Have you been struggling to pay off debt as a couple? Many couples have trouble managing money-related problems, and debt is one of the toughest. WeddingWire released their 2020 Global Weddings Report and found that 32 percent of U.S. couples reported going into debt paying for their wedding.
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.
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1. Calculate your combined debt and make a list of everything owed
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, including debt payoff, savings, retirement, etc.
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, 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. Have a timeframe and priority for 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 and debt payment schedule
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