If you're like many Americans, you carry at least some debt. From mortgages to home equity loans or lines of credit to credit cards, it can be easy to spend beyond one's immediate liquid means, even when you're barely out of high school or college. However, when the minimum payments on these debts become a bit too steep for your household income, turning the ship can be a challenge – even more so when your spouse or partner isn't fully on board with cutting back on spending or tackling your debt. Read on to learn more about your options to reduce debt if you're fighting this battle largely on your own.
Pull your credit report
The first step toward tackling your debts is determining exactly what (and to whom) you owe. This is most easily accomplished by requesting a free copy of your credit report from one of the main credit reporting bureaus.
Once you look at your report, you may discover that an old medical bill has been turned over to collections, putting a dent in your credit score, or that the credit limit on your credit card increased without your knowledge. Having this information can put you in a better position to begin prioritizing and paying off any debts, as paying off charged-off debts or rectifying past-due payments can have an instant positive impact on your credit report.
You may also find that you owe more than you suspected. For credit cards with variable interest rates, paying only the required minimum payment may not cause your balance to decrease, and if you continue to use this card for regular expenses, the balance may creep upward without much notice.
Although your spouse will need to request his or her own credit report to get personalized credit information, your own credit report should reveal account balances and other information on any jointly-owned accounts, like mortgages or credit cards for which one of you is an authorized user.
Create a payment plan that doesn't rely on buy-in
In some cases, being able to show your spouse or partner an itemized list of debts from an "official" source (like a credit reporting bureau) is enough to get him or her to help with getting out of debt.
However, if he or she is unwilling to change spending habits or help you pay off debt, you'll need to tackle it alone. This may mean working longer hours for overtime earnings to throw at your extra debt, transferring high-interest credit card balances to a card or line of credit with a 0 percent APR offer, or selling off items to raise extra funds. In many cases, setting out on this path alone may prompt your spouse to join you to make this debt reduction journey easier.