Today we have a guest post from blogger, Katie Martens. Katie blogs over at Eat, Drink, and Remodel and is here to tell us about her experience with Love, Marriage, and Debt. Take it away Katie!
When I attended law school, I didn’t think much of the financial consequences of taking out loans to pay for school – I’d get a job after graduating, and just pay it off. No big deal.
Has anyone’s plan ever gone exactly the way they envisioned? Uh, not mine. My plan would have gone swimmingly if not for several factors, three of which I will outline now:
- I fell in love with and married another law school graduate.
- Said husband graduated a year ahead of me in school, and accepted a position in a different state, leading me to graduate without any connections or network to help in finding a legal job.
- If you haven’t guessed by now, husband and I both brought a *lot* of debt into our marriage.
Even though I remained mostly unemployed for the first year of our marriage, and our combined school debt was around $85,000, we have managed to eliminate husband’s school debt and have reduced my debt by about $15,000 over the course of 5 years. If you’re in a similar situation, take a deep breath and take some comfort in the following tips my husband and I have discovered on this debt journey:
I think a huge part of our success so far in working on our debt has been the mindset that we’re in it together. Yes, we incurred the debt individually for our own degrees. But as partners, it helps to have each other’s back and focus on how to eliminate that nasty debt together, rather than trying to shoulder that frustration on your own.
Especially because the task of overcoming debt is mentally overwhelming, it helps to have a partner in the trenches with you to bounce ideas off of, make the right financial decisions for your circumstances, or simply to commiserate and move forward.
Decide what your priorities are as a couple. It’s pretty easy to decide priorities when you’re on your own, but when there is someone else to account for, it’s a whole new ballgame. With two debt babies to take care of from the start of our marriage, we chose to focus on husband’s debt first because his was smaller and the interest rates on both loans were about the same. It was mentally easier for us to focus on the smaller debt, and eliminate it, than to divvy up extra income between the two debts.
This approach also helped us gain confidence and feel like a lion tamer against the debt – each additional payment was like watching a large balloon deflate into a small heap of rubber. By focusing first on one debt, before applying extra payments to the next debt, we were able to pay an additional $18,500 in the last 2 years towards husband’s debt.
Don’t be Hard on Yourself
It’s pretty easy to get caught up, stressed out, and over-analyze the dark cloud of debt hanging over your head. Focusing too much on something like debt can take the control out of your hands, rather than enjoy what you do have and what you are achieving each day toward conquering the dark debt cloud. Through trial and error, we have found that our marriage functions best when we focus on working hard each month, watching our spending, and coming together at the end of the month to figure out how much extra we can throw at our debt.
Some months we aren’t able to pay anything extra towards the debt, but other months are wonderful, like the month of February 2014, when we paid off the remainder of husband’s debt. Holding onto those proud, joyful times are the ammunition you need to keep going and working on ways as a married couple to tame your debt.
How have you handled debt in your marriage? Is it a team effort, or do you each focus on your own financial situations individually?
Katie is an attorney and writer who enjoys craft beer and homemade baked goods. Read more about her varied musings at Eat Drink and Remodel.