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Ask Dave

Talk To Her About The Why

Eric wants to know how to get his wife on board to get out of debt. She's not gazelle intense and won't focus to get the Baby Steps moving.

QUESTION: Eric in Los Angeles wants to know how to get his wife on board to get out of debt. She’s not gazelle intense and won’t focus to get the Baby Steps moving. Dave advises Eric to start talking to his wife about why they’re doing this plan instead of how to do it.

ANSWER: Number one, let’s work through the book together. Just do a chapter a night or 10 pages a night. A lot of couples will just take a book like this or a marriage book or a parenting book and they’ll sit around the couch before they go to bed or some people read in bed and they just sit and go through that. Don’t try to do too much, but just read to each other. That’s kind of weird—kind of awkward—if you’ve never done it, but a lot of people do it every day, and it’s not weird or awkward for them at all. Sometimes, that’s a way to do it.

You don’t need to get in the business of no. That’s not your business. “Dave Ramsey said no.” You’re going to turn me into a cuss word. Instead of saying, “No, we can’t afford it,” we need to talk about why we’re doing this. That’s what got her excited. If we could get out of debt, we could give more. If we could get out of debt, we could travel more. If we could get out of debt, we could buy this item or that item and pay cash for it. If we could get out of debt, this would happen and that would happen. Talk about why we’re doing this. If you have a big enough goal, it causes you to give up those little silly things that keep you from hitting that goal. The why has to be big enough to put its thumb on the little movements of your life.

I would just sit down and introduce the idea of putting together a budget the way the book outlines, and then she looks at it with you for you to have as a spending guideline. You’ll both have a vote, you’ll work together, but you’ll write it out all out and then sit down and look at it together. Then you go spend the two hours or whatever it takes to put that first budget together and spend 30 minutes discussing it with her. Her vote counts as much as yours. Work your way through it, always talking about why we’re doing this. What happens is a lot of guys read this Total Money Makeover book, and they come in and announce to their wives they’re getting out of debt, and the first step is selling her car. We talk about the what instead of the why. You’ve got to talk about the why.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time. You’ve been doing it wrong a long time. You’ve been thinking about doing it right for a few weeks. Let’s allow the ship called your life and your behavior patterns to turn a little bit more slowly. It’s more important that you bring her with you than you get a one-month head start. Speed of the program is not offset by no spouse. Spousal involvement is paramount to winning with money. Ask her lots of questions. Talk about the why. Read the book together. Do a budget that you both look at and both agree to. Then when she comes back with spending and we’ve got this budget, we go, “Yeah, but this is what we agreed to, so we really can’t do that this month.” Just continue to refer back to that. Remember, that only counts if she had a vote in putting that together. She’s got to get buy-in. From a leadership perspective, we call that management by objectives. You involve people in setting goals for their own lives. Then they have buy-in. If they don’t have buy-in, if they don’t set their own poison, then they won’t stick with it. That’s true of husbands, wives, kids, everybody. They have to understand how it affects them, why we’re doing this, why we’re sacrificing. Why are we living like no one else? So that later we can live like no one else.