to save on gas, all the way to taking the most expensive items off your grocery list.
There ARE ways to save money if we really want to – the key is being diligent about your practices, and keeping the habits up month after month.
Now, it’s possible that some of these frugal, budget-conscious methods may also cause some contention in your marriage, but if the troubles arise, remember that it’s what’s best for you and your family. You don’t want your house to be foreclosed on, or for your loans to go to a collections agency. The consequences are far greater than a little discomfort or willpower to save money.
Debt is an unfortunate reality of many, many people’s lives, and we all have to figure out how to deal with these financial responsibilities in our own way. No matter how you deal with it, remember that your marriage is a partnership – you’re in this together. No matter who accrued the debt, or what the reason was, the plain truth is that the responsibility belongs to both of you, and it will take collaboration and cooperation the make the best of the situation.
With each other’s support for managing stress, and each other’s reinforcement for developing better financial habits, debt doesn’t have to cause trouble at all – in fact, solving the problem might just bring you closer together!