Will Your Spending Habits Change When You’re Out of Debt?

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis.  Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

My wife and I are planning a surprise mini-vacation for the kids at a tourist place known for amusement parks of all types, but specializing in water rides.    Even the hotels in the area have huge indoor water parks that people flock to during the winter months.  As part of our planning, Vonnie and I were comparing prices and amenities of different hotels.  One in particular was more expensive than the rest, but had a lot more things to do, including some activities for which guests have to pay extra.

We decided to cross that one-off our list, as the hotel was out of our price range, and we felt that the activities weren’t worth what they were charging.  As we prepared to continue to discuss the remaining hotels on our list, my wife made a comment that shocked me.

“Why don’t we save that place for when we’re out of debt and paying $45 a person for a zip line tour won’t matter.”

Excuse me?

The reason I don’t want to stay at that hotel is because it’s overpriced.  The rooms, the zipline, the go karts, the entire package is not worth what they’re charging.  We can do the same activities at one of the amusement parks for less.  That kind of spending with complete disregard of value is how we go into debt in the first place. So, no thank you to that hotel whether we have credit card debt or not.  However, our conversation got me thinking.


Do my wife and I have the same spending expectations for after we are credit card debt free?

I honestly don’t think things should change all that much.   The grocery budget will likely increase a little because I love food and  I’m a firm believer that having great food at home prevents us from wasting our money eating out.  Maybe we’ll take a family vacation here or there.  But mainly I just think of being debt free as being convenient.  Convenient that I don’t have to save up for months to host Thanksgiving dinner, or school clothes.  The money will be there, sitting in our savings account ready to be used when we need it.  The decision-making process as to what to spend out money on will remain the same. Value is value, wasting will still be wasting.


But does my wife have a different view?

I suddenly wonder if she dreams of the day when she can spend money just because it’s there.  Will she impulsively buy a new pair of shoes just because they’re adorable only have them sit on the closet shelf because the right opportunity to wear them never arrives?   Will she use rolls of twenty-dollar bills to start our fire pit?

Ok, I’m getting a little off track, but I think you get my point.  Even after we have completed our debt management program I want us to still be smart with our money, and get the very most we can out of it.  We had best have that discussion soon, as we are less than eight months away from eliminating our 109K mountain of credit card debt.

How about you, readers?  How will your spending habits change when you get out of debt?  Does your significant other share the same view?

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. If the spending habits got you out of debt, why not continue them and build wealth.
    Pat S recently posted…Your Finances, On AutopilotMy Profile

  2. I sure can identify with you! It was a different type of debt (student loans), but my wife and I just dug our way out of $140k in less than 3 years and it’s a battle with her sometimes now. Well, it was a battle even when we were in the midst of our aggressive attack on the debt, but it’s even more so now. We just have different mindsets and one of the last considerations that crosses her mind is the financial impact of every day decisions. Sometimes I feel like a broken record in trying to make sure we stay on track and I’m sure she thinks I’m just nagging. Such is life…I suppose we balance each other out in the long run though since I’m probably a bit too frugal for my own good!
    Mr. Utopia recently posted…Roth IRAs Are EvilMy Profile

    • Our relationships are very similar Mr. Utopia….I am very plan orientated, conservative, and a “take it slow” kind of guy. My wife is a very spontaneous, fly by the seat of your pants, jump right in kind of woman. We balance each other out…..in both personality and finances. I know that when we do have the conversation we will come to a compromise.
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…I Love You Like a Blogger Roundup – 7/26My Profile

  3. Well, as much as it is a serious question, a bit of humor sure didn’t hurt…had a hearty laugh at this: “Will she use rolls of twenty-dollar bills to start our fire pit?”
    Spending habits are bound to change once you are out of debt, however slightly…the freedom to be rid of debt must be exhilarating and a bit blinding 🙁 I agree with Pat above here, continue practicing the habits that have gotten you out of debt and use them to build wealth instead, well, with a bit of leeway.
    I also think communication between couples is crucial, not only to manage expectations but also to plan together for what happens when the shackles of debt come falling off.
    (essay unintended 🙂 )
    Simon | Modest Money recently posted…Prosper Review – Detailed Prosper Lending ReviewMy Profile

  4. This a good topic! I’ve never thought of this one. My husband and I are lucky that we don’t have much debt. Unfortunately we’re planning on buying a house in the next year so that will change! We’ve been pretty frugal the last few years trying to save up for the down payment.

    I imagine that we will allow ourselves a little more leeway in terms of buying items we need and going out to eat. We’ve been sacrificing and holding off on a lot of things. I don’t think we’ll spend money just because if its not worth it though. Good topic to bring up one day when we’re talking about money!
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…Cooking at Home: Kale ChipsMy Profile

  5. I really like the stance you’re taking, Travis; when we are out of debt, I really want to be able to take vacations (not excessively), be a little looser on our grocery budget, renovate our home, and be able to have a better car than the one I have now (but I want to pay cash, so that might wait for a few years yet!). I don’t, however, want to throw money away. I’d rather see our budget swap: the small amount we’re saving now can be used for fun things, while the large amount we’re using to pay debt goes into savings!
    Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances recently posted…Your Journey to Financial Freedom, Step Four: Non-Monthly BillsMy Profile

  6. My Multiple Incomes says:

    It’s always important for couples to discuss money matters especially if it will affect their future finances. Getting out of debt will certainly bring new expectations, so it is important to know each other’s point of view on this matter and to set ground rules on what you spend money on now that you have more money to spend or to save.
    My Multiple Incomes recently posted…Comment on My Monthly Income Stream Report – June 2013 by RobertMy Profile

    • I love that you used the word expections, My Multiple Income. It’s SO important that we are on the same page with respect to expectations at all times. Sometimes that’s the hardest part, once we know what each other is thinking, we can resolve issues due to gaps in those expectations.
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…Four Years of Growth and ChangeMy Profile

  7. Our only debt is our mortgage, and when it’s done in ~3yrs that same money will continue to be budgetted but instead will go to a separate savings account to fund travel during our early retirement. Since we’re already used to it, the funds will still go out on the same schedule, but it will all be piling up for our future enjoyment. Until we actually pull the trigger and retire early, I don’t forsee any change to our budgetting and cash flow. We’ve already created a draft of our retirement budget (how else would you really know how much you’ll need?) We won’t have deductions for travel or retirement savings anymore but we are including annual amounts for Event Tickets (concert/sports/theatre) and Personal Development (classes/lessons/hobby supplies). Travel is so important to us that it will have it’s own separate pool of funds. It would be awful to get to retirement and not have planned on having the funds to do what is important to you. Now that we have clearly defined our priorities you couldn’t get me to spend money on a new car, or satelite tv, or restaurants meals. They’re all great options and important to some people, but if I find myself with extra funds it wouldn’t cross my mind to blow it on something. I look at every “found” dollar as getting me a little closer to my early retirement date. Our choices certainly don’t work for lots of other people but sticking to a strict budget has frankly become second nature and I don’t dream of loosening things up at some point. This has been our normal for so long that spending more just because we could would feel terribly wasteful and I wouldn’t enjoy it at all.

    • You’re planning for YOUR retirement, which is the important thing. I’m always impressed with how firm of a grasp you have on your goals, and how focused you are on achieving them, JMK – thanks for sharing!

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