What do you do when your mate doesn't know about your debt?
Secret Credit Card Debt
by Gary Foreman
Hiding Credit Card Debts from Hubby
When Your Spouse Doesn't Care About Money
6 Steps to a Successful Money Talk with Your Mate
Smallest Bill? Or Highest Rate?
I'm in real trouble. A few years ago, I got a credit card my husband didn't know about. I managed to run up a balance of over $8,000 without telling him. At first, it was only a few dollars and I planned to pay it off. So, I didn't say anything. But it kept growing. Now I'm afraid that telling him could ruin our marriage. What should I do?
Wow! That's a tough one. Not only are you dealing with how to get out of credit card debt, but also if you should inform your husband of your financial unfaithfulness.
Let's start with the husband aspect. As you already know, it's your decision whether to tell your husband or not. I'm not a marriage counselor. I'd suggest that you seek one out. You're right that this could potentially be damaging to your marriage. You need expert advice.
Confessing a long held secret is never easy. Often there are severe consequences. Personally I advise that partners share major financial decisions, but given your unique situation, a marriage counselor might have different advice.
Digging out of debt will be easier if your husband can help you. Paying off an $8,000 debt will almost certainly cause some hardship to your entire family. Typically those hardships are more easily handled if they're endured in pursuit of a common goal.
It sounds as if the credit card is not a joint account. If it were, your husband is just as liable for the debt as you are. It could also damage his credit score. When you speak with the marriage counselor, make sure he understands whether it's a single or joint account. It could change the advice you get.
Don't discount the possibility that your husband already is aware of the debt but hasn't known how to bring up the subject. You've been spending beyond your income. That's not easy to hide.
Once you settle on whether to tell your husband or not, it's time to create a plan to repay the debt. The first thing to do is to make sure that you're not paying more interest than you need to pay.
You don't say what interest rate you're being charged. According to Bankrate.com, unless you're at a penalty rate, most cards are in the high 15 to low 16 percent range.
Consider a balance transfer card. Bankrate has an excellent tool to help you compare balance transfer cards to see if any could lower your rate.
Along with getting the lowest rate on the balance, you also need to stop the bleeding. You didn't mention how you accumulated the balance, but it needs to stop. Whether it's mall, online, or other shopping , you need to break the habit now.
Once that's done, it's time to find the money to repay the balance. Begin by looking for big chunks of cash that can be applied to the loan.
Would you like to
pay off your credit cards
in less time
for less money?
If your husband is onboard, you could consider shopping for lower cost home or auto insurance with any savings going to your debt. And look for other underutilized assets that could be sold like a camper, boat, or a collection.
Next, look for other places you can cut your budget to find dollars for your debt. For most families, food and groceries are the next biggest expense (after housing and transportation), so that's a good place to start.
Even an extra $10 or $20 a month will make a difference. Look at all your expenses with an eye to cut unnecessary ones.
There's no doubt that you're in a tough place. I'd encourage you to take steps immediately to change your direction. This problem will not take care of itself. Ignoring it only adds to your stress and the likelihood that it will blow up your finances and your marriage.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.
Take the Next Step:
- Take The Dollar Stretcher's free Get Out of Debt course and begin the journey to financial freedom!
- Am I a good candidate for credit counseling?
- Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.
I often wonder if I should be seeking professional help to get my debt under control! Tell us: Yes, I'd like to find out if I am a good candidate for credit counseling or No, I don't think I need couseling but I would like to find out how I can pay off my credit cards more quickly.
More Debt Tips & Tools
- 6 smart strategies for paying off your credit cards
- 5 great second jobs to bring in extra cash
- Pay down debt now or save: Here's how to choose
- Can I get a debt consolidation loan with bad credit?
- The no spend month
- Hiding debts from your spouse
- How one simple number can keep spontaneous spending in check
- Can bad credit keep you from getting a job?
- This week's Readers' Tips
- Reduce your debt with this free debt course by The Dollar Stretcher
- Am I a good candidate for credit counseling?
- Do I have a debt problem?
- Reduce your debt payoff time
- Calculate the real cost of your debt
- Reduce credit card debt calculator
- Debt pay-down calculator
- Calculate the true cost of paying just the minimum