When Craig and I first got married, we had a lot more to combine than just our stuff, personalities, and future parenting styles. We had to learn how to work with both of our money management styles so that we could meet all of the goals we have together as a couple.
Our first big purchase together was when we closed on our first home the month before we got married, and after looking at tons of houses ranging in price from $120,000 to over $200,000, we ended up picking a little two bedroom condo that we negotiated down to $119,000. The reason? We wanted to purchase the home with just Craig’s income, and we had a specific monthly payment that we wanted to make. The smaller the house (and mortgage) we bought, the more principle we were paying off each month. We could agree on that! Now that we’re expecting our first baby, we’re
starting to really feeling the pinch of living in a small space (800 sq. ft.), but we’re dedicated to waiting until 2012 to purchase our next home (unless we have to move a distance for employment). That gives us 2 years to save up for our next down payment and finish all of the little projects around the house that will increase its value. I’d like to complete as many of those projects as possible next spring so that we have a year to enjoy our finished home.
Resulting from our upbringings, personalities, and an assortment of other external influences, Craig and I sometimes have two very differing views on money management. We have the same goals ultimately – to be debt free and to live comfortably on his income so that I can stay home with our little ones until they’re in school (if we so choose, we haven’t actually decided yet) – but we have different views about how (and when) to reach those goals. I’m more stressed out carrying debts than I am about feeling like we’re missing out on new stuff and experiences; to Craig, certain expenses are just worth it, even if we can’t afford it, when it comes to doing things together (for example we spent a few days in Niagara Falls even though we didn’t have the savings for it – but considering he was heading of to Afghanistan and, you know, it was worth it for him (and me ultimately) to put in the time enjoying each other). And he may occasionally make impulsive purchases (mostly for things like iPod’s and computers) that throw us off course for a little while, but we’re learning right alongside each other the value of taking time to consider purchases (and waiting to find things on SALE!!). We see our friends who seem to have no worries about buying new vehicles or paying for expensive vacations, but we have to remind ourselves sometimes that chances are they are only just growing their debts to do so, even if they seem unperturbed. We know those people probably do worry about money, perhaps a lot more than we do, but it’s hard being ‘that couple’ when all of your friends don’t seem to mind putting it on the line of credit, or signing up for 36 monthly payments to get that new TV.
Nonetheless, we’ve slowly managed to wrestle out our joint money management system, and today we took a big step forward in our financial future. When we first got married in June 2008, we had around $25,000 in debt remaining on lines of credit and credit cards from when Craig was in university and the years following. Slowly, we’ve managed to chip away at the debt (while learning valuable lessons about sacrificing wants for needs), and today we can proudly announce that WE’RE DEBT FREE! Well except for our mortgage, but again our payments are weighted heavily towards principle.
We’re now free to focus on the financial goals we have as a couple, and there’s a LOT more room in the budget to save for those gadgets Craig so loves, and those vacations and home improvements I’d like to see. Additionally, we’d like to save up around $2000 by the time the baby comes to help cover the additional expenses she may bring; if we don’t use this up by the time I’m finished with Mat leave in August 2011, we’ll put it towards our next down payment, or as extra emergency savings if I don’t go back to work and we’re living fully on just Craig’s income.
The future will hold many surprises (hello baby!) for us as a couple, but paying off our debts over the past 2 years and overcoming the obstacles that his tour to Afghanistan (and an unexpected blessing!) presents has prepared us in many ways for anything that may come our way. Not only are we able to save a significant amount of our income now instead of directing it to our debtors (buh-bye!), but as well we’ve learned to lean on each other and God when things are difficult or when we’re unsure of what the next step should be. We’re praying that God will help us to stay this course of debt freedom, and to open our eyes to the times when we are worrying too much about our current wants and not our needs or the future.
If you’ve been paying off debts, or if you’d like to know more about how we did it, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or send me an email.