When you get engaged, you have the opportunity to start planning a new life with the person you love. Although you’ll likely have the same job as you did before and may even live in the same apartment or house, a wedding is a chance for a fresh start in some ways. For example, many couples will go through and clean out the things they’ve collected over the years to make room for the new things that they will purchase together or that will be gifted to them at their wedding. Another great way to get a fresh start in marriage is to pay down all or as much of your debt as possible before the big day.
The average American household has approximately $139,500 in debt when you combine student loans, credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, and personal loans. On top of that, the average American couple spends slightly more than $35,329 on their wedding and reception between things like the wedding dress, venue, caterer, etc., which only adds to the existing debt that the couple had before. While having debt may not be an issue to some, for others it can be a serious problem—financial issues are infamously one of the leading causes of relationship troubles and divorce.
So, if you’re hoping to pay down your debt before your wedding to truly start fresh with the love of your life, here are five habits you can get into that will help you pay down your debt more quickly:
1. Include Your Debt in Your Budget
When budgeting, you include things like your utility bill, car insurance, phone bill, etc., but you may not always think to include your debt. Although it requires a monthly payment, it’s not something you’ll have forever, (or so you hope), so you may not want to put it in your budget. If you haven’t included it, now is the time to start. Without putting it into your budget, it will be harder to pay it down since it will be out of sight, and therefore, out of mind.
2. Keep Track of Your Spending
Knowing where your money is going and understanding your spending habits is key to getting out of debt. Knowing exactly where, when, and how you’re spending your money will help you spot patterns, (like coffee every morning or a soda every afternoon), that you can cut back or save money on, (by making coffee at home or giving up soda altogether, for example). It’s easy to spend more than you should be when you’re not paying close enough attention to your cash flow, so watching and keep track of your spending will have a bigger impact on your ability to get out of debt than you might think.
3. Put as Much as Possible Towards Your Debt
Often, people will only put the minimum balance toward their debt. They’ll set it to autopay, and they’ll forget about that payment completely. Instead of only paying the minimum balance, though, you should be putting as much as you possibly can towards it. After you’ve put money into your savings, have covered your monthly bills, and have set aside enough to eat, you should be putting whatever’s leftover toward the debt that you have.
If you typically live paycheck to paycheck, you may want to consider making some lifestyle changes. Instead of eating out, try taking a brown bag lunch. Instead of going for drinks, try hosting a BYOB barbeque. It might take some effort, but whatever you can do to put extra money towards your debt will help you get it paid down faster.
4. Follow Others’ Examples
Plenty of people have lived with debt, and plenty have worked to get rid of it and succeeded. People like Dave Ramsey, for example, are famous for their stories and advice for dealing with debt. Whether you like to read blogs, listen to podcasts, or discuss things with those around you, reaching out to others who have been there and getting ideas from them and following their examples is a great way to help you pay down the debt you have of your own.
5. Live Under or Within Your Means
Living life costs money, and enjoying it typically costs a little more. Instead of living paycheck to paycheck or relying on credit to live the lifestyle you want, you may need to make some changes and start living under or at least within your means. There are plenty of things that you may want to get like a new car, a motorcycle, or tickets for a Caribbean cruise, but if you don’t have the cash, you should wait and save up. It takes restraint and self-control, but it will help you better avoid future debt and handle the debt that you have now.
When you get married, some things may stay the same, but you get a fresh start at a new life. Why not make it a completely fresh start by paying down your debt so that there’s less for you and your new spouse to worry about? By tracking your spending and adjusting your habits, you can get your debt paid down more quickly than you think and start that new chapter of your life with a clean slate.
What do you plan to do to better manage your debt?