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A common family budget problem with information and advice given to solve it. You'll also find many pages, resources and support on debt, finances, budgeting, etc.

Bryant's problem was common enough we decided to publish it and our answer to help those of you who can relate.  If you'd like more information on personal finances, budgeting, debt, mortgages, etc, visit our pages at Financial Management Planning Help.

I saw your website in an effort to try to save myself and my family from so much debt and fear…I’ve been trying to keep my family afloat for so long, with so much debt on my shoulders…I do my best to keep things peaceful by taking on the fears and pressures on my own, but I feel like I’m starting to fall. My wife knows that we are struggling, but she doesn’t know how bad we are struggling. I go and get the mail so she won’t see many of the bills, just to try to keep peace in our home…I pray everyday for my situation, and I know God is listening, because he has saved me so many times in so many ways!!! I just need to keep praying….praying for strength, praying for courage, praying for wisdom, and praying to be steered in the right direction, to do the right things to make our lives much better. Please pray for us, because I know that I’m in need.
Thanks, and God Bless!!!  Bryant

Hi Bryant!  I'd like to make a recommendation from my experience counseling couples.  I know you're trying to keep the peace by sheltering your wife from the pain of knowing how short your money is, but consider this:  First, when she doesn't have the truth, she is prevented from helping you.  Second, there's the whole idea of trust.  By withholding the truth of your finances, you're establishing a relationship of distrust.  Unfortunately, this distrust spills over into other areas and causes big problems.  Here are some of the top-selling recent books on debt reduction and elimination.

Here's what I recommend to resolve this part of the problem without further hurting feelings.  1.  Put your budget together with all expenses and income (the worksheets and instructions online should help).  This should reveal a certain amount of average deficit each month.  2.  Once you're sure you've included all income and expenses, ask your wife to set aside some time so you can discuss something important.  3.  Begin by taking full responsibility for the family finances (budget, paying bills, etc.) and ask her forgiveness for how you've failed to manage it in the past.  4.  Ask for her help and support to straighten it out.  5.  Show her the numbers you put together and ask her if she can think of any other income or bills that you have.  6.  Once you have the final number, ask for her help to find areas in your expenses where you can cut.  7.  At no time do you make any reference to her spending...only to your failure to manage.  8.  If you have children, once you and your wife are in agreement, ask for the kids' help, too. 

Here are some examples from things we cut to solve our deficit:
1.  We didn't eliminate, but cut way back on entertainment:  Delivery or eat out only once per month, home-cooked the rest of the time.  No cable TV.  2 Movies per year.  That was all we allowed in entertainment and we put a number in the budget to reflect that.
2.  We put ourselves each on a personal allowance for lunches, snacks, etc.  If we exceeded our monthly allowance, we broke it down weekly until we developed the discipline.
3.  We set a maximum for gifts and lived within that budget.  This reduced Christmas costs, alone, by over $ 500.
4.  We agreed that neither of us would purchase anything over $ 25 without the other's permission.
5.  We agreed controlling our expenses was more important than gifts for each other.  Not spending became the gift.
6.  We ate less meat, more fresh vegetables and fruits.  In fact, 1-2 nights per week, we had no meat...just a rice dish or baked potato and vegetables.
7.  We bought no clothing for ourselves for the first year.
8.  Vacations on the cheap...camping...visiting relatives...we even spent one "vacation" in our home town.  It was one of our most interesting "trips" because we saw we never would have, normally.
9.  We agreed...if we couldn't pay cash, we didn't need it.
10.  We agreed that the habits of saving and giving had to be developed when we were short of money, so, even though our deficit was $ 250 per month, we decided to give away 10% of our income and save 10%. 
11.  After we cut everywhere and figured in monthly saving and giving, we had a monthly surplus of $ 50, which went for entertainment.

Next thing was, in my opinion, what enabled us to cut spending without complaint.  We planned what to do with tax refunds and increases in income (usually goes up every year if you stay employed).  At first, we planned 25% to giving, 25 % to pay down debt, 25% to savings, and 25% to lifestyle (entertainment, clothing, vacations, etc.).  Once we eliminated our consumer debt, we added a "wannas" list of things to save for (cars, furniture, appliances, etc.).  The amounts we had been paying on credit cards went into savings, and, once we'd saved enough, we could buy the next thing on our list.  Once we had enough to fulfill our monthly lifestyle wants, that budget money went into savings and giving.  Our "increased income" budget looked about like this:  40% to giving, 50% to savings, 10% to lifestyle.  

There is no question we got God's help for this.  If you want His help, click on God Help Me.

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