One of the main reasons couples argue and marriages fall apart is money. Money can cause enormous stress, whether you have a lot or a little of it, but when funds are tight, there is added pressure because the basics of life such as housing, clothing, and food are at risk. The added pressure of getting out of debt places the marriage under stress.Getting into debt is one situation that tends to place enormous stress upon a couple because of the possibility of losing basic needs, like shelter. Failure to make payments on your mortgage or your car can lead to repossession and foreclosure, and the threat of that understandably causes stress as you worry about what will happen to your family.
There are various kinds of debt, and not all of them are detrimental, but for the sake of this article, “debt” is when you owe money, and you don’t have the income or resources to pay it back. We’re also proceeding on the basis that the debt is creating problems, and thus you want to get out of it.
Having the tools to get out of debt and stay out of debt is valuable, not just for your peace of mind, but also to remove a point of friction in your marriage. Below are a few pointers for getting out of debt. You must seek financial advice from a properly licensed financial services provider so that you can get up-to-date and appropriate advice for your situation.
Getting out of debt one step at a time
Getting out of debt is a process that takes time. You may have gotten into debt overnight or gradually, but getting out of it may take a while, and there aren’t shortcuts to get you back in the black.
Follow the money. When you want to get out of debt, one of the ways to address the situation is to follow the money. If there is a leak in your finances, you need to find it so that you can plug it. It may be that your income is going toward frivolous expenditure, leaving your auto, mortgage, and other financial obligations unpaid.
It may be that certain unhelpful habits consume financial resources and don’t provide a meaningful return. These need to be broken. Keeping track of your expenses will help to pinpoint what’s going on with your finances and help to lower expenditure.
Don’t acquire more debt. When you’re in debt and working hard to service those debts, it may be tempting to get more debt to extend your ability to cover certain expenses or get access to resources. As tempting as it may be, acquiring more debt while you’re trying to service existing debt is merely digging yourself and your family into an even deeper hole. Where possible, steer away from acquiring more debt.
Make some changes. To help you get out of debt quicker, you can implement a few lifestyle changes that will help you manage your finances more effectively. A few of these are listed below:
Budgeting. Budgeting allows you to keep track of your income and expenses, and it helps you pinpoint areas of excess that may need to be dealt with. There are free apps available that can help you keep track of your expenditure and do basic budgeting and these may be invaluable for your journey.
Even if you have a low income, budgeting allows you to be intentional about where and how you spend money, which is one step you can take toward financial stability.
Work. Depending on your situation, it may be possible to increase your shifts or hours at work to increase your income. Perhaps if you are a single-income family, the stay-at-home spouse may have to consider working for income.
People’s circumstances don’t always allow for them to do more work; perhaps you’re already pulling as many shifts as you can, in which case more hours aren’t an option. However, if there is room to do more work and increase your income, take those opportunities until the debt is paid and then reevaluate the situation.
Spending. In line with some of the suggestions made above, consider carefully how you spend your money. It may very well be that for a while you need to cut your expenditure as close to the bone as possible. It may mean canceling your cable or other subscriptions for a while, avoiding any new purchases of household or other items, canceling the gym memberships, and working out at home.
It could mean planting a garden out back to help you eat healthier and pay less at the grocery store, or using your community food bank if you hadn’t ever done that before. All this and more are possibilities if your budget has a bit of bloat in it. You can also redirect your spending to pay more than the minimum repayment on your debt to reduce what you owe, which may have the added benefit of reducing your interest payments down the line.
Consider debt consolidation. This is when you restructure your debt. It’s a single loan you can use to pay off multiple existing debts; that loan then becomes the single debt you owe which may result in a reduced interest rate, lower overall payment, and a new repayment schedule. Speak with an authorized financial services provider to understand this and other practical options you can exercise to manage your debt better.
The crowdfunding route. In the last few years, crowdfunding platforms have increased in popularity. This is especially the case with situations where individuals or families have met with circumstances beyond their control and gotten into debt. If a medical emergency arises, or an accident occurs and you weren’t insured, it can plunge your family into a pile of debt. And it’s not as though they did anything wrong – unforeseen circumstances can be life changing.
In such a situation, it may be possible to cut costs to meet the debt obligation, but another possibility is to go the crowdfunding route. Crowdfunding does work at times, but it isn’t a guaranteed way to raise funds and reduce your debt; as such, one can’t depend exclusively on it to get out of debt.Also, in those circumstances where debt is incurred due to habits such as gambling or simply out of poor decision-making, going the crowdfunding route doesn’t solve the problem because, without new habits, you may find yourself in the same position again.
Build good habits. Speaking of new habits, building good ones will help you in meeting your budget and avoiding new debt or unnecessary expenses. From whether you make impulse buying decisions online or in person, to the quantities of what you buy and whether you reuse and repair to lower replacement costs, there are a plethora of new habits you can begin to build into your life that may help with reducing your expenses and increasing your ability to service your debt.
Not having debt frees your family from a huge source of stress and enables you to be generous toward others with what God has given you. When a couple is in debt, that can place significant distress on their relationship. They can shift toward blaming one another for their financial situation, which can further erode their relationship, adding another layer of stress.
Getting out of debt is not a solo endeavor – it takes both spouses communicating openly, owning any mistakes, and committing themselves to the changes that need to be made to get any errant spending under control and reduce their debt. More than ever, when a couple is under financial strain, they need each other’s support, grace, and understanding.
The changes they may have to implement in their family will likely be uncomfortable, and it will take both spouses’ cooperation, skills, energy, and imagination to navigate those choppy waters. As you work through the situation, getting the advice of a licensed financial services provider is invaluable to figure out your options for reducing and getting out of your debt.
“Credit Cards”, Courtesy of Dylan Gillis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pay Debt”, Courtesy of Towfiqu Barbhuiya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Until Debt Tear Us Apart”, Courtesy of Alice Pasqual, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Money Tree Seedling”, Courtesy of Visual Stories || Micheile, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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