Take A Second Look

Tara and her husband don’t feel as if they’re making any progress on their debt. They haven’t been able to get past Baby Step 2 since events keep knocking them back from progress. How can they start moving forward?

QUESTION: Tara in Chicago and her husband don’t feel as if they’re making any progress on their debt. They haven’t been able to get past Baby Step 2 since events keep knocking them back from progress. How can they start moving forward? Dave advises Tara to take a second look at her budget, because they have the income to do this.

ANSWER: What’s happened is you’ve had a pay cut, you’ve got a couple of babies at home, and you’ve come home where you don’t have as much to do as you had to do, so you’re spending a lot of your extra energy worrying. You need to turn off Oprah. Keep from watching TV. It will make you want to shoot yourself.

If you just started fresh today, you could do that based on your income and your situation. But you’ve lost your emotional energy fighting for so long and feeling like a rat in a wheel. The math is not terrible here. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. I’m going to put you on a written budget. Every month before the month begins, spend every dollar on paper—on purpose. And you’re not allowed to do anything with money inside this household—either one of you—except what you put on that paper.

The numbers you’re giving me are doable in a written budget. You’re not going to the Mediterranean this summer, but you weren’t planning to anyway. You’d just like to survive and make some progress. As his income comes up and you start doing more stuff from home, you’re going to see this life start to unfold for you and come back together in a really pretty way.