Viewing Debt as 'Ours' vs. 'Mine' and 'Yours' in Marriage

Back in November (a while ago), Joe was listening to The Dave Ramsey Show and a couple was doing their debt free scream. The wife said that the turning point for them was when they decided to view their debt as a team instead of as two individuals. She also mentioned that it took them a while to get to that point. In an ideal world, you wouldn't have any debt, but in reality, the majority of people take on some debt in their lifetime. Whatever debt you do have, tackle it together, even if it's debt that you brought with you into your marriage.

Related: How to Make Combined Finances Work in Your Marriage

bringing debt into marriage

How Tackling Debt as a Team Will Help You Pay it Off Faster

When Joe and I got married, I was two years into my five year car loan and he had just taken out a couple of loans to get his lawn care business up and running. Before he took out those loans, we knew that we were going to get married so it was a decision that we ultimately made together. But my car loan was one that I took out all on my own. Even though they were our own personal loans, as soon as we got married, we started budgeting to pay them off together. Our first New Year's Eve as a married couple, we set a goal to pay off the remainder of our debt by the end of the year. As we headed into the holidays that year, we were worried that we weren't going to make our goal, but with some end of year bonus' at work, and by throwing in a little cash from each of our side businesses, we were able to make our final payment just a few days before Christmas.

Paying off our debt easier when we combined our finances and viewed that debt as "ours". We also found that the accomplishment of eliminating those debt payments was sweeter when we were celebrating it together. (Not that we had a lot of money left to go out and celebrate with because we got a little over enthusiastic about making those last payments right before Christmas...) Everything in life is better when you have someone to share it with, burdens are lighter and joys are sweeter, I've found the same to be true with money.

Related: How We Pay for College Without Going Into Debt

debt in marriage

If Joe and I had gone into our marriage having decided to each be responsible for paying off the individual loans that we brought into the relationship, we would have been setting ourselves up for heated arguments and resentment. Money conversations weren't automatically sunshine and roses because we decided to tackle our debts as a team and we still had disagreements over what we were spending, saving and putting towards debt. Those disagreements could have easily been ones of resentment toward one spouse or the other because their debt and the speed that they were choosing to pay it off was hindering other financial goals that we had. Because we had already determined that we were in it together, instead we were able to have those conversations with a focus on how we could work better together to pay it off faster.

I hear about so many couples combining their finances when they get married but keeping their debts separate. If I'm being honest, I cringe every time I hear about one of those couples. It hurts me even more than when I hear that they keep all of their finances separate, but I'll save that topic for another post. If you share the same goals for what you want to spend your money on and what you are saving up to do in the future, but you are divided on getting rid of the payments that are keeping you from reaching those goals faster, it will divide the two of you as a couple as well.

Related: How Involved Should You Be in Each Other's Finances Before Marriage

combining finances in marriage

Finances have a reputation in marriage for being the thing that causes the most arguments in marriage. If you are on the same page in every aspect of your finances, you will eliminate a lot of those disagreements that other couples are facing. When you do disagree, remember that you are not competing against each other, you are working toward the same goal. When you feel frustrated or defensive about the way the money is being handled in your marriage, talk with each other instead of at each other.

If you are going to go into debt for something, be on the same page about it. We're big advocates for paying cash and not going into debt for anything other than a house, but recognize that there are others out there who don't feel the same way. You might also be like we were, with a debt-free mindset, but debt still to pay off from before you adopted that mindset. My biggest tip would be that if you are talking about marriage, be honest about what you're bringing to the relationship, including your debt. Once it's out in the open, commit to each other that you will take that debt on as a team and obliterate it together!

Related: Debt & Net Worth

total money makeover

P.S. One of the books we read that helped light a fire under us and inspired to pay off all of our debt early on in our marriage is Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey {partner link}. We listened to the audio book on our drive home from vacation. We've also loved using the workbook that goes with it to put the things we've learned into practice in our own marriage.

Photography by Sadie Banks Photography

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