Paying Off Debt Will ROCK My Marriage


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“Should we stop and get the ladies flowers?” suggested the friend I was car pooling with as we pulled into town. The beaming smile on her face told me that Vonnie was very appreciative of the bouquet of flowers I brought her after being out of town for a few days.

Relationships are hard work. You need to show your love and appreciation on a daily basis, as well as put their needs before your own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. These are things I do willingly and joyfully without even thinking about them. When you love someone, these things just come naturally. That being said, as anybody in a long term relationship knows, you have to mix things up every now and then. Having laundry done, the sink empty of dishes, and grocery shopping done by the Vonnie wakes up on a Saturday morning makes be “the best husband ever” for awhile, but sooner or later a guy has to come up with a new idea.

During the last four and a half years, while we’ve been paying off our credit card debt and getting a handle of our finances, there’s been a very important relationship tool that’s been missing from my tool belt.


Vonnie has accused me of not being very spontaneous in the past. I admit, I am a routine guy. I thrive when my schedule is exactly the same day after day. I do, however, get the occasional wild tickle, especially when I know it will make my lovely wife smile.

We’ve worked very hard to get on the same page in regards to our finances. It’s worked so well that we both know exactly where all our money is, and what it’s allocated for. With that being the case, it’s impossible to spend some money on a spur of the moment idea.

Creating a fund for “Unnamed Spontaneous Activities” sort of destroys the intent.

I would love to be able to surprise my wife. To be able to have my wife walk into the house to a huge bouquet of flowers on the table for no reason at all. Or to pick her up from work, and instead of taking her home inform her that we were going out for a date. I’ve fantasized about handing her a card just as she opens her eyes on a Saturday morning that lists the times of her appointments at the spa that day.

Spontaneity is something I’d like to reintroduce into our relationship once we make our final payment to our debt management program, and our 109K of credit card debt is gone. We’ve already talked about allocating an amount of “fun money” for each of us each week that we can spend on whatever we want, with no questions asked.

I can’t think of anything better I could spend my money on.

How do you keep your relationship fresh while paying off debt?  Do you plan to be more spontaneous once the debt is gone?

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46 Responses to “Paying Off Debt Will ROCK My Marriage”

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  1. I was just thinking about this over the weekend. Also applies to our 3 kids. There have been may “No” for us over the last 43 months as we knockout our debt. We all understand the goal we are aiming for. Along the way we try and plan small events that won’t break the bank. Movies, a dinner out etc. If we go to the moves we’ll hit a matinee and bring snacks to help reduce cost. I am looking forward to the day in the near future when “No” can be turned into a “Yes”

    • Travis says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Brian. We’ve told our kids (15 and 11) what we’re going through, and hear the words “we cannot afford that” or “that’s too expensive” often. It WILL be nice to say “Yes” a little more often. We do have to be careful though, we have to ensure that we continue to ingrain in them a sense of frugality and getting value from the money spent. Thanks for the great perspective!

  2. We deal with this as well Travis, ever since having our debt paid off. Well, to be fair, it was my debt. 🙂 Having the separate “fund” does sort of diminish the intent, even though the budgeter in me likes to have the fund. I find that I have to make a conscious effort to be spontaneous as I get caught in my routine and miss site of it. Thankfully my wife is pretty spontaneous so it challenges me to do the same. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      My wife is VERY spontaneous. Just when I think we have plans nailed down….BOOM they change. You have to budget for those spontaneous shows of love/appreciation, but having a specific fund for THAT just seems odd. I do like the idea of having fun or “blow” money for each person that they can use on whatever they want. That way, sometimes I use it on me, sometimes I use it on us (or her). It seems like there’s one of each (spontaneous / non-spontaneous) in many couples, doesn’t it?

  3. My husband surprised me with an expensive pair of diamond and sapphire earrings a few years ago. I freaked out and returned them to the store. I don’t ever think he’ll get me a surprise gift again =/

  4. Being spontaneous is a great thing. I try to do that every so often, but I find that I also thrive with my schedule. I like things planned. I try to do little things for my wife and those really make her happy. I have to do better and plan on it.

    • Travis says:

      It’s always a good idea to strive to do better with doing little things for our significant others, right Grayson? As I always say, Happy wife, happy life. 🙂

  5. I’m kind of with Holly about not liking surprises, but it is nice when someone thinks of you or thinks outside the box on how to show you are appreciated. I’m excited that you will be able to do more of that very soon.

  6. Don’t forget — even now, you can surprise her with handwritten notes and other free, handmade little gifts. One of the best gifts that I received was a piece of paper, folded into the shape of a rose. It was free, and it was totally sweet and spontaneous. (There are online instructions and Youtube videos that can walk you through learning how to do that.)

    • Travis says:

      There’s been plenty of free/inexpensive surprises over the last few years, Paula….I’m just looking forward to being able to expand my list of options. That being said, thanks for the tip, I’ll go and find that video and add that to my bag of tricks. 🙂 Thanks for reading, my friend!

  7. I think there are lots of things in a relationship you can do for free and still be super romantic and spontaneities. I love hand-written notes. Other than that I’m not in a relationship so I can’t give any great advice (going to crawl into the fetal position and cry now). 🙂

    • Travis says:

      There certainly are, Tonya…as I mentioned in a previous comment, I’m just looking forward to being able to expand my list of options and not always have to go down the “free” path. I know that sounds counter intuitive for a personal finance blogger, but let’s be honest with ourselves here….some of the things we love to do cost money, right? I’d like to mix in some of those with the more often inexpensive/free gestures. Now, get out of that fetal position……you’ve got a half marathon waiting for you. 🙂

  8. Dear Debt says:

    I love this! Spontaneity is key to keep things going, especially when you are in the doldrums of debt repayment. I like going on drives, randomly going wine tasting or getting a groupon for a cheap weekend away. Flowers are a nice move! Once your debt free, you can do more spontaneous, fun things!

    • Travis says:

      Exactly, Dear Debt! We’ve been working on our debt, and our communication about finances for a long time, now I’d like to really work on putting my wife on the pedestal she deserves and work on the romantic side of our relationship. Thanks for your support!

  9. Catherine says:

    I totally agree Travis. I also can’t wait for our debt to be paid off for the same reasons! Soooo soon for you guys 😉

  10. E.M. says:

    This does apply to us at times. My boyfriend and I are homebodies for the most part, but it would be nice to not have to think about the financial ramifications of going out to eat once in a while, going on a weekend getaway, or spending a night out with friends. Those are some really cute ideas you have!

    • Travis says:

      We’re “selective” homebodies right now…meaning we stay home a lot so that we can go out and do things every now and then. But, we have to plan and budget for them…which is fine, and that sort of methodology will continue. But I look forward to being able to, as you said, do something spontaneous without having to complete shake up our budget like a snow globe. Thanks for reading!

  11. Kathy says:

    There are many things a person can do that doesn’t cost money and still can be spontaneous. All too often we associate spontaneity with spending money and that just isn’t the case. And that is how the debt creeps back up. When paying down our debt, we had allocated a very small amount weekly for each of us to spend as we wished. And I mean VERY small. All of our other needs were being met, yet we both needed the freedom to spend $5 a week on something … or not & just save it for something bigger later on. In the grand scheme of thing, it took maybe a month or two longer to pay down our debt. However, because we weren’t depriving ourselves 24/7, we were able to stay on track re debt elimination.

    • Travis says:

      You take a very similar stance to debt repayment as Vonnie and I. We know we could have paid off our debt sooner had we cut our budget right down to the bare minimum….but we wanted to enjoy life a little bit along the way and not deprive ourselves completely. You’re right that there are many things we can do that don’t cost money and be spontaneous – but adding just a little money to the bucket can greatly expand the list of things we can do, and enhance our enjoyment of our time together. Thanks for your perspective, Kathy!

  12. I think it’s so cool that your friend suggested getting the girls flowers – awesome!! Yes, these are all things we don’t do right now as we work to pay off our debt, but I can’t wait till we can do them again, without the stress or fear of “should we be spending this money?” creeping in. 🙂 Great post, Travis!

    • Travis says:

      Thanks Laurie! There should always be that nagging question as to “should we be spending this money?” but once the budget is a little less constrained, that answer can be “yes” just a little more often, right?

  13. Spontaneity in my marriage is something I was bad at while in debt and now that I am out of it, I am only slightly better at it. But the thing for me to remember is that it doesn’t always cost money to be spontaneous, it is just getting off my lazy butt and making it happen. Could be as easy as buying her favorite coffee or cleaning the house while she is gone.

    • Travis says:

      Love the “getting off my lazy butt and making it happen” perspective Kyle. I read a post somewhere recently where it talked about the need to continue dating our spouses even after we get married. Remember that feeling of excitement of going out on a date with your significant other? Oh…I so want to feel that again – just because we’re married doesn’t mean we can’t create that atmosphere again. We just have to get off our lazy butts and make it happen!

  14. Sherrian C. says:

    This was awesome Travis. I am just not sure your marriage can rock anymore than it already does! When we get out of debt, spontaneity will be something I look forward to. For us, we aren’t really ‘gift’ people, but taking a weekend trip, things like that, will be so awesome!!!

    • Travis says:

      A marriage can always rock a little more…am I right? I like to think I should always be striving to be a better husband – and I’d bet everything I have that Khaleef feels exactly the same way. You guys are awesome. 🙂 It’s not so much about gifts, as it is about having experiences, memories, and tokens of love and appreciation. I can’t remember where, but I heard or read somewhere that one of the most important things that we can do as spouses is to ensure that our significant other knows that we appreciate them – even if it’s just saying so. I make an effort to say the words, “I love you,” and “I appreciate you” as often as I can – even if it’s for doing the smallest thing. Having Vonnie in my life is a precious gift….and I need to treat her as such!

  15. The fact that one of the reasons you can’t wait to get out of debt is so that you can surprise your wife with spontaneous gifts speaks volumes about you! And if you really do finish the laundry, dishes, and groceries before Vonnie wakes up Saturday morning, that’s going to be a tough one to beat. But I think you’re right. I think that debt-freedom gives a new lease on life to relationships – not only because of the freedom to buy spontaneously, but because of the freedom from worry that can drag us down. Definitely something to look forward to.

    • Travis says:

      I love that you mentioned the “freedom from worry,” Prudence. That is one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to. When we make that last payment, and we finally have control over that huge amount of money each month, it will be a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. I breathe easier even thinking about it! Thanks for your thoughts, my friend!

  16. Great post, Travis. I long for spontaneity in my marriage, even after paying off debt.

    Things have certainly gotten better in that area. We went to Vegas on a whim (and a bunch of rewards points) last year, and we certainly couldnt have done that if we still had debt to deal with.

    For me, the biggest obstacle to spontaneity remains the kids. Even after financial freedom, finding babysitters on the fly is still a challenge 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I can see that, Jefferson…our kids are a bit older and can be left home by themselves so it makes that a little easier. Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Oh man, I hope whoever my future husband is wants to do this all for me!

  18. Adam Kamerer says:

    We’ve faced this too — right now, we’re tracking every penny we spend, so there’s not a lot of room for spontaneous purchases. So I try to find other parts of our life to be spontaneous about, and do unexpected nice things for my wife through my actions rather than my purchases.

    • That’s great, Adam – finding other ways to do unexpected nice things through actions has been my staple for the last 4 years. I’m just excited about how I can again give my wife some of the things she really enjoys that cost a little bit as well. Good for you for realizing that we husbands can’t just stop showing our appreciation because funds are low, though! Thanks for your thoughts!

  19. Mrs. Jim says:

    We’re trying to pay off our mortgage asap so we’ve stopped giving b-day gifts, Christmas gifts, etc. Now we give each other a sticky note with the # of months/years we’ve knocked off the mortgage by making so many overpayments since the last sticky note was given, along with a list of things we’re going to do once this mortgage is dead. That beats flowers, spa appointments, dinners out etc EVERY single time. (Oh my, are we really that boring??????)

  20. Karen says:

    We’ve been married 28 years, and my husband is not one to surprise me with flowers. (If he ever did I would certainly be wondering about the real reason behind it!). But he does do other things that are just as thrilling to me and spontaneous at the same time, such as surprising with with a freshly washed and vacuumed car or weeding my vegetable garden. For him, he loves it when I fill the cookie jar with home-baked cookies or make certain recipes for dinner. There’s many ways of showing appreciation that costs very little or are free. The trick is to find out what the recipient does appreciate and surprise him/her with that.

    • Love your last statement, Karen. It reminds me of John Travolta’s character in the movie “Phenomenon.” He buys a woman’s refinished chairs just so he can talk to her, and make her feel like her work is important. He comments you have to find your significant other’s chairs….and buy them. 🙂

    • Mrs. Jim says:

      I hope all the readers here listen, really, really listen to what you’ve said. Words of wisdom – probably accounts for why you’ve been married for 28 years! When my husband cleans my car for me inside and out I will cook him a meal fit for a king – and he knows it and it works!

  21. I really haven’t thought about this until I read your post, but wow it’s so true! I am not really spontaneous at all with my wife and the worst part is I have never been that spontaneous. Granted I did bring her to the Gopher’s volleyball game recently because she’s wanted to go for a few years now and it was totally spontaneous. Hmmm I should really consider doing more things spur of the moment, thanks for the advice!

  22. I would love to be more spontaneous and I should be. There’s no excuse. I guess it makes it a little harder when you have a toddler at home and no one to babysit but that does’t mean I can’t be spontaneous at home.

    Valentines Day is coming up =X

    Time to get a move on it!

    • Travis says:

      I certainly know where you’re coming from with having a toddler, Charlie! It just takes a little bit more imagination and creativity, but I know you can do it! I couldn’t help but notice the name of your site….I used to have a site called “Our Journey To Zero,”….I let it go when I became the featured writer here though. 🙂

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