money troubles
February 4, 2008 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I want to start being more financially responsible. My husband doesn't want to hear it. Can I do this without hurting our marriage? How?

A bit of background: We've been together for nine years, married for one, and we have two kids, 7 and 1. We got together when we were quite young (and had our first baby immediately) and started out beyond broke. We're doing much better than we used to, but we're still broke - and worse, we're in debt all over the place. We're behind on everything.

He works full-time and makes most of the money. His income mostly goes to our family/living expenses. I go to school, work part-time and my money goes to pay off child care and my cell phone and credit card bills. Neither of us are particularly financially responsible. Neither of us have good credit. I shop too much and have the credit card debt to prove it. The responsibility belongs to both of us. I know this. But things are spiraling out of control, and I want it to stop. I want to start acting like grown-ups, get our shit together, maybe make a budget, maybe even start saving a little, especially with the recession coming up (or happening already). But the family money isn't mine, and he refuses to think about it or talk about it. And it's getting us into trouble.

Things have been getting progressively worse. His bank account is currently hundreds of dollars in the negative. He just got this account recently because his previous bank account went hundreds of dollars in the negative. He has a credit card with a $200 limit that he hasn't paid since god knows when. He hadn't paid our cell phone or internet or insurance bills in months and they were about to be shut off, so I paid them when I got my student loan. We were two months behind on the rent until I paid that with my student loan too. Now we're one month behind. We owe money to our daughter's school and I don't even know who else. The money we get is his - he gets the paychecks and deposits them into his account. At one point we had some savings in an account that served as overdraft protection for his checking account, but now that's gone. I have no access to any of it. I don't know where it goes. He doesn't either. And I can't even ask him. He gets tense and stressed out and angry if I say anything about money at all, to the point that he has straight up told me on multiple occasions that he doesn't want to hear it and he doesn't want to think about it, so he won't. But isn't not thinking about it what got us here in the first place?

He's burned out and depressed – clinically, probably, but he dismisses the idea if I mention it, saying that what makes him unhappy is his situation and that drugs or therapy couldn't help with that. He says that it's really upsetting and depressing to him that he works so much and is tired all the time and never sees any of it or has anything to show for it. He admits that there are things that he spends money on that he could cut down on, like not bringing a lunch to work or going out to the bar with his friends, but he says that he's too exhausted or he doesn't have time or he wants to do fun stuff that makes him happy on his off time to make him feel better about working so much. I can understand how he feels. I'm exhausted and stressed out about juggling the responsibilities of school and work and kids too. But he says that there's no way that anything can or will ever change about our situation, and I don't believe that at all. When I graduate, we'll have dual incomes, and when the kids get older we'll have more time to ourselves. I don't think it's inevitable that we'll be broke forever. I think we're managing our money badly and there's room to improve. There has to be.

I want things to change. On my end, I'm trying. I have ADHD and I'm terrible with organizational stuff and paperwork, but I've been using financial software to track my spending and remind me to pay my bills and stuff, and it's been useful to me. I know where my money goes and I don't bounce checks or miss payments - but I can only do this with my (limited) money and not the family finances, and I think it would be a useful tool for all of us. Today I brought up the suggestion that we sit down as a couple with the numbers and work out a budget. He got upset (as he always does) and said that he doesn't want to deal with it. At all. I said that I'd really like it to be something that both of us are responsible for, but that if he really doesn't want to or isn't willing to deal with it, that I wanted to at least take on part of the responsibility of doing so. I asked him if he was interested in the possibility of a joint checking account; he said no, that it would go negative twice as fast. I asked him what he wanted to do. He said “Fine, I'll just sign the checks over to you then!” But he's not happy about it. He says that it means that he never has any money and can never do anything fun, and that it'll make him feel even worse about working so much and about his life. I asked him if he wanted an allowance and he said that he thought it would make him feel dependent on me. I asked him if there was any solution that would make him happy. He said no, nothing about this stuff could ever make him happy.

This isn't what I wanted. Ultimately, I'd like us to do this together. But if he won't do it, somebody has to be taking the responsibility, right? Is there a better way for me to be doing this? What can I do? How can I keep him happy? I don't want him to be stressed out or miserable, but I do want us to be above water.

(And before anyone says it, DTMFA is not an option. I'm feeling frustrated with him right now, but he's a wonderful, loving husband and a caring father and my best friend in the world. I want us to get through this together and be stronger for it.)

Thanks, y'all.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
If nothing's going to make him happy, the don't bother concentrating on that. He'll end up happy when there's money in the house.

(BTW, It's worth knowing the DTMFA is always an option. You can get taken advantage of if a given MFA knows you'll never leave)
posted by bonaldi at 6:16 PM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


You definitely need some assistance. Have you tried contacting any credit counsellors in your area? Most major cities have not-for-profit credit services that will help you consolidate loans (which will reduce the amount of interest you're accumulating each month) and help you create a budget. You could try to setup an appointment and coax your husband into going along. Explain that if you get your financial situation in order, he'll have more cash to spend on extra-curricular activities (as will you!) which will make you both much happier.
posted by purephase at 6:17 PM on February 4, 2008


Debtadvice.org
posted by Kibbutz at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2008


Is it possible your husband is a gambling addict?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:23 PM on February 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


It is time for an intervention. You guys are in crisis. Overspending is like a drug addiction and you need to get a handle on it before you get so deep into it that you can not get out. If your husband disagrees, point him here for at least some support. The depression and all the other stuff is part and parcel of this. At least it's only money and not crack. It is pretty serious nonetheless.
posted by caddis at 6:35 PM on February 4, 2008


Why not open a checking account just for him, for his personal expenses (drinking with friends, etc.). Then make your joint account the one that you pay bills out of. Get control of that account --- it sounds like you're making progress in reining in your expenses.

Put a prescribed monthly amount into his personal account, and let that be his budget for drinking and personal expenses.
posted by jayder at 6:39 PM on February 4, 2008


Put him on an allowance. Have him sign the checks over to you. He will be miserable either way, right?

Besides, soon he won't be able to open any bank accounts. They talk to each other.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:01 PM on February 4, 2008


Even if he's angry about it, it sounds like for now your best option is to have him sign the paychecks over to you and let you continue with the work you're doing to get yourselves out of debt. The other option is to continue teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and the fall from that ain't pretty.

He does sound depressed and I feel for him, really, I've been there. But you have children to worry about. Sometimes the first step, just seeing it all laid out there, all the debt and everything, can give you a feel of control. At least you know you're starting point. I recommended Consumer Counseling Credit Service in another thread. It sounds like a good option for you. Make sure its Consumer Counseling Credit Service and no other program. The others are not reputable. Don't be fooled by names like Consumer Credit Options, etc. They are not the same thing. If you go to the office, you should see a United Way logo. If you don't, walk out.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 7:08 PM on February 4, 2008


It might help if you did focus on how things were going to be better; if you can just figure out (and I know it's impossible with as little information as you have) one good thing, even a small thing, to save for, it might give him something to focus on that's not so much of a burden.

Or you could plan a family picnic -- free -- get him to take that half-day off, and let him sleep or whatever he wants, outside in a pretty location, while the kids play (quietly). Some idyllic time that doesn't cost too much. Might work better (or not) to get a friend or family member to watch the kids, and you two go there together. You can rub his shoulders, or not, he can rub yours, or not, and you can listen to him complain about how terrible everything is for the first hour, if that makes him feel better, but eventually you just spend the time together in a different environment to see a bit of the world that's not all about him being responsible.
posted by amtho at 7:16 PM on February 4, 2008


do you know how much he makes? if so - write up a budget. first, write a living budget - the one that happens with no savings, the better version of what you're living now. put both of your checks together. just figure out how much your basic bills are -rent, electricity, phone, daycare, food, credit card payments (only to pay off what's already there, you guys need to stop using them if at all possible). then prioritize from there - internet, cable, going out to dinner, things for the kids, entertainment. write down on paper exactly what money you're dealing with. once you have that down it'll probably surprise you both how much of your checks are being thrown away on things that don't matter. hopefully this will allow him to see how things aren't working where they presently are.

another way you can get a handle on spending is when the check gets deposited, pull out the cash that each ofyou will have until the next paycheck and don't touch the bank account for anything besides bills. that way when you are out of cash, you are out of money. it encourages you and him to make decisions on what is important. that seems like the big issue here, priorities. what's more important shopping and going out with friends or making sure the family is stable? be careful when using the word allowance, it makes people (especially financially immature people) feel like you're mothering them, like you're the irs and taking his money...ask him what he needs for a week, show him the paper that has all the money and debits on it...figure out together what that number is and be prepared to adjust it.

more than anything, he has to want to fix things. i won't suggest to leave him, but maybe you should take a hard look at things and figure out if knowing you and your children have a place to live every month or supporting your lover and best friend is more important. he's fucking with your children's lives and no amount of love in the world is going to make that better. action and accountability is what you need here.
posted by nadawi at 7:20 PM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


If the allowance is coming from his pay-check then it's not really being dependent on you, it's just putting a pre-set limit to his discretionary spending. But I understand how someone could see it the other way, so how about this:
Many people have issues with any kind of permanent monetary decision; it feels like it constricts your future, and that can be claustrophobic. It's better to ease into it. Suggest that you try having the checks signed over and setting a limit to discretionary spending (for both of you - I'd avoid the term 'allowance', because that's not really what it is) for a limited amount of time, say three months. After that time, you both reassess the success of the scheme. If you're going to break through this "ignore it and be permanently unhappy about it" block, you may need to move your husband with baby steps.
posted by Paragon at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2008


Instead of answering with practical advice (setting aside 10% of your earnings to savings, paying yourself first, debt snowballing and the like) it's worthwhile to address the underlying attitude that is resulting in this mess you're in.

There is a big difference between happiness and a good time. Often they are diametrically opposed. Your husband's financial lifestyle sounds like a perfect example of that.

Unless and until your attitudes about money change, your lives never will. Like they say, you can't keep doing the same things and expecting different results. So if you must pick a battle, this is the one to pick.

He said “Fine, I'll just sign the checks over to you then!” But he's not happy about it. He says that it means that he never has any money and can never do anything fun, and that it'll make him feel even worse about working so much and about his life.

Try to help him understand that being financially responsible doesn't mean less money, it means more. Every dollar you put towards debt means you get to keep more money. Potentially much more. Every dollar that comes out of your paychecks to be saved (and that should be 10% of your net income, even before you decide which bills or debts to pay) does not go away...it may seem like it's gone (because you don't have it to spend) but you're not spending it...you're keeping it.

But instead of keeping it yourselves, you are paying more for everything because of this lifestyle...in late charges, penalties, higher interest rates on debt, the opportunity cost of not being in a position to make good financial moves when they present themselves. Bad finances have a way of becoming self-perpetuating like that. Your kids will pay when you don't have money to help them with college and to start their adult lives on the right track. The list of potential pain goes on and on...what if someone dies? Can you afford to bury them? Can you afford the loss of income? What if one of you loses their job? Would you and your kids be on the street?

These are the things he doesn't want to consider because they'd harsh his good time, but they are very real and very possible. Again, his good time doesn't equal happiness. Knowing your wife and kids are well provided-for if you should kick the bucket, that's happiness. That's peace of mind.

When you live in chronic debt, everyone's getting rich off your money except you. You are sending some credit card company executive's kids to college, instead of your own. Maybe he hasn't seen from that perspective yet, but bring it up. If it bothers him, good. That should bother him.

Warren Buffett said something about businesses that applies to people too: "Time is the friend of the wonderful business, and the enemy of the mediocre business." And the difference between the wonderful and mediocre, when it comes to people, are their spending habits. Simply put, you have to spend less than you earn. If you owe money, time is your enemy. If you have money, it's your friend. Compound interest is magical stuff. Is it magic for you guys, or for some faceless banker's family?

My advice is to let him sign over his checks. He says he won't be happy, but that's not true...he just won't have a good time. For now. Sooner than either of you think, he can have both a good time and happiness. You take his check and be an example...be aggressive in saving 10% of your money and paying off your debts, track it assiduously, and let him in on the fun of watching the bills shrink, the credit scores improve, and the savings accounts grow.

The opposite of the bad possibilities he doesn't want to face are making sure he's aware of the good results of being financially responsible. I suspect he'd have no problem talking about your finances if and when you're deciding which car he can afford and, after reviewing the money situation, the answer is "take your pick."

[...] if he really doesn't want to or isn't willing to deal with it, that I wanted to at least take on part of the responsibility of doing so.

Do that. Take on all of it if you must. And every now and again, budget some money for fun. Everyone needs a release valve. Just don't let it be your whole paychecks. Those things you buy and those good times mean much more when you've really earned them through self discipline.

And before anyone says it, DTMFA is not an option. I'm feeling frustrated with him right now, but he's a wonderful, loving husband and a caring father and my best friend in the world. I want us to get through this together and be stronger for it.

I don't know the statistics off the top of my head, but a great many divorces are primarily due to money problems. You emphatically don't want to end up there, and there's no reason why you should if you take this on, and lead on this. But fight for this like your marriage depended on it, because odds are it just might.
posted by edverb at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


Dave Ramsey - Financial Peace.

Click Me.

Ignore the horrible, horrible web design and listen to the radio show / podcasts until you get evangelized and believe in his system, then do it. A large part of what I admire about his philosophy is that it goes beyond money to the human relationships (marriage, etc.) that are strengthened by a common purpose, blah blah blah. He says it better than I could. Good luck.
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2008


He said “Fine, I'll just sign the checks over to you then!” But he's not happy about it.

Well, he'll be even less happy when your marriage dissolves over his unwillingness to be responsible for his actions, so take his offer and be the money manager.

Give him an allowance. He may howl and be a shit about it. Stay firm, though do try to be nice to his ego in the interest of taking the high road. Remind him that he's busy and stressed with work, so you're taking on the chore of managing the money.

Print out a spreadsheet once a month showing exactly where the money is going to head off any power-issues. Does your software have a little "progress chart" thingy showing how far along you are to getting out of debt? Sounds silly, but it is a motivator.

It's going to suck for awhile and you're going to have to be the grownup about it. Hang in there. Congrats on taking control -- you're totally doing the right thing.

/I'm by no means a natural accountant, but I've gotta be the accountant in our family too. I'm just glad my SO and I decided this up front.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 PM on February 4, 2008


You could also get Dave Ramsay's book, "The Total Money Makeover".... he might be more receptive to reading a book than to taking a class or listening to podcasts online. The book is incredibly simple and stupid looking with LARGE PRINT and seeming obvious advice.... except, it's really great advice. Life changing, even. The book profiles lots of couples - worse off than you - and explains step by step how Working a Plan can allow you to pay off enormous amounts of debt.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:31 PM on February 4, 2008


Without him, write a budget as though you have control over all family finances. Give both of you a little allowance (even if you only put yours into a savings account rather than spend it on yourself). He has offered to sign over the cheque to you so take control of the finances. I agree he won't be happy, but since he isn't happy now it isn't like you are causing any additional un-happiness. Intercept all the mail so you see the bills and decide which has priority. Screen the phone for the collection calls (if any) so you can find out what is owed where. Obviously he doesn't know how to manage money (it is a skill, not innate knowledge) and if he was single he could drag himself down but letting things like rent and utilities get behind as bad as he has when he has a family to support is just not something you can play the "surrendered wife" role and watch. Men's pride tends to be tied to money so admitting he can't do it may be really hard for him. I know I read somewhere (I think it was in the Two-income trap - a great book by the way, read it!) that in most hetro marriages men will take control the the family finances as long as the income exceeds the expenses but as soon as there are any money troubles it is the wife that has to take over (and does a better job at it). Just do it, preferably in a no nonsense way, handle all the bills and financial responsibilities yourself - without complaint or expecting compliments.

Money is incredibly emotional for some people and it sounds like your husband would just be happier to see the income and forget the bills. Maybe with a bit of time away from having that constant worry he can relax and just let you have complete control. Get individual credit counselling for yourself even if he does not approve so you can make smart financial decisions. I know you said he worked too much but I worked full-time and part-time for several years and looked after two children when I knew I had to get over a hump. Sometimes it is just something you gotta do, you have to increase your income and cut your expenses. But maybe you shouldn't bring up the idea of him getting a second job right after you have emasculated him by taking his paycheque away.

Marriage is a partnership and it is a shame your husband is not being a partner in this - THE most important part of a relationship - but since he doesn't want a democracy and his dictatorship is ruining the economy of your little nation-state I think it is time for a change of regime and a new dictator (just don't go out and buy yourself a cute new outfit to go with your new role).

It does get better, really. Once you are working both full-time and the children are a little older and you have a little breathing room you can look back at these years of struggle and say it was worth it. Money fights are the worse, at least you still have each other's love and your children and you can have a wonderful life together once you get past this really difficult time. My good thoughts are with you.
posted by saucysault at 7:34 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


It always irritates me to no end that it's always women are the ones who want change while men are habitually content to endure all manner of hardship. It's a sign of remarkable immaturity. I'll second saucysalt: you need to take control of the finances and do what needs to be done if he's too afraid to do it. Allowances are an excellent idea. If he doesn't like it then too bad. He needs to the grow the hell up. Over time he'll come to like it and he'll enjoy the fact that he has one less (big) thing to worry about. His life will be much simpler and he'll take comfort in knowing that you are on top of things and doing the best thing for everybody. There is no real way to pretty up or spin the situation but you can make it clear that you're doing the right thing for everybody.

In addition to allowances, have a clear budget. A documented meal plan to ensure your children are eating healthy but not too expensive meals each and everyday is also a must. The entire point of taking control of your finances is to remove unpredictability and fear from your life. If you know exactly what you need to consume/produce each month then you will have solved the problem and you won't find yourself worrying about bills or fighting over money any more.
posted by nixerman at 8:19 PM on February 4, 2008


I suggest starting with one thing. Don't try and climb the mountain. Find something that you both usually splurge on that you can change into a cheaper version of what you do, like a weekend breakfast out. Turn that into a home-based production.

Also let him know that you care for him no matter what. Its the threat of losing all that he loves that makes him avoid these issues. People who tell you to dump him or make ultimatums aren't thinking it through.

Once the small thing is established, move to something else.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:27 PM on February 4, 2008


Sometimes, when a person is depressed or struggling in a mire of whatever kind, they just need someone to step in and get the ball rolling. The task seems too daunting to him, so he doesn't want to look at it or think about it.

It's not pleasant to have to completely take charge of something, but you've already started doing it, so just keep at it. Have him sign the checks to you, stick to your budget, and everything will work out. I think your husband's complaint that people have been pointing to is just his expression of fear and helplessness, and not an issue of him not wanting to help out with the situation. He'll be relieved in the end, and able to help and contribute when it's not as terrifying.

(I speak from experience, but not financial. Once I was having a really rough summer and I had to move house all by myself. After a few weeks of dragging my feet and snapping at people (in the "I don't want to think about it!" way), my friends and family were like, right, we'll just take over from here. It was a huge relief. I helped where I could but I was so exhausted before it all began that there was no way I could have done it on my own. It was easier to avoid it than to face it.

More recently, over the holiday break my boyfriend needed help cleaning and reorganizing his flat, but he didn't know where to begin and was really frustrated by the whole thing. Because of my previous experience I knew exactly how he felt. So, since I had a lot of days free I just did a little bit here and there, and finally enough had been done that he could take over himself. Besides, I didn't know where he wanted his dress slacks to go, or which order his shoes went in. I just got them into the generally correct areas and he felt like he was capable of going from there.)
posted by lhall at 8:56 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sure all the above advice is great but I didn't read it because I just wanted to say:

If he is willing to sign his check over to you, take it. You've repeatedly asked if he's willing to step up the the family plate and he's declined. Batter up.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:04 PM on February 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I say anything about money at all, to the point that he has straight up told me on multiple occasions that he doesn't want to hear it and he doesn't want to think about it, so he won't. But isn't not thinking about it what got us here in the first place?

Wow, wtf. Tell him if he doesn't want to hear about then to give you control of all the accounts.
posted by delmoi at 10:34 PM on February 4, 2008


I asked him what he wanted to do. He said “Fine, I'll just sign the checks over to you then!” But he's not happy about it. He says that it means that he never has any money and can never do anything fun, and that it'll make him feel even worse about working so much and about his life. I asked him if he wanted an allowance and he said that he thought it would make him feel dependent on me. I asked him if there was any solution that would make him happy. He said no, nothing about this stuff could ever make him happy.

Ah okay. I mean, it doesn't sound like he's going to be happy no matter what. So you should just manage things.

It might be possible give him an allowance without calling it that. Just tell him that you've worked out how much money he can spend each pay period and give it too him. Call it disposable income and not an allowance.
posted by delmoi at 10:38 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Until recently, you've both been a bad influence for each other. You just happen to be the first person to decide you want to change.

He's resistant now, but why don't you just set the example for a while? If you can be vigilant with your own finances, and find happiness in reaching goals, as well as find new (free/cheap) ways of entertaining yourself, it will become contagious and he is likely to follow suit.

He is scared currently, but if you can show him that you really can have fun while being frugal, he is more likely to come around than if you just try and sit down to have "The Talk".

It's just like going on a diet if you're overweight. At some point, you realise that the equation is simple -- eat fewer calories than you expend.

You just have to adopt a new lifestyle. Spend less than you earn. It might seem big and scary and complicated to him, because he's depressed. But you can show him (not tell him) that it's simple.

And as desuetude mentioned above, you're going to have to be the grown-up for a while, alone, and it sucks, but in the future he will probably get to be the grown-up for you somehow.
posted by mjao at 10:45 PM on February 4, 2008


Your husband probably would have a hard time of it if he felt he had to cut back on his social life, even if for a good reason. But there's no reason your husband's friends have to hang out at the bar all the time - they could have movie nights at home, barbecues, play sports, whatever.

The thing is, he might well feel lame suggesting that to his friends (assuming he'd even want to suggest it to begin with.) If you're on good terms with any of your husbands' friends' partners, talk with them about it. Some of them might be in the same position. If so, you might be able to work together and find some creative ways to gradually make it normal and accepted for the guys to hang out less at the bar and more in other ways.

This isn't in place of any other advice, it's just a thought. Best of luck to you both.
posted by trig at 5:15 AM on February 5, 2008


Is it possible that your husband feels guilty about the fact that you're in the process of getting your financial act together and he, the chief earner, isn't? That might be the source of a lot of the anger and defensiveness. It can be stressful to be the sole source of income and maybe he's blaming himself for not being a good enough provider.

There's plenty of good advice about the practical aspects of getting back on track already. I'd start by telling him what you told us: "he's a wonderful, loving husband and a caring father and my best friend in the world. I want us to get through this together and be stronger for it."

He needs to truly understand that you still think he's a great guy.
posted by Atom12 at 6:09 AM on February 5, 2008


I'd like to second what Atom12 has said. Separate the stress of this financial stuff from how you feel about him (which it sounds like you do) and make sure he knows it.

It's a hard thing to do, but in the middle of one of these difficult conversations, stop, interrupt the conversation and honestly remind him that you are doing this because he is a wonderful, loving husband and a caring father and because you want the rest of your life together to be good and strong. I have found that it helps by serving to highlight that "I hate how unstable we are financially" does not mean "I hate being married to you".
posted by crush-onastick at 6:23 AM on February 5, 2008


Whether he likes it or not, you need to take control of the money. It sounds like he's willing to do that, if not thrilled, but from what you say, he's not that happy anyway. Being in financial security has got to help you both feel better, day to day.

Give yourself and your husband an allowance, stick to it, and get out of debt. good luck.
posted by aerinmin at 6:36 AM on February 5, 2008


I'd also urge you to check out personal finance blogs like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly, where the author has previously been deeply, deeply in debt and managed to get themselves on a good financial track. Actually, today Trent from The Simple Dollar just made a post about facing financial fears.
posted by schroedinger at 6:58 AM on February 5, 2008


wow. you guys are worse of than we are. i didn't think that was possible.

your husband is being an immature twat. money problems won't solve themselves if you just ignore them.

i'm really proud of you for wanting to get things under control.

here's what i think you need to do:
  • open a joint checking account
  • have his paychecks direct deposited into said account
  • set up as much online autopay stuff as you can for cellphones, rent, credit cards, etc
  • tell him you each get an allowance of $X a week (ours was a paltry $20, now we're down to an allowance of $5 a week. whatever it takes baby) and that is all he gets to spend doing "fun" stuff.
if he whines about it, tough. he's going to be a whiney bitch anyway, so you might as well be making progress while he whines about it.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:00 AM on February 5, 2008


it's always women are the ones who want change while men are habitually content to endure all manner of hardship.

That's a pretty sweeping generalization, nixerman, especially when the OP said she shopped beyond her means, and had the credit card debt to prove it.

Making a big change in a marriage is always difficult, and sometimes it's going to have to start with one partner more into it than the other. I agree with the joint account suggestions - you'll at least get a better picture of who's spending the money where. And if you don't want your husband to buy lunch, pack one for him.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:16 AM on February 5, 2008


"He said "Fine, I'll just sign the checks over to you then!"

No. This is wrong.
Just about every direct deposit system I've ever seen allows you to split a check into more than one account.
Split his paycheck into 2 accounts. His and The House, with the biggest chunk going to The House(95%) at least.
His money is His money, don't "nag" about where it goes, you need him to be on board with this, and stressing him out isn't going to help. It's an allowance, but don't call it that.
The House pays all the bills, expenses, etc. Get rid of the the "money coming is his money/my money" thinking. All money coming in is "our money", it just gets redistributed.

Since you apparently have trouble managing money as well:
Take one check with you when you go shopping, with the _budgeted_ amount already filled in.
Internet access and cell phones when you are behind on your rent? Really? Cancel them.
Have you done the part-time work vs. Childcare math? Is it really cost effective?
Use one of the many "I'm not going to use a credit card tricks" (Put it in the freezer/sealed envelope/whatever).
posted by madajb at 9:02 AM on February 5, 2008


Yeah, you're going to have to take the reins on this one. The good news is that getting your life under financial control gives you a remarkable sense of achievement. It even becomes fun to figure out how to manage the budget and how much money you can put away. It takes time and diligent effort to get your financial life in order but it's so worth it. I sort of took control of our finances a few years back. My husband is great with big picture stuff and actually knows a lot about investing and retirement savings and all that big financial planning. But, he would rather not plan and hates the day to day of keeping his money under control. At first I really struggled with taking the reins on that stuff but at the end of the day it was bothering me more and there's no reason why I couldn't dive in and get control of it for the benefit of the family. So, I did. As of this year, we are completely out of credit card debt and are living within our means (and even have some savings and retirement accounts!).

Go read all the threads about creating a budget here, there's tons of great advice. For a jumpstart, go see a credit counselor (but do a little research online about what kind of counselor -- there's a lot of scammy services out there) and load up on tools and get info on how to start. These counselors have seen worse and it would probably feel great to talk this over with someone who can really help.

Money can be such an emotional topic. That was a biggie for my husband and I. It still sometimes gets emotional -- just today I was struggling to not have an over the top emotional reaction to something that my husband wants to spend money on. So, you have to recognize that and work really hard to deal with it. Getting money under control will do a lot toward releasing some of that emotional energy. My point though is that once you have an action plan, you need to sit down and inform your husband of your plan. And try to set the stage that you are both going to try and talk through it without getting emotional. By keeping him informed as you go, you guys can actually both work toward financial control. He needs to know the struggles and the successes as you go. Eventually, if he's worth keeping, he'll come around on this and be able to appreciate the hard work. And there will be times that you need him as a partner to make big financial decisions and you need to both ease in to that and figure out how to have those discussions.

Anyway, good luck -- go out there and do it! You totally can.
posted by amanda at 9:19 AM on February 5, 2008


I'm sure all the advice above is more substantial (can't read it all now).

I'll just add to the mix: on one of the personal finance blogs, someone said she made a family budget by making cocktails with her partner every Friday night and then spending 15 to 30 minutes on their finances while drinking. :) It might be decadent, it might take three months instead of two days, but they ultimately got all their bills on autopay and made a family budget this way. So, make it easy and fun, and focus on the steps that'll reduce stress the most so that the benefits of doing it become clear.

For example, as you found out, autopay is the greatest thing on earth. What I'd do with that first 15 minutes is to set up a second account and an autotransfer of $[monthly bills] to that account on the day the paycheck comes in, and an autopay for all the bills.
posted by salvia at 3:05 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's my take -

If you don't find budgeting fun and find yourself spending outside of your limits, trying to force yourself to be more disciplined or to force yourself into a budget that you've laid out isn't going to work.

What I've seen work best is to take the money from yourselves before you have the chance to misspend it. Get a new bank account, find out how much you need to put in it per paycheck in order to pay all of your bills, then setup all of your bills to pay themselves automatically.

I'd highly recommend the book "The Automatic Millionaire" - http://www.amazon.com/Automatic-Millionaire-Powerful-One-Step-Finish/dp/0767914104

It completely changed my and my wife's lives. After we setup everything to be automatic we have literally never had another fight about money and instead of wasting money and not knowing where it all went, we are saving large portions of our income for our future.

It's hard to get out of debt, and there aren't really any quick fixes. But by setting yourself up you can start getting out of it. Best of luck!
posted by mincus at 1:08 PM on February 7, 2008


What a load of happy horse shit!!

But you're on the right track chick! Stay with it. It feels good, huh? I can tell :) because it feels like you're actually itching to start tackling the big stuff. That is very cool :)

But I don't think signing it over to you or getting an allowance sounds very cool though. The idea of a 'set amount for fun' has never felt right to me. I moved out pretty early and it was all on me. Rent+paying into or putting aside X each week for whatever bills were coming. (Sometimes the bill would show up in credit. Yay!) That was my buget. Every week pay what I need to pay. Then the rest was mine to eat, wear, save or party with however I pleased.

That worked well for me. Maybe present it to him along those lines. Every week get him to hand you the rent + weekly amount for anticipated bills ($15 for electricity + ect.). ((Up to you but in some cases I might add on a bit extra to these totals and actually have that syphoning into the debt kity mentioned below))

Also get him to look at the money he has after that's taken care of and, for now, decide on what chunk of that should go into filling the debt holes. Say $350 or whatever, but just take whatever he says at this point. Actually paying things is probably painful enough as it is for now.

Then you - sort every debt you have from biggest to smallest (from the $10 at the video store to the big stuff.) (Actually, a side note - say you owe $200 at the video store, most places will wipe it if you go in and pay $50... Rather than chipping away at it you can put $150 down on something else.)

The first time this happens try to pay off as many little ones as you can cram in. Or a stack that will be paid off in the next round. And be excited when you show him. And keep him updated. Look all these are paid off :) In a few more weeks this one is all done :) Attack it logically anything with interest is just kicking you in the balls. Anything interest free - immediately calculate what you must pay each week and pay it. You are about to be kicked in the balls!! (As far as I'm aware everyone plans to pay it before this happens... So just pay it?)

After he starts to perk up a little bring up the subject of more money going into them. (Again the first time this happens make sure it has a big splash!) Show him how much of a total blast paying this shit off is. And it's ignoring them that actually makes you feel crap. (You could also have alternating fat and skinny weeks, so one week it's not so bad for him. Then use skinny weeks to set up bills so fat weeks can knock 'em down)

And technically when you're happier you don't need to spend as much money to cheer you up anyway. Stay with it, life has enough drama and being debt free or in a position to get into a bit here and there when you really need to feels pretty great!!
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:49 AM on February 8, 2008


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