The weak can't help the weak

Dear Dave,My husband and I have been married less than a year, and already we’re having huge disagreements over money. He’s got a big heart, but often he’ll just give money to friends and family. Sometimes, this leaves us short when it comes to monthly bills, paying off debt, and saving anything. I guess he thinks we’ll get by somehow, but it scares me. What can I do?Summer

Dear Summer,It sounds like he does have a big heart, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons you love him. But this kind of behavior is completely irresponsible. What’s worse, it’s driving you crazy. At this point, you have every right to be scared and frustrated, because the message he’s sending you is he wants to take care of everyone else before he takes care of you and your family. That’s not a good idea.

Broke people can’t help broke people, meaning only the strong can help the weak. At this point, you guys should be working together to get your own financial house in order. I’m talking about becoming debt-free, with a fully loaded emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses in place, and something set aside for your golden years. Then, once all that has been taken care of, if you have a friend or family member in financial need, you can gift them $300 or whatever you guys agree is an appropriate amount.

I’m a big giver, both at my business and in my personal life. But I’ve learned that my first gifts should go to my wife and family. After I’ve taken care of my own, then comes giving outside of the household. You guys need to take care of yourselves right now. Kill off the debt and build up some wealth so that your husband’s heart can function in that gift!—Dave

Dear Dave,My husband and I are both spenders. We want to get on a plan and handle our money better, but is there anything that will help us learn to give up stuff now so that we’ll have more in the future?Beth

Dear Beth,I know what you’re talking about. Old habits are really hard to break, especially when they’re fun old habits. Even when you wake up and feel the pain and realize you shouldn’t have done something, it’s easy to slip right back into the same old stuff, isn’t it?

The only way I’ve ever been able to achieve anything like that is to find something specific I want bad enough out there in the future to give up something in the present. You may have heard me say, “Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.” Well, this is more a case of you have to want to live like no one else later, so that today you’ll live like no one else.

I saw a bumper sticker once that read “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” I’ve got to agree with the idea behind that. No discipline is pleasant, but it’s the pain of changing something in your life that eventually leads to a positive result.

Think about it this way. A great definition of maturity is learning to delay pleasure. Ouch!—Dave