She says: I think we should sacrifice to have no debt

Your Life
Steve and Bridget Patton
January, 2018

Daniel thinks a growing balance on our credit card is fine, but I don’t think we should keep spending and paying these high interest charges. We need to live within our means.

He says: I think we can 
carry a balance on the credit card and live well

I don’t see the problem with paying a monthly fee on our credit card bill so we can buy the things we want and live comfortably. Christine is too frugal.

What do they do?

Different views on spending and finances can create tension in a marriage, but it can balance out, too, when a spender is gently harnessed in by a saver, or a saver is loosened up by a spender. It can work if both parties listen to the other and – together – forge a financial plan that allows them to live in a way that conforms to their shared faith, desires and goals.

The first step is clarifying sensible financial principles. Christine, while you might want no debt whatever, remember there’s a big difference between dumb debt and smart debt. While the first will almost always hurt you, the second really can help you.

Smart debt is borrowing to purchase necessary, non-depreciating or income-producing items, such as a home, a business or an education. Dumb debt is borrowing to purchase unnecessary items, such as a vacation, eating out or a fancy new car (but look at used cars with just the features you really need). Sorry, Daniel, but most reputable financial advisers agree that carrying a credit card balance to purchase these things is a textbook example of dumb debt. If you have such a balance, pay it off ASAP, sacrificing if you have to.

The second step is realizing, in light of our faith, that to truly “live well” means less about how we balance spending now vs. saving for later, and more about how we care for our souls. For instance, wherever else we channel our money, we must first tithe a generous portion of it to God. This is as much for our own happiness as it is for that of the recipients.

Finally, even if we have enough money left over to indulge in the luxuries of “the good life,” prudence is always best. While God wants us to enjoy the fruits of our honest labors, he also warns us about “the deceitfulness of wealth,” (Mt 13:22) which, like weeds, can slowly choke off his life within us. As C.S. Lewis put it, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”