Dave Ramsey: How to regain control of your finances

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Dear Dave: I've spent most of my marriage not being a good husband and not being involved in our family finances. After being introduced to one of your programs at work, I realized how irresponsible I had been and went home to apologize and tell my wife about it. During this conversation I learned that we have about $80,000 in debt I didn't know about, plus $45,000 in debt on a new car and motorcycle I did know about. We also have a mortgage on our home. My wife apologized for making a mess of things, but it wasn't all her fault. She wasn't sneaking around spending and taking out debt, she just made mistakes and was afraid to tell me. Together, we make about $100,000 a year. Can you help us? — Curtis

Dear Curtis: I'm really glad you've made the decision to man up. That's a big step in the right direction for you and your marriage.

To me, what you described is a lot different than her completely lying, hiding stuff, and actively having a financial affair — so to speak — on the side. You weren't plugged in and she wasn't doing a good job, but she didn't have anyone to talk to about it. Things got worse, then she probably felt ashamed about how ugly it got and didn't want to tell anybody.

Not counting your house, you've got about $125,000 in debt. You've got to look at all this with a $100,000 income and say, "What is the fastest way to clean up this dadgum mess?" That's going to mean beans and rice, rice and beans. That means a scorched-earth lifestyle and living on a budget, which also means you're not going out to eat, not going on vacations, and you're going to start selling so much stuff that the kids think they're next.

I'd probably sell the car and the motorcycle. Get into a couple of basic cars, and spend about two years of crazy intensity getting debt free except for your home. You can clean this up that fast, but you're going to have no life during that time.


The two of you have some relationship work to do also. It sounds like you've already started on that with you owning your part and her owning hers. The thing is not to blame. From this point forward you need to sit down together and make all of your decisions — financial and otherwise — together.

Trust me, if you're both willing, you can heal the math problem, the debt problem and the marriage problem all at the same time. It will be an amazing thing!

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