Reader JC sends in her story of her and her husband’s trials with money:
When my now-husband and I met, we were both at a turning point in our financial lives. After several years living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas of the country, separately, we’d each realized the gravity of our debt situations and had decided to make a change – start saving, stop spending, and just in general to be more aware of our numbers. I think this mindset is part of what bonded us from the beginning. However, it is difficult to be serious about debt when you’re falling in love! For about a year, we talked a lot about being responsible but did not take much action. The best thing we did financially when we were dating was to start a checking account together. Each month, we each deposited $200; that money was then used for all of our dating activities like movies, dinners out, or even just buying groceries to make dinner at his place together.
Our situation did not worsen drastically when we were dating, but it certainly didn’t improve. After one and a half years, we got engaged and bought a condo together, and THAT is when we got serious. Suddenly we found ourselves planning a wedding and a future together, and already more than $40k in combined debt. Our engagement was difficult; we made some decisions about our wedding that did not please our parents and some family members, but we had to be responsible. We kept our wedding guest list under 50 and planned a very intimate day and although some feelings were hurt, in the end, everyone has tried to be understanding and the people who did attend the wedding have not stopped telling us how special it was. The best part is, with small contributions from parents and some of our own money, we were able to pay off the wedding ($15k) in roughly two months.
So, we hadn’t lost any ground on debt, which is what we were afraid of. Nonetheless, we hadn’t gained any either. It has now been six months since the wedding and we have major momentum. Some of the best decisions we’ve made financially:
1. Combining finances. All of our money goes into one account and he handles all of the payments. We do all of our spending on an airline miles rewards card (honeymoon, here we come!) and have set a ceiling on daily spending on that card.
2. Living more frugally. We grocery shop less and buy less expensive brands. We bring lunch to work. We dropped the $160/month cable (kept the cable internet), and bought $10 rabbit ears for the TV. We’re not home enough to watch TV anyway! Now, our cable bill (for internet) is only $29!
3. Just a few months ago, I consolidated my car loan (high interest, as I was 21 and had bad credit when I bought the car) and another smaller loan onto a no-interest-until-november-2007 card. We will pay that off probably by next April.
4. Finally, my husband gets an ‘extra’ paycheck every six months. That money goes directly to our debt.
If all goes as planned for us, we’ll be debt-free (including car loans and student loans) by the June 2007 timeframe! For all of the times we’ve felt defeated, we just look ahead to less than a year from now and remember that we will have paid off more than $40k debt in roughly 2 years. Most importantly, we did it together as a team, and we learned some great lessons along the way.
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