Tag Archives: Communication

How To Kill Your Debt Without Killing Your Spouse

Debt will take a toll on your marriage long before it ever affects your credit. Finance is a numbers game, but we tend to forget there are lives and emotions attached to those numbers.

When your blood pressure starts to rise over issues of money, you should stop and ask yourself, “what’s more important, my budget or my bride? My security or my spouse?”

Money can be an incredibly deep issue, because it is married to your emotions, often showing up in issues of control, security, identity, and desire. So when life is difficult financially, it can really start to weigh on your relationship.

We wrongly place our hope in money, trusting that it will bring us security, and provide for our needs. I personally believe that your level of financial freedom is proportionate to the level of disconnect between your emotions and your money (that’s a powerful thought…don’t miss it!). True financial freedom comes when you can separate your finances from your feelings.

Imagine how free your life would be if the lack of money did not produce fear, and wealth was not connected with feelings of peace and security. What if your level of joy did not rise and fall with your income? What if we could simply trust him to be who he said he is, our Provider? Paul said “My God shall supply all your needs…” Do we believe that?

If you argue about money with your spouse, then it’s time for a divorce. But not with your spouse…rather, with your trust in money instead of in God.

James (don’t forget…this was Jesus’ brother) said “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

It’s time for some soul-searching. Do your arguments with your spouse stem from your own desires, whether that be for control, security, or simply more stuff (because your identity is tied to your possessions)? If so, you need to confess this to your spouse and ask your spouse for forgiveness.

To achieve financial wholeness in a marriage requires teamwork. But sometimes you need a reminder that you and your spouse are on the same team, fighting for each other instead of against each other. Finances are never “his” problem or “her” issue….it’s OUR problem and regardless of who caused it we’re going to work together to overcome it.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley & Beth

P.S. It’s Friday, which means we’re sending out our newsletter today. We always include a short “Date Night” section in the newsletter including tips and questions for you and your spouse to help keep the passion alive in your marriage. Not a member of the DTL community? Sign-up now!

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Four Qualities of a Bulletproof Budget (Part Two)

Welcome back to our “Bulletproof Budget” series! We truly hope you are having an excellent week so far!

As promised, today’s post is about the final two qualities of a bulletproof budget. In Part One, we mentioned the first two qualities, which are 1) Keeping your budget simple and, 2) Making sure you and your spouse agree on the budget.

Without further delay, here are the final two qualities of a bulletproof budget.

A Bulletproof Budget Is…

3. Comprehensive

There is no such thing as “unexpected” when it comes to a truly comprehensive budget. Notice…I didn’t say “complex.” It is possible to have a budget that is thorough and accounts for everything yet is still simple and easy to understand. If you create a budget, yet still find “unexpected” expenses popping up throughout the month, then your budget is not comprehensive.

I’m writing this about two weeks after a team of Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden. Speaking about the planning for the raid, one commentator stated that they had contingency plans for every possible scenario, and then they had contingency plans for their contingency plans. Likewise, your budget is literally your spending plan. No budget = no plan. Inadequate budget = inadequate plan.

Studies show that the most common cause of major debt is unexpected emergencies. Obviously, you can never fully expect a car accident, or a sudden job loss. But you can prepare financially for the unexpected by allocating funds in your budget for these items.

Most “emergencies” are really smaller issues which should already be included in the budget as a line item, such as vehicle maintenance. The real emergencies are typically weathered by having an emergency fund, which starts around $1,000 and should eventually be built up enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses.

4. Personal

Your budget is your budget. We highly suggest customizing any online template or form you may find so that it fits your needs and even your style.

Even though I’ve looked through dozens of different forms and templates, the budget Beth & I use was created by us from a blank Excel document. Why? Because it gives us the flexibility to make changes. I even change the colors and layout every so often just to give it a sense of newness. Sometimes I’ll add a scripture or quote to the budget. The point is, your budget needs to fit YOU. The more “U” that’s in your budget, the more you will enjoy it and take ownership of it.

That’s it. Simple, Agreed-upon, Comprehensive, and Personal. If these four qualities exemplify your budget, then you have something solid, err…bulletproof, that you can work with.

Comments

Please post a comment or question! Which of these four qualities does your budget need the most? We respond to 100% of our comments.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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Four Qualities of a Bulletproof Budget (Part One)

Hello & welcome back to Debt To Life! This week we’re excited to jump into the process of creating a bulletproof budget.

Today and Wednesday is all big-picture stuff (defining a bulletproof budget, parts one & two). On Friday, we’re going to help you create a bulletproof budget, step by step. Let’s jump right in by defining exactly what we mean by bulletproof!

A Bulletproof Budget is…

1. Simple

If you’ve never created a budget before, simplicity is the name of the game. Less is more. You can find hundreds of downloadable budget forms and spreadsheets online, however, most offer way too many features which often serve to overwhelm more than they help.

If you’re just starting out, you don’t need line items in your budget for retirement, investments, children’s college fund, etc. What you need is a simple budget that tracks your monthly income & expenses.

You can always add these items into your budget down the road, after you have established a track record of following your budget for a few months. What is important now is to create a habit of following your budget, and this will be difficult if your budget is complex and hard to understand.

Here are some tips to keep it simple:

  • Limit it to one page. If you’re using Excel, try to keep it where you can see 100% of your budget on one screen without having to scroll.
  • Omit items that don’t immediately apply. This is especially true if you’re trying to pay off debt. It’s pointless to save for your toddler’s college fund while carrying credit card debt. Pay off the high interest debt, then start saving for the college fund.

2. Agreed Upon

This is commonsense, so I won’t belabor this point. If your spouse doesn’t agree to the budget, it is far from bulletproof.

This also should go without saying, but a budget can’t be agreed upon when there are hidden expenses. You should never have income or expenses which are hidden from your spouse. No hidden credit cards, tax bills, subscriptions, expenses, etc. You get the picture. The only exception would be a surprise, such as saving for a surprise gift or trip. But even then I would err on the side of transparency.

What’s the easiest way to agree upon the budget? Simple. Create it together. We’re going to start talking about the process of creating a budget step by step in Friday’s post. But since we’re in the middle of the month, now is the perfect time to start planning and budgeting for next month.

If this is your first time to create a budget with your spouse, I would suggest that you schedule a couple of kid-free hours together in the next week or so (before the beginning of next month) where you have access to all of your financial information and a computer and can hash out a budget together.

More to come!

Stay tuned for the final two qualities of a bulletproof budget on Wednesday! As always, please post a comment or question below; we’d love to know if there’s any way we can better serve your specific needs! We respond to 100% of our comments.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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3 Ways a Budget Eliminates Stress & Creates Freedom in your Marriage (Part Three)

Eighty-Four.

That’s about how many budget meetings Beth & I have had since being married…twice a month for 3½ years. For us, we brought most of our debt to the wedding, and then topped it off with a few dumb mistakes in our first few months of marriage (new furniture? sure!). Most of our marriage has been characterized by responsible financial decisions. And above every other financial arena, the one thing we’ve done very well since day one was create and maintain a monthly budget.

It’s sad to me that “budget” is such a four-letter word to so many people. They avoid budgeting as a way of avoiding problems, conflict, and stress. Yet the irony is this: the very issues they try to avoid are in fact created by not having a budget!

The first two posts in this series primarily discuss the emotional benefits of having a budget: Eliminating Judgment, and Eliminating the Fear of the Unknown.  In this post, we want to share possibly the biggest benefit of a budget: Eliminating the #1 cause of divorce – Disagreements about Money.

Financial Disagreements & Divorce

A study from Utah State University followed 2800 couples for a period of five years, and found that disputes about money were the best predictors for divorce. While this is not new information by any means, one facet of their study proves very interesting.

They found that a couple who has financial disagreements “almost every day” has over a 100% increase in the risk of divorce than the couple who disagrees about money “less than once a month.”

What does this have to do with budgeting?

By having a monthly budget, you deliberately take yourself out of the “almost every day” category and put yourself in the “once a month” category, drastically reducing your risk of relational issues. Here’s how this works.

When you sit down to create a budget with your spouse, the primary goal is for you both to agree on a spending plan…you’re assigning a task to every dollar (this dollar is for food, this dollar is for gas, etc). A budget meeting is the one time a month where you allow yourselves to “disagree” about money. However, you work through those disagreements until you have a spending plan for the month that you both agree on.

If you find something in the middle of the month that you want to buy, instead of arguing with your spouse about it, simply consult your budget. If it’s been agreed upon within the boundaries of your budget, buy it. If it’s a purchase you haven’t agreed about with your spouse, simply wait until the next budget meeting to bring it up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a song on iTunes or an SUV, for you to spend money on it, it needs to fit somewhere inside the budget you have agreed on with your spouse.

Do you see the power in this? If you don’t have a budget, what happens? Every single purchase becomes a potential argument, because you and your spouse haven’t agreed beforehand that it is an acceptable purchase. It creates unbelievable control issues within a marriage, and results in husbands & wives trying to hide their purchases from each other.

Is a Peaceful Marriage worth 12 hours a Year?

Beth & I have a “monthly budget,” however, since we get paid twice a month, we also meet in the middle of the month to update our budget, make sure all of the bills get paid, etc. All in all we spend about an hour a month discussing our budget and paying bills. If you’re just starting out, expect to spend a little longer, but after just a few months it will become pretty routine and you’ll begin to reap the benefits of a significantly greater level of peace in your marriage.

Please leave us a comment, we respond to every one! How would a budget help eliminate arguments in your marriage?

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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3 Ways a Budget Eliminates Stress & Creates Freedom in your Marriage (Part Two)

#2 – A Budget Eliminates the Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the unknown. It’s the reason we love scary movies and hate doctor’s visits. Here’s a few words from Beth on how the fear of the unknown has recently affected our lives:

When we first found out that I was pregnant, we were overwhelmed with joy! Due to the risk of miscarriage being highest early on, fears and stress quickly started to sneak in due to the unknown. Do we have a healthy baby? Am I doing everything right to ensure the baby’s health? Are we going to miscarry? These unanswered questions created stress until we could go to a doctor and find out that all was well. When we did go to the doctor around 8 weeks, we found out the good news that the baby was perfectly healthy. Immediately the unknown facts were known….and the stress melted away. It’s amazing what information can do in regards to bringing you peace of mind.

Similar to my wife’s story, people often deal with the fear of the unknown on a daily basis. Whether it’s a health problem, job related issue, or even something minor like a strange noise in your car’s engine, we deal with unneeded stress because we’re afraid to take the steps needed to escape the unknown. So we just ignore the issue and hope it goes away.

Wake Up Call

How many stories have you heard of people who refuse to lose weight or even go the doctor until there is a major emergency? If you’ve seen the CNBC show “Till Debt Do Us Part,” you’re probably just as amazed as I am at how so many of the couples have literally no idea that they’re spending two to three times their income each month. As sobering as this wake-up call can be to the couples on the show, it inevitably brings peace, because, often for the first time, they know exactly where they are.

This is a simple but powerful truth: You will never know how to get to your destination until you know where you are starting from.

Fear Factor

If you and your spouse have never created a budget or communicated openly (and more importantly, honestly) about your finances, it can be a little scary. You may have to own up to making some mistakes. But you tell me which is better: One difficult conversation that has the power to lead to healing and intimacy, or continuing to live in fear and deception?

So many marital issues could be solved through open and honest communication. I’m astounded by the stories I hear of how a husband is hiding debt from his wife, or a wife who lobbies for separate bank accounts so she can shop without accountability, or probably the most common, the guy who drives home with a new car without consulting his wife.

A budget is a very simple thing. It’s just a sheet of paper that details how much money you have coming in this month, and how much money you have going out (specifically where it is going out), this month. Yet despite the simplicity (it really doesn’t have to be complicated), only 40% of Americans have a monthly budget.

The issue isn’t ignorance, or the difficulty of creating a budget. The issue is primarily fear. People ignore the problems because they don’t have the courage to face the issues in their life when it comes to spending. The tragedy in this is that ignorance is not bliss. On the contrary, ignorance is seriously stressful. And stress creates all kinds of issues: anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness, etc.

If you’re facing financial stress, the best first step you and your spouse can take together is to set aside an evening together, push past the fear, and create a budget. Without this indispensible first step, you’re desire to become debt free is little more than a daydream.

However, with a budget, you will be armed with a peace of mind in knowing your financial status. You will silence the fear of the unknown. You will be able to track your spending and know where your money is going. You will be able to chart your financial future, and can set a “We’re Free” date. And then the real fun begins in trying do everything possible to make that date sooner than later!

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

Leave us a comment below (we respond to every comment)! What emotions confront you when trying to create a budget?

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3 Ways a Budget Eliminates Stress & Creates Freedom in your Marriage (Part One)

#1 – A Budget Eliminates the Tendency to Judge

Beth has always loved Starbucks. When we were dating, she only worked a couple of blocks away from one, so I would sometimes run by and pick up her favorite drink, an iced tall nonfat caramel macchiato, and surprise her at work.

Likewise, I love books. I worked close to Books A Million, and would spend many lunch hours there, getting a good dose of both caffeine and inspiration. I discovered one of my favorite books, “Three Cups of Tea,” during one of these times.

When you’re dating, you don’t think much about the “little” purchases your future spouse makes on a frequent basis. However, when you’re married, you and your spouse are pulling money from the same pot, and those little purchases suddenly go from being “cute” to competing with each other.

If she spends $20 a week on “Starbucks Therapy,” that’s $20 I don’t have to spend on the next book that grabs my attention….you can see how a simple thing as a book or a cup of coffee can quickly turn into a battle for control.

Your Values Drive Your Spending

In the first few months of our marriage, we had to make several adjustments to our budget, as we found that our different spending habits were creating conflict in our marriage.

As an example, I went through a couple of months of our bank statements, and figured out that we could buy an espresso machine for less than what we were spending at Starbucks in a year. But the reason Beth loved Starbucks wasn’t for the drink itself; it was an emotional retreat from the daily grind of work (sounds like she needed more than a macchiato).

Similarly, my love for books was driven by a desire to grow and change. I would buy a book for the promise it offered me, but more often than not, that promise went unfulfilled as the book usually sat on my shelf without getting read.

Be a Jury, Not a Judge

Most couples get angry with each other over what they see as wasteful spending. “Why spend $20 a week on coffee which has no lasting value?” “Why spend $20 on a book that you’re not even going to read?” You know how the conversations go. They usually result with spouses passing judgment on one another and deciding that conversations about money aren’t worth the stress.

You should confront wasteful spending, especially when you’re in debt. However, often what we see as wasteful is really a difference in value. For example, clothing & fishing. I could blow a lot of money at Bass Pro; my wife could drop a lot of cash at Anthropology. I value sport and nature; she values beauty & elegance.  We could easily call each other wasteful, or we can take the time to discover what our spouse values, and then work together to find an affordable way to fulfill those values.

What really helped us was to stop judging each other’s purchases, and start communicating with each other to try and understand why the other person values that purchase. Once we understood that this was a legitimate value, we were able to make room for it in our budget.

Don’t Miss The Power In This!

The answer for us was to add two new line items to our budget (simply titled Beth Personal & Wesley Personal), where we allot a set dollar amount each month for each of us to spend any way we wish. When we were buried in debt, I think it was $25 or $30 a month. Thankfully it’s a little more now since we’re debt-free.

What this did was eliminate the tendency to judge each other based on our differences in opinions on what should or should not be purchased. Don’t miss the power in this principle; this reduced a lot of financial stress in the early days of our marriage.

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What’s one expense that seems to always create conflict for you & your spouse? What is the hidden “value” behind this expense?

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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