a four-letter word starting with D


My husband doesn’t know how much I weigh.

At least, he lets me think he doesn’t know how much I weigh. I’m pretty sure he knows that at 6 feet tall and a size 12/14 I don’t weigh a buck twenty. I’m shy about the number. I’ve always been a large person and it’s not something I like to discuss.

While I’ve got a problem with weight numbers, as you can see from the ticker on the right and all of these posts (not to mention this article in the Globe and Mail and our interview on Pinched), I don’t have a problem discussing our debt number. It wasn’t always like this.

The more I discuss my debt the more I notice how others navigate around theirs. One moment a friend is lamenting about a line of credit or student loans and the next they are boasting about the magnitude of their family’s household income. From casual conversations it’s difficult to tell if people are barely making rent or have a cool million socked away for retirement. I’d say this was my MO about financial discussions until we decided to get real with our debt and commit to paying it off. I didn’t want people to think we were having trouble paying our bills, because we weren’t, but my student loans looked like they would never be paid off and every time we paid off a credit card we seemed to run it back up within the year. *It felt so good to have my student loan statements arrive for tax season and have all of them listed as paid off. I almost posted them on the fridge so I could enjoy them for a bit.

A few of my friends have always been fairly transparent about their finances. Even if they had trust funds or were at some point in debt, while they didn’t wear t-shirts with their net worth on them, they’ve always been honest about how their finances were going. When I think about what these friends have in common it’s that they grew up with parents that were financially savvy and money was discussed openly.

Finances, and especially debt, are taboo subjects for most people. We attach a lot of self-worth to the dollar signs. Having a lot of money means we’re in control and “good” people. Being in debt or struggling with income means we’re “bad” or underachieving.

Why is it easier for me to discuss our debt now? I incorporated. Now that I’ve opened up on this blog about our finances, and subsequently to friends and family, I no longer feel like the number owns me. I don’t attach my self-worth to my debt, my investment account or the value of my home. It’s just a number. I’m not a number, I’m a person.

Obviously I need to take this personal growth in the area of finance and apply it to my weight. Baby steps.

Do you discuss your finances openly or shy away from the topic?

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  • I’m open about my weight and my debt :-) I’m ‘obese’ but my only debt is my mortgage, which I’m paying at an accelerated rate.

    • I’m in the “could lose a few to get back to wedding weight but otherwise healthy” range. I wish they had this category on the BMI scale.

  • Brave post – tacking two taboos! I’m 5’11” and can relate to feeling outsize as a woman. Even at my “happy” weight, the actual number would make most women fall off their chair! And my husband is 3.5 in shorter than me! As for debt, salary and money stuff, I’d have no problem telling all details, but refrain as social norms don’t agree. Though I work for a nonprofit so I’d probably pass out hearing what my peers make! Great blog. I’ve been reading lately as I make forays into minimal mom land myself.

    • Thanks, Lori. And nice to hear from another tall woman who understands that a “happy” weight can be more than 130 pounds.
      Good luck on the simplifying – lots of work but so worth it.

  • Love this post! I’ve become very open about finances. For us, like you, it’s been about re-assigning our worth from things and money to time and interaction. It hasn’t been easy though and recently finding your blog I’ve been relieved to have some support! My friends are not nearly as willing to discuss but the more I offer up discussion about our family’s standing the more I see them being willing to have similar conversations. Thanks for you insight and inspiration!

    • Thanks, Kim. I’m trying to keep the conversation light, but flowing, on finances with friends. I know not everyone wants to talk about it so I try not to be pushy or bring it up too much.
      Good luck!

  • Oh, I never talk about my debt. I’m too chicken! But I will happily talk about my weight though. Mainly because it’s not as easy to hide my physique as it is to hide my money situation. heh.

    • True, people can look at you and have a good idea of your weight but no idea on the bank statements.
      And I’m too chicken to talk scale numbers =)

  • I’m fairly open about my finances. The only time I am cagey with details is when I’m trying to be sensitive to friends that I know have way less income than us. I also have to be careful not to give the impression that we are “showing off” when discussing finances. We live in a working class area in a working-to-middle class small town so a lot of what we do/have isn’t “normal” (ie owning and renting out two small bedsits and then also deciding to bring our mortgage down to four years.)

    Despite us having a good income at the moment, no-one would know it unless we discuss it as we are very tight with money (Hey, we’re a half-Dutch, half-Scottish household – it’s to be expected! :-) )
    We don’t own a TV (you have to pay an annual licence in the UK), we only have one car, we don’t holiday every year and, recently, moving towards minimalism, we own less and less possessions which means we are buying less and less.

    I am happy to discuss generalities but I guess I would struggle to actually say my husband’s monthly income out loud to any of my friends in this town as he earns 3-4 times what they do and that would just feel awkward.

    I do, however, feel that secrecy and keeping up with the Jones’s is what gets a lot of people into unnecessary debt. I will happily say that I can’t afford something if it is a)something I don’t want and b)something I don’t need. There may be money in the bank for it but that doesn’t mean I can afford it, if that makes sense?

    Karen (Scotland)

    PS as for the other d-word, I am lucky. My husband is European and thinks in kilograms so when I tell him my weight in stones and pounds, he just smiles vaguely as he can’t “think” in stones or compare our weight… 😉

    (Sorry – comment way too long again.)

    • Good points here. I am trying to be sensitive to friends and neighbours too. While we have debt, we do have good income and own a place in an expensive city. Some of my friends and family aren’t as lucky.

      I’m Scottish too (parents moved to Canada after getting married) but didn’t get the frugal gene.

  • I would say I’m fairly open. I don’t necessarily boast a specific number, but since we’ve been making steps to pay down our debt, I’m quite proud to tell people what we’ve been doing and how it has worked for us.

    Ask me my weight and I will have to end you. 😉

  • I can happily talk money/debt all day, but my weight..I’m with Cherrill..although I am trying to get over it.

    Blogging my debt payoff really worked, so I’m thinking perhaps this is the accountability I need to lose the weight. At the moment though, it feels like a much bigger hurdle!

  • I’m very open about both. I’m a grad student in my early/mid 20s, and I have more debt in college loans than I make in a year through my graduate assistantship. I like to talk openly with people about finances, especially with other grad students since many of us are in similar conditions and everyone in the department has the same income. Since I’m at a public university, all of the professors’ incomes are available online, which has led to some very candid discussions about finances (it might help that I’m in the social sciences, so we talk about stratification and class a lot anyway). I think that we can learn a lot from talking to each other about money (and weight/health/eating/exercise) when the discussion is focused on tactics, strategies, options, and the various results of different income levels and different behaviors. When I talk about money it isn’t a contest, it’s a way of understanding different perspectives on living and sharing helpful information on how people can be happier with their own finances. The same goes for discussions about our bodies. The goal is to be healthy, happy, and confident, not to “win” by having the lowest BMI.

  • My family was financially savvy and open about discussing money within the family, once we were old enough to understand it. However we very seldom discuss finances, especially with numbers, outside our immediate family. We never fill out our income level on surveys. This may be be partially due to a sense of taboo or what is socially comfortable, but it is also partially to avoid becoming a target for theft, fraud, scams, etc., and even to avoid being asked for loans by our friends. You don’t have to be rich to be a target, you just need to have either an income or a net worth that is perceived to be high by someone with ill intentions. And mixing loans with friendships isn’t good for the friendships.

  • This post made me smile, even though you are writing about finances I completely relate to you about the weight! I am tall as well, and the size I wear is so different than my 5 foot tall friends! I have two kids, 2 and 4, and recently have been trying to lose the baby weight. I have never dieted in my life, and frankly, I just don’t like any of the diets out there that I have heard of. I started exercising in the last few months and that has helped a little, but still struggled to get the weight off. Recently I read “The China Study” not for weight loss, but because of health problems in my family. Its not a diet, but really some of the latest research in nutrition. After reading it, I was motivated to change how I eat and can’t believe how the pounds keep dropping off, and my husband has been the same. Just thought I would share as I also am tall and have struggled with what weight I have been since having my kids. Really enjoy your blog, thanks for sharing about your journey and minimalism, and also being honest and open about your finances. My husband and I are on the same financial path, cutting debt, and it is very encouraging to see others on the same, even if it is through the internet. Thanks!

  • Although both Diet and Debt are sensitive issues and have emotional baggage – it is relatively easy to simply stop (or reduce) spending… not so simple to just stop eating!!

    • I think the truth of this will vary wildly between individuals. Stopping over-spending might be very difficult for some people, including some who don’t struggle with over-eating at all.

      • You are correct – everyone’s struggles are different.
        I’ve heard of eating disorders being compared with alcoholism – although VERY difficult, one can choose to never have another drink again. Those who struggle with eating disorders, do not have that option. I guess spending could be considered similar…..

  • I only speak about finances to certain people. I’m open to some and not open to others. I think that finances, religion, and sex are topics that make some people uncomfortable. I don’t like to make people uncomfortable so, if I sense that they don’t want to talk about it, I don’t.

    Weight doesn’t normally come up. I don’t care much about weight, I care more about looks! I mean, I care about being a good person and doing internal work and everything. But if we are talking about weight, I don’t normally care about that. I care about looking good in a dress or some pretty jeans.

  • I was just lamenting that I wish more people were MORE open. In fact, I’m in the process of writing about it for my blog, but keep delaying ‘publish’ because I KNOW we’re in a good spot and don’t want to seem braggy. But I think that talking about finances can REALLY help in a tough economy and I want to share what I’ve learned. So I don’t shy away, but I don’t just chat about it, either.

  • As someone who does martial arts and aerials (think dance performances), I am frequently either lifting someone up or being lifted by them. So my perspective on weight is probably a little different than that of most women. Here’s my 2 cents.

    Most men don’t have a concept of your weight number. You may look like you weigh a lot/a little, and when they pick you up feel like you weigh a lot/a little. But the difference between 110, 130, and 160 pounds is essentially meaningless.

    Whether someone “feels” heavy is more dependent on if they jump while being lifted, if they sink their weight, where their center of gravity is (lower for most women), and body type. None of these are really affected by the number on a scale.

    Despite years of asking people what they weigh (in order to partner them up for activities, for example) I still find that I’m often wrong in my initial visual assessment.

    In conclusion, don’t sweat the number!

  • It’s so true about how people dance around their debt. I keep a really tight rope on our spending, so we have no debt (excpt the house) and lots of savings. My husband saw his friends buying big houses, new cars, going on trips and having guys weekends away. He was convinced we made significantly less money than they did and it made him really upset. So we ended up fighting a lot about our spending.
    But slowly, since I’ve been talking more about finances, I’ve found out that most of them are living paycheque to paycheque. They have no equity in their big houses, no savings, and holidays go on the Visa. Hubby is glad we’re not in that predicament, so now he doesn’t hassle me so much about his small ‘allowance.’

  • The weight thing is tricky for taller girls because we grow up thinking a good number for weight is like 125, but that is a number that usually only works for model types or people under 5’3″ (tall thin people, you don’t need to weigh in here, I know SOME people are naturally this way). So, even though I am pretty average looking, I know I am 165 and that number sounds HUGE to me even though I am a pretty tall girl (5’9″). It’s hard to get past the messages we hear growing up!

    I WISH people would ask me about my debt! We are debt free except the mortgage and I’d like to get to brag every once in a while! You can’t show off debt free like you can a new car. :)

  • My father has always been doing better or worse than whomever he is talking to. I’m sure that caused me some confusion. If I complain about being broke, he is more broke. If I got a fat check, he has a fatter wad of cash. Of course, his version of “broke” was usually my version of fat wad anyway!

    I’m working toward financial transparency, thanks to some inspiration from you and Man vs. Debt. My biggest issue: I don’t think my finances are any business of my ex-husband & ex-wife. They are still together and she does read my blog and journal. I feel like my privacy has been invaded, even though I don’t care what the WORLD knows. Ugh, it is an awkward place to be.

  • I don’t discuss my finances openly. I mean, I do with my husband. And we’re actually very financially savvy and aware people. We’ve never had debt, outside of our mortgage and small car loans that we paid off within a short period of time. But discussing this publicly feels uncomfortable, for me.

    It’s the opposite of being ashamed of my debt number. When all the people around me are complaining about their student loans and their credit card balances, it feels awkward, and possibly like bragging, to say that I eschewed student debt and debt of all kinds, and that I’m never worried about how to pay for my groceries. Not because I’m rolling in it, but just because I’ve always been frugal.

    I’m struggling with even hitting “Send” on this comment. I’m not sure what that means.

    • I get what you are saying here. I used to hang with a more affluent group who would talk about hiding their credit card statements from their husbands. It was like another world to me – both the secrecy and the debt. It was hard to join in without sounding all righteous. I didn’t feel superior but, as soon as you say you avoid debt, they take it as a criticism of their debt (which it sort of is, but not in a mean way.)

  • I’ve used this line before but it’s worth repeating … “no sex please we’re British” in my experience we (Brits) don’t really talk about money. Not our actual income and debt anyway. I wrote a post for another blog about how I consciously spend and edited the hell out of it to remove our personal circumstances. In my case I couldn’t hit the send button. For years we never had any debt,not even a mortgage and managed to buy our first home. We have since had a very small mortgage but nothing to speak of and it’s nearly paid off. In some ways it’s harder to confess to not having debt – it raises less questions from people. Talking money does make me uncomfortable however talking weight doesn’t! I absolutely pay no heed to what the scales say – I’m not just saying that… They make no sense to me as I am smack bang in the middle of my BMI range and yet when I tell people I am 146-150 pounds they are shocked! I suppose it sounds a lot I don’t know… I go by how I feel. I know when I need to skip the puddings and hit the pavements more often…as is the case at the mo…

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