We’d all like to think love is enough to make any relationship work, no matter what. But real life has a few tricks up its sleeve — like all the logistical challenges it tends to throw at us. Unsurprisingly, money is a major factor in the success or failure of a relationship, including a marriage.
In a recent poll, 36 percent of married Americans cited money as the biggest stressor in their relationship, even higher than health (17 percent) or family (13 percent).
Money becomes an even more fraught topic when you add debt into the mix. Paying for a wedding is no walk in the park and may even cause couples to take on debt. Couples also need somewhere to live, whether it means renting or taking out a mortgage. And, married couples with children already know how expensive it can be to raise children.
Long story short: Many married couples are dealing with debt — but it’s important to do so effectively, lest money stress starts to negatively impact your relationship. Here are a few tips for tackling debt as a team.
Communicate About All Your Debts
It takes trust to grant another person access to your personal finances behind the scenes. But marriage is one of those “warts and all” propositions; your partner will take or has already taken a vow to love you for richer or poorer.
Although it takes guts to lay bare your debts — whether it’s $100,000 in student loans, a few hundred in credit card debt or anything in between — it’s much worse to withhold the truth until a later date. Have a frank conversation before the wedding in which you both disclose the nature and amount of your various debts.
Only then can you work together to come up with a plan. Plus, you’ll be boosting trust in the relationship, something that can actually strengthen it.
Divide Up Money Management Duties
So, one or both of you have debts. Most Americans do. The next step is assigning money management responsibilities so nothing slips through the cracks. You certainly want to avoid getting calls from collectors because you thought your partner was going to pay that bill — but they thought you were going to.
Decide whether you’ll handle your own debts, or whether one person will be the designated bill payer. Coordinate your bank accounts so automatic withdrawals are transferring from and to the right places. Come up with a workable schedule for paying at least the minimum on every debt, although it’s advisable to pay more whenever possible. This will at least help you avoid delinquency.
Negotiate with Creditors to Reduce Debts if Possible
There’s a chance you can negotiate with your creditors for better interest rates, or even a reduced payoff amount. Among the ways to go about this are do-it-yourself negotiation or working with a debt relief agency.
While you’ll pay a fee to enroll in a debt relief program, you will have access to customer service representatives and a structured plan for saving up enough to kick off negotiations. Plus, some people find it intimidating to pick up the phone and negotiate themselves. It all depends on your preferences and debt profile.
Reading through Freedom Debt Relief reviews provides a better idea of common reasons couples end up seeking debt relief: a husband or wife loses a job, a spouse experiences unforeseen medical issues, bills become overwhelming, home renovations end up exceeding the estimates, childcare expenses crop up, etc.
Come Up with a Household Budget Together
Conflict arises when expenses exceed income. Debt builds, and it’s all too easy to start playing the blame game. This is why coming up with a mutually agreed-upon budget is key to tackling debt as a team. If one person is focused on saving while the other one continues spending, you’ll make little dent in your debt — and you’ll pave the way for arguments.
There are a couple ways to build a household budget everyone can access and use. You can do so manually in a spreadsheet. Or you can utilize budgeting software or a mobile app to help.
The last part of budgeting effectively? Talk about money consistently. Set aside a few minutes each week to go over your budget together. Investopedia calls this a money date. Couples who tackle debt and money management together have a higher likelihood of staying together because there’s less financial stress in the marriage.