Last year, my wife and I got married. We were dating for over 5 years before we got married so we kind of new each others financial situation. I was done with school and working full-time. My wife continued her education by going to grad school while working part-time. There was no escaping it, we were going to be newlyweds in debt.
Our first financial goal was to make sure our wedding didn’t push us even further into debt and to avoid mortgaging our future on our first day as husband and wife. We had a beautiful wedding and we worked hard to make sure we didn’t go over our budget. I’m proud to say, we were successful in our first financial endeavor together and avoided going further into debt.
That’s where this fairytale ends. The reality is, we were still chained to debt. I still had student loans and a car payment and my wife had all her student loans including grad school. My debt was now her debt and her debt was my debt. The good news is that we were both very responsible with our credit cards and had very little revolving debt to take care of.
What next? Do I take care of my debt and let my wife worry about her own? Do we take a snapshot of our current finances before we got married and keep our accounts separate? There were many options to choose from, but it was an easy choice in the end to dump everything into one bucket. It’s official, we’re married and in debt. At least we have each other. 🙂
So the honeymoon is over, back to the real world. I had to relocate, get a new job, get married and get new debt. We are blessed that we both have stable jobs and dual incomes to work on this debt, but even at that it is definitely challenging. We don’t own a home and the rent alone is making a dent in our effort to repay off our debt. Not only that, but you soon realize we don’t have normal ‘stuff’ that you need to start a life together. More bills…more debt.
Now it is six months later and I’m confident that after a bit of personal financial planning we’ve been able to gather ourselves financially and we have a solid plan. So here are some quick things for newlyweds (or anyone for that matter):
Communicate. Make sure that each of you understand where you are at financially as a couple and discuss how you want to attack the debt and revise you spending habits. Money is a major factor of unsuccessful marriages.
Set Goals. It’s easy just to pay off the minimums, but strive to pay off the debt sooner. If you have a 10 year student loan, make a goal to pay it off in 5 years. A 60 month car loan in 30 months. Make extra payments early and often and you’ll be surprised how many months you can shave off.
Plan Ahead. Work on an emergency fund that could support you for at least 3 months (more on this later down the road). This will allow you to be more flexible when an unexpected bill comes your way.
Evaluate. Every few months take a look at how far you’ve come. Is it where you wanted to be? Do you have to revise your plan or make additional sacrifices? It’s important not to fall in a rut and lose focus of what your goals were.
Celebrate. Go ahead, you’ve earned it. Each time you pay off a major debt, why not treat yourselves to something nice and spend time with each other. It is always nice to throw in a reward once in a while.
We have a goal to pay off our debt in 4 years. I think it’s doable without a doubt. It will definitely be a struggle as we want to allocate money for down payment for a house too. Will it be easy? Not by any means. Can it be done? Absolutely!