5 Steps to Paying Off Debt Before Marriage

This post is written by our friends Bryce & Bri Koch from The Money Well

The day we got home from our honeymoon we sat down and said hello to our combined $95k in debt. How romantic right? Student debt. Car debt. Ring debt. Wedding debt. Everything but the kitchen sink.

Luckily this wasn’t our first uncomfortable money talk. We spent the majority of our engagement discussing our personal finances and how we would fund our wedding. While it was less than fun at the time, addressing the elephant in the room and creating a plan to navigate our new reality as a team established deep roots of trust and unity between us.

Through these pre-marriage money talks, we learned how to be vulnerable while expressing both our financial and bigger life dreams. We learned how to be a place of safety and comfort for the other as we received each other’s concerns and fears about money. Most importantly, we learned how to be a unified team under one vision.

Practically, this means we can openly talk about sucky situations (massive, overwhelming debt), make a unified plan of action, and work hand-in-hand toward our goal.While getting debt-free was our first intention when we started discussing our financial health, the impact on our marriage has been far more valuable than dollars and riches.

The consistent act of unity and teamwork has resulted in an incredible first 18 months of marriage and great hope for what is to come. The strength of our financial unity has seeped into every area of every marriage, to the point where we can spot and dismantle disagreements a mile away.If you and/or your fiancé are also dealing with debt and financial disunity, we recommend starting here!

1. Become aware of your debt.

Get acquainted with the reality that already exists, whether you choose to address it or not! Total up all debt and write the number somewhere you can reference it. There is power in awareness. If you can take responsibility for the debt that is tied to your name prior to having money talks with your spouse, you’ll save a lot of time tiptoeing around the situation.

2. Take responsibility for managing your money.

Translation: get on a written budget. If this freaks you out, go no further down this list. Budgets are for those who take their future financial situation seriously, want to pay down debt efficiently and effectively, and move quickly on to larger wealth-building opportunities with their future spouse. The reason most people fail at paying down debt is they don’t manage their income and their outgo. They fall into the lifestyle creep of spending more than they make – leaving little room for debt payoff progress.

Get. On. A. Written. Budget. Your future married self with thank you!

3. Make lifestyle adjustments to live below your means.

Speaking of lifestyle creep, the fastest way to getting debt-free is to create as much margin in your finances as possible. You need excess income that is not tied to bills and lifestyle funding expenses in order to aggressively pay down your debt.

There is no better time to do this than when you’re engaged and preparing for a life with your future spouse. In the first few years of our adult lives, we make significant spending decisions that set the trajectory for our financial future – creating habits and spending expectations for the rest of our lives. Where you will live, what you will drive, what type of clothes you’ll wear, how often you’ll travel, etc.

There are two basic ways to make these lifestyle adjustments:

  1. Increase your income. – Ask for a promotion, sell things you don’t need, pick up a part-time job, use your skills in a side hustle.
  2. Lower your expenses. – Cut cable, cut subscriptions, set limits for personal spending, cook at home, sell the second car, move into a cheaper apartment.

Working an extra 15 hours a week is not easy or sustainable for most people. Cutting out shopping or eating out probably isn’t a long-term plan. But for the short term (6 months or a couple years) these small changes could shave months or years off your debt payoff plan.

4. Give.

As you become more aware of your financial situation, the temptation becomes greater to control. Suddenly an unexpected car expense bothers you for days, you become judgmental toward your friends who spend lavishly, and you become numb to the needs around you. Even worse yet: you become your own provider.

Friends, this is not the life we were created for. Yes, we were called to be good stewards of the resources God so graciously gives. But we cannot become slaves to our finances. Our financial success is invalid if our money is not surrendered to God’s will and managed in complete partnership with Him.God speaks more about money in his Word than he does about heaven and prayer combined. Finances are significant to God and He tells us how to manage them.

He says to return the first tenth of our resources to Him and this frees us from the chains of being our own provider. Giving shapes our heart posture and grows our trust in Him.

5. Practice patience and persistence.

Getting debt-free is a long road of waiting and remaining. It can feel like a sprint and a marathon at the same time. However, there is great reward for those who are up for this challenge! Let yourself be motivated by the dream of a financially healthy future with your soon-to-be spouse. Use this time to build a strong foundation of unity and teamwork.

And lastly, open your eyes to what you’re learning during this time and how much stronger you’ll be when you get through it together.

Guest Authors: Bryce & Bri Koch

Bryce and Bri are the creators of The Money Well, where they openly share their pursuit of money wellness from a unified partnership in marriage. Finances are the #1 cause of division and stress in marriages today. Bryce and Bri believe that when couples unite to steward their money as a team, they will not only be successful in their finances, but they enjoy each other and enrich their marriage in the journey. Join the conversation at @themoneywell on social or themoneywell.com.
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