I had the “husband” part down cold. I loved my wife (still do), and I was ready to be passionately devoted to the girl of my dreams. But man, no one told me about the married-couple-money-roller-coaster.
Up until marriage, I was an average college student with a credit card and some manageable credit card debt (maybe below average if you check out today’s average credit card debt). Yes I spent a little more than what I earned, but I always paid at least half of the balance each month. Suckers only pay the minimum required payment, right?
But then I bought the ring, shared the cost of the wedding with my soon-to-be wife, and booked the Hawaii honeymoon. Needless to say, I could no longer pay half of the credit card balance. And so began the debt sink hole.
It’s funny, but when you incur debt that you cannot afford to pay off, you say to yourself (or at least I did), “What’s a few more dollars going to hurt? I already have so much to pay off, one more night out won’t do that much harm. Besides, eating out tonight will make me feel better about everything.” Not true!
Money Roller Coaster
So after our combined credit card debt, our combined wedding costs, and living out our first married year not paying attention to our income vs. spending habits, we found ourselves roughly $12,000 in debt by our first anniversary. Definitely not something commemorated in an anniversary card.
I call it a roller coaster because our purchases were fun (for the moment), dangerous, and they left us with a sick feeling after it was all over.
Recovery: How We Got Out of Debt
Nothing sparked an interest in our financial situation besides the desire to get out of debt. There wasn’t an intervention, we didn’t attend the Dave Ramsey conference at our church, and we didn’t have any savings or retirement goals.
We didn’t have any financial aspirations other than spending less than what we earned and paying off our credit card debt.
I gathered our previous month’s credit card and bank statements and started tallying up the scores. I found that we spend nearly $800 a month just by going out to eat! What kind of couple does that?
We were all over the place, financially speaking. We wasted money left and right on luxuries disguised as necessities that we had no business (or budget) buying in the first place.
So, we pulled in the reigns…heavily! We created a budget that fit our income and we stuck to it. We started dealing with our debt and marriage like adults.
I’m glad to say that within 16 months we had eliminated all of our credit card debt. We still had our student loans (moderate-sized state university loans), but fortunately we were still both driving our first cars.
I wish I could tell you that it was an ingenious program or a 5-step process that lead us to financial victory. Those would be simple to list out. But in the end, how we got out of debt was our desire to get back on course and the willingness to say “no” to unnecessary purchases and “yes” to mature and responsible financial execution.
Although it happened the hard way, I found out that you have to pay attention to your finances. To date we’ve financially survived 2 car breakdowns, one lost job, and one beautiful baby boy. Our financial future is promising because we learned from our mistakes, we developed a sound financial strategy, and we have continued to follow through with those guidelines.
Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer