What’s yours is mine: Consolidating your debts after marriage
The phrase “What’s yours is mine” is especially true when you get married. Not only are you joining together two separate lives, merging two households and sharing one another’s hopes and dreams, you’re also becoming the proud co-owners of each other’s debts. From here on in, your spouse’s debt is your debt, especially if you’ve combined finances. But how do you handle it?
For my husband and I, that meant having discussions about money: Who owed what, what the interest rates were and how it was repaid. I learned that my husband had two high-interest major credit cards and only paid $100 or so a month toward the balances, which each increased by about $90 in interest per billing period, thanks to rates of 16.74% and 20.99%. In total, he owed about $3,500, using credit for small purchases like cigarettes and gasoline, and larger purchases, like birthday and Christmas gifts. On the other hand, I was debt-free — my car was paid off, as were my credit cards, which only had interest rates at 6.24% and 10.9%.
After our wedding, I wound up with a $1,500 balance on one credit card, due to using the plastic to book our honeymoon and pay for my bridal gown. Once we returned, my husband and I agreed upon a plan to consolidate our credit card debt. This was fairly simple, thanks to the low promotional-rate balance-transfer offers I’d been receiving from my credit card providers. I went with the lowest one, 1.99% for 8 months, with a 3% transaction fee on the $3,500 that I transferred.
The 1.99% rate is only good through the end of January, but once the promotional rate is through, the regular interest rate on that credit card is only 6.24%, compared to hubby’s 20.99% card. Perhaps, if I get another low or 0% interest promotional offer, we’ll do another balance transfer. The debt should be down to $2,000 by then, and my husband and I will continue to pay it off until there’s nothing left. Then we’ll be starting with a clean slate when it comes to credit card debt – and keeping it clean!
Sharing your hopes and dreams is easy – but talking to your spouse or partner about debt might be a bit harder. Yet, after the initial discomfort of discussing your financial situation, you may just find some common ground: You want to stop accruing debt and instead, pay it off. Brainstorm with your significant other to find the method of debt repayment that works best. What worked for us – consolidating our credit card debt at a better interest rate – may not work for you. Perhaps you have other types of debt, such as an outstanding student loan or car loan. But just deciding on a repayment plan and determining how much extra money you can throw at the balance is an excellent start.
Time’s a-wasting – aren’t you ready to pay less in interest and eliminate your debts? Go for it!
Good stuff Nicole. So many couples are afraid to think about their financial lives together before their nuptials. But if you look at it as an un-doable event, there’s no time like the present to consider money matters.
I know I was afraid my wife would think I was a bad person because I didn’t have my financial life together at the time. However, every time we work through troubles together, we get closer.
Two people are bound to have two different financial situations — it’s to be expected, and all the more reason to talk about money before tying the knot. Glad you and your wife can come together to tackle these types of issues.
Great post Nicole!
Jordan and I are working to pay all of our debts off this year – before we get hitched and buy a home – so when we get to that place, we’ll be on a clean slate together 🙂
And you’re right about the discomfort level when initiating debt talks. But there is a great feeling when you work as a team to rid of them.
Keep up the great team work. 😉
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