When TJ and I met, I could tell right away we came from different financial backgrounds. He had worked hard every summer doing sales in California to pay for his tuition and living expenses, he had thrifty parents who had been able to help him along the way, and he may have had a reputation among his roommates as the one who would do anything for a free meal. I once gave TJ some leftover McDonald’s bucks coupons I got from a babysitting job, and to this day he insists it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever given him. (I’ll try to forget the $200 air compressor I got him a couple Christmases ago…)
On the other hand, I kind of flew by the seat of my pants when it came to money. I wasn’t a huge spender, but I didn’t like keeping track of things either, which meant going weeks and weeks without checking my bank account balance. I liked eating out, I liked hanging out with my friends, but I didn’t pay attention to how those things added up. I was mostly broke even during my undergraduate and graduate years. I also had about $12,000 in student loan debt lurking in the trenches, patiently waiting for me to graduate with my masters before it pounced.
TJ knew this but didn’t seem too troubled. He and I believed the debt wouldn’t be due for a while because I was still technically a student, even though I was also working full-time. I took a year leave of absence from my master’s program once we were married to move to San Francisco to be with TJ, which meant leaving my school counseling job and hoping I could somehow finish my graduate degree at a later date. Little did we know student loans don’t really care if you’ve taken a leave of absence and are “hoping” to come back soon. As soon as you’re not taking classes, they come a-knockin’. Quite rude of them, if you ask me.
Sure enough, six months after we tied the knot, a discreet little letter from my university showed up in our mailbox, politely asking for $12,000 or else I’d wake up in bed next to a severed horse’s head. (Not really, but it felt like that.) I remember feeling so guilty. Here I was, a financial burden on this really responsible guy. I felt like I needed to somehow come up with the total on my own. As I started typing “Which organs can humans live without?” in the Google search bar on our desktop, TJ gently stopped me. “Ash, we’re a team now! Let’s just pay it off and stay out of debt. And in return, just promise you’ll love me forever.” I gave him a big hug and agreed. (He still throws this in my face when I’m mad at him about leaving his socks on the floor or his electric razor on the counter: “Ash, you promised you’d love me forever, remember?!”)
Luckily, because we had had a pretty frugal honeymoon, no car payments, inexpensive housing (for the Bay Area), and two good jobs, we had saved up enough in just six months of marriage to pay the debt off in full as soon as the letter came in the mail. It took us down to not a lot left in our bank account, but it was definitely worth it to not have the burden of debt weighing on our shoulders. More than anything, though, paying off this debt together was such a bonding experience for us. I wasn’t in this alone anymore, and neither was TJ. We each had each other now, as partners, companions, and teammates.
I also learned the immense value of our budget. Yes, it was difficult and annoying to follow at first, but all that annoyance and difficulty had an end result — freedom, peace of mind, and security. It was totally worth any and all sacrifice to get there. Most getting out of debt stories are more comp
How has getting out of debt (or working to get out of debt) changed your partnership? Or, if you’re going solo, how has it changed you?
That’s terrific that you were able to pay off your loans so quickly and together. It really helps to strengthen your marriage.
Definitely such a great way to strengthen a marriage! Sure, ours wasn’t the most difficult or long-suffering journey that it is for a lot of couples, but it was huge for us to combine our finances – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Such a great way to unite! Thanks for your feedback. 🙂
I paid off all my debt several years ago before I met my now fiance. He has learned a lot from me financially in the past year + we have been together-even came to a Dave Ramsey event with me, haha! So as our wedding approaches next October, I am doing all I can to save as much as possible for wedding costs, while he simultaneously does everything he can to pay off his debt. We are hoping to start our marriage debt free, while having a debt free wedding/honeymoon. It’s great practice sitting down to do our separate budgets together, while working towards a mutual goal. Paves the way for great habits in the future when we join finances. 🙂
You guys are definitely on the right track! And with such a strong desire to start your marriage without the normal financial baggage, you’re way ahead of the curve. Awesome! Trust me – you won’t regret having a frugal wedding or honeymoon. It’s one day or a week at most, and I just don’t think it’s worth having individual carvings of yourselves in ice or swans carrying appetizers for the years of work you’ll have to do to pay it all off. 🙂 And so great that you’re planning it all before you tie the knot. Then there are no surprises! Good luck with your wedding, and congrats!
That’s an awesome story and just shows that when you’re supportive of each other, you are both so much stronger.
Thanks! I think you’re exactly right. At the risk of breaking into song, I must agree – two is better than one. (On that note – what the heck happened to BoysLikeGirls anyway?)
Last year I sort of stumbled upon my partners debt when I noticed money running out much earlier in the month. We sat down and worked out what was owed and luckily my boss gave me an interest free loan to clear it and took it back out of my wages every month. 1 year later and the debt was paid and we now have close to £10k saved!
Your story is so inspiring to others on their journey to get out of debt! I must agree with you that debt is quite the annoying little rascal you wish you could get rid of more easily, but once it’s gone it sure does feel great!