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A Better You
by Jo Ann Fore

Till Debt Do Us Part

This month I celebrated my first anniversary with my husband. We met online over two years ago. And I could be one of those haughty people who quip, “We’ve never had an argument.”

Well…about finances, anyway. We faced many challenges as newlyweds, but financial problems weren’t one of them.

My husband is one of the most financially disciplined men I know. He has a burning passion to live debt free. I believe each night he drifts off to sleep with the teachings of Dave Ramsey dancing through his head. Dave Ramsey – financial guru, nationally syndicated radio host, and author – has a unique approach to help families get out of debt and build wealth.

 

Before You Walk Down the Aisle
Couples argue – and split up – for many reasons. Infidelity, poor communication, change in priorities, but often the last straw is financial woes. An already strained relationship usually can’t endure the stress of serious financial problems.

Can the stress be avoided? Not if you don’t start thinking about your spending habits before you walk down the aisle. After you say, “I do,” it’s a little too late to discover the two of you don’t share the same opinion about money.

My husband addressed our finances up front – as all potential partners should. If you are considering a long term relationship with someone, it’s important to know each other’s financial state. Five months before our wedding date, my husband approached me about our finances. He gathered all the information – I listed my debts and my income. He combined that information with his own, and proposed a new family budget. And then made certain I was in agreement with it.

The first month we were married, there were no financial surprises when it came time to pay bills. And in our first year of marriage, he has me out of debt and focused on a whole new lifestyle of living debt free.


Living Debt Free – Fallacy or Reality
To find out how individuals can avoid the debt trap I sought expert advice. My favorite financial guru – my husband – had the following to share:

1. Face the truth about your debt.
Take a hard look at your income and your outgo. Find out exactly where you are, financially, in relation to where you need to be. This is one of the first things Dave Ramsey had to do. Dave, a millionaire by age 26, lost everything and had to start over.

“After losing everything, I went on a quest to find out how money really works, how I could get control of it, and how I could have confidence in handling it. I read everything I could get my hands on. I interviewed older rich people, people who made money and kept it. That quest lead me to a really, really uncomfortable place – my mirror. I came to realize that my money problems, worries, and shortages largely began and ended with the person in my mirror. I realized also that if I could learn to manage the character I shaved with every morning, I would win with money.” (www.daveramsey.com)

2. Set a workable budget and stick to it.
Set realistic goals. Know where you are going and how long it will take you to get there. The saying is true, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

Review your spending habits. Where are you overspending? What is necessary? Design a budget that incorporates the necessities but discourages impulse shopping.

Then, develop the discipline and stick to your budget!

3. Take it one step at a time.

You didn’t get into debt overnight; you aren’t going to get out overnight. Focus on changing your personal spending habits.

Start chipping away at your debt. Select one of your debts – the smallest one—and pay a larger amount each month than is required, until you get it paid off. Then, move on to another debt.

Get rid of your credit cards. Studies conducted by Dunn & Bradstreet show that people who use credit cards instead of cash spend an average of 12 to 18 percent more money. (www.daveramsey.com)

Postpone pleasure. Don’t buy on impulse. Count the cost and then save your money for it.

4. Reward yourself.
Keep your eye on the goal. Watch your debt go down. Set rewards for strategic points in your plan, especially the time you officially become debt free. It doesn’t have to be expensive rewards – just something that brings you pleasure.

Remember: The stress of finances can be avoided. You can escape financial discord by learning to make successful financial decisions, together, in the beginning of your relationship.



Jo Ann Fore welcomes your comments about this article or suggestions for material you would like to see in future articles. Email her at: JoAnnFore@msn.com. A Better You is published every Saturday.

 


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