Dr. Phil & Robin's Do-It-Yourself Marriage Makeover
Problem 2: Money Miseries
Dr. Phil: Couples just don't know what to expect when it comes to handling
money in a marriage. They don't realize what it takes to set up a household.
They don't realize how expensive it is to have children. And so before long,
racking up debt has become a way of life, and they're so mired down that it can
But the answer is, they've got to come up with a plan that they'll commit
to, and have the emotional integrity to stick with that plan. Look, it's math,
it's not magic. It's not: We need this, we deserve this, we want this. You
either have the money or you don't. I mean, I grew up really poor, and so did
Robin, so we were on a cash basis growing up. It was: You work today, you eat
today. You don't work today, you don't eat today. It's just that simple.
So first, you have to get real about what a fixed expense is. Because
frankly, there aren't many. Food and shelter, that's about it. Cable TV is not
a fixed expense. Your cell phone is not a fixed expense. Internet access is not
a fixed expense. If you're trying to get out of debt, you have to be willing to
treat everything as expendable.
Then sit down and say, "OK, here's how much we have, and that leaves
discretionary income of X, whether it's $10 a week or $100 a week." If you
say you've got $60 a week to spend on groceries, do not wind up spending $80.
And be in this together: You make the plan together, you negotiate it, you
execute it, and you live by it together. Don't make it about how he has to stop
spending so much or you need more money for your hobbies. Be in it together,
and come up with a realistic plan. And if you can't stick to it, sit down with
your spouse and renegotiate. Don't make it about blame or recrimination. Make
sure you both realize that you're in this together.