There comes a time in you and your significant canine’s relationship when you just can’t avoid it any longer. The talk. Things between you and Dog were great when it was just the two of you frolicking in the mud but you’ve both grown older and life is happening. Tobie just doesn’t run after squirrels as ardently as he used to and you’re starting to worry about whether the two of you have built enough of a nest egg to prepare for any sudden medical expenses.
It can be difficult to have that conversation, in part because your dog doesn’t know how to speak human. That means it’s just that much more important to think carefully about this conversation and have it sooner rather than later. From our experiences speaking to dogs and receiving lots of quizzical stares, we’ve found that the following tips may improve the dialogue between you and furry friend.
Set the tone
You might want to start by reaffirming how great Dog is and how much you’ve enjoyed picking up his poops. That will create a safe space in which everyone can be their authentic selves. Treats also help set the mood but only if they are the authentic bacon kind. Fake bacon will definitely send the wrong message.
Once you’re both settled in, prepare to be honest about how you both got to where you are today. At first it was the small things – the Halloween costumes, the wet food, a few extra chew toys each Christmas. Be honest, but don’t judge. Maybe go through an exercise of writing your total amount of debt down on paper. Try to use colors that dogs can see.
Most importantly, make sure Dog knows that the two of you are not alone. 38% of American households carry a credit card balance each month and pay $1,292 in credit card interest each year.
Explain the basics
Make sure you and Dog are on the same page about the basics and don’t blame Dog if he doesn’t know the first thing about debt or credit. General education in America rarely includes financial literacy, rarer still among puppy day cares. You might want to explain that not paying off your credit card balance in full each month is hurting your credit score, which may affect how the two of you purchase a home or get approved for an apartment. Involve Dog in the process of checking your credit score for free online, to help him feel like an empowered participant. For example, Dog might need help understanding APR is the annual cost of a loan inclusive both of interest rate all other associated fees.
The two of you may be paying too much on your credit card debt already. People rarely think about the costs, fees, or interest rates they may be charged if they carry a balance on their credit cards. With a personal loan, you can pay off the high-interest credit card debt and get on a fixed monthly payment. Depending on the terms of your loan, a personal loan might mean you pay less in interest or just having one easy debt payment to make each month instead of many. After you pay off the loan, that debt is completely gone.
Agree on what success looks like
Get on the same page about what success looks like for the two of you. Is it saving enough to protect against emergencies? Are you hoping to save enough to retire to a nice home with a big backyard for Dog? Is it just getting rid of this vague anxiety or stress that is always hanging in the air? It helps to start by agreeing on the end goal for both of you so that you two can feel like you are part of the same team. After that, making the hard decisions to get to a better financial state becomes easier.
If the two of you have payments coming out the wazoo, you may want to look into getting a personal loan to consolidate all of your payments into one. If you pay off all the different types of debt you have with a personal loan, then you can focus on making just one easy payment on your loan each month. You don’t have to worry about paying that credit card company on Monday, and this utility bill on Wednesday, and rent on Friday. One payment, one loan, one date.
Include Dog in the solution
Any change you make to spending or saving behavior will likely affect Dog too so try to include him in the solution as much as possible. Set expectations that Dog’s pumpkin spice treat intake may have to go down a bit. Help your best friend understand that you will also be making sacrifices, like not taking long trips to Mexico and leaving Dog with the neighbor whose house smells moldy.
Woof arf bark woof bark bark ruff woof ruff. Woof!
Talking to your dog about debt isn’t any harder than talking to your dog about politics and arguably more important for the future of your relationship. Focus on setting the right tone, explaining the basics, agreeing on success, and collaborating on the solution. You’re not alone, and the sooner the two of you get to a more stable, transparent financial situation, the sooner you can focus on playing fetch!