According to a recent study, more than half of married couples carried debt into their relationship. For those who brought debt into the relationship, nearly 4 in 10 said it had a negative impact. Debt and the financial stress it causes can have profound impacts on your relationship health. I want everyone to be “crazy in love” like Beyonce so here are some tips that can help couples tackling debt stay financially healthy and happily married!
1. Set Realistic Goals: Grab the details of your debt (balance, interest rate, payment) and use a handy debt calculator (Debt Calculators) to determine a realistic payoff time frame.
2. Prioritize: Couples tackling debt often find it hard to prioritize between spending, paying down debt and saving for the future. If you try to bite off too much at one time, it will only add more stress to your financial situation. To save the most money in the long run, focus on the debts with the highest interest rates first. Also, avoid big purchases such as cars or furniture until you have your debt paid down.
3. Communicate: Isn’t it so annoying when the tips are so simple in theory but so hard in practice? I agree, so here are some concrete ways to put better financial communication into practice.
· Make the time: set a time once a month where you review your financial plan. Ask yourself these questions:
i. Are we meeting our goals?
1. If yes, celebrate!
2. If no, why not?
ii. Has anything changed in our financial lives?
1. Maybe someone got a raise or lost a part time job, time to adjust one way or the other.
· Don’t hide purchases from one another. It’s good to have a threshold (for example, anything over $250) where you both agree to consult the other person before making the purchase. Determine yours based on your household budget & goals.
· Find a neutral third party. Sometimes it’s easy to be open to new financial ideas when they come from someone neutral. Consider setting up an appointment with a non-profit financial coach who can give you the space to express yourselves.
4. Find free fun. Couples tackling debt often get frustrated because a tight budget can mean less going out. Sitting at home stressing over the bills on a Friday night is no good for your marriage. Make a game out of who can come up with the best free date night. Check Groupon for local deals. Take a hike. Invite your friends over for a potluck. Tackling debt doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your social life.
Love is greater than financial stress. Couples tackling debt certainly face an added challenge but if you tackle it together, with these tips and empathy for your partner through the journey, you will come out on the other side with a deeper connection and a debt-free budget!