Just married? Here's how you and your partner can create a financial plan together to reach your goals.
The day after my wedding, the last thing I was thinking of was our financial plan. I did feel some financial relief that some of the big expenses were over, but I knew we still had a lot of work to do. Getting married was one of the best decisions I ever made. However, weddings are not cheap, and we paid for ours in cash despite having debt.
To focus on planning and paying for the wedding, we had neglected a few things, which were now starting to stack up. And with money being the main cause of stress in relationships, we knew we had to get our financial situation together ASAP.
Here's how we got proactive during our first three months of marriage.
We Paid Off $4,000 in Credit Card Debt
Before we got engaged, my husband had quite a bit of credit card debt. It was a shock to both of us, but it happens (especially if you don't keep an eye on your spending). We had separate finances throughout our entire relationship, so I wasn't always aware of how he was spending his money; nevertheless, we decided that he make the minimum payments on the credit card debt throughout our engagement so we could focus on the wedding, then we'd pay off the debt together.
I can't stand credit card debt—or debt in general, for that matter—so right after our honeymoon, I put a plan in place. We used some of our gift money to kick off the debt repayment process for three of my husband's credit cards.
Each month we threw a chunk of money toward the credit card debt and used the avalanche method to attack the card with the highest interest rate. In order to pay off the debt quickly, we started living on one income. I got paid from my full-time job twice a month, so we lived off my paychecks, then used my husband's income to pay off the credit card debt and save. I also side hustled by taking on more freelance writing gigs and put that extra income toward my student loans.
We Temporarily Stopped 'Dating'
We added up about $40,000 in combined debt when we got married and started chipping away at the credit card debt and my student loans immediately. Some months, we'd put $2,000 to $3,000 toward our debt. This required major dedication and didn't leave much of a budget to plan formal dates.
But don't feel bad for us. We've still found ways to spend quality time together. We hang out at the house almost every Friday, buy drinks, and just talk, play games, or watch Game of Thrones (our favorite show).
Over the summer, we've taken evening walks and brought our son to free movies in the park—great for family bonding.
On a recent family trip to Wisconsin Dells, we had the chance to head down to the adult bar at the pool, just us. We may not be going out to dinner and a movie every weekend, but we make the effort to have designated one-on-one time whenever we can.
My Husband Got a New Job
Shortly after we married, my husband started a new job. The pay and benefits are better; his colleagues are kind. However, his new job requires more hours than he used to work, so we adjusted our schedule accordingly.
Since my husband now comes home later in the evening, I have more responsibilities. Our schedules are a bit different, so we're lucky if we share one day off per week together (two would be a bonus).
Needless to say, we're much busier than before, but we're trying to see the positives, especially our new financial benefits. For starters, my husband qualifies for a 401k with matching contributions after six months, and he will gain medical, dental, and vision benefits after being on the payroll for only 30 days.
The whole family is on his medical insurance plan and is now eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA) with a company match, so (it may sound weird) I'm excited to start contributing to that and saving more money. Neither of us has had an employer provide a 401k or an HSA—there is much to learn.
We're Looking Forward to Our Financial Future
Looking back, we've accomplished so much during our first few months of marriage, and I'm excited about the financial plan we've created for our future. Newlywed bliss is nice, but we're working toward marital bliss—which will be much more rewarding in the long run.
Chonce Maddox runs the blog My Debt Epiphany and contributes personal finance stories to many other online publications.