Why Getting Out Debt Won’t Solve Your All Your Money Problems

\When my husband and I started our debt repayment journey in mid 2013 I though that getting rid of our debt would create a new beginning for us.  One filled with less money problems and 100% unified spending decisions.  Wait, let me rephrase that…I thought my husband would continue to subscribe to my super saver/ aggressive debt repayment approach to managing money.  Well I was wrong.

One thing we did agree on was that our debts had to go.  Everything else after that was up for negotiation. 

Its been a compromise, but one I am willing to make because we both give up a little of what we want but our long term financial vision is still the same.

During the 2.5 years we diligently worked to pay off $120,000 of debt, our spending decisions were made for us.  Everything and anything extra pretty much went to paying off the debt.  Because we were on the same page about this, operating this way for those years made it feel like even after the debt was paid we would agree on our spending and saving decisions.  However, the reality was far from this truth.

Once we finished sacrificing for a common goal (getting of debt), our money personalities took effect and we became more of what we normally would be without the debt.

I am a natural saver, even a ‘super saver’ if left unmoderated.  My natural response was to shift my debt repayment efforts to saving and investing lots of money.  My husband on the other had is a moderate saver but subscribes to spending money now while saving a little as you go.  If you couldn’t guess it already, this problem became apparent once we finished paying off our debt and discussions on how we would spend the additional money came about.  A few things that kept these discussions as discussions and not money fights were:

  1. We were both savers first, spenders second. The difference was the rate in which we wanted save was very different.
  2. We both strongly believed in joining our finances when we said our vows and got married. We knew that although separate finances work for some couples, they weren’t for us and were willing to discuss other options to making it work.
  3. We are both frugal and both dislike debt. The only difference is the level of discomfort that debt conjures up for me is more than for my husband.
  4. We have regular money talks and speak openly about our concerns and frustrations over our spending and saving habits.

I mention these 4 points because I think they made a difference on whether our money talks would remain talks or turn into fights.  If any of these variables changed, then I think the outcome of how we resolve money issues might change.

Getting out of debt may reduce your money fights, but it won’t solve your money problems.

What ‘solved’ (and I use this word loosely because we still have disagreements around money all the time) our money problems after getting out of debt was:

  1. Having a new common financial goal to reach. The further away your common goal is, the more likely you will have hiccups along the way and your money personalities may clash.  It is not the end of the world, but something to keep in mind.  Be ready for these disagreements and find constructive ways to work through them.

 For example, after we paid off our six-figure debt (our 1st common goal), our next common goal was to fund $15,000 to an emergency fund (our 2nd common goal).  We were relatively cohesive in achieving this goal because it took us about 5 months to accomplish with the same level of discipline we had for goal 1.  Our 3rd and current goal is to save at least $2.0 million at 6% return by retirement (65 years old).  Doable, but because it is so far into the distant future, my husbands desire to spend and my desire to save even more kick in.  Too avoid this problem, I break up this long-term savings goal into 5 year reachable goals.  This creates cohesion and may minimize money fights if you have different money personalities.

For long-term common goals, break them into multiple shorter goals.  This can build cohesion and help reduce money fights.

  1. Learn to compromise. I think this is true in all areas of relationships but even more so with money because it directly or indirectly affects so many areas of our lives.  As a super-saver, I learned that I needed to lighten up the savings a little bit and learn to enjoy the money now and what it can do for us.  This included our recent trip to the Bahamas, or trip to Ontario at the beginning of June, signing up for activities and eating out more.  For my husband, this included coming to terms with keeping a savings rate 25%-30% as long as we are dual income earners (The savings rate would drop to 10%-15% on one income).  To be fair, the initial savings rate I wanted was 50%-60% which was in line with what we were putting towards our debt in those 2.5 years.  So, going down to 30% was halving our savings rate, a huge compromise for me.

ZgfQOVdUdKve0.gif Your compromise might look different, but more than likely there will be compromise.  Mostly because we hardly tend to date or marry people with the same money personalities as us.  Even if you both tend to be spenders, how and what you spend your money on will be different, same goes for savers.  If you have joint finances, learning to compromise is even more critical.  But no matter how your finances are split, compromise is important to minimize money fights and start working towards common goals.

Compromise also taught me that I like spending money more than I thought I did.  It makes saving money even more fulfilling because I have balance in every area of my finances.

  1. Periodic check ins. Let’s say you manage to agree on a common financial goal and you got the whole compromise thing down pact.  Heck, maybe you both happen to be extreme savers so there is little compromise in the way you spend or save your money, you should still do periodic check ins with your spouse/partner.

Periodic check ins are scheduled conversations you book with your significant other to discuss their feelings and ideas on the progress towards reaching your common goals.  When you first start doing this money thing together, periodic check ins can be once a month.  However, once you develop a flow and things become in sync you can space out these check ins every 6 months to a year.

Periodic check ins are important because even if you had common goals, people’s taste’s, preferences and desires change all the time.  If these changes affect how you two will spend your money, then you owe it to yourselves to have an adult discussion of how you plan on moving forward.  For example, one thing that my husband and I both agreed on a while back was that we have no problem renting and are in no rush to own a home.  I won’t get to the reasons why in this post, but that is a common understanding that we both have, based on where we want to live, the flexibility we want with our lives and a bunch of other factors.

If a few months or years down the road either one of us has a change of heart and want to buy, we would probably need multiple ‘check-ins’ to discuss the when, where, why, how much of this decision before moving forward.

Periodic check-ins are important because people’s preferences, taste’s and desires change.   If these changes affect how you will spend your money, then an open discussion will need to be done.

 What approaches do you take to resolve money problems with your significant other?  What ways do you try to avoid altogether?

Categories: Money & Relationships

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7 replies

  1. I really appreciate you writing this. I’m rounding the corner right now and I’m accepting the certainty that I will pay off my debt. Four years this November and $100,000. I thought it would be freeing and it is, but it is also daunting, because debt is emotional and it’s been the focus of my adult life, and now overnight it won’t be. It’s good to keep making reasonable goals and I enjoyed reading your thoughts about it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow Congratulations!!! That’s is incredible. Our experience with debt freedom was that it was incredibly freeing but also opened up the possibility for old habits to creep up. It’s like we have to be even more diligent to stay on track because once you are no longer in the red financially you want to stay that way. However, old spending habits may creep up so its important to find balance.

      Congratulations again on your financial success!! That is amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t believe its happening. So for now, I’m living in denial! I’m actually not really concerned about old habits creeping back because I’ve never really spent money in my life. From the beginning at 26 years old I became very anti-debt and saved. Now I’m 30. What I’m more concerned about is finding meaning and purpose in my life, I just wanna be happy 🙂 and thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Pamela. It’s akin to thinking that once you lose those last 10 pounds life will be perfect, right? But you are so right that those financial personalities and different priorities are still there, even after the debt is gone. You’ve done your readers a great service with this reality check, and with your practical tips on overcoming the differences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Heide. Yah it has also been a learning experience for myself. Money personalities play a big part of the financial journey and I found that sometimes when a bigger goal needs to be reached these personalities are masked but they never go away. For most couples likes us that turned out to be a good thing. I think for most people find a balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post. We find the same thing … it’s a bit strange to have the debt paid off and one huge goal in the far future. We have kept motivated with smaller 1-2 year goals, such as to save enough to travel abroad.

    Liked by 1 person

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