Husband & I Are BOTH Bad with Money... We Seriously Need an Intervention!!

Updated on April 25, 2012
N.G. asks from Arlington, TX
23 answers

Finances have been THE thorn in my side all of my adult life. I've got to correct this now before it gets to the point that we've ruined any chance we may have of retiring in this lifetime! We will turn 30 next year, and with our third child on the way (our other two girls are 8 and 5), I can't think of a better time to get our ducks in a row.

We are TERRIBLE at money. Spending it, saving it, investing it, everything. Terrible. We have no savings, no retirement to speak of, and our daughters' college account hasn't had a deposit since 2005. Together, we make plenty of money to be able to save a significant amount, but it seems like we never have any! It makes no sense!

We have been through Financial Peace University, twice. We have seen Dave Ramsey live in Dallas for his Total Money Makeover. We tried to budget monthly, but every time we had some to save, we spent it. On eating out, stuff for the house, stuff for the kids, things like that.

I really, REALLY want to change this. I want to model a better way for my kids. Also, I think it's downright ingrateful to live life paycheck to paycheck when God has blessed us with more than we deserve.

So my question is, how do I turn this ship around? What helped you figure out the money thing? I don't really need ways to cut corners & save, because I really know how to be frugal. It's just the impulse spending that gets us EVERY time. We don't have credit card debt or anything like that, we just don't save.

Do you have a similar story? What worked for you?! Any advice is appreciated!

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answers from Atlanta on

Setting up automatic deposits into different accounts really helped us. Whenever we're paid, most of our paychecks go into our joint checking, but we have a few other accounts (401Ks, emergency funds and a vacation account) that a certain amount of money goes into every pay period. We don't live on that. It's not part of our budget! It's amazing how much adds up quickly from two paychecks twice a month!

You say you have no credit card debt, so that's fantastic. That was my biggest turn around -getting rid of credit cards and paying off all that we owed on them about 7 years ago. It's been incredibly liberating!

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answers from Columbia on

set up a direct deposit FROM checking INTO a savings account.

You don't handle the transfer - no money in your hand.

No money in your hand, you don't spend.

Short of that you can create a spendthrift trust. Basically it's a trust account that controls all your money and either pays you an allowance each month, or needs a sign off of a third adult to approve withdrawals.

But that might be a sledgehammer solution to a gnat problem...

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answers from Pittsburgh on

THIS time, FOLLOW the Dave Ramsay plan!
As you get out of debt and build an emergency fund, it outlines saving for retirement, college funds, etc.
Follow his plan. It works.
We're out of debt, saving and our house is paid off.

IF there are things you're saving specifically "for" then do that in a separate account, maybe?

If you have no debt, then get your 401K's funded and draft money automatically into a savings account/credit union account...then you'll never "get" that money and it will be saving for retirement, etc. not dependent on you guys physically moving the money into savings, right?

Good luck.

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answers from Phoenix on

This is a good start to admitt the issue. Self control is all we have and disapline. Time to invest in that since you already have the tools.
Know one can really teach that to someone other then you and your husband. So which one of you are stronger in that area to help balance and run the self control ? you can do it ! Your still young and lots of time.

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answers from Dallas on

In your case, it might help to have the money out of your reach. You could begin investing in an annuity of some sort. Have the money taken every month before you see it. You could do a 1 yr, 5 yr, 10 yr annuity, as well as one that doesn't mature until retirement age. You pay a penalty to take the money before it matures.

You can set one up for each of your retirement, as well as education planning. We do it at State Farm for our policyholders. Or you can try a financial planning service. Even banks sell annuities. Maybe try a short term, small one, just to see if it will work for you. Like $200 a month for 6 months. If you can live without that money for 6 months, renew it for 1 yr and increase the amount. Babysteps.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you haven't been good with detailed planning so far, don't get into another complicated scheme now. Start slowly, and start simply.

Open a savings account, and put an auto detect on both your and hubby's accounts, towards - savings a/c, college fund 1 and college fund 2. Make sure the auto detect happens the very next day after the day you normally get your pay-checks.

When you are itching to buy something and are planning to wipe out the savings a/c, just start saying NO to yourself. :)

Maybe after a few months, it'll start to become a regular habit.

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answers from New York on

It appears that you want all your financial issues to magically disappear and resolve themselves. It isn't magic, but it is simple. You need to make life changes one small step at a time.

Also, do you have any idea where all your money goes. I highly recommend you keep track of every single penny you spend for at least one month. Write it down. Every penny, the change you drop into a donation or tip jar, the $1 you give your kids for something at school, etc. Take a look at where you're wasting the most.

Here are some ideas, don't do them all, just start with one or two, give it a try and then add another.
- before you purchase anything, ask yourself "Do I really need this?", "Can I wait and purchase it later?"
- do either of you have a 401k account with your employer, start contributing
- cut up the debit card, it's one of the worst things you can use, don't carry a credit card with you, and pay cash for everything, no cash, you can't buy it
- do either of your employers offer direct deposit, if yes, then you should have the option of depositing into more than one account, put a set amount into a savings account with each paycheck
- how often to you eat out? why do you eat out? Don't want to cook, have meals in the freezer that you can quickly defrost. Keep ingredients on hand for an easy meal like soup and salad. If you eat out twice a week, cut it down to once a week, if it's once a week, cut it down to once every 2 weeks

This is bad financial advice, but it may work for you. Increase the amount of withholding from your payroll check. When you get that large refund, deposit directly into a savings account.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My mom taught me to save when I was a child. She should have taught me to invest, but she grew up in an era when parents didn't tell anyone about family finances so I had to learn investing on my own.

The first thing you have to do is to get self control. Then establish goals for yourselves. There is an old saying for alchoholics, "One drink is too many and 1000 is never enough."

Read what Dad on Purpose had to say. I would suggest to you that you and your husband should save 10% of your gross (not net) salaries. The best way to do this is to use the companys' ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and at the very least max out their matching programs. They take it out of your check before you even see it. What you don't see you don't spend.

Then go to Staples or any similar store and get a budget book and two spiral pocket type notebooks. You and your husband write down everything you spend. Give yourself and your husband some monthly spending money. My wife and I do $125 now. She can spend her $125 any way she wants and has no accounting to me and the same for me. I use my $125 for presents for my wife or going out to eat or helping pay for a vacation.

Next, either decide you want to do the investing or have someone else do the investing. Generally speaking, if you are just starting contact a fancial planner and tell them what your goals are and let them suggest ways to meet them. At 30, I would think you would be fairly aggressive in your investing. When it comes to investing, ignorance is not bliss, its costly. Order Money Magazine and read it from cover to cover each month for at least a year. That will give you an elementary education in investing. Get books on investing from successful investors, like Peter Lynch and Jim Cramer.

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

One of the ways to save is to move money (you can do this by direct deposit) to an account that is not easy to access. Move it to a different bank, where you don't have a debit card, etc. That way it's gone and done and you don't see it or touch it. When I worked FT, I had money that went to the house account (we totalled our joint bills and added to that account based on % of income). Then I had money for my 401K, money to savings and whatever was leftover was mine for my bills and personal spending. Since so much was automated, I didn't even have to think about it.

The other thing, for me, is to look at alllll the things you buy. Write down every latte and every candy bar for the kids. Look at what you REALLY spend and on what. You can nickle and dime yourself into debt. Challenge yourself to not buy just anything, but really consider what you buy. WHY do you eat out? Could you buy some food at the grocery store for a quick meal at home? Do you not plan ahead and never know what's in the fridge? Could you learn to cook quick meals if you are always looking for something quick for dinner? We eat in more when we plan ahead. If you have food at home that will spoil, it's incentive to actually cook it.

Why do you get stuff for the kids? When? Do you buy anything for the next season on clearance? Do you have a plan when you spend or do you just spend? If I go to the grocery store and plan to spend less than $250 for our family of 4/5 (dep. on who is home) and I use one of those scanner things, I stay a lot closer because I see it rack up. I weigh my fruit before scanning and putting in the cart so I see that those grapes are $9 - and I think "do we really need $9 grapes?"

My SD didn't understand for a long time that credit cards are borrowed money. We sat her down and showed her how minimum payments would take forever to pay off and how every month x was accrued (and wasted) on interest. It was an eye opener. Look at all your credit cards and tally up the interest. That's money you are throwing away. When you make payments, think about the interest you are saving.

I would also meet with a financial advisor to look at your savings, your retirement, your debts and your goals and help you create a plan. Then DO it.

It's not just a budget. It's a mindset. You need to get to the bottom of why you want to change and where you got your spending habits. It's not that it's not fun to plan ahead - you just need to have the right goals and once you start reaching them, it's exciting to pay things off and know that if someone loses his/her job, you have a buffer. Or that you can afford that new car for the bigger family. Etc.

If you feel like you have a mental block on really putting your finances in order, consider counseling to find out why. Sometimes people spend to make themselves feel good short-term...but the real issue is that they have emotional needs that are not met. My mom is one of those emotional spenders and nickles and dimes her paycheck away. You've done financial programs 3 times now. What's stopping you from success with that knowledge?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Set up the direct deposit like Dad on Purpose said. DON"T TOUCH IT. Go to a financial advisor.

Really, it's just about self control, can you really not hold each other accountable and practice some self control? If not, then setting up the automatic acounts will be great for you! Don't even think of that money as income, you will get used to living without it.Pay the savings, retirement and college funds first. Congrats on having no credit card debt, we don't either (though we have student loan debt :(

We have the same issue, hardly any savings, difficulty paying bills, no college funds, but we don't have good paychecks. We live paycheck to paycheck b/c of the economy and my husband not receiving any sort of raise for 4 years, layoffs, and unable to find a job that can pay more, even though he is a degreed hard working professional with excellent experience and references. I couldn't imagine squandering excess money to live as stressed out as we do, but I can imagine it could be easy to do if you aren't always being careful.

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answers from San Francisco on

I've always been pretty good with money.

My suggestion is that you open a savings account and do not get an ATM card associated with the account. Then every payday, when you cash/deposit your check, you slide a set amount of money over to the savings account RIGHT THEN. If you don't have access through an ATM, it's easier not to spend it because in order to spend it you have to either physically go to the bank to withdraw it or call on the phone to transfer it. Hopefully, you will have time to reconsider the withdrawal before you actually make it. This is what hubby and I do and it does help to keep us out of our savings.

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answers from San Francisco on

I am 28 and had a hard time saving money as well until I just decided NOT to blow my cash. The turn around came when I changed jobs. I took the differnece between what I made at my old job and what I made at my new job and put that into savings. My company offers direct deposit and I can tell them how much I want of my paycheck deposited in to which account. I had the differences pulled out of my check and deposited into my savings without me every seeing it. I was living comfortably off my old job's income so I wasn't bringing home any less I was just putting the increased amount straight into a savings account.

The biggest way I kept my savings in my savings account was to destroy the debit card they sent me for it-this way if I wanted to withdraw cash I had to go into the bank and access the account with a bank teller.

Also, I calculated my monthly bills and budgeted myself "fun money" and after I spent my "fun money" I couldn't use the remaining cash for anything other than necessities. So when I would say to my friends that I couldn't afford something (embarassing!!) it wasn't because I was broke it was because I was out of my budgeted fun money. Doing that really made me stop to look at what I considered fun and helped me plan better so I could actually do some amazing things and still be within my budgeted "fun money".

Good luck!

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answers from Austin on

Cut up you ATM cards, credi tcards, make you accounts where both of you need to sign to get cash.


answers from Columbia on

You know what you need to do. You both need to hold one another accountable.

Put the one of you with the most self control (you can figure that out by looking at your bank statement and figuring out who is spending more often...that person should NOT be in charge of the finanaces!). The "spender" or "impulse shopper" should leave the ATM card and checkbook at home unless they are going to a shopping trip that has been discussed. During those trips, do NOT buy anything that isn't on the list.

You can DO this!



answers from Chicago on

auto deduct is the best way to, at least, start saving

the best way to model good financial behavior to your children is to pay using cash



answers from Dallas on

Financial Peace changed our lives, so I don't see how you have gone through it TWICE and not been impacted. Remember the DVD where he is locked in chains....come on!!! YOU can do it. My husband and I did not see eye to eye on money and we spent all we had and had lots of debt when we started his Baby, we have only our house in debt and a new outlook on finances. We are not as diligent as we were but we have savings, are starting retirement investments again. How bad do you want it? I sold a new car, got a used cash Station Wagon, yes, Station Wagon (and I live in uppity COLLIN COUNTY); talk about humbling, but we wanted it. Following his principles work, but you MUST be unified. CASH is the way to curve impulse....when you get nervous to go to the checkout not sure you have enough will be the best medicine to curve impulse buying....Pray that God would give you the desire to be obedient to His word in this area. He can overcome any of our weaknesses and He has in my life. I am SOOOOOOOOOO grateful, so very grateful for the BABY STEPS (which are posted on our fridge to this day), and for making the change!!! We just put our girls (ages 6, 7) on a cash allowance and we do NOT buy them stuff anymore. They have to buy their own toys, etc. as they have the money. Talk about life changing for them in one month, the "wants" were gone!!!! Make a plan, stick with it, and pray your way through it, but DO will be so glad you did!!!



answers from Columbus on

Can't you have part of your paychecks put into a savings account that you don't touch?

Many, MANY years ago when I was just starting out, a friend I worked with suggested I put part of my paycheck into a credit union account - I didn't know anything about this at the time - I did it and was thrilled to see how fast it added up since I never touched it. Then every time I got to a certain amount, say $2000, I would stick that into a higher interest CD or some other type of investment. Kept re-investing, etc.

Let's just say, if I wanted to right now, I could go out and pay cash for a VERY nice car!!! But instead, I choose to leave it there so by the time I'm ready to retire, I'll have a nice BIG nest egg!!

As for your actual problem - sounds to me like you really need a reality check and some will-power!!! In other words, and not to sound too mean here: you both need to grow up!!!

Good luck!!!



answers from Detroit on

Set up automatic deposits so that the money is out of your checking account before you spend it. You can have auto deposits made to IRAs (assuming you aren't able to have a 401k), mutual funds, college savings plans, etc. Like many have said, see a financial planner. They can help you set this up if you need the help or motivation.


answers from St. Louis on

It would appear you lack will power. You need to put savings in another bank altogether and stop looking at it as part of your budget.

If I had to guess I would say you are falling into the this would be nice we have the money in savings/credit card but I know this time I will pay it back. If that is the case accept you will never pay it back! It took me ten years of not paying it back before I accepted it isn't going to happen so stop doing it. I ran up some pretty big credit card debt before I learned. My saving grace I have always put 10% in 401k.



answers from New York on

You could have a portion of your paychecks direct depostied in to a different bank account - perhaps a savings which does not have an associated debit card (or if you have one destroy it).

If the money takes some effort to get to, perhaps you will think twice before taking it out?

Also - if your companies have 401Ks put more in - forced saving toward retirement AND some companies match a % of the funds that you put in.

Good luck!


answers from Washington DC on

Okay - It's time to grow up and decide that you are going to be adults.
Make a budget and stick to it.
Save with automatic withdrawal from your paycheck to your savings account. If you are going to need a new car, set up another account and save for that. Use cash for everything for a month -- when you see the cash leaving your wallet, you'll stop spending.



answers from Dallas on

What helps me the most is "automatic saving.". I joined the credit union at work and signed up for a certain amount to be deposited from my paycheck. I do not have a debit card for the account or any way to easily access the money, I have an account that I use to save for mid-term goals, and I have that set for auto transfer 1x per month from checking to saving. Again, no debit card and money is not rapidly accessible. Of course, I also do the 401k at work. I'm not as good at saving as I should be, but I'd be way worse if not for automatic investments that are not rapidly accessible.



answers from Charlotte on

I don't have a similar story, N., but I would urge you to get the Dave Ramsey book (at the library so that you aren't paying for it!) and just MAKE yourselves following it. Do the envelope thing. I personally wouldn't do that, but I don't have the issue you have.

Give yourself a tangible goal at the end of every month that you cannot have if you don't stay with the program. Tell yourself everytime you want to go out to eat when it's not in the program, that going out to eat takes away getting your tangible goal. Make that goal be the thing in your mind that you want most of all! (Even if it's an ink pen with the pharmacist's name on it.) The point is, you gotta WANT this.

Try 6 months and I promise you that you'll feel better about that 6 months worth of results than you will feel after the fleeting enjoyment of spending that money you are spending a little at a time.

Good luck, and I hope you can do this!!!

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