Top 4 Tips: How to Become Debt-Free Before You Get Married -

Top 4 Tips: How to Become Debt Free Before You Get Married  A few months ago, my friend Kaila called to invite me over to her house for dinner. We had made plans to meet up that night at one of our favorite local restaurants, but she explained over the phone that eating out didn’t fit into her budget any longer. She was trying to live very frugally over the next six months because she was working to pay off the last $10,000 of her student loans. I thought it was a great idea, but I wondered what had brought on this big push to pay it all off. She had been talking to her boyfriend about getting married and had realized that she didn’t want to get engaged until she was out of debt, she informed me. Getting married is a chance to start a new life together. The opportunity for a fresh start might be why some couples wait to get married until they’re debt-free. Whether their debt is in the form of credit card debt, student loans or car loans, these couples worry that debt will impact their marriage and their relationship and decide to do everything they can to either reduce their debt or get rid of it entirely before tying the knot. The marriages that they enter into, which I have dubbed No Debt Unions (or #NoDebtUnions), are stronger because of this. There are a number of reasons why couples choose to start their lives unencumbered by debt. One obvious reason is that weddings can often be expensive and for a couple who’s already in debt that can make their special day even more stressful. Another factor is that like with Kaila, the debt often belongs to only one half of the couple and that person feels a personal responsibility to tackle that debt before combining their financial future with someone else. In a 2006 study featured in the Journal of Extension, the researchers found that debt distracted couples from the process of building a healthy marriage during their first months and years of marriage. Debt affected marital adjustment and marital satisfaction rates and was seen by couples as the biggest issue in their marriage. A study by Utah State University shows that money problems are one of the leading causes of marital arguments, with money starting arguments 30 percent of the time. More From How Much Debt is Too Much? For those who don’t want to rewrite their wedding vows to read “till debt do us part,” efforts to pay off or reduce debt help couples start their marriages off on the right foot. By eliminating debt before getting married, couples set themselves up for a happier and stronger marriage. The couple that pays off debt together might be the couple that stays together since the process of paying off debt can bring them together. There is nothing more exhilarating than being able to celebrate paying off debt. That was certainly Kaila’s experience. She finished paying off her debt in September and got engaged in October. For Kaila, paying off debt before getting engaged was a choice she came to on her own: “I wanted to make sure my finances were in order before Scott and I joined assets and lives. I didn’t want to bring my student loan debt into our marriage.” Still, Scott’s support was key, “We lived together while I was paying it off and Scott helped by being supportive and not tempting me to spend money. I was putting more than 50 percent of my take home pay towards my student loan balance so we had to live very spartanly for six months. We got really creative. That allowed us to go through the process of paying off debt together. It just confirmed what a great team we are.” Now that Kaila’s paid off her debt, it’s motivated her and her fiancé Scott to save together for their future goals, “We know what is possible now in terms of savings so we have set up a joint savings account. We’re going to try to live on only one of our after-tax incomes and save the other income starting in January. That money will go towards a down payment on a condo and our wedding.” If you’re hoping to have a No Debt Union, consider taking the following steps to pay off or reduce debt before getting married.

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