After years of undergraduate and graduate education, I had completed my courses and was ready to enter the workforce and begin a new chapter in my life. To me, life was straightforward, earn money – pay bills. That’s all I saw growing up. I assumed that as long as I was employed and paid my bills, everything would be okay. And at the time, that was alright with me. The only debts I had were school loans and a car note. It was just part of the package deal of being an adult. I constantly heard that “school loan debt, is good debt..” so I wasn’t in a rush to get rid of it. When I reviewed my financial situation before we got married, I felt I was ahead of the game.
When we first got engaged and combined our households, everything changed, with exception to our finances. We were paying off the wedding and splitting utilities and rent as most people do, but our finances were separated. My bills were mine and her bills were hers. We knew we could not go 50/50 since I made more than she did as a Ph.D. student, so we decided split our household bills using the Suze Orman Method where each of us paid a percentage of the household bills based on how much we earned. This made things fair as before this I had a good amount of money left over after all expenses were paid because my expenses had been reduced since we were now living together. I could go out and do as I pleased while she was living paycheck to paycheck, or worry about how something on her end was going to be paid. I didn’t look at that extra money as a tool start paying off my loans or to help her out, it was a way for me to buy a new video game or a new pair of sneakers or some other items I didn’t need.
Paying based on percentages may have worked for us while we were engaged, but once we were married Melody insisted that we combine incomes. Honestly, it took a lot for me to accept this. It’s naturally a way most of us men think, we want our wife to submit to us in every way, yet we aren’t willing to submit all of ourselves. I was selfish in the fact that it I felt it was my money. I felt that I was the person that worked for it, I should spend it, I assume most people would agree with that. It wasn’t until I fully accepted that with our marriage, we became one and thus we must live as one. We were a unit and in order to be strong, we had to be united on all fronts. Many people may tell you otherwise. You may have grown up with your parents having separate finances, your father taking care of everything while your mom was free to do whatever she wanted with her money or you may have come from a single family home where money was scarce. I had to finally realize that the methods I watched friends and family members use were not going to work for us. Taking this step to live Broke on Purpose came as a surprise to many. I was faced with a lot of “are you sure?” or “you’ll always have debt, why not enjoy life now?” questions and comments. When you have bigger goals and dreams for you and you family you can’t expect those on the outside to be able to see your perspective.
I’ll admit that living Broke on Purpose came with a whole new round of changes and things I had to get adjusted to, like an “allowance”, but after seeing what it could do for our family now and in the future removing the burden of debt is a goal I’m excited to accomplish. We’re on our way, moving forward every day. It would have been easy to push her debt on her and let her struggle, but what would be the benefit of that? In my eyes, that’s not the role of a husband and partner. I can’t fault her for her debt because I didn’t come into the marriage debtless, I accepted her like she accepted me, flaws and all. Accepting the responsibility of your partner’s debt is hard, but if they accept it first, that makes it easier. And more importantly, if they understand how they got into that situation and make strides not to remain or return to a similar situation, it can be inspiring.
Though we’ve only been living Broke on Purpose for a year paying off this debt has been a long process. Month after month I watch Melody go the additional mile to bring in extra money so that we can hand it all away. With anything in life you get to a point when you question if your actions are really worth it? You figure you’ve come this far and cleared up a majority of your debt so why not just relax. Some may start to think “Should I stop?” and just revert to the way things were, true it would make things easy, but I just try and remember that things don’t change or improve when someone is in their comfort zone. When things feel difficult, that’s when I know something is happening. Remember, a team of horses can pull a stagecoach further and faster if they are pulling in the same direction. Now that we are living Broke on Purpose, and I see a path to living debt free, I can’t imagine living any other way.