How to Make Debt Reduction a Joint EffortMay 08, 2017
Is debt reduction on your to do list but never seems to become a reality? Do you and your spouse experience a difference of opinion when it comes to finances? Below, we will discuss ways that you and your partner can work together as a team to reduce debt and set financial goals that make sense for your family.
In the blame game, no one is a winner
Chances are, you both share responsibility for adding to debt. Whether you choose to keep your finances together or separate, dealing with debt as a team can help strengthen your partnership and minimize conflict over financial matters. Perhaps one of you is responsible for paying the bills and handling the finances and the other is oblivious to the finances until there is trouble. While it can be easy to blame the partner responsible for handling the money, it also isn’t practical for one person to shoulder the entire responsibility of the family finances.
Often, debt doesn’t come from overspending on big-ticket items — rather, the everyday expenses that add up over time or unexpected financial emergencies that can derail a budget. Also, some families are forced to use debt as a way to extend a lower income, leading to a frustrating debt cycle that is difficult to break.
The first thing you can do as a couple to reduce debt is to get on the same page. Whether one of you is a saver and the other is a spender or whether you’ve both developed bad habits over time, it’s important to hold yourselves accountable and find some common ground. Take some time out of your schedules where you can lay everything out on the table in a civil fashion. Make it a nice evening date or take a lazy Sunday and go over the facts. Here are some topics and practices to consider:
- Develop a budget. It’s hard to know where money is going when it’s not tracked. Make a budget that includes all expenses and discretionary spending. Where can you make cuts? Are you assigning enough to debt repayment? Crunch the numbers and try to re-assign money to areas that are lacking.
- Reduce costs. It may seem like you’re not overspending when you’re only buying household expenses such as groceries and essentials, but there is almost always somewhere that changes can be made. This is a hard step to take because it may involve cutting down on your favourite things such as meals out, coffee shops or “ready to go” meals from the grocery store. Don’t deprive yourselves by taking an “all or nothing” approach. Change habits slowly and form better habits over time and, most importantly, work together.
- Save for emergencies. Reliance on debt can develop when there isn’t enough money to go around. By prioritizing “paying yourself first,” you won’t be left stranded to rely on debt in the face of an emergency or unexpected expense. Set savings goals together which you can both adhere to.
- Speak to a professional. Have you been treading water with your debt and don’t know how to break the cycle? A debt professional can offer relief. A not-for-profit credit counsellor can offer budget advice and financial counselling to help you get back on your feet. A Licensed Insolvency Trustee will help you explore your debt options and provide support based on your individual needs. An LIT can also offer information on bankruptcy and discuss the differences between bankruptcy and a consumer proposal. An LIT is the only debt help professional legally authorized to help you with either of these formal solutions.
Debt reduction doesn’t need to be a mystery. Joining forces with your partner and creating an environment where you are both able to share your financial successes and learning experiences is more likely to help you reach your goals and stay motivated. Visit the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to learn more about setting SMART goals and look over the 7 conversations each couple should have about money.
Make your debt repayment a reality. Compare your options and find more debt tips online by searching the Twitter hashtags #LetsTalkDebt #BDODebtRelief