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Should you pay off debt before marriage?

What we'll cover

  • Reasons to pay down debt before getting married

  • Discussing debt with your partner

  • Strategies for paying off debt

Whether you’ve been swept up in a whirlwind romance or you’re making things officially official with your long-term sweetheart, marrying your partner is an exciting start to a new chapter in your relationship. But as the next part of your story unfolds, the pages that came before (both good and bad), aren’t necessarily erased — like your debt. 

Prioritizing certain aspects of your pre-marital life — like closing the book on debt — before the big day can help set up your future for a happy ending. 

Why worry about debt before your wedding? 

Debt is often stressful and can place a significant strain on people’s lives. Bringing a large amount of debt into a marriage, without an agreed-upon plan on how to tackle it, can set you and your spouse up on unstable financial ground from the moment you say “I do.”

Debt can make it tougher to set financial goals for important life moments, like buying a home, growing your family or prioritizing retirement until your debt is paid off. Not to mention that the financial burden can lead to resentment, frustration and disagreements down the line. 

Depending on the type of debt and how it’s handled, bringing it into a marriage could also be a sign of misaligned financial behaviors and outlooks. If you and your soon-to-be spouse don’t agree on how to tackle debt or what your financial priorities are, you may find that money is a consistent point of contention throughout your partnership. Debt could also be a warning sign of potential financial infidelity to come. 

Another reason to get a handle on debt before the big day? Weddings can be expensive. Depending on the type of wedding you want to have, debt could make it more difficult to achieve — or worse, your big day could end up adding to more to what you already owe. 

First things first: Discuss your debt

Most people have some form of debt. Having debt isn’t a moral failure nor does it mean you’re stuck for life. You shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to discuss the debt you have with your partner. 

In fact, having a  financial discussion (during which you talk about savings, debt, potential prenups and more) is a smart and healthy way to get on the same page financially so you can start your life together as openly as possible. 

Talk about different factors like: 

  • What kind of debt you have (student loans, credit cards, etc.) 

  • Your total debt

  • How you’ve approached it so far 

During your discussion, remember that not all debt is created equal. Some types of debt, like a mortgage, are seen as “good” since they have the potential to lead to positive returns in the future. On the other hand, debt from credit cards or high-interest loans is often categorized as “bad debt.” 

You and your partner might find that you carry some “good” debt, and you’re OK bringing it into your marriage. It’s up to you to decide which financial goals you want to tackle now to benefit your future together. 

Debt repayment can look different for every couple, but having an understanding of various options and strategies to reduce debt will give you more flexibility to find what works best for you.

How to pay off debt before marriage

Once you’re on the same page with your partner, it’s time to determine your debt repayment plan, which should include setting repayment goals and creating a realistic timeline.

Debt repayment strategy

How you get rid of debt looks different for every couple, but having an understanding of various options and strategies to reduce debt will give you more flexibility to find what works best for you. The snowball and avalanche methods are two popular strategies that can be used to help you prioritize debt repayments, especially when it comes from more than one source. 

Debt consolidation

If you have several high-interest loans or multiple credit cards with outstanding balances, this could be a helpful option to explore. With debt consolidation, all of your debts are combined into one loan (hopefully with a lower interest rate) and you make one payment each month. 

Build a budget

If you haven’t thought about creating a couples budget , now is the time to do it. By revamping your budget with a debt repayment goal and timeline in mind, you can get serious about saving and make some short-term changes that’ll help you make progress. For example, if you want to have all your credit cards paid off in six months, you and your partner might choose to completely stop spending money on dining out and delivery for a couple months. Or you might pause all your streaming subscriptions

While these budget cuts aren’t super fun, keep in mind that they are only temporary. 

Say “I don’t” to debt

Don’t let debt become the big, bad wolf in your storybook romance. As you and your partner plan for your nuptials and beyond, make sure you discuss any debt from before your marriage and, if it makes sense for your situation, put a plan in place to pay it back before the big day. When it’s time to ride off into the sunset, you’ll feel secure and ready to save for whatever comes next — together. 

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