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How to Tackle Debt as a Couple



Many couples have trouble managing money-related problems, and debt is one of the toughest. Online wedding registry and planning site Zola shows it costs couple $30,000, on average, to say “I Do.” Many go into debt for the big day.[1]

LendEDU released a study last year showing a third (33%) of respondents went into debt paying for their wedding. How much? Well, on average almost $12,000.[2]

Couples’ debt doesn’t just involve weddings though. It could be money owed from before the relationship, such as student loans, credit card bills, or auto loans. It could also have been created together, like with a mortgage, installment loans, medical bills, or back taxes.

Instead of working alone to improve the family’s finances, work with your partner. You can progress farther and faster when you align your goals and strategies.

1. Calculate your combined debt

Be honest about the debt you have, as this will help you to resolve your financial problem as a team. Otherwise, you are just working against each other by hiding what you owe. No one wants financial infidelity.

To help you create a clear picture of your debt situation, it’s important to cover amounts owed, the number of credit cards and credit accounts, minimum payment amounts, and whether there are any delinquent accounts.

2. Create a list of shared financial goals

Once you know what you’re facing in terms of how much you owe, the next step is to create a joint strategy for reducing or even eliminating your debt.

Start by making a list of the financial goals you’d like to achieve as a couple. For example, goals might include when you want to be debt-free, how much you want to pay down and save each month, and how you want to establish other accounts like an emergency fund and retirement plan.

Think about these financial goals as a couple, including what you can contribute individually to create mutual benefit. Also, if you have children, your shared financial goals should consider them as well, including saving for college and other child-related expenses.

3. Commit to those financial goals as a family

Commit to those financial goals as a family, including sharing the benefits

Your parents’ generation and those that came before often taught that discussions about money were for parents and not kids. Those days should be considered a mindset of the past, though. Now, more than ever, it’s important to discuss some aspects of money with your children. That’s because they learn their spending and saving behaviors from you.

Explain why financial goals are important, how to make them, and what the financial goals are for the family. This can serve as a framework for why they can have or cannot have certain things later on when they ask for them. You can always defer back to the need to save, pay off debt, and plan for the future. Children model the good (and bad) financial habits practiced by parents.

4. Prioritize which debts to pay off

Look at what you owe and develop a timeframe and priority list to pay off debts, including considering which debt payoff approaches work for you.

Examples include the snowball method to repay debt or the avalanche method for debt elimination. Discuss these options based on a monthly payment that makes sense for your situation and doesn’t add stress to the relationship.

5. Develop a family budget

Develop a family budget and debt payment schedule to pay off your debt as a couple

Knowing what you owe and how much you earn can become the basis for a family budget. The budget should list every outlay of money, including regular expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance, taxes, and groceries.

In your budget, also list irregular expenses that pop up and often account for much of what could be saved. Examples are entertainment, meals, vacations, clothing, personal care, subscriptions, school supplies, tuition, etc.

When looking at all the ways you spend money each month, you may need to find ways to trim those costs for a while in order to plan your debt repayment schedule. Each family member may need to make some sacrifices during this time, but it’s important to remember that there is a long-term benefit in doing so.

Find out: How to Create and Stick to a Budget

6. Research repayment options

Research paydown options and make decisions together

When researching ways to pay your debt faster, consider an individual strategy versus a team strategy.

For example, one way to tackle any high-interest debt you have is to get a joint personal loan to consolidate many of those debts into one streamlined payment. This can immediately reduce the interest owed and help you see a marked difference from your debt payoff efforts.

If you have student loans to address, too, then these may require another strategy, including negotiating a lower interest rate or repayment terms. Also, decide what gets paid first and whether you should explore more dire strategies like debt settlement, credit counseling, and/or bankruptcy.

New technology makes it incredibly fast, easy, and secure to find out which is best for you and your debt. Instant Debt Advisor℠ will recommend a debt solution in minutes. It’s free to use and has no impact on your credit.

7. Be transparent

Provide each other with updates about achievements and any setbacks so you can celebrate or address new issues as a team. Reviewing progress on financial goals can also provide both of you with a sense of accomplishment so you know you are on the right track.

Keeping communication lines open about money helps strengthen trust and commitment in a relationship. You both can feel good because you know that you are better together when handling debt or any other problem that comes your way.

8. Talk about money

Provide a safe, understanding environment for talking about money habits rather than using the blame game

Nothing productive happens when you get angry and blame your partner for the debt. Instead, fix the problem, not the blame. Supporting each other’s efforts and teaching the other person how to improve their money habits creates mutual success, a satisfying relationship, and a happy home.

No matter what kind of debt you have, can help you solve it.

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