Same Team – Attack Debt, Not Your Spouse

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Same Team – Attack Debt, Not Your Spouse
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Elle Martinez of Couple Money is in the midst of major life transitions. She’s expecting her second bundle of joy and accelerating debt repayment intensity to put student loans in the rear view mirror. Working from home, raising children, and working through debt can put a strain on a happy home.

Elle and her husband make it work!

This New Year New You 2015 profile provides “real talk” advice on working with (and not against) your spouse to accomplish goals. The Martinez family practices a Same Team approach to dump debt as a family.

 Attack Debt

1. How much debt did you incur before deciding to work toward debt freedom?

We’re re-igniting becoming debt free. Last year was lagging a bit with that (but we were busy with other projects).

Our goal for 2015 is to get (finally) rid of our student loan. Until this point we had it been sending in extra payments, but haven’t really been gazelle intense like we have been in the past.

Since getting engaged, I paid off my credit cards, we tackled the car loan, I became self-employed, we bought a house, and paid for two cars with cash.

2. What prompted you to begin the debt free journey? Were you and your husband on the same page about dumping debt?

I think a few things happened to lead me to want to become free. First off was my husband’s personal example. When we were engaged the two of us got together and discussed where each of us were financially.

At that time I had a couple of credit cards with balances on them, student loans for my junior and senior years, and I recently picked up a car loan, since I ‘needed a reliable vehicle’ (shaking my head not on having a car to get around, but how much debt came with it).

Meanwhile my husband had one very small student loan (I think it was for books for the last semester) which is he was about to pay off at the end of his grace period.

That opened my eyes that maybe debt didn’t have be a regular part of my finances.

After we were married we worked hard at coming up with a budget that could work whether or not my internship at the time lasted. That meant that all of our expenses had to be under what my husband’s net income.

We made some sacrifices (big one being renting a smaller, less fancy apartment than we originally wanted), which in the end not only saved us money, but benefited us.

We decided that it would be nice to get rid of the debt in our lives so we could have a bigger buffer between our income and our expenses. We worked hard at paying off the car loan early and then started a car fund for when we needed replacements (still need reliable transportation, right?).

3. What has been the most challenging part of the journey?

Honestly, after getting rid of the high interest debt of the credit cards and the car loan (that was over 13%!), we have slowed down and lost our sense of urgency on the student loan last year.

With other financial goals, our focus shifted, but we’re hoping to change that in 2015.

4. How has being a new-ish mom changed your perspective about managing money and planning for the future?

I’m more deliberate with purchases and I find myself thinking more long term because I want to continue to work from home and be with my daughter. With our second one arriving, I’m really determined to be more careful about our family cash flow.

I also want to step up my giving. Not so much with just donating money, but with my volunteer time. I’m active in my local congregation and I’d like to expand some more.

My mom, whose a teacher, and I have been working on some things together and I’d really love to be able to team up with her on something bigger.

5. How do you handle tough money conversations with your spouse?

Based on our past experience with getting through things, I think we’ve reach a certain comfort level that we view tough money conversations like bandages – it’s just better to rip them off and get it done.

That doesn’t sound appealing, does it? LOL

What I guess I’m trying to say is we accept that difficult money conversations will be awkward and there may be some pain, but we don’t have that fear.

We’re not trying to avoid it, I know that even if we disagree we still support one another and will find a way to make it work.

It also helps that we usually go out and talk it over dinner (and when I’m not pregnant) drinks. A good wine can relieve tension. 🙂

6. What was the most difficult part of learning to work with your spouse as it related to money?

Getting used to how we communicated and made decisions. My husband is a software developer by trade and a good one at that. He is meticulous and will look at the situation from (seemingly) all possibilities.

I enjoy a good analysis, but once a decision has been reached, I’m ready to go. We’re going to pay off the car loan ASAP? Okay, brown bagging all my meals and setting up automatic transfers.

So there have been times were we’ve had some arguments over execution, but with effort we’ve been able to work through things.

7. What encouragement can you offer to other couples who have trouble talking effectively about financial matters?

While you want to be completely open with your numbers and feelings, don’t try to tackle everything at once. Take it one step at a time.

Start off by talking about your goals as a couple. What do you want to do over the next year or so? Where do you see yourself in 5 years or when you retire?

It’s crucial to find some common ground before you start getting into the nitty-griity numbers.

8. Please add anything else from your experience that might provide motivation for readers working with a spouse to dump debt.

Remember that no matter how pressing it may be to get your money squared away, you have to keep your marriage first.

You’re on the same team. Attack the debt, not each other. Celebrate every victory, even if it seems small.


Elle Martinez hosts a regular podcast on marriage and money. Subscribe to the Couple Money Podcast via iTunes or Stitcher to stay connected.


Visit our New Year New You 2015 profiles page for more debt dumping inspiration.

Attack Debt


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