I was waiting in line to check out at a big-box store recently. The woman in front of me waited patiently for the cashier to scan all her items and give her the total amount due. Then the woman opened—actually unfolded—her wallet, revealing at least twenty credit cards. She ran her finger down one of the rows of cards and finally selected the one she wanted to use for her purchase. Right away thoughts flooded my mind of a time during my seventh year of marriage when I got us in trouble with credit card debt. We owed $6,000, and I had no idea how we were going to pay it off.
Credit cards are a way of life in our culture. The smart plan is to pay off the debt at the end of every month and thus avoid any finance charges. In theory that is a great plan that most people probably put into action when they first get a credit card. According to Chris Brown, with the Dave Ramsey team (who we spoke with on the Awesome Marriage Podcast this month), many people seldom follow through with this great plan. There are so many great marketing tactics that entice us to get this card or that card. Maybe we’re attracted to a certain number of months of no interest on a big purchase or double points on expenditures that will allow us to collect airline miles to take that dream trip someday. Whatever the offer, it is so easy to say yes. Besides, doesn’t everyone have credit cards, and doesn’t everyone have a least a little credit card debt? Isn’t it just the norm for life today?
We finally paid off that $6,000 credit card debt and made some written-in-stone commitments for the future. If we wanted to use a credit card, we had to pay it off monthly. If a month came and we did not pay it off, we shredded the card and closed the account. We have held fast to that commitment. We do not make a big purchase (or any purchase for that matter) if we do not have the money saved to pay for it. We both are totally involved in our finances, and each one of us has veto power. That eliminates debt and keeps us on the same page. It also eliminates fights over money.
The point is this: Credit card debt does not have to be a “normal” part of your life. If you and your spouse have credit card debt, begin together today to develop a plan to pay it off. Then make your own set of written-in-stone commitments about the money in your marriage.