Episode #141: “We only have $2k in savings but she can’t stop going to the mall”

April and Kevin are in their mid thirties with two kids. They’ve been married for twelve years and Kevin recently came across a good book on finance—one which empowered him to learn more about their finances. What he found shocked him, and has driven deep cracks in their marriage.

This episode is brought to you by:

Calm | Go to https://calm.com/ramit for 40% off unlimited access to Calm’s entire library.

Facet | Get affordable, accessible financial planning with a flat fee membership. For a limited time, the $250 enrollment fee will be waived when you sign up at https://facet.com/ramit.

Masterclass | For unlimited access to every class and 15% off an annual membership, go to https://masterclass.com/ramit.

Fabric by Gerber Life | Protect your family today with Fabric by Gerber Life. Apply today in just 10 minutes at https://meetfabric.com/ramit.

Rocket Money | Stop throwing your money away. Cancel unwanted subscriptions – and manage your expenses the easy way – by going to https://rocketmoney.com/ramit.

Tools mentioned in this episode

Show Transcript

Download the full transcript PDF.

[00:00:00] Ramit: Are your kids poor?

[00:00:01] Kevin: No, they’re not, because we’re not.

[00:00:03] Ramit: Let me ask April that actually. What would you consider yourselves financially speaking?

[00:00:07] April: We’re not broke. We’re not poor, poor, but at the same time, we’re barely making ends meet.

[00:00:14] Ramit: So what would you call that?

[00:00:16] April: Poor. For me, I feel like you’re poor if you have to check price tags or not being able to go out or I don’t care about that. And so I don’t see how much we’re spending. I say that it’s not a lot, but then it accumulates and then we’re unhappy.

[00:00:38] Ramit: And why are you upset?

[00:00:40] April: Because I’m the issue.


[00:00:41] Ramit: Meet Kevin and April. They’re both in their mid 30s. They have two children, and they’ve been married for 12 years. Recently, Kevin learned how money worked and suddenly he’s in a big hurry to take control of their finances. The problem is that April has no interest in it. She avoids talking about money. She continues to overspend, and this is causing a big problem.

[00:01:05] As you listen today, I guarantee there’s going to be points that you are frustrated at. I know that I was frustrated. What I want to do is encourage you to listen, to push through because there’s some real insights that you can gain from this conversation.

[00:01:19]  I have a lot of admiration for the guests who show courage in coming on here and talking about something as intimate as their personal finances. I ask you to respect that, and of course, I’m not going to put up with any rude comments on my social media. Instead, I ask that we have some constructive comments.

[00:01:37] Let’s get to our conversation with Kevin and April.


[00:01:40] April: So we were at the house, and I was asleep, and he was awake checking, I guess, the bank statement. I heard him say something like, oh shit, or something frustrated. And so then I woke up fully, and he told me that I overspent and that I needed to figure it out because we were past, I guess, negatives. We went to work. We came back and I was thinking he wasn’t so mad, but I was the opposite. He was still very mad.

[00:02:17] Ramit: And then what happened?

[00:02:18] April: He got a piece of paper and a pencil and told me to figure it out how we’re going to pay for the credit cards.

[00:02:26] Ramit: Okay. What’d you do?

[00:02:29] April: I tried to ignore it at the beginning, and then I was just like, uh-huh, and just avoiding it. And yeah, the paper was there, and I was there, but I wasn’t really doing anything.

[00:02:39] Ramit: And then you started to do it. What happened then?

[00:02:42] April: I realized that we were in the negatives and that I did go past what I was supposed to spend. So I was trying to get money here and there to see how we can pay it off while we’re still there.

[00:03:02] Ramit: That’s the situation right now.

[00:03:04] April: Yes. The only thing that got paid was the house, otherwise the credit cards are still there.

[00:03:11] Ramit: How much did you overspend on the credit card?

[00:03:14] April: 1,000 more from what we agreed that I was going to spend.

[00:03:18] Ramit: Which was how much?

[00:03:20] April: 500.

[00:03:21] Ramit: Okay, so instead of 500, you spent 1500 in one month on the credit card.

[00:03:25] April: Yes.

[00:03:26] Ramit: Okay. All Right. Kevin, what was going through your head when you logged in at night?

[00:03:34] Kevin: The frustration came because that’s the discussion we’ve had repeatedly for the past couple of months. And once again, we were in the same situation. We were in the red, dark red. I figured it out the past couple of months by moving money out of the savings, unfortunately. This time, I’m not. Hopefully this time by her doing it, she’s going to open her eyes and be like, whoa, what kind of situation are we in?

[00:03:58] Ramit: Okay. And what’s the resolution? Has there been one?

[00:04:03] Kevin: Probably tonight or tomorrow, we’re good to pay 90% of it. We should be good.

[00:04:08] Ramit: Okay, okay, okay. All right, so there is money. You found a solution that almost covers it, and if there’s 10% left, you’ll get to it next month. Is that correct?

[00:04:21] Kevin: Yeah, that’s not what I want because for the past, what, we’ve been debt free, truly no credit card going month after month for the past nine months now.

[00:04:31] Ramit: What was going on before nine months? How much credit card debt did you have?

[00:04:36] Kevin: Love, like 10k?

[00:04:39] April: Yeah, 10 probably. So traveling and things for the house. We had recently bought the house, and so we were getting things.

[00:04:48] Kevin: But the same dynamics overall, I would say.

[00:04:50] April: Yes.

[00:04:51] Ramit: Wait, what do you mean? When you buy a house? That’s it. There’s no additional cost whatsoever. Everybody told me that on the internet.

[00:04:58] April: Well, like accessories for the house.

[00:05:00] Ramit: Did you not have money set aside for that?

[00:05:04] April: No, not– no.

[00:05:06] Ramit: What was the most expensive thing you got for the house?

[00:05:08] April: The couches, I guess. No, the mattress.

[00:05:11] Ramit: How much?

[00:05:13] April: 1k, right? Something like that.

[00:05:16] Ramit: Hold on. Kevin, thank you for not speaking up. April, I want to ask you. Were you the ones who made the purchases?

[00:05:23] April: We both did. Yes.

[00:05:25] Ramit: Okay. When you buy stuff, do you look at the price?

[00:05:29] April: Sometimes yes.

[00:05:30] Ramit: Okay.

[00:05:32] April: Majority, yes, but it accumulates because let’s say I buy a top for 20 bucks but then I have to get jeans and something that matches

[00:05:43] Ramit: Okay.

[00:05:44] April: Shoes.

[00:05:45] Ramit: I don’t mind. I get the feeling you think I’m going to judge you for buying an outfit. Am I reading that correctly?

[00:05:52] April: Because it’s multiple outfits and that’s the reason why we’re here.

[00:05:57] Ramit: Okay. Can we recalibrate what’s going on here? I feel like you’re playing defense against something I haven’t even said. You’re worried that I’m going to come and berate you. I wouldn’t be good at my job if that’s what I do. My goal is not to come on here and tell you you’re wrong. My goal is to help you come up with a solution to what’s going on here. Is that fair?

[00:06:20] April: Yes.

[00:06:21] Ramit: Okay. So I’m not here to criticize. I’m here to help.

[00:06:25] April: Okay.

[00:06:26] Ramit: Tell me about the travel.

[00:06:29] April: So Kevin’s from Europe. Our first born was born there. And so to me, I feel like they should always go to their roots, never forget where they come from.

[00:06:40] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:06:40] April: Since that was like my first year teaching, I felt like I deserved the entire sacrificing nights and graduating at 30 with two kids. I decided to go to Europe with the kids for the summer.

[00:06:56] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:06:57] April: And so Kevin only went for two weeks, but I stayed there and we rented a car for the two and a half months we were there. And we went to visit other cities.

[00:07:12] Ramit: How was it?

[00:07:12] April: It was amazing.

[00:07:14] Ramit: Yeah? What was your favorite part of that trip?

[00:07:17] April: I think just being back there and reliving the experiences that I had but now with the kids, where we got married, the park, the food, the restaurants, everything, getting on [Inaudible] the roadway, the train, just because they were so obsessed with it.

[00:07:38] Ramit: Yeah. How old are the kids?

[00:07:40] April: One is 10, and the other one is seven.

[00:07:44] Ramit: I love seeing the smile on your face when you talk about these expansive things about traveling and taking the kids. I love it. What part did money play in the planning of this trip?

[00:07:54] April: Not much. It was just like a swipe and forget about it, until we come back. I didn’t even think about anything to be honest. I was just shopping and going places.

[00:08:09] Ramit: Okay. And what happened when you got back and you looked at the credit card bill?

[00:08:17] April: Shocked. It’s easy to just swipe and not think about it. And then once the numbers are there, it’s like, oh shit.


[00:08:24] Ramit: Here’s what we’ve learned so far. April is an avoider. You can hear it loud and clear. She doesn’t know what they spend. She doesn’t know what the bills are. And even when Kevin realized that she’d overspent again and he handed her a piece of paper to figure it out, what did she do? She simply sat there with the paper in front of her.

[00:08:45] You can notice that she seems hesitant and at times embarrassed. And so what I try to do is I try to recalibrate our conversation because I really need her engaged. Finally, I noticed that when we talk about her clothes and her kids, April, lights up. Very important. Keep that in mind as we continue on.

[00:09:03]  Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be right back after this.

[00:09:06] Let’s get back to the conversation.


[00:09:09] Kevin: I was pretty much minimum wage.

[00:09:11] Ramit: Really?

[00:09:11] Kevin: I was mid-level management in retail, so that’s not much.

[00:09:16] Ramit: How much did you make per year back then?

[00:09:18] Kevin: 50.

[00:09:19] Ramit: 50,000. Okay. So what was life like back then?

[00:09:24] Kevin: We were living at her parents.

[00:09:26] Ramit: Wow. Okay. Hold on. Now I’m like, I did not know this. You were making 50k, and April, were you working at the time?

[00:09:34] April: No, I was at school.

[00:09:36] Ramit: You were at school. Okay. What type of school?

[00:09:38] April: I went to get my bachelor’s degree.

[00:09:41] Ramit: Got it. So you were not working. You were staying at your parents. So you had, I assume, no rent. Is that correct?

[00:09:48] Kevin: Very minimal.

[00:09:48] April: 200. So it wasn’t anything.

[00:09:51] Ramit: What about childcare expenses?

[00:09:54] April: The kids were in school, so it was free.

[00:09:56] Ramit: Okay. So your expenses were pretty low.

[00:09:59] April: Yes.

[00:10:00] Ramit: And what was life like? Were you fighting about money?

[00:10:05] April: No, it was amazing.

[00:10:06] Ramit: Whoa. Tell me more.

[00:10:09] April: Well, because my parents, if we ever went to go eat, they would pay, or food they pay. The only thing we needed to pay them was 200 a month. And so the entire paycheck was for us.

[00:10:24] Ramit: Okay. What’d you do with the money?

[00:10:28] April: Clothes or when we went out.

[00:10:31] Ramit: And then what happened? Why not stay there forever?

[00:10:34] April: No, because it was time to move on. The kids were growing. My parents’ house was too small.

[00:10:42] Ramit: Okay.

[00:10:43] April: So once I graduated and I started my job, that’s when we bought the house and reality hit our faces.

[00:10:53] Ramit: What was that reality?

[00:10:55] April: That little by little goes to a whole bunch, like thousands, on debt.

[00:11:03] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[00:11:05] April: And yeah, that it’s overspending.

[00:11:07] Ramit: It’s so interesting because when you were living with your parents, you had less money, way less money, but your expenses were very low, almost zero. So then your household income increases a lot, but your expenses went up.

[00:11:27] April: Yes.

[00:11:28] Ramit: And what else changed? Or what else stayed the same? Something about your spending, April.

[00:11:34] April: My spending increased.

[00:11:36] Ramit: Yeah. Why did it increase?

[00:11:38] April: Because I was making more.

[00:11:40] Ramit: Uh-huh. And what does that mean to you?

[00:11:41] April: It means being able to swipe it and not think about it.

[00:11:45] Ramit: Yeah. Because I worked hard and therefore– finish the sentence.

[00:11:50] April: Work hard, so you could spend hard.

[00:11:52] Ramit: Oh. Wow. Okay. Damn, that was aggressive. I thought you were going to say, I work hard, so I deserve to treat myself. But you said work hard so I could go hard, spend hard.

[00:12:01] April: I have that in my classroom. Work hard so you can shop harder.

[00:12:08] Ramit: You have that sign in your classroom?

[00:12:10] April: Yes.

[00:12:11] Ramit: What lesson does that communicate? Wait, what? Hold on. What age are you teaching?

[00:12:18] April: Nine-year-olds. Third grade.

[00:12:20] Ramit: Say the sign again for me, please.

[00:12:23] April: Work hard so you can shop harder– in the little library of my classroom.


[00:12:29] Ramit: Sometimes I have to spend four hours digging out a clue from someone’s great-grandmother, and then other times there’s a sign, literally a physical sign.


[00:12:39] April: It took another year to now actually pay everything off.

[00:12:45] Ramit: And when you finally paid it off, did you know that it was paid off?

[00:12:51] April: Yes, because we, I froze the other account where– the credit card that I used, it’s frozen and it’s to not be used.

[00:13:02] Ramit: Who did that? You or Kevin?

[00:13:04] April: The freezing one? Me.

[00:13:06] Ramit: Okay. You froze your own account.

[00:13:08] April: Yes. I still have it, but I don’t use it.

[00:13:11] Ramit: Why?

[00:13:13] April: One, the interests are way higher on that one. And then we ended up getting a different ones that we’re currently using– A Chase and a Wells Fargo.

[00:13:26] Ramit: Wells Fargo?

[00:13:28] April: Yes. Kevin read your book, and it was one of the good ones that have the points or better interest.

[00:13:40] Ramit: Wells Fargo takes advantage of people who look like you and me. You know that?

[00:13:46] April: No.

[00:13:47] Ramit: Yeah, they do. They’re predatory, and they were fined by the government billions of dollars for going after minorities, people of low income. Kevin knows after he read the book. Did you read the book?

[00:13:59] Kevin: I did.

[00:14:00] Ramit: April, how about you?

[00:14:02] April: I got to chapter one or two.

[00:14:05] Ramit: Okay. It’s further than most at least on this show. Okay. All right, so you froze the account. You have a new credit card. You’ve stayed out of debt until just now.

[00:14:21] April: Yes.

[00:14:22] Ramit: Would you say that you’re here because Kevin wants to have this conversation, or is it you as well?

[00:14:29] April: Kevin wants it, and I want it too because we can’t go on like this.

[00:14:37] Ramit: How come?

[00:14:38] April: We have two kids, and I want to save for their education, but because of my over overspending, we can’t.

[00:14:45] Ramit: Okay. That’s a good reason. But just to push on that for a second, you said we can’t go on as we’ve been going.

[00:14:52] April: Yes.

[00:14:53] Ramit: Why not? It doesn’t seem that bad.

[00:14:56] April: We’re breaking even, and we can’t give them max that we could for the kids.

[00:15:02] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:15:02] Kevin: We went through a lot of stuff. We worked very hard to be where we are. And yes, we are not high earners, but this shouldn’t be our life right now. We shouldn’t be bickering. We shouldn’t be fighting over bullshit stuff. And then during the application, I’ve been trying– your book recommends to have your money dates to have the money conversation, and it’s a complete shell, complete shell closing down, and I cannot approach it.

[00:15:39] Ramit: What does that mean, shell? Describe that to me.

[00:15:42] Kevin: That April completely closes down.

[00:15:44] Ramit: Ah. So tell me, you say what, and then what is her reaction?

[00:15:48] Kevin: I try to approach with my beautiful spreadsheet. It did not work.

[00:15:53] Ramit: What? Hold on, hold on. Let that settle for a second. This man takes a lot of pride in his spreadsheet. Okay. And for anyone watching, April just completely touched his heart. That’s their third child, and then she rolled her eyes. Amazing. So you have a beautiful set of spreadsheets.

[00:16:15] Kevin: Yeah. Just a recap of our spending for the month, and we tried talking about it from there. Didn’t really work. There is no really reaction, and at some point there are emotions coming in from her. And I’m like, oh shit, I did something wrong.

[00:16:31] Ramit: What kind of emotions?

[00:16:33] Kevin: Tears.

[00:16:35] April: I cry.

[00:16:36] Ramit: Why?

[00:16:39] April: Just seeing it. I see that it’s not a lot, but then it accumulates and then we’re unhappy. I’m upset also, so I cry. But then the next month is the same.

[00:16:56] Ramit: And why are you upset?

[00:16:57] April: Because I’m the issue.

[00:16:58] Ramit: Is that true? How so?

[00:17:08] April: Because I’m the one that goes to the store with the kids, and we’re the purchaser, so I’m the one that’s buying the stuff.


[00:17:21] Ramit: Kevin and April had an interesting situation where they were living with her parents, and even while they had low incomes, they were paying almost nothing for housing and childcare, and they described that as amazing. But then when they started earning more and their kids got older, they moved out, and that’s where the problems began.

[00:17:41] What do you make of that? You remember how I talk about people being artificially subsidized? This right here is an example of that. Because they never really had any expenses, they never had any skin in the game, so they never had to actually figure out how to make financial choices within their means.

[00:18:00] This is one of the reasons that I insist both partners talk about money and engage with money. You cannot just have one partner doing it because the other one then becomes artificially subsidized. Not only that. One day when one person gets hit by a bus, that partner is left grieving and totally defenseless. Both partners have got to be involved.

[00:18:20] So what happened here with Kevin and April is they got released to the world and they didn’t know how to spend their money in a responsible way. Now, I don’t mind that they didn’t know. I don’t mind. None of us are born knowing how to handle money, but what really matters is if they, and specifically April, wants to change. If she does, I can help her. If deep down she doesn’t actually want to change, there’s absolutely nothing I can do for them.


[00:18:51] Ramit: So what can I help you with? You’re here. April, what can I help you with? And then Kevin, I’ll ask you the same question.

[00:18:58] April: Mainly for me, the financial commitment of not overspending.

[00:19:04] Kevin: I think I hit a mini midlife financial crisis or something like this. And when you run the numbers, you’re like, oh shit. It’s not as bright as it looks, so we need to do something about it. And so we started–

[00:19:17] Ramit: Hold on, let me get this straight. You were making close to minimum wage for a long time. No problem. Life was good. You were living with her parents. Right?

[00:19:26] Kevin: When you don’t save and you don’t invest and you don’t put anything into your 401K, you have more money.

[00:19:32] Ramit: That’s true. That’s a very good point. All right, so then you move. You get a house, but still you’re not fighting. There’s no problems. But it was only when you started to get educated about money. That’s when the fighting started.

[00:19:49] Kevin: And I’m not going to lie. I am usually the one initiating.

[00:19:52] Ramit: Okay, so this is quite interesting. April, when you think about getting educated about money, what does that mean to you?

[00:20:04] April: To have goals and to stick to them.

[00:20:08] Ramit: But what happened when Kevin got educated about money?

[00:20:11] April: The fighting began. My crying began.

[00:20:14] Ramit: Yeah. Can I ask that question again and you gimme an honest answer? What does being educated about money mean to you? What happened?

[00:20:22] April: It was an eye-opener where I didn’t know I was spending that much and I really need to be committed to saving.

[00:20:38] Ramit: Yeah. Would it be fair to say that– are you committed to saving?

[00:20:43] April: I feel like I need to and I have to.

[00:20:47] Ramit: Okay. That’s a no.

[00:20:49] April: Well, yes. I need to save, and I need to stop buying things.

[00:20:58] Ramit: You ever hear people say, I need to go to the gym?

[00:21:02] April: Yes.

[00:21:02] Ramit: Do those people go to the gym?

[00:21:04] April: We don’t.

[00:21:05] Ramit: So can I ask the question again? Because I asked April, are you committed to saving money? And your answer was, I need to, just like I need to go to the gym.

[00:21:14] April: Yes, I’m committed.

[00:21:16] Ramit: I don’t know what that means. It’s just a word. Look at my face. Do I look convinced at all?

[00:21:21] April: No.

[00:21:22] Ramit: Are you convinced the way you’re talking about it?

[00:21:25] April: I mean, halfway, yes and no.

[00:21:29] Ramit: You can’t make a big change if you don’t believe in it.

[00:21:31] April: Yes, yes.

[00:21:33] Ramit: That was fast. What just changed in the last 10 seconds ago? What happened?

[00:21:38] April: Well, yes, I am, and I need to, and I have to, and yes.

[00:21:45] Ramit: All right. I’ll take you at your word. I appreciate that. Cool. That makes my job easier. All right, Kevin, so you got educated about money. You shined a light on what was going on, which previously it was like having an attic where you never go up there and it’s like, ah, who cares? There’s nothing up there. And then one day you go up there and you’re like, oh my God, there’s 30 rats up here and a spider web and it’s just like, this is insane. What happened then when you shined the light?

[00:22:13] Kevin: So the first thing I wanted was for her to start following me along, not to be alone talking about it and for her to understand what some of the stuff means. And so I tried to ask her to read your book. The book sat on the night stand for a month, and every other day I was like, all right, so maybe one chapter a week. All right. Did you read it today? And nothing. And so at some point I give up.

[00:22:40] Ramit: Looking back now, when you approached her excitedly about this book, what do you think her perception was?

[00:22:53] Kevin: That’s a good question. Why should I?

[00:22:59] Ramit: Keep going.

[00:23:00] Kevin: It’s hard. It’s hard for me to put myself in that place because after reading it, I saw the benefits of it, and we were not in the same mind space at that moment, I think.

[00:23:13] Ramit: Well, let me rewind for a second. Let’s pretend I came to you five years ago and I gave you this book. I said, you really should read it. So cool. What would you have done?

[00:23:24] Kevin: Not read it.

[00:23:25] Ramit: Why?

[00:23:26] Kevin: Because there was no point for me at that time.

[00:23:28] Ramit: Oh. Why is that? Why would there have been no point for you?

[00:23:32] Kevin: Because that did not come to any realization that I needed it.

[00:23:36] Ramit: Okay.

[00:23:37] Kevin: Everything was going pretty well.

[00:23:39] Ramit: Wow. I think you’re very perceptive. Now, let me ask the question to you again. When you handed that book to your wife and you asked her to read it, what do you think her experience was? What was she feeling?

[00:23:52] Kevin: The same. Why would I need it?

[00:23:54] Ramit: Because?

[00:23:55] Kevin: Because everything seems to go well. But the part I do not understand is that before reading your book, the numbers were showing something different, and so I was like, all right, that’s the first step to get help.

[00:24:13] Ramit: What if she’s not ready to get help? What if she doesn’t even see the need for help?

[00:24:17] Kevin: Then that’s also reason we applied.

[00:24:21] Ramit: So for April, when you say everything is going fine financially for her– let’s just assume that that’s true for a second. We’re going to check with her in a minute. Describe that. How are things going fine for April from her financial perspective?

[00:24:39] Kevin: She can go shopping when she wants.

[00:24:41] Ramit: Mm-hmm

[00:24:42] Kevin: She has been used in the past to eat out on the weekend, and that’s what was happening.

[00:24:50] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:24:51] Kevin: There was zero consequences to any of the behavior.

[00:24:55] Ramit: Things are fine, even though I know I need to save for the kids. We need to save, but it’s not happening. What would she tell herself to reconcile those two things?

[00:25:05] Kevin: I can do it later.

[00:25:07] Ramit: Bingo.

[00:25:07] Kevin: I can start later.

[00:25:08] Ramit: Yeah. I’ll get to it later. We all do that. Oh, I’ll go to the gym later. I’ll clean the house later. I’ll organize my desk later, and on and on. That’s so normal. That’s as human as it comes. Now let’s check with April and see if any of this is true. April?

[00:25:26] April: Yes, I think it’s we’ll come back to it later, or we can start later.

[00:25:33] Ramit: There’s no real reason for April to read the book. If I put myself in April’s shoes, I’m thinking life was great until my husband read this godforsaken book called I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Then he started concocting this elaborate spreadsheet trying to get me to sit down and look at these stupid numbers. We get in fights all the time about money. I’m good. I’m exaggerating, but what do you think of the basic point?

[00:26:07] April: Yes, I agree. And then he bought the journal and we started off and we didn’t finish it. I don’t know. I think it was, for me, like my dreams were about traveling while his were about stability or investing. When I thought, or when I think about money, I don’t think about that. I think about the happiness about going places.

[00:26:37] Ramit: How do you think Kevin feels that you won’t engage with him on money?

[00:26:42] April: I’m in denial or just not interested.

[00:26:49] Ramit: Allow me to be the person who is very direct with you. Kevin is telling you that he needs you to be interested in money for your family, and at every turn you are rejecting him.

[00:27:04] April: Mm-hmm.

[00:27:05] Ramit: How do you think that makes him feel?

[00:27:07] April: Upset.

[00:27:09] Ramit: What else?

[00:27:11] April: Angry. Angry at me, frustrated with the situation.

[00:27:16] Ramit: You want to ask him?

[00:27:18] April: How do you feel, Kevin?

[00:27:20] Kevin: Defeated. I’m going to say defeated, just feeling alone. The same way you’ve been feeling alone for a couple of other stuff, I feel alone in there, and it is the way that together we would make so much progress much faster. Here we are dragging back, and I don’t know. I have the feeling there is no long term, you know?

[00:27:46] April: Yes.

[00:27:48] Kevin: It’s the short terms, oh, let’s spend that at the mall. Let’s go eat out Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But in my mind, it’s amazing. I would love to go to Disney, to Africa, to Bora Bora, to Europe, to Italy, wherever, but like this year, we’re not going to be able to go on vacation. And that’s sad. That’s extremely sad to me.


[00:28:17] Ramit:  If you’re watching on YouTube, you’ll notice that we’ve added a commit counter.  Guys just saying I need to commit does not do anything. I can’t go up to the top of a building and say, I want to fly, and then jump off a building. It’s meaningless. It’s just a word.

[00:28:33] When you say things like, I need to change, I need to save more, we need to do this, I shouldn’t buy that, you know what you’re doing? People do that because they feel guilty, and saying those things is a way of self-flagellating, of punishing themselves because they’ve been bad. The problem, of course, is that guilt is not an effective emotion for behavioral change.

[00:28:55] And over the years, we are very clever at how we adapt to get the things we want. I want to buy a new outfit, but deep down, I know that my husband or my wife told me we can’t afford it. Ah, I know what I’ll do. I’ll tell myself for two months I shouldn’t buy it. I shouldn’t be bad. And then after doing penance, I’ll buy it anyway and then tell myself, that was really bad. I need to be good next month. Does this sound weird to anyone else? It’s really weird to me, and it’s exactly how so many of us do things in America.

[00:29:25] Let’s take a quick pause for a message from our sponsors

[00:29:29] Let’s get back to Kevin and April.

[00:29:30] April has just learned that Kevin feels defeated when he talks to her about money. Listen to her reaction.


[00:29:39] Ramit: How do you take that, April?

[00:29:41] April: Upset too because we’re partners and we’re supposed to do things together.

[00:29:47] Ramit: What did he say when he told you how he felt?

[00:29:52] April: Defeated.

[00:29:53] Ramit: What else?

[00:29:56] April: Upset. Basically upset with me.

[00:30:00] Ramit: Not sure he said that. What exact words did he say? He said defeated. That’s one. What else?

[00:30:09] April: I don’t know. It’s a whole bunch of things, things that I should know, but I don’t follow through.

[00:30:20] Ramit: I think if you really want to change, step one is to actually listen to what your partner is saying. I’m not good at this. I know I need to do this. I’m overspending. You’re repeating this old story. Would you agree?

[00:30:38] April: Yes.

[00:30:38] Ramit: When Kevin comes to you and he talks about money, and then you instantly go, I know I need to save more. I know it’s my fault. What does it get you?

[00:30:49] April: Learning I’m in the loophole.

[00:30:54] Ramit: But why do you do it? What strategic thing does it get you at that very moment?

[00:31:00] April: I guess he doesn’t force it or tries to go past it or avoids it for next month.

[00:31:14] Ramit: Exactly. And so what does that get you?

[00:31:18] April: A screw up ticket for next month.

[00:31:21] Ramit: It gets you a huge sigh of relief, doesn’t it?

[00:31:26] April: Yes.

[00:31:26] Ramit: And I think that it allows you, as you put it, a ticket, get out of jail free ticket for the conversation to end, because now it’s about you. That allows you to not confront the real issue, which is the need to engage with money.

[00:31:43] April: Yes.

[00:31:43] Ramit: That seems highly destructive to a relationship where you want to grow together.

[00:31:51] April: Yes.

[00:31:52] Ramit: What if you could do that?

[00:31:56] April: I hope I can.

[00:31:58] Ramit: Let me ask the question again. What if you could do that?

[00:32:03] April: It would amazing.

[00:32:05] Ramit: Okay. What’s stopping you?

[00:32:08] April: Overspending on a unnecessary thing

[00:32:11] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Why?

[00:32:13] April: Because I just want instant gratification instead of long term.

[00:32:21] Ramit: Now we’re getting honest. Let’s talk about your family. What do you remember hearing your family talk about when it came to money as you were a child?

[00:32:32] April: My dad’s a big saver. He doesn’t really like to do anything because he just likes to save.

[00:32:38] Ramit: Okay.

[00:32:39] April: So my mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in middle school, and then she started working. But before, when she was in Mexico, she was a teacher.

[00:32:48] Ramit: Okay. Like you.

[00:32:50] April: Yes. Well, my mom likes to also save, but she also likes to shop.

[00:32:57] Ramit: Okay, keep going.

[00:33:00] April: Macy’s, Sears.

[00:33:02] Ramit: Mm-hmm

[00:33:05] April: 5, 7, 9, every–

[00:33:10] Kevin: All of them.

[00:33:11] April: Yes.

[00:33:12] Ramit: Mm-hmm. How often would you go shopping at the mall?

[00:33:15] April: Once a week?

[00:33:16] Ramit: Once a week. Okay. How do you feel about those memories? How do you feel?

[00:33:20] April: Oh, heartwarming memories and awesome childhood.

[00:33:25] Ramit: Yeah, there’s a lot of love in these times with your mom.

[00:33:31] April: Yeah.

[00:33:31] Ramit: You still go shopping with her?

[00:33:33] April: Yes.

[00:33:34] Ramit: How often?

[00:33:36] April: She’s my go-to shopper once a week.

[00:33:40] Ramit: Oh, still? Okay. This is interesting. Where do you shop now?

[00:33:46] April: At the mall still.

[00:33:47] Ramit: Same place.

[00:33:48] April: Same places. Yes. Sometimes she buys me stuff and other times I buy it myself.

[00:33:54] Ramit: Uh-huh. Were you spoiled as a kid?

[00:33:59] April: I mean, not spoil, but they would buy me stuff.

[00:34:05] Ramit: Kevin? What was that look on your face?

[00:34:08] Kevin: Yes, she was. Based on the size of her closet. I’ve never seen a closet like this.

[00:34:14] Ramit: Wait, this closet that you currently have?

[00:34:16] Kevin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:34:17] Ramit: Can I see this closet? April, please, will you take this computer into the closet? Would you be willing to do it?

[00:34:24] April: Sure. Yes.

[00:34:26] Ramit: Oh my God. Amazing. Hold on. I have to take a deep breath. Okay. April, take us with you, but let’s go slowly. Do not move the camera fast. Let’s go really slow through the house. So just take us to your closet. Oh, okay. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Okay. This is the greatest moment in my life. First of all, show us to shoes.

[00:34:45] April: Okay. I like to wear flats.

[00:34:47] Ramit: Okay, okay, okay. Hold on. I need to take a deep breath. So this is your closet, April?

[00:34:54] April: Yes, it is.

[00:34:55] Ramit: Okay, so let’s start from one side, just break it down for us. What are we looking at?

[00:34:58] April: Okay, so these are the dresses that I’ve bought that I’m going to tell myself that I’m going to wear because I have to.

[00:35:07] Kevin: You notice the tags?

[00:35:08] Ramit: They have tags on them?

[00:35:10] Kevin: Yeah, yeah.

[00:35:11] Ramit: All right. What’s next?

[00:35:11] April: The pants.

[00:35:13] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[00:35:13] April: Short dresses, blouse, comfortable t-shirts.

[00:35:20] Ramit: Okay.

[00:35:21] April: Regular t-shirts, other short sleeves blouses. Now it’s mixed. My leisure pants.

[00:35:31] Ramit: What’s that?

[00:35:32] April: Working out in these.

[00:35:33] Ramit: Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay, just relaxed.

[00:35:34] April: Yes.

[00:35:34] Ramit: Okay. Leisure wear.

[00:35:36] April: The sports ones where we used to go to the gym. The shorts are summer clothes and my winter clothes.

[00:35:49] Ramit: Winter. Wait, where do you both live?

[00:35:53] Kevin: My point exactly.

[00:35:54] Ramit: Wait, wait. Where, for real?

[00:35:56] April: Houston, Texas.

[00:35:57] Ramit: So April, if you can just step out of the closet and just give me a full look inside it. Yeah. Perfect. So right here, this is perfect. When you look at this, what do you feel?

[00:36:09] April: Happiness.

[00:36:11] Ramit: Uh-huh. What else?

[00:36:12] April: Memories that we’ve had wearing the clothes.

[00:36:16] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[00:36:17] April: I don’t know. Feeling nice, looking nice.

[00:36:22] Ramit: When you come here in the morning to get dressed, how do you feel?

[00:36:26] April: Happy, joyful. I just look at the clothes and I’m like, oh, I did a good job buying it.

[00:36:34] Ramit: Awesome. All right, let’s go back to the area you were sitting. Kevin, did you want to add anything to what April just shared?

[00:36:41] Kevin: No, it’s overwhelming enough as it is. I think it’s–

[00:36:45] Ramit: Is that the word you used to describe it?

[00:36:47] Kevin: Oh, it’s too much to me.

[00:36:49] Ramit: I see.

[00:36:51] Kevin: Unnecessary.

[00:36:52] Ramit: Wow, that’s interesting. Because to April, that’s one of April’s points of pride.

[00:36:59] Kevin: Mm-hmm.

[00:37:00] Ramit: And Kevin, to you, you’re saying it’s overwhelming and unnecessary. Gosh. Do you think that that might have anything to do with the way that both of you see money?

[00:37:11] Kevin: I think we see it completely differently based on the upbringing, based on the culture, based on a lot. And we need to– how do you say it in English? Cross that bridge to be together.

[00:37:22] Ramit: Okay.


[00:37:23] Ramit: That was incredibly fascinating. In America, it is somewhat intimate to invite someone into your house. It is extremely intimate to talk about your finances. It’s 1,000 times more intimate to invite them into your closet. It’s funny. My wife Cassandra runs a personal styling business at nextlevelwardrobe.com, and she tells me all about the psychology of people’s closets, how it represents their memories, their aspirations, wearing a fancy dress one day or being able to fit into a pair of jeans from eight years ago.

[00:37:57] And she tells me how much overwhelm it produces for people literally every single day. I learned from her how profound the psychology of our closets really is. That’s why you saw me getting so excited for April to show me her closet, because I know that it reveals so much about what she values. In fact, I’d say it’s the first time she’s really opened up to me today.


[00:38:21] April: Well, my dad doesn’t really like to– when we were little, he would like to travel. As we got older, he started to get boring, so he just stays home and everything with him, it’s like, oh, well, how much does this cost? How much is this?

[00:38:40] Ramit: It’s all about cost.

[00:38:41] April: Yes.

[00:38:42] Ramit: Okay. How does that make you feel?

[00:38:45] April: At some point, I did have that into consideration growing up, but then I started making my own money, and I was like, haha, let me get it.

[00:38:54] Ramit: Right. Can I translate? Tell me if this is accurate. Dad was obsessed with cost. I always had to tell him how much everything, cost, cost, cost, cost. Now that I earn my own money, I’m never thinking about that again.

[00:39:09] April: Yes.

[00:39:10] Ramit: All right. What else happened as you got to be a teenager with money in your family?

[00:39:13] April: I had a job since 15, but it was just to cover whenever I would go out with my friends and otherwise my parents paid for everything.

[00:39:23] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:39:24] April: They paid for school until I got married. They paid for the car, the insurance, the phones.

[00:39:35] Ramit: What did they say no about?

[00:39:39] April: Nothing.

[00:39:41] Ramit: Okay. They never said no.

[00:39:43] April: Not that much, no.

[00:39:44] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Do you ever say no to your kids?

[00:39:49] April: Not that much, no.

[00:39:51] Ramit: Is that a problem or not?

[00:39:56] April: Yes, because then they grow up and they’re a me.

[00:40:00] Ramit: What does that mean?

[00:40:01] April: Well, that they’re going to overspend and not think about the consequences. I’m doing the same things that I grew up with. If we would go to the pharmacy and I wanted a candy, it was never a no. It was a, okay, and, get it.

[00:40:18] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:40:19] April: And so that’s what I’m doing with them. I tell myself no, but then I don’t want to break their little hearts.

[00:40:26] Ramit: April, do you think that they think more things are better?

[00:40:28] April: Yes.

[00:40:29] Ramit: Is that a good or a bad lesson for them to learn?

[00:40:33] April: Bad lesson.

[00:40:34] Ramit: Why?

[00:40:36] April: Because it shouldn’t be like that. They should be happy with what they have.

[00:40:44] Ramit: Okay. And what about all the things in your closet?

[00:40:49] April: It shouldn’t be like that.

[00:40:51] Ramit: Uh-huh. When you said that you knew you weren’t telling the truth, right? Are you happy with money?

[00:41:04] April: No.

[00:41:06] Ramit: So why are they going to be happy?

[00:41:10] April: They’re going to be upset.

[00:41:12] Ramit: What else?

[00:41:15] April: They’re going to be upset that their parents didn’t teach them, they didn’t guide them the proper ways of dealing with money.


[00:41:27] Ramit: April is very good at telling herself stories. All avoiders are, but they can only sustain those stories because they don’t really face any consequences. If Kevin got hit by a bus and April had to figure things out without the support of her parents, she would figure it out in about one month. She would have to. But she doesn’t have to, so she doesn’t. She uses a lot of shoulds. I should spend less, we should save more, but they’re all just words. She even does it when I ask about her kids. Do they believe more things are better? Yes. Is that good? No. What’s going to happen? They should be happy with what they have. But really mom’s not happy with money, so how are the kids ever going to be?


[00:42:14] Ramit: Kevin, I’d be curious to hear about your upbringing when it came to money. Where’d you grow up?

[00:42:20] Kevin: In Belgium.

[00:42:21] Ramit: What’s the financial culture like there?

[00:42:25] Kevin: There’s zero. You don’t talk about 401k. You don’t really talk about investing. Over there, you have a cost of living that is, I think, lower, but your salaries are much, much lower because you get like, what, 60% taxes or 50-something deducted from your gross, but at the same time, you have healthcare. You have retirement, so you really don’t have to worry about that.

[00:42:48] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:42:49] Kevin: My upbringing was zero when it comes to money, except for my grandfather. My parents got divorced very early on and they fought about, how do you call it? Child support.

[00:43:03] Ramit: Oh, wow.

[00:43:03] Kevin: So I had zero basis when it comes to money.

[00:43:08] Ramit: So when you think back to money as a kid, what did you feel back then?

[00:43:14] Kevin: It’s sad. It’s sad because you don’t get what your friends have

[00:43:17] Ramit: Ah.

[00:43:18] Kevin: Used to play soccer. I was the only freaking kid without a branded shirt, without branded shoes. And I’m like, fuck. And then you see your parents fighting for, what was it, 200 bucks, buying me clothes to go to school. What the heck?

[00:43:36] Ramit: Hmm. Okay. So what year did you move to the US?

[00:43:42] Kevin: 2016.

[00:43:43] Ramit: Okay. So you moved here in 2016.

[00:43:45] Kevin: Before that, we stayed for five years in Belgium, her and I, married.

[00:43:50] Ramit: Oh, got it. Okay.

[00:43:52] Kevin: But the weather was too depressing, so we moved back. But from my parents, no, not really much. My dad would spend all his money drinking.

[00:43:59] Ramit: Okay. How about your mom?

[00:44:02] Kevin: She would try to make ends meats as much as she could. And a little bit like April, she would try to buy stuff to make me happy. Would be what? PlayStation, Internet, when it was fancy to have Internet.

[00:44:18] Ramit: Did it work?

[00:44:19] Kevin: I was not happy. Now I don’t want that for my kids ever, for them to have the same feeling of– how do you call it? Deprivation.

[00:44:30] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[00:44:31] Kevin: To feel like, oh, am I poor?

[00:44:35] Ramit: Are your kids poor?

[00:44:37] Kevin: No.

[00:44:38] Ramit: They’re not. You laugh.

[00:44:40] Kevin: No, they’re not, because we’re not.

[00:44:42] Ramit: Right.

[00:44:43] Kevin: Because we’re not.

[00:44:45] Ramit: Let me ask April that. What would you consider yourselves financially speaking?

[00:44:51] April: Well, we’re not broke. We’re not poor, poor, but at the same time, we’re barely making ends meet.

[00:45:03] Ramit: So what would you call that?

[00:45:05] April: Poor.


[00:45:07] Ramit: Notice the huge disparity between how they characterize their own finances. Kevin laughs at the idea of them being poor, but April has a totally different definition of it.

[00:45:18] We’ll be right back.

[00:45:20] Now back to the show.

[00:45:21] Let’s take a look at their numbers. You can follow along with your own free conscious spending plan template at iwt.com/csp.


[00:45:32] Was this the first time you’ve truly engaged with your household finances?

[00:45:36] April: Yeah. To be honest, yes. I don’t know what company we’re on with the electricity or internet. I don’t know any of that, and I don’t care about that, and so I don’t see how much we’re spending.

[00:45:58] Ramit: Kevin, why don’t you read off the word in bold and then the number next to it?

[00:46:05] Kevin: Assets $335,300.

[00:46:09] Ramit: All righty. Next.

[00:46:11] Kevin: Investments, $44,216.

[00:46:17] Ramit: Next.

[00:46:18] Kevin: Savings, 2,381, and debt $302,000.

[00:46:24] Ramit: Total net worth?

[00:46:26] Kevin: 79,949.

[00:46:28] Ramit: All right. Let’s look at income. All right, this one’s going to be April. April, what is your combined gross monthly income?

[00:46:37] April: 11,596.

[00:46:40] Ramit: That means that you make $139,000 a year.  Since when did people making $139,000 a year call themselves poor?

[00:46:52] April: For me, I feel like you’re poor if you have to check price tags or not being able to go out or spending– I grew up with my parents not cooking Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and it was fine, and it’s something that I want to do, and it sucks that–

[00:47:13] Ramit: Did they go to Europe for a month with the kids?

[00:47:16] April: We would go to Mexico every break.

[00:47:19] Ramit: Okay. That’s different prices, right?

[00:47:21] April: Yes.

[00:47:22] Ramit: Uh-huh. Did they have the same costs when it came to food, housing back then?

[00:47:30] April: Well, back then, it was not– my dad was very strict about money but then again the houses didn’t cost what they’re costing right now.

[00:47:44] Ramit: I think that you want to live a lifestyle that is out of step with what you make and also how you are spending money.

[00:47:53] April: And with reality.

[00:47:56] Ramit: Yeah. If you wanted to be able to eat out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you actually could.

[00:48:03] April: Mm-hmm.

[00:48:04] Ramit: You could. So you have to tell me what’s important to you. That is the question I ask. What is your rich life?

[00:48:11] April: Vacations. I think vacations is the biggest one.

[00:48:20] Ramit: Yeah. So what you’re saying is you want these big, meaningful things to you. What you’re spending on, you describe them as unnecessary things, things that fill up an already full closet. Why? Again, why do you buy them? Think about it carefully before you answer.

[00:48:40] April: It’s like the instant gratification rather than thinking about the bigger picture.

[00:48:48] Ramit: Yes. And where did that come from? Where do you first remember feeling happy about buying clothes?

[00:48:54] April: With my mom. With my mom.

[00:49:00] Ramit: Yeah, you’re exactly right. Why did you make that sound by the way? Tell me. Yeah.

[00:49:07] April: That’s how I am. This is why I can’t have a job with adults because I’m always making faces.

[00:49:11] Ramit: No, no, it’s actually very revealing. It seemed to me like you were cringing at a realization you were having. What was that realization?

[00:49:23] April: That things that I took from my childhood was the instant gratification rather than the whole vacation or saving up like I should.

[00:49:37] Ramit: They never taught you to save for a big purchase, right?

[00:49:40] April: No.

[00:49:41] Ramit: It was never talked about, right?

[00:49:42] April: No.

[00:49:43] Ramit: Exactly what was talked about instead.

[00:49:46] April: Look at those shoes. A lovely match.

[00:49:48] Ramit: Yeah. It’s a very simplistic way of looking at the world. And honestly, you could go your whole life doing that. You could get three more closets, and you can fill up your life, and you could do it. I think there’s two problems. Number one, you’ll be living a life that has not functionally changed since you were 13 years old, which to me is living a smaller life than you have to. Two, it’s going to cause extremely difficult rifts with your family, specifically with Kevin, but also with your kids.

[00:50:25] April: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s true. They’re probably going to go through the cycle that I’ve been through, and it’s not in the whole case cycle.


[00:50:37] Ramit: April just had a breakthrough there. Earlier she said, I think we’re poor because not being poor means you can go and buy whatever you want at any time. If she truly believes they’re poor, then what is her alternative? She doesn’t want to save money because saving takes too long, and she really has never been taught the skills of it. But rather, if she’s got a little bit of money, might as well go spend it because easy come, easy go.

[00:51:01] This is very common among people who grew up without money. Do you see the connections here? It’s like a cobweb linking everything together. Her mom showed her love by going out, shopping and paying for things. In fact, her mom still does that. April feels love when she buys things, especially clothes and especially things for the house.

[00:51:21] And now she’s raised kids who are spoiled because they think more is better. April lacks the skills and the willingness to say no to them, but even no to herself. Let’s dig a little bit more into the numbers. Their fixed costs are 65%. Their housing percentage is 22% of gross. Debt payments are $335, which includes student loans and a second loan for master’s degree. And their car payment is $350. That includes one Nissan and gas for a paid off Mazda.


[00:51:52] Ramit: Groceries are– what the fuck? 1,800 bucks a month?

[00:51:56] Kevin: Insane.

[00:51:57] Ramit: What is this?

[00:51:59] April: Organic milk, organic eggs.

[00:52:02] Kevin: It’s insane.

[00:52:04] Ramit: Who shops?

[00:52:06] Kevin: Both of us.

[00:52:07] April: Yes.

[00:52:07] Ramit: Who wants to break it down for me?

[00:52:09] April: We have more animals to feed.

[00:52:13] Ramit: Okay.

[00:52:13] April: We have a total of six.

[00:52:15] Ramit: Ramit’s theory of American pet owners is they never ever stay with one species of animal. They get a dog, and then they instantly switch species, cross species across the entire taxonomy, so it’s like a dog and a cat, or a dog and a gerbil, a dog and a parrot. So tell us. What kind of animals do you have?

[00:52:36] April: So right now we have a snapping turtle, a red-eared slider, two African tortoises, bearded dragon and the dog.

[00:52:46] Ramit: You literally got every species on the planet. What’s a red-eared slider? What is that?

[00:52:53] April: So it’s like the water turtle that have the red patch on the ear.

[00:52:57] Ramit: Okay. Why do y’all have so many animals, just out of curiosity?

[00:53:02] April: I love animals. I believe that they shouldn’t just survive on kibbles, so they have a variety of foods.

[00:53:38] Ramit: Like what? Please tell me.

[00:53:41] April: Crickets, roaches, worms, lettuce, romaine lettuce.

[00:53:46] Ramit: Oh, I guess I was less interested in what they eat. How much does it cost?

[00:53:50] Kevin: 200 maybe, at most.

[00:53:52] April: Per month?

[00:53:52] Kevin: At most.

[00:53:54] Ramit: Can we agree that you’re probably just spending a lot on human food? Is that fair?

[00:53:59] April: Yes.

[00:54:00] Ramit: All right. What’s the big stuff?

[00:54:03] April: The meats.

[00:54:04] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:54:07] Kevin: Meats and drinks.

[00:54:08] Ramit: Meats and drinks.

[00:54:08] April: The alcohol.

[00:54:09] Ramit: Oh, those kind of drinks.

[00:54:11] April: Yes. Those kind of drinks.

[00:54:12] Kevin: Yeah, yeah.

[00:54:13] Ramit: Are you guys drinking because you want to forget about how you have not contributed to your retirement account? Is that what’s happening?

[00:54:20] April: No, he’s [Inaudible] into my Mexican.

[00:54:24] Kevin: That’s good though.

[00:54:26] Ramit: That’s pretty good. That’s a good answer. Okay. Can I just ask you, setting the animals aside, how much do you think that another couple with two kids spends every month on groceries?

[00:54:41] Kevin: 1100, 1,000.

[00:54:44] Ramit: Okay.

[00:54:46] Kevin: I think we can get by with something like that.

[00:54:48] Ramit: What do you think, April?

[00:54:49] April: Yes. And it’s funny. We bought a meal plan that’s the frugal plan, and we used it once or twice, and we haven’t gone back to it.

[00:55:03] Ramit: Why?

[00:55:06] April: We already have everything saved on our Walmart account, and so we buy everything, and so we get the same stuff instead of like with the meal plan that we bought it’s like we need specific things.

[00:55:23] Ramit: I get that. But that’s interesting. I love that you are using an app and you can click reorder. I love that. I just wonder what would it take to go and cut, let’s say 500 bucks a month off of your grocery bill? Could you do it?

[00:55:42] April: Yes, I think we also buy too much meat, and then it stays in the refrigerator, and then we’ll just throw it away.

[00:55:51] Kevin: No, for me it’s commitment.

[00:55:53] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[00:55:54] Kevin: Instead of being like, oh yeah, let’s eat this and that, we got the meal planner or whatever. It’s great. It’s great. We haven’t even given it a try. We haven’t given it a try to be like, all right, let’s reduce a little bit.

[00:56:07] Ramit: Do you know why you haven’t given it a try and committed to it?

[00:56:10] Kevin: I want to find the excuse of time, but I think it’s just an excuse.

[00:56:12] Ramit: It’s not time. Yeah. That’s an excuse. What’s the real reason? April, you’re smiling. You know.

[00:56:17] April: It’s the change. We’re used to cooking this way, and so it’s easier to cook the same thing rather than trying out the cooking. At least for me, I don’t like cooking.

[00:56:31] Ramit: Yeah. You have no reason to change. There’s no reason at all. You can click a button. You get all the food. Sure, you throw away a little bit of it and some of it goes bad, but life is still good. Pets are still fed. Kids are still happy at school. They get their chocolate. Kids here are happy. They get their juice. And there’s no reason.

[00:56:55] Kevin: So same as the finances, same as everything else.

[00:56:58] Ramit: Exactly. There’s not enough pain for you to make a change. Same reason April doesn’t want to cut back. The stakes are not high enough. Life is fine.

[00:57:11] Kevin: How do you raise the stake?

[00:57:18] Ramit: I don’t raise the stakes.

[00:57:19] Kevin: How do we do it as a team?

[00:57:23] Ramit: Let’s ask April. Ask her. I’ll listen in.

[00:57:25] Kevin: Hi, love.

[00:57:27] April: Yes, hello.

[00:57:28] Kevin: How do you think we can raise the stakes?

[00:57:33] April: For the food?

[00:57:33] Kevin: For everything. The food is just an example.

[00:57:37] April: Giving 100%.

[00:57:40] Kevin: How?

[00:57:41] April: You want specifically how? I don’t commit to it.

[00:57:45] Ramit: Try this. Try this. You’re on the right track. I’m going to just give you a little guidance. What would need to happen in order for us to actually make a serious change with our groceries?

[00:57:59] April: A full commitment, 100% commitment.

[00:58:03] Ramit: Specifics. Something I can see in your house happening. Something I could write down on a clipboard. Something I could draw.

[00:58:12] April: I think it’s the fact of seeing the vacation budget going up rather than going down.

[00:58:21] Ramit: Wow.

[00:58:21] April: To see the grow in that.

[00:58:24] Ramit: I could draw that. I could draw that. You could see that. You could see a vacation budget. In fact, you could have one of those little thermometers that’s like Bora Bora. We’re only 38 months away, that kind of thing. Would that be motivating to you?

[00:58:39] April: Yes.

[00:58:40] Ramit: Hmm.

[00:58:41] Kevin: I love the idea of the thermometer and establishing our common goal. We have a goal together, and we go towards it.

[00:58:47] Ramit: Now we got to pick a number for the actual amount you’re going to spend. What number are we putting here?

[00:58:53] Kevin: What do you think, love?

[00:58:55] April: 1,000. But that’s per month?

[00:58:59] Kevin: Yeah. I would put 1,200 to start with.

[00:59:05] April: Yeah,

[00:59:06] Ramit: Okay, so you’re going to cut 600 a month off. Yeah. Okay. That sounds good to me. All right, I’m going to do it. Let’s just see what happens. Instead of 1,800, April, look up here at the fixed cost number. This is the number we’re really caring about, but instead of 1,800, we’re going to do 1,200. Oh my God. It goes down from 65% to 58% fixed costs. That’s a big deal. All right, well done. I think you actually can do 1,200 a month. I think that’s totally reasonable

[00:59:35] Although you currently have only $2,000 of savings in your mid 30s with two kids and 50 pets, so that’s a of risk. Again, if something goes wrong, it’s basically like you’re driving 95 miles an hour, and so far so good. But if you hit something, you’re in big trouble. When I look at your current guilt-free spending, the conscious spending plan template shows that you can only spend $1,200 a month, but you are actually spending about $2,500 a month. Is that correct?

[01:00:14] April: Yes.

[01:00:15] Ramit: All right, so you’re basically spending more than you make.

[01:00:20] April: Yes. And it should have stopped months ago.

[01:00:25] Kevin: The correlation you’re making are mind blowing. I had never realized any of it or even came close to think about it that way.

[01:00:38] Ramit: Do you see why when you gave her the copy of the book, there was no chance she was ever going to read it?

[01:00:43] Kevin: Yeah.

[01:00:44] Ramit: Do you see why when you show her a spreadsheet, she does not want to look at it at all?

[01:00:48] Kevin: Yeah.

[01:00:49] Ramit: And when you give her a piece of paper and say, do this, she herself admits– April, what’d you say you tried to do with that piece of paper at first?

[01:00:57] April: Avoid it at the beginning.

[01:00:59] Ramit: Exactly. Do we all see why? April, what’s the answer there?

[01:01:07] April: I guess because it was the cycle.

[01:01:12] Ramit: Yeah. Something you want to escape from as fast as possible. I can’t find a way for you to fall in love with it. That’s what the journal is for. That’s what you dreaming about it’s for. But until you truly fall in love with what your rich life could be, you’ll forever be fighting back against your husband.

[01:01:32] You’ll forever be fighting back against engaging with money at all. If you’re spending $2,500 a month on guilt-free spending, what’s the obvious solution here, April?

[01:01:48] April: Not spending it and moving it to something else.

[01:01:51] Ramit: Okay, tell me. What are you going to do specifically?

[01:01:57] April: With regards to spending, not carry the credit card. Actually have the cash.

[01:02:03] Ramit: I like that. Wow. That’s a good answer. So you’re going to take out the cash. How much are you going to take out per month?

[01:02:09] April: The plan was for me to not spend more than 500. They don’t need so much clothes. I don’t need so much clothes. Just buying the necessities instead of the wants.

[01:02:22] Ramit: Do you want to go clean out your closet right now?

[01:02:26] April: Not right– no.

[01:02:30] Ramit: Yeah. That’s an honest answer.

[01:02:31] April: Yes.

[01:02:32] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Seems like you’re losing your breath right now, even thinking about it.

[01:02:35] April: Yes.

[01:02:36] Ramit: Why is that? Stressful?

[01:02:39] April: Yes, it’s stressful not having to buy unnecessary things.

[01:02:46] Ramit: But when you buy it, it’s not unnecessary. You want it.

[01:02:50] April: Having the needs from the wants.

[01:02:52] Ramit: You see it and you buy it, right?

[01:02:55] April: Yes.

[01:02:55] Ramit: That’s not going to change overnight. That’s a skill you have to learn. Would you agree?

[01:03:02] April: Yes. It’s going to be challenging.

[01:03:04] Ramit: Yeah. So if I put you in a mall with your mom who you’ve been buying stuff with for literally 20 years, what are the odds that you’re going to walk out of that mall week after week never having spent any money?

[01:03:18] April: Not a lot.

[01:03:21] Ramit: It’s low odds. So what do you want to do? You’re essentially putting yourself in danger by doing that.

[01:03:28] April: Yes.

[01:03:29] Ramit: What do you want to do?

[01:03:31] April: Not go to the mall with her.

[01:03:33] Ramit: How come you’re not telling your mom about the financial part of it?

[01:03:38] April: I think that was more my dad.

[01:03:41] Ramit: You want to keep that tradition up?

[01:03:44] April: No.

[01:03:45] Ramit: Okay. So maybe it’s time to change it.

[01:03:48] April: So Kevin and I decided that we need to save up for the kids college and vacation, and we don’t want to go on vacation if we don’t have a certain amount saved. So we’re committed to going towards this new change and spending less in order to have a more positive experience.

[01:04:22] Ramit: Damn, that was nice. That was seriously amazing. How did you feel saying that? That’s tough, right?

[01:04:29] April: Yes.

[01:04:30] Ramit: Like your heart’s racing.

[01:04:32] April: Yes.

[01:04:32] Ramit: Why? Tell me. What were you thinking?

[01:04:35] April: Because it’s something that my mom and I do together. It’s like a little girls’ trip.

[01:04:43] Ramit: Yeah, it is. It’s essentially a weekly vacation. Are you on offense in any part of your life where you’re like, I’m really good at this and I’m really confident?

[01:04:55] April: My driving.

[01:04:57] Ramit: Okay, that’s not an answer I expected. Okay. Tell me about that.

[01:05:01] April: I have been in zero crashes, and I live in the worst freeways of America.

[01:05:08] Ramit: Okay.

[01:05:09] Kevin: Fair enough.

[01:05:10] Ramit: So you’re a very good driver. You feel confident. You know what’s going on. You can read the road ahead of you. You have a sixth sense almost, and you’re very alert. Okay, great. That feeling, what does that feel like? Are you sitting in your car like, I don’t know. Who’s going to their turn lane?

[01:05:28] April: No.

[01:05:29] Ramit: No? What are you doing instead? Tell it to me.

[01:05:31] April: No, I hate people who break the lines. I just straight, and if I need to exit, I know that it’s there. If I pass it, I don’t zoom through it. I just take the next exit and turn around and go.

[01:05:45] Ramit: Wow. So what you’re telling me is you plan ahead. If you need to take an exit, you’re planning ahead. If you miss an exit for whatever reason, you’re not panicking. You’re simply adapting to what life threw at you and you’re calmly making your way back to where you need to go.

[01:06:00] April: Yes.

[01:06:01] Ramit: Okay. That sounds incredible. This is actually a fantastic example. What would it feel like to do that exact same thing with money?

[01:06:10] April: I’ll feel great. I’ll feel amazing.

[01:06:12] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[01:06:12] April: I would feel accomplished.

[01:06:14] Ramit: How would you do it? Tell me what you do. I’m planning ahead to take the on-ramp in two miles. What is the equivalent for money?

[01:06:22] April: I would be like, not savings, and having the end in mind, but in a positive way.

[01:06:29] Ramit: And if something goes wrong with your finances, what do you do? Do you panic and just give up?

[01:06:33] April: No, continue. Start from scratch.

[01:06:37] Ramit: Uh-huh.

[01:06:37] April: And go over again.

[01:06:39] Ramit: Great.

[01:06:39] April: Try to not do the same mistakes as previously done.

[01:06:43] Ramit: Very nice. Love it. Beautiful. Bring that driving energy to what we’re talking about. Because you can do that driving, that means you can do it with money. All right?

[01:06:51] April: Yes.

[01:06:51] Ramit: All right.

[01:06:52] Kevin: Doing it together, I think. I think we need to feed of each other’s energy. Let’s do it together. This is the goal. This is what we do it for.

[01:07:04] Ramit: What can money do for you now?

[01:07:10] Kevin: If done right, a rich life.


[01:07:14] Ramit:  April’s example of driving was so great. One of my favorite things to do on this podcast is to help people make the connection between an area they’re good at and money, which they’re typically not. Now, I know a lot of us grew up without any guidance about money.

[01:07:28] Some of us grew up with negative guidance about money, unhealthy role models. The thing about money is that there are so many ways to learn about it. Look, there’s books. You can get them for free at a public library. There’s podcasts. There’s YouTube. There’s so many places to start. And so while I understand that there’s a lot of things against us, even structurally so, I also want to encourage you to take some personal agency.

[01:07:56] You can learn how to be good at money, and that’s really what’s going on here. It’s not as much about the numbers. There’s two dynamics that I saw. First of all, April is an avoider, a deep avoider. She’s never had to face money. She’s never had any consequences for it, so why would she change?

[01:08:14] Number two is that in a relationship when one partner starts to make a big life change, you’ll often see a huge wedge being driven between the partners. Now, this frequently happens with weight loss or fitness. This frequently happens with money.

[01:08:29] One partner will finally decide, I’m going to take control of money. Let’s do this. And the other partner’s like, why? We’ve been fine for the last 12 years. What’s the problem? And as one partner becomes more and more advanced with money, they start to understand the consequences of not taking action and all the costs of not doing anything for the last 12 years, the other one’s like, why are you being like this? Why are you getting on my case? Things were good before you read this stupid book called I Will Teach You To Be Rich. The point is, if you make a change, you have to be very sensitive about how to encourage your partner to come along, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. Let’s check out their follow-ups. First, Kevin,

[01:09:10] Kevin: What was surprising to me, the first thing was more of a shock when I heard April say that she felt that we were poor. I did not know anything about that. The second thing that was surprising to me is how quickly you were able to uncover the different dynamics at play with us.

[01:09:29] It hasn’t been an easy couple of days, but I know we will make it through. Another thing that was surprising to me is basically the lack of engagement with money from April, and that if we want to change, we’re going to have to act much more as a team.

[01:09:50] The first thing I learned is that change is extremely hard, extremely hard, especially when it’s so deeply rooted into childhood behaviors, thing that we’ve been doing for the past 20 years, and it’s going to require a lot of support, a lot of efforts to change those behaviors.

[01:10:07] The second thing that I learned is that if we don’t change right now, our kids are already 10 and 7, the same behaviors, the same patterns are going to be passed on to them and that’s not really what we want. We are going to create our own money rules that are going to work for us, and we’re probably going to send you an update 2.0 in a month or two to see how things are going.

[01:10:31] Ramit: And now April’s follow-up.

[01:10:34] April: For me, what surprised me the most was the fact that I’m still doing the same things that I was doing with my mom 30 years later and that has a negative impact on me and on my family. I didn’t even think about it, but about having negativity about money if it didn’t come to shopping, and that’s something I guess growing up just the instant gratification with the money and then not thinking about anything else or having my dad with the, how much did this cost?

[01:11:10] What I am committed to change is being more proactive when it comes to paying for the credit cards. So that’s something. And a step that we took this month where I paid off all the credit cards. I checked the bank statement, so I think it’s being more proactive with paying, and then also with how I’m spending the money.

[01:11:35] So another thing that I’m committed to change is instead of carrying the cards with me, it’s better to have cash. That way I’m not so tempted to swipe it and call it a day. So it’s something that I’m committed to doing, but thank you for everything.

[01:11:52] Ramit: Okay, I appreciate their follow-ups, but I have to tell you, I wasn’t really satisfied with what they said. I wasn’t sure what they were actually going to do. So we sat on this episode for a month, and I asked my team to reach back out to Kevin in April to get another follow-up because a month later, I wanted to see what changes they had made. Now, they sent me about a one-page letter. I’m going to read off some of the things that they told me.

[01:12:18] Kevin said, “I changed jobs with a very minor pay cut, but on the flip side, I’m eligible for a 20k performance bonus, which I’ll work hard to achieve. April took on additional sessions, which will give us about $200 extra per month.” Then they sent me a follow-up on their commitments. I’m going to read you some of what they wrote to me.

[01:12:39] “We decided not to meal prep because it is just plain boring, but our monthly grocery bill is going to stay right at the 1k mark. April is really working hard on her shopping habits and has not bought any unnecessary clothing since our call. April is in charge of credit card statements and payments to make sure she stays on track.

[01:13:05] “We have updated our CSP and will monitor it at least twice a year. We agreed that having a fancy vacation this year was not sustainable and we are now saving towards our next vacation where we’re going to take the kids and go train hopping around Europe in 2025. Change is still really hard and we know that we will face challenges this year, but we are committed to being better together for our future.”

[01:13:33] Okay, Kevin and April, thank you for the update. I appreciate it, and I am happy to hear that you are making some changes. What I hear in this a month later is a lot of things that they will do. We will monitor our CSP twice a year. We will try to achieve this bonus. April is really working hard on her shopping habits.

[01:13:55] But what I didn’t hear were specific things that you have already done. And after a conversation with me, that first month is the most fertile time where you are able to make huge changes and put systems in place. By the way, I also didn’t hear anything about April shopping with your mom. That was a huge part of our conversation, and it’s underneath so much of the dynamic of what’s going on here.

[01:14:20] So I do appreciate the follow up. I’m not hearing a lot of specifics, and for everybody watching and listening, what makes real change happen is a strong, powerful vision, a reason why, and then specifics, vivid specifics and systems that help you make real changes.

[01:14:42] Just saying, we will do this. We’re talking about commitments. It’s usually not going to be the key that changes things. Thanks again, Kevin and April. I wish the best for you. Please keep me updated. All right. Does this dog want to be in Hollywood as well? Come on, get up here little dog.

[01:14:57] April: Yes.

[01:14:58] Ramit: No, dog. What kind of dog is that?

[01:15:01] April: A [Inaudible] that I got from one of my students.

[01:15:04] Ramit: Oh, wow. All right. Hi, Oreo. I hope America sees that I can have a nice conversation with a dog. And all my jokes about pets, you know I love these beautiful creatures.