Couple in debt with a baby on the way, and wife is scared
Dear Dave: My husband and I are in our 20s, we have $22,000 in debt and Iím five months pregnant and scared. We both have children from previous marriages who live with us part time, and together we bring home about $2,000 a month. I think we earn enough to make this succeed, but I canít get my husband motivated enough to work on it. Heís a spender, and I feel like I canít tell him no. Iíve tried to make him aware of the problem, but he just shrugs and tells me stuff will get paid. — Dawn
Dear Dawn: First of all, let me tell you that being afraid is normal when youíre five months pregnant and have a bunch of debt without a lot of income. But you guys have got a mess to clean up, and your husband needs to step up to the plate here!
I know you love him, but youíre not his mom, youíre his wife. You shouldnít have to watch over him like a parent. But you do need to let him know that his behavior is hurting your team. You have a child on the way and bills to pay, and the fact is heís being irresponsible. You might want to be a little more tactful than that, but thatís the basic message here.
Sit down with him tonight, and take his hands in yours. Look him in the eyes and tell him exactly how scared you are. Remind him about the baby thatís on the way, about all the bills and tell him you donít know how youíre going to make it without some kind of plan. Chances are, unless heís a real jerk — and Iím guessing this isnít the case — heíll pay attention to what youíre saying. Your husband might be a little immature on some days and a little self-centered sometimes, but that just means heís human. Weíre all that way from time to time.
Most relationships have two personality types — the nerd and the free spirit. The nerd likes detail and wants to map out everything in advance. The free spirit isnít as worried about the details. This doesnít mean that deep down they donít care, but they always believe things will work out in the end. Do I have to tell you which is which in your situation?
Now, if he agrees to this, you need to put your natural nerd skills to work. Present the ďbudget committeeĒ — thatís you and him — with a plan — a written budget where every dollar has a name and you spend everything on paper before the month begins. Once youíve presented the written plan, you have to have an understanding that changes can be made, as long as you both agree on them. Youíre not bringing some stone tablet thatís perfect and canít be changed down from the mountaintop!
Work through it together, taking care of the basic necessities — food, clothing, shelter, transportation and utilities — first. No one else gets paid until you take care of these.
Chances are, heíll see how much this means to you. If he does, Iíll bet he will come to the conclusion that he needs to straighten up and help out. And his doing a little part-time work on the side would be a great place to start! — Dave
Keep the truck?
Dear Dave: I recently bought a new truck, and then I heard about your advice to stay out of debt and budget. I tried to un-do the deal but couldnít. Are there any other options besides selling the truck to get out from under the payment? My wife and I have a household income of about $38,000 and a few other debts weíre trying to pay off. — Ryan
Dear Ryan: If youíre not able to pay off the truck in 18 months, then you need to look into selling the thing. And with your household income, I donít think 18 months is a realistic expectation. Sell the truck!
Iím not saying this because the truck is bad, or because you couldnít pay it off in 36 months. I say it because I want you to get out of debt so you can free up your largest and most powerful wealth-building tool — your income. Car payments eat up your money like a hungry shark.
Bust out of those payments so you can kick the other debt, build some wealth and get yourself a really nice car later on with cash.
But for now, sell the truck and buy yourself a cheap, ugly little Bondo buggy to drive while you guys clean up your mess! — Dave