Managing debt can be challenging, and many Americans find themselves thousands of dollars in debt at the time of their marriage. Subsequently, many newlyweds inherit the responsibility of helping each other pay off any debt they both may have.
Without proper planning, helping a spouse pay off debt can become overwhelming and cause strain in a marriage. With proper planning, married couples can help each other and make the process of paying off debt much easier than it would otherwise be if they were on their own.
The following guide is everything you need to know about handling debt while married.
The first step towards you and your spouse overcoming debt and gaining complete financial freedom is to come together as one and tackle debt together. When they say marriage is a commitment, they mean it in multiple ways. This includes making a commitment to helping each other pay off debt that existed before the marriage.
In order to overcome debt together, it is helpful to combine income into a joint bank account. While the thought of paying off twice the debt can be overwhelming, it can be helpful to have each spouse contribute to each other’s debt payments, regardless of how much each person makes.
When combining money, it is important to practice good communication with one another. Otherwise, there may be unexpected expenses that derail a budget. Work together to come up with a list of all income each person has, and be open and honest with your spouse about every detail of your financial situation.
By being transparent and coming together as one financially, you are well equipped to handle any expenses and debt that exists.
Successful debt management for spouses doesn’t just mean combining expenses. It also requires each of you to combine debt as well.
In many instances, one spouse has much more debt than the other, and it can at first seem unfair to some to have to pay for the other’s debt since it is much more than the debt that they have. However, it is important to put these feelings aside in a marriage and take it upon yourself to help your spouse handle whatever debt they may have, regardless of the amount or their current income.
The best way to get a good understanding of exactly how much debt the two of you have is to make a list of any and all creditors either of you owe money to, and then find out the exact amount of money that is owed to the creditor.
In doing so, it is likely that you will need to reach out to the creditors and discuss how much is owed, verifying that their quote is accurate based on the interest rate established in the contract and the amount that has already been paid.
Create a Budget
After you and your spouse have combined both your income and your debt, it is time to create a budget.
Ideally, the income between the both of you should outweigh the expenses and debt payments required. If there is not enough income to cover expenses, it may be necessary to continue cutting unnecessary expenses or seeking additional income opportunities until a surplus in monthly income is reached.
Your budget should also include a debt payoff plan. To start making a plan, make a list ranking each debt from the lowest value to the highest value. Establish the minimum payments for each debt. Pay off one debt at a time, starting with the lowest balance, until all debt is settled.
The most important thing is to stay organized with your budget and remember all the expenses and debts that have to be paid. The best way to ensure this happens is to use a debt payoff planner to stay on track. As you grow more comfortable with your current budget, you and your spouse may be able to add more expenses after ensuring all needs are met and money is saved each month.
Save Money When Possible
It is essential that you save money when paying off debt, especially when married. The fact of the matter emergencies occur and there are times when unexpected payments are required. It is best to set aside money in a savings fund for emergencies and create a buffer for unexpected costs.
While it can be difficult to save money while paying off debt, it is necessary to do so. It is best to think about saving money as an added expense. Simply saving a hundred dollars a month is enough to create a nice safety net, such as a car breaking down or the need for a hospital visit.
Be sure to resist the urge to dip into the savings for unnecessary expenses, and instead only use the saved money for emergency situations. By doing so, you can stay on track with your monthly budget even when unexpected costs creep up.
The most important part of a successful debt management plan between you and your spouse is communication. Without communication, there are going to be expenses that occur that you were not aware of, debts that happen that were not planned for and other unexpected financial difficulties that arise.
Even the most well-planned budget is useless without proper communication, and it is important to always be open and honest with one another about all money that is spent, all income that is being brought into the household, and all debt that is accrued.
When you communicate, not only is it easier to handle debt management and ensure a budget is properly developed and followed, but it also creates trust in the marriage, which helps marriages remain strong and happy.