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You’ve done a great job staying out of debt. You’ve resisted the urge to buy that flat-screen TV on credit. Instead, you saved your pennies until you could afford it. You did the same when you wanted that new laptop computer and that set of bedroom furniture.
But what about your new spouse? Does the person you married boast the same financial restraint?
Most studies put the average credit card debt of cardholders at anywhere from $5,100 to more than $8,000. That’s a lot of debt, especially when you consider that consumer credit cards often come with interest rates of 16 percent or higher.
So even if you have been extremely careful about not running up your credit card debt, there’s no guarantee that your spouse has been as frugal.
And, once you’re married, it’s no longer good enough for you to have an empty credit card balance. You want your spouse to have one, too. Remember, when you’re a married couple, it’s your debt, too.
Unfortunately, many married couples are hesitant to talk about their finances.
This is understandable.
It’s never easy to talk about debt, especially when one person has racked up a lot of it and the other has not. The person who did build all that debt probably feels ashamed.
But it’s extremely important for married couples to tackle debt problems together, even if only member of the couple ran up most of the debt.
Here’s how married couples can handle credit card debt, no matter who brought the debt into the relationship:
It doesn’t help for spouses to hide their debt from one another. Set up a regular financial meeting. At this time, both spouses should bring their credit card bills. It’s important for both you and your spouse to understand the scope of the debt problem that you both face.
If you weren’t the spouse who ran up the debt, resist the urge to point fingers. Blaming your partner for your debt problems will do nothing to make this debt disappear. But it can cause serious harm to your marriage.
Set up a new budget:
Once you and your spouse identify the amount of credit card debt you owe, it’s time to set up a budget that will help you pay it off. Depending on how much debt you have, you might not be able to pay it off immediately. But you should be able to reserve at least some money to whack away at your credit card debt.
Set up a meeting schedule:
To keep your family finances on track, set up a regular money meeting with your spouse. You can meet once a week or once a month; the key is to stick to the schedule.
Accept that mistakes will happen:
Don’t turn these regular meetings into blame games. Realize that both you and your spouse will occasionally overspend, even as you try to pay down your debt. Accept that mistakes are human. Then move on, trying, once again, to stick to your budget.
Dealing with debt isn’t much fun. It’s much easier for married couples to avoid the subject. But if you fall into this trap, you’ll only place additional stress on both your finances and your relationship.
And that’s no recipe for a happy marriage.