My husband stopped working for YouTube, but I am deeply in debt

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    Dear Penny,

    My husband knows I am in debt. He just doesn’t know how bad. He quit his job last year. Now I am the sole breadwinner. He’s using up his savings while trying to become a YouTuber and take care of our child full time.

    I don’t want to tell him how bad it is because I’m embarrassed. I can’t stop spending money. It’s like a mental illness or something. How can i stop it?

    -L.

    Dear L.,

    It’s hard to imagine who’s dreading the conversation that needs to take place longer: you or your husband.

    Your expenses are a sign of a deeper problem. You don’t want to reveal how much debt you have accumulated because you are deeply ashamed.

    But I suspect your husband knows there is a problem – and he doesn’t want to know how bad it is. His don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach makes it easy for him. He can pretend it’s your problem, not his.


    Before moving on, I want to touch on the mental health element that you touched on.

    I hope you discuss what you are experiencing with your doctor. Obsession to buy is not an official diagnosis, but research suggests that many people spend too much money dealing with negative emotions such as depression and anxiety. Treating underlying disorders could be key to getting your behavior under control.

    Of course, part of me is wondering if your husband is a big part of the underlying problem. I don’t want to be too quick to judge without further details. But I wonder if your current setup is more the product of your family’s childcare or your husband’s desire for internet fame.

    It’s one thing when he’s a devoted homemaker who’s on the side with his YouTube hobby. But if your husband sees himself as a future YouTube star who happens to be watching his child during the day, then of course that is much more problematic. The problems you are facing will be incredibly difficult to solve when everything is about him.

    Really, the details don’t change the fact that you need to inform him of your debt as soon as possible. I fear that given the current path you are on, your finances could soon implode. Once your husband has used up his savings, he becomes even more dependent on you. In the meantime, your overspending is undoubtedly driving up your monthly debt payments. You can only extend one paycheck so far.

    Before telling your husband about this, make sure you know how much you really owe. Do not rely on memory or guesswork. Many people buried in debt dramatically underestimate how much they owe. Take a look at every single credit card and loan statement to find out to the last cent. Quantifying your debt can seem daunting at first if you’ve avoided it. But you may feel better knowing exactly what you are dealing with.

    Next, try attending a meeting or two with anonymous debtors. Many chapters meet online. Just talking and listening to others who are having similar problems can help you feel less alone.

    Give your husband some warning that you need to discuss before starting this conversation. Bad news is more palatable when the other person knows you need to discuss something serious. Try something like, “I’m worried about our expenses. After dinner tonight, could you talk about our bills? “

    There is no easy way to bring this conversation up. Be direct and tell him how much debt you have as soon as you can. Have your credit card and credit statements ready. Be prepared for questions about how you spent your money. Expect your husband to be angry at first, especially if you misled him about the amount of your debt.

    A good next step would be for both of you to go to a credit counseling service. Search the Financial Counseling Association of America or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling websites for a nonprofit agency.

    A credit counselor can help you figure out how to deal with your debt. You can often work out a debt management plan. It doesn’t reduce the amount you owe, but it does aggregate your credit card debt into a lower monthly payment. While you may be able to leave one credit card open for emergencies, you will have to close your other accounts, making it harder to overspend.

    Do everything possible to make it harder to spend. Delete shopping apps, log out of your favorite stores’ emails and just keep your debit card in your wallet.

    More importantly, you and your husband schedule some time each week to go over your budget and spend each week. View all credit card and bank statements. Knowing that this check-in is coming up can cut your spending.

    You will find that being the sole breadwinner is not enough. Your husband may need to find a job even if the budget means childcare. This decision must be about the best for your family, not their YouTube channel.

    It will be hard to tell your husband about your debts. But ultimately, I think that when you can no longer carry the weight of this secret, you will feel relieved.

    Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].


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