Paying Off Debt as a Team

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

Tara and Michael* were like a lot of couples I work with… one person wanted to work with a money coach and the other was resistant. Fortunately, Tara came around to the idea of working with Dr. Budgets and the two of them became a great team! Here’s their story:



Tara and Michael have been together for seven years and they both have a variable income.

Tara: I’m in sales as an independent contractor. I am 100% commission, so I have to work my butt off to make sure I’m bringing in the sales. It’s a good fit for me because I’m very motivated and a go-getter, but I do not have benefits such as a 401k plan.

Michael: I’ve been self-employed for 11 years. So basically, we both run our own businesses.

Tara: Yes, we don’t have a steady income or paycheck.

Michael: When we first got married, money was the elephant in the room… We would go out to eat or go to the grocery store and it would be “you pay because I paid last time.” Or we would sit down to pay bills and there was no consistent way to do it – it was “You pay for these and I’ll pay for those” or “you pay these, and I’ll pay you for half.”

I didn’t know how to do the money thing with marriage. We were getting different feedback from people about getting a joint account… we weren’t sure how to do it.

Tara:  I feel like he was worried about me because I tend to spend (like my mom!). My dad was the budget guy. My mom was super generous and always spending, so I got it from her. Michael is very good with his money… he’s a lot like his dad. It’s funny how you bring things into relationships.


Deciding to Work with Dr. Budgets

Tara: He was worried about it (money) when we were getting married and he kept bringing up working with Dr. Budgets. I was getting annoyed because he kept bringing it up! I used to get very defensive about it because I felt it was my money. I think that Michael thought “this girl does not know what a budget is… “

Michael: In my mind, it was different… I wanted to work with a money coach because I don’t know how to operate a family when it comes to money. I knew there must be checks and balances, but I didn’t want to be a policeman. That’s why I was pushing it – it wasn’t because I perceived her to be incompetent, it was because I was afraid I was.

Also, I didn’t want to feel like an inadequate husband because she might think I should contribute more in order to have the life we wanted.

Tara:  Michael basically dragged me to see Daniel. I’ll be honest, I was not open to working with him in the beginning. I had trust issues with money… I didn’t want to have somebody looking at my money. I was reluctant. But I’m really glad that I did (more on that later…).

Michael: Our first meeting was very casual. I think we met at a coffee shop.

Tara: I didn’t know what to expect. I was reluctant… so I was a little uncomfortable.

Michael: I was excited to get something implemented. I knew where we were and where we COULD be. This was going to be the start of that.


Working with Dr. Budgets

Tara: It’s not as painful as I thought it would be! When I figured out that he wasn’t like “You can’t spend money!” then we were cool.

Michael: Working with Dr. Budgets has been… wait, I want to really think about this now… it’s been rewarding. The way he sets it up with his charts… where you are… where you’re going… you can see your progress. His accountability keeps me on track.

Tara: “Rewarding” is a good word… I feel accomplished. I feel more responsible with my money. I feel more in control of my money… I have a good grip on my finances. He’s always been extremely professional. It’s been a great experience.

Michael: He’s very professional… everything was always up to date and he’s very timely in doing his work. We’re creating new money habits because we know what we need to do every month. He keeps us organized. Also, he puts your spending plan into a spreadsheet and it’s all there in black and white. It’s nice to have the spreadsheet because it’s all there… this is what we make, this is what we spend. You can see everything you have.

It’s been empowering, not just in how we handle our money, but in our relationship. The decisions that we made were based on what we could do (financially), it was less emotional.

Tara: We argue a lot less about money… we used to, but we don’t anymore. We might get in a tiff because I tend to over tip. I like 20% and he might do 18%… but that’s so minor compared to what we used to argue about when it came to money.

Michael: She and I have completely different money spending habits and Daniel approaches us with a neutral position… he says, “what do you both want?” he wasn’t on my side, he wasn’t on her side… he was on our side.



Tara: I paid off my all credit card debt and now I pay them off in full each month. I opened a retirement account and I’m putting money into that. I’m saving a lot more!

Michael: I paid off two credit cards and a bank loan.

Tara: It’s a good feeling when you have no credit card debt.

Michael: It burns a hole in your soul when you have to pay interest on a credit card.

Tara: We travel a lot and so we pay for trips on our credit cards and then just pay them off. We can take advantage of the benefits of traveling on credit cards because we pay them off and get the points. We never used to be able to do that before.

Michael: Also, on the big trips, I can now plan for it financially… I can pay for the trip and be there without worrying about the money I wasn’t earning (because I wasn’t working during my vacation).

Tara: We earn points by paying our rent on our credit card too!

Michael: Yes, we would not be able to do that before. If I still had debt, that would not be okay. Now we can take advantage of that.

Tara: I’m killing it at work and I’m investing in myself… my spending is more focused on me. Daniel holds me accountable and I’ve gotten into a good habit of paying off my credit cards in full each month. For the first time ever in my life, I actually budget my money. I just feel like I’m freed up to do things I enjoy, like traveling. I just enrolled in school because I have the funds to do that. It’s been a great experience!

Michael: She’s way more in control… If she spends money, it’s on something she really wants or something she’s been planning.

Tara: And I finally finished decorating!

Michael: When it comes to money, I now feel free, relieved, and accomplished.

Tara: I feel the same. A lot of it has to do with having the credit cards paid off. We’re more responsible.

Michael: When you have credit card debt, paying it off is always in the back of your mind… but then there’s always something coming up – like a big trip or a weekend outing.  There was a nagging voice that says it’s all just adding up. But now, I feel free.

Tara: I feel like I have financial freedom.


What would you tell someone in a similar situation to yours about Dr. Budgets?

Tara: trust in the process and just be open. I wasn’t open in the beginning. Now I tell people I have a budget person.

Michael: I’ve talked about Daniel to friends and clients many times… but they don’t take action. I want to tell them, “Your situation couldn’t be more prime than to have Daniel come in to take a look!” But I think it comes down to the fact that money is such an emotional trigger that they just sweep it under the rug… It’s easier not to talk about it.

Tara: Yes, there can be shame around money… or it can just be uncomfortable. But Daniel made me feel very comfortable and I felt like I could trust him.


Anything else you would like to add?

Michael: I’ve learned that if you want to encourage somebody to work with a money coach, make it more situational than personal. Say “we’re getting married (or having a kid)” or “we want to save for a house.” Don’t say “you spend too much” or “we have too much debt” because then people get defensive.



Thank you for sharing your success story, Tara and Michael. Not only did you get yourselves out of debt, but you are able to have healthy money conversations with each other. Your success is an inspiration!

If this story resembles your own and has inspired you to act, contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation.


*For client confidentiality, we changed the names of the people to “Tara and Michael.” Everything else is factual.