Going Into Debt Scares Her

Q: After seven years in an apartment too small for our growing family, my husband and I have finally become homeowners. We can't seem to agree on how much to budget for renovations. He's of the mindset that we should do it all at once, even if we incur a bit of debt, while I would rather tackle one room at a time. I say home is where the heart is, but he'd rather have an expensive sound system and flat-screen TV. How would you encourage him to think more frugally? — Barbara, 44

Dr. Susan: Disagreements about money are among the most common in relationships. We form our values early on in our families of origin, and it's quite a challenge for one partner to get the other to come fully onboard with another set of values. Look deeply into your own beliefs around money so that you can explain your views explicitly to your husband. "Debt is bad" may be what you grew up with or figured out on your own. I happen to agree, but a huge number of Americans would laugh at such attitudes. Apparently including your husband.

Explain that debt makes you anxious. Avoiding that anxiety is more important than your mate having the latest technology before you can afford it. At least you can try to convince him of that. With good will all around, the two of you can come up with a compromise. Perhaps you could purchase the basics first, such as comfortable places to sit, read, eat, and watch TV. Expensive sound systems and an upgraded TV could wait until each room has at least the necessities. He may be one of those people who deeply feel that if he doesn't get something NOW, he won't ever get it. Put the plan in writing so he feels more secure that he will get his way, if not immediately.

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