4 Ways to Deal if You Want to Be Debt-Free but Your Partner Keeps Spending

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When you get married or combine finances with someone, you may think that tackling debt will be easier than doing it on your own.

Then you find out your partner has no intention of paying off debt or being involved with finances.


But if this is you, don’t worry. Just because the love of your life isn’t driven to get rid of debt right now, it doesn’t mean they never will be.

I admit that I wasn’t on board with paying off debt when my then-fiance “suggested” it to me.

I came from a background where we always had money to pay the bills but never enough for anything else. So when I was finally making my own money, I wanted to use it to live, not to pay my $52,000 of student loan debt.

But many people overcome their aversions to paying off debt and end up being just as motivated as their significant other.

Here are some tips for bridging that gap.

4 Strategies for When Your Partner Doesn’t Care About Being Debt-Free

These tips may not speed up the journey, but they are the best way to get to freedom from debt if you don’t want to sleep on the couch the whole way.

1. Slow Down and Rethink Your Approach

If the fact that your partner doesn’t want to think about finances frustrates you, sit down, take a deep breath and think about why.

A lot of people have negative emotions and experiences tied to money.

Talking about finances can be a trigger for someone whose parents fought about money. If someone never had enough money for small pleasures growing up, they might go into defense mode if you tell them you want to stop spending money and sell their stuff.

And the thought of debt itself can be a heavy mental burden, especially when life is throwing more problems into the mix. It takes time, persistence and understanding to find out what the root of your partner’s hesitation is and how to work through it.

2. Talk About the Future

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My husband knows that I’m a goal-driven person, so he asked me what my goals for the future were. He got me thinking about how freedom from debt could help me achieve my goals faster.

Make sure your partner’s goals and wants are heard. Share your own wants, and talk about how your goals and your partner’s goals can work together. Your partner may not have concrete goals right now, but they surely have something they want. Maybe they want to travel, buy a boat, stay at home with kids or pursue a passion.

Anything they want to do in the future is going to have a financial component. And once you’ve identified it, you’ll be able to sit down and talk about that. But as with the first recommendation, take it slowly.

3. Plan a Road Trip

If your partner will no longer listen to you about finances, don’t force it.

They still need to hear it, just not from you. That’s where podcasts and audiobooks can come in for the assist. And there’s no better way to have your partner’s uninterrupted ear than playing them in the car.

That’s how Budgets Made Easy creator Ashley Patrick was able to get her husband on board.

“I attempted budget meetings, but he wasn’t interested,” Ashley said. “He was content letting me handle it all. The biggest thing that fully got him on board was playing Dave Ramsey podcasts in the car. Especially when I did it on a long road trip. Hours of Dave Ramsey helped change his mindset.”

She and her husband paid off $45,000 in 17 months, and Ashley now provides financial coaching through Dave Ramsey’s Ramsey Solutions.

4. Be an Example They’ll Want to Follow

While you’re waiting for your partner to join the team, make sure they know what the game looks like.

You can continue to budget, pay off debt and be wise with your spending even if your partner isn’t. Sometimes they just need to see that it can be done.

As you do this, take into consideration what they value and want. Maybe you think Topgolf is a waste of money, but your husband loves going once a month. Put it in the budget to show him that the process is only as restrictive as you make it.

At the end of the day, being debt-free isn’t the goal: having financial freedom is. And if you want your partner to be part of that, it might take some patience and perseverance. But it’s worth it — not just financially — to get on the same page and head in the same direction with your goals.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She was reluctant at first, but once she got on board, she and her husband paid off $78,000 of debt in two years. See more of her story and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @modernfrugality.