No matter if you’ve been together for a matter of months or for several years, starting your journey as a married couple is an adventure.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that every moment will be light and easy. Talking about finances and how to get out of debt can be difficult for couples, especially if they have not done so before.
Start with a Conversation
Debt is not a dirty word. In fact, loans can be an incredibly useful tool for financing various purchases in your life. It’s important to be open and honest about your financial situation and liabilities with your future partner.
Sit down together and go over what you own, what you owe, etc. It’s essential for both partners to understand exactly where the other is at in order to make a plan to move forward.
Be patient when talking about money. Even if you and your partner have led similar lives, you may have different ideas about money management, debt, etc. Treat this conversation as a way to come together, not to judge each other’s financial situation.
Set a Long-Term Strategy
Before you get into day-to-day money-saving tactics, come up with a game plan. Map out all of your loans, current balances, and interest rates.
Talk about your options. Can you consolidate any of your debt? If either of you are still students, you may be able to defer payments on some student loans until graduation.
There are many popular strategies for paying off debt. One strategy is to pay the minimum monthly payments on all of your loans except for the loan with the highest interest rate. Pay more on that one each month, and once you pay it off, roll that payment amount into your loan with the next highest interest rate. Continue the process until you’re debt free.
Others like to pay off their smallest loans first to enjoy the momentum that comes with paying off a loan.
The right strategy for you will depend on your individual circumstances as a couple. Talk about your goals and options, and come up with a plan of attack that works for you.
Cutting Down Expenses
It’s easy to start the blame game when talking about cutting down spending habits. The best approach requires both of you to sacrifice while still making sure your basic needs are met.
Start by making a simple budget. Record your monthly income, and then start writing out all of your fixed expenses—rent, insurance payments, debt payments, etc. Next, record all of your variable expenses—food, gas, utilities, etc.
Start identifying expenses that can be cut down. This will vary from couple to couple, but here are a few ways to become debt free over time:
- Phone: Can you live with less data by relying more on Wifi? Adjust your plan.
- Food: Do you eat out a lot? Cooking at home most nights a week and packing a lunch can make a big impact.
- Utilities: Adjust your thermostat a few degrees, and make sure to turn off all your lights when you leave a room to lower the bill.
- Date night: Date night is important, but it doesn’t need to be expensive. Check out community events, plan at home-date nights, and set a strict budget.
- Memberships and subscriptions: Memberships and subscriptions can eat up your budget with little to no benefit if you aren’t using them. Evaluate your current commitments and cut out anything you aren’t using or isn’t necessary.
- Gas: Start a carpool to work. Walk to the store if it’s close by. Get a bus pass if it would be more frugal.
There are many areas where you can cut out extra expenses. Paying off debt will require sacrifices, but it can help you grow closer as a couple as you work on it together.