Preparing for Your Big Day by … Getting Out of Debt

Guest post today is by Erin Steiner who writes about personal finance and other topics for a variety of websites and clients.

When you get married, your finances become inexplicably intertwined with someone else’s. Typically, it is true that your own credit rating isn’t typically influenced by your partner’s credit rating. But it is also true that if your spouse racked up a bunch of debt before you got married and then something happens to them, you would be responsible for settling that debt.

This is just one reason it’s a good idea to try to pay off individual debts before you get married. Do you need another? Paying off your independent debts helps you start your marriage with a clean slate…assuming you aren’t facing a mountain of wedding debt. It’s easier to join your finances together when you do not have to keep track of who is paying what to which debt.

This is what you want to avoid.

Of course, deciding to pay off your debt before your wedding ceremony is one thing. Actually doing it is another. Here are some practical things you can do to pay off your debt before your wedding day (without resorting to eating ramen for every single meal).

#1 Move in Together Now

If you aren’t already living together, look at moving in together before the wedding instead of after. Yes, there’s something to be said for the romance and tradition of living apart prior to marriage ceremonies. The reality is, though, that you’ll have far less stress during your wedding ceremony if you move in before the vows are finalized.

And! One household costs much less than two! You can drastically cut your living expenses by moving in together, which gives you more money to throw at your debt.

#2 Call Your Creditors

If you have a solid credit and payment history, most companies are more than willing to work with you about things like your interest rates. A credit company would rather lower your interest rate and cancel your fees than lose your business. It’s time to get on the phone and re-negotiate your fees and rates. Why pay more than you absolutely have to?

#3 Balance Transfers

Transfer smaller balances on high interest accounts to a larger, lower interest account. This reduces the number of bills you have to pay and, often, the amount of interest you pay.

Most creditors have deals that will allow you to transfer a balance at 0% interest for X months. As long as you get that amount paid off by the agreed-to time limit, you don’t have to worry about a bunch of crazy interest being tacked on to what you owe and dragging out your debt. This means that the payments you make go further than they did on the original account, allowing you to pay down your balance quicker.

You spent *how much* on work lunches last month?

#4 Reduce Expenses Everywhere

Now is no time for pride. If you’re serious about paying off your debt before your wedding ceremony, now is the time to scrimp like it’s going out of style. Pack a lunch instead of buying lunch at work. Eat in instead of out. Make as many things as possible from scratch. A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of easy meals that are incredibly inexpensive.

In addition to frugal feeding, turn out your lights if you’re not using them. Turn off the computer if you aren’t sitting at it. Put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. Use the library instead of paying for new books; utilize movie rentals or streaming media subscriptions. Deal with the commercials on Pandora. Walk or bike to work instead of driving.

When you really start looking, there are lots of ways to reduce your day-to-day expenses.

#5 Bring in More Money

The last thing most people want when they are trying to plan marriage ceremonies is less time and energy. If you’re serious about paying off your debt, though, taking on a second job (a part-time job) is a good way to bring in extra money you can put toward your debt (and the cost of your wedding). You don’t have to keep the job forever, and it doesn’t have to be anything highly specialized. Waiting tables, clerking in a store, putting in some time at a call center, etc. – they’re all paying jobs that can help you increase your income.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

These are all pretty standard methods of paying down debt. But what if it isn’t enough? What if you’re still struggling and you’re worried about your ability to pay?

There is no shame in seeking outside help. There are lots of myths surrounding debt settlement, but here’s the truth: If you find the right company, professional debt settlers can do more to shrink your debt than you can on your own. These companies are able to get drastically low interest rates or even get interest cancelled altogether. Essentially, what they’re doing is taking over the management of your debt. You make a single payment to the company, and they make sure it gets distributed properly and on time.

Yes, things are going to be tight for a while, but really – do you want to put your partner at risk because of your debt? Of course not. So make a pact with your future spouse: No wedding ceremony until that independent debt is gone.