Pare Down and Cut it Up
Today, I only have one (usable) credit card. EH and I had two credit cards each and decided to cut up one each. They both still have balances on them but at least we won't be tempted to use them because they're simply no longer available.
Some debt control web sites/books suggest that you freeze your credit card but I knew I would be blow drying that frozen credit card every month to buy something I didn't need. So, if it's possible for you, cut that bad boy up and throw it away.
Out of sight, out of debt, hopefully.
If It's Broke, Fix It
Spender vs Saver
There's nothing that can drive a nail into simple living like a spouse who's not on board. I've always liked having my own money so right from the jump I knew that when EH and I got married we would have a joint account but maintain separate accounts. Another part of that decision stemmed from how different our thinking is when it comes to managing money.
EH comes from a family that was just getting by for most of his childhood. His father supported the family by driving a cab and his mom worked on and off while raising he and his brother and sister. He never went without the basics but he definitely didn't have many extras. When his parents needed extras, they bought it on credit, and struggled to make debt payments. His financial motto is: It's just money; I can make more.
My mother made her living as a nurse and most of the extra money in our household went to buying things that would make us appear to be the perfect family. New clothes, new purses; a new pair of shoes, hair, nails, etc. I hated it and rebelled against it. My financial motto became: Money is precious and spending on more than the basics isn't necessary. It wasn't until I moved out of the house that my spending habits became unmanageable. During that time I felt a tremendous amount of guilt about being in debt and spending money on myself.
I'm stingy with money and EH is extravagant with it. How do these different financial styles co-exist?
Over the years, we've rubbed off on each other. I've begun to let go of the purse strings a little and he's been able to say, maybe we don't really need this after all. Communication is key when you have a spouse that doesn't have the same ideas about money management. Both spouses need to have a say in how the money is spent. You can't get out of debt if one person is spending money you don't know about. I say this out of experience.
I used to think that EH should handle the bill paying because he was bringing home the money. Looking back I can see that my thinking was based more on my own insecurity over not working than anything else. Having EH handle the money didn't work out well and like
Our biggest expenses each month are from our combined student loan debt (approx $80,000 and counting in total) We've come to terms with the fact that unless we hit the lottery, which we don't play, or money falls into our laps from the sky, we'll be paying on these loans until we kick it. What we're really concerned about is getting rid of our credit card debt. We've paid off credit card debt in the past...twice!! and somehow one or both of us will start using the card again for an "emergency" and then we're back in the hole. It's a slippery slope. The goal is to have just one credit card to be shared by the both of us.
This part of my simple living lifestyle is still a work in progress but I have faith that we'll get there. The money I'm saving in other areas of our lives is being used to decrease our debt. Now, I try to question every purchase and if EH can convince me it's necessary, we'll usually get it. It works the other way too. If I can convince him that we can do without it, it stays in the store.
Next Up: Part 3: Improvements in the Home