Dave Says

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 at 1:54am


Dear Dave,

My husband and I are in our twenties, we have $22,000 in debt and I’m five months pregnant and scared. We both have children from previous marriages who live with us part-time, and together we bring home about $2,000 a month. I think we earn enough to make this succeed, but I can’t get my husband motivated enough to work on it. He’s a spender, and I feel like I can’t tell him no. I’ve tried to make him aware of the problem, but he just shrugs and tells me stuff will get paid.

— Dawn

Dear Dawn,

First of all, let me tell you that being afraid is normal when you’re five months pregnant and have a bunch of debt without a lot of income. But you guys have got a mess to clean up, and your husband needs to step up to the plate here!

I know you love him, but you’re not his mom, you’re his wife. You shouldn’t have to watch over him like a parent. But you do need to let him know that his behavior is hurting your team. You have a child on the way and bills to pay, and the fact is he’s being irresponsible. You might want to be a little more tactful than that, but that’s the basic message here.

Sit down with him tonight, and take his hands in yours. Look him in the eyes and tell him exactly how scared you are. Remind him about the baby that’s on the way, about all the bills and tell him that you don’t know how you’re going to make it without some kind of plan. Chances are, unless he’s a real jerk – and I’m guessing this isn’t the case – he’ll pay attention to what you’re saying. Your husband might be a little immature on some days and a little self-centered sometimes, but that just means he’s human. We’re all that way from time to time.

Most relationships have two personality types – the nerd and the free spirit. The nerd likes detail and wants to map out everything in advance. The free spirit isn’t as worried about the details. This doesn’t mean that deep down they don’t care, but they always believe things will work out in the end. Do I have to tell you which is which in your situation?

Now, if he agrees to this you need to put your natural nerd skills to work. Present the “budget committee” – that’s you and him – with a plan – a written budget where every dollar has a name and you spend everything on paper before the month begins. Once you’ve presented the written plan, you have to have an understanding that changes can be made, as long as you both agree on them. You’re not bringing some stone tablet that’s perfect and can’t be changed down from the mountaintop!

Work though it together taking care of the basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter, transportation and utilities – first. No one else gets paid until you take care of these.

Chances are, he’ll see how much this means to you. If he does I’ll bet he will come to the conclusion that he needs to straighten up and help out. And his doing a little part-time work on the side would be a great place to start!

— Dave

Dear Dave,

I recently bought a new truck, and then I heard about your advice to stay out of debt and budget. I tried to un-do the deal but couldn’t. Are there any other options besides selling the truck to get out from under the payment? My wife and I have a household income of about $38,000 and a few other debts we’re trying to pay off.

— Ryan

Dear Ryan,

If you’re not able to pay off the truck in 18 months, then you need to look into selling the thing. And with your household income, I don’t think 18 months is a realistic expectation. Sell the truck!

I’m not saying this because the truck is bad, or because you couldn’t pay it off in 36 months. I say it because I want you to get out of debt so you can free up your largest and most powerful wealth-building tool – your income. Car payments eat up your money like a hungry shark.

Bust out of those payments so you can kick the other debt, build some wealth and get yourself a really nice car later on with cash. But for now, sell the truck and buy yourself a cheap, ugly little Bondo buggy to drive while you guys clean up your mess!

— Dave

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Filed under: City Business
By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I generally agree with most of daves advise except when he tells them to sell a vehicle that dosn't need to be sold to buy someone elses headache. (cheap used car). If a new vehicle is taken care of it should last 10 years with little extra expence. If its a 2 car family I would buy a new one every 5. The first 3 (or more years) are basically a free ride as far as tires etc goes)Another point that I disagree with is his advise to pay off the lowest debt first. While I understand his concept of personal achievement it makes more sense to pay off the higest interest rate first. Interest rates can vary considerably and have seen them in the double range.

By: jwk6179 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Based on this column and a column from a few weeks ago, it still sounds like he and his staff are making up the letters, which got him booted from the Tennessean. One of the letters from a few weeks ago stated that the letter writer was living in a 2000 sq. ft. apartment and was bringing home about $30,000 a year and had no debt. I have never seen a 2000 sq. ft. apartment outside of a major metropolitain area and even then the rent for said apartment would be considerably more than what he could afford on his income with a stay at home wife and two children. Sounds like FICTION to me.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The first letter here sounds like fiction to me. Two people with kids only bringing home $2,000 a month with $22,000 in debt? There's no way they could live on that even if they were both as fiscally responsible as possible (much less with the big spending husband). They also qualify to file chapter 7 bankruptcy on that $22,000 debt.

By: BuckyDent on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I agree Wicked. Wife and I take home 5 times that amount and have no kids and we can't make ends meet!

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Tribe, plenty of people live on $24K p.a. Except for the part about the nerd & the free spender, Ramsey's advice is good. There's no reason for anyone to be spending so much when a baby is coming.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

There is no need to keep downloading your DNA when you can't afford them and have 2 other families at that age either.They will lose one salery at least for awhile until they can get us to pick up the tab when they reach Pre-K age.