They say two heads are better than one. Well, not if those heads are butting over financial decisions like when and how to pay off debt.
Indeed, being on the same financial page as your partner is crucial. But when it comes to paying off your debt, this isn’t so easy. Take it from me. When my husband and I first started our financial journey, we had different ideas about how to approach debt. This created frustration on both ends and slowed down our progress. Eventually, we started working together and paying down debt aggressively.
To help you get on the same page as your partner right away, take a look at these 5 tried-and-true tips. Hopefully, this will save you time, money and frustration.
Be Open About Money
If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s important to talk openly and honestly about money. Plain and simple.
If you have skeletons in the closet when it comes to your finances or debt, it’s time to come clean. Financial infidelity and miscommunication can lead to money fights and often make the situation worse. Instead, plan money dates and lay it all out on the table. What accounts do you have? How much do you owe independently and as a couple? Although you don’t have to combine debt totals, this is recommended if you’re married or already living together.
It’s also important to discuss how your debt makes each of you feel. From there, you can work on steps to get out of debt and develop better money habits.
Work Together to Make Lifestyle Changes
When you work together as a couple to pay off debt, you shouldn’t view it as his debt or her issue that is hindering you from making progress. Remember: you’re in this together.
If you feel like your partner is a spender, talk to him or her respectfully and suggest some changes you can make as a couple. Maybe you can encourage him or her to start packing lunches to take to work, and you can do the same. Or, instead of going out to dinner and a movie every Friday night, maybe you can get into the habit of cooking dinner at home and going for a bike ride or to a free concert in the park. Odds are, you both may need to improve your money management habits. Why not work on it as a team and support each other?
Jen Hayes, who runs the blog Frugal-Millennial, says it takes teamwork and dedication to pay off debt as a couple. Hayes and her husband started out with $117,000 of debt in 2013 and they’ve already paid off $88,000.
“We both reduced our expenses and increased our income. We cut back on expenses by renting a room from my parents, driving an 18-year-old car, and finding free things to do for fun,” she says.
Hold Each Other Accountable
Paying off debt often takes time and requires sacrifice.
To this end, knowing that you’re not alone can be motivating. For this reason, think of each other as an accountability partner. My husband and I, for example, commit to weekly finance dates. This is a time when we talk about money in our household and discuss our debt repayment progress report. Checking in often reminds us that we need to stay on top of our goals – together.
Find Flexible Ways to Make More Money
When you put your debt balances together, you may be in for sticker shock. But, here’s the good news: your double income can help you pay off this debt faster.
You can also boost your earnings and improve your financial habits. For starters, if you and your partner both work, you’ll already have two incomes to consider when budgeting for debt payments. Then, if one or both of you start bringing in extra money on the side, you’ll likely be able to pay off your accounts even faster. Case in point: both my husband and I have side hustles to generate more money. You can do this too! Whether it’s babysitting, walking dogs, freelancing, or driving for a rideshare company, you just need a few hours each week to earn extra money on the side. You can then throw all of this toward paying off your collective debt.
Do What Works Best for You as a Couple
When asked how she and her husband paid off so much debt in just a few years, Hayes answered with this: “Do what works best for you as a couple.”
For some couples, this may mean moving back in with parents to save money. For others, it may mean cutting out gym memberships or swapping out expensive hobbies for more frugal ones.
While some people insist that all couples have joint bank accounts or weekly budget meetings, every couple is different. At the end of the day, you and your partner have to come up with a money action plan that you can both stick to.