Question: I think I might be in deep trouble. My girlfriend and I have been dating for a year, and I really want to marry her. Except I have like $10,000 on like five or six credit cards that I’m paying the bare minimum on.
The thing is, my girlfriend thinks I’m doing really well. I got a real good job, but I lease a car that’s killing me and my apartment rent is going up again. Thing is, if I cut back on the nice car and nice pad, I’ll look like I’m not successful.
Eventually, I’ll ask her to marry me and she’ll find out about the debts. How can I quick-fix this? there must be some hacks. I hear all the time about signing up for plans that freeze your interest rates and late fees. But I’m not sure which one is best. Is there one you recommend so I can just catch my breath here? At least through the wedding?
— David in Washington
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
Let me start at the end, David: There’s no “hack” that can delay your Debt payments until after your wedding. Even if there was, I wouldn’t want to help you lie to your wife the same way you hid the truth from your girlfriend.
Before we dive deep into your finances, David, let me convince you to come clean with your girlfriend now, before she becomes your fiancée.
Debt.com has written often about the psychology of money, citing studies that prove money is why your marriage will fail. Yet just a few weeks ago, we ran this detailed infographic showing couples aren’t talking about money in marriage.
If you truly love your girlfriend, you’ll tell her the truth about your finances. If she truly loves you, she’ll stick around — as long as she sees you working hard to climb out of debt, instead of trying to “quick-fix” it. You have several options, although I strongly urge you to consider the last one I’ll mention.
First, never lease a car if you can’t afford it. If you want to drive an impressive set of wheels, do what my friend Stacy Johnson does. The founder of Money Talks News owns a boat but have never bought a new car — because he saves thousands buying older luxury cars for deep discounts.
Second, if you propose to your girlfriend, you can consider living together in your nice apartment as a way to learn compatibility before you get married. If your values (or hers) don’t permit that, I’d urge you to find a male roommate to halve your rent.
Third, I’d usually recommend a balance transfer if you have good income and manageable credit card debt. However, with “like” $10,000 on “like” a half-dozen cards, it’s obvious to me that you haven’t really sat down and added up what you owe and to whom.
So I’m going to implore you to try credit counseling. Don’t fret, David, it costs nothing. Debt.com can even set you up for a free debt analysis from a certified credit counselor at a nonprofit agency. While a counselor won’t tell you how to hide debt from your girlfriend, you’ll learn about numerous ways to start chipping away at those debts. By the time she says, “I do,” you’ll be saying, “I’m doing better.”
Have a debt question?
Email your question to [email protected] and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.