It wasn’t until 3 years into our marriage that Sam and I really talked about money as a couple.
Shocked? Don’t be. I hate conflict and avoid anything that will cause a fight like it’s a plague. And according to research put out by Ramsey Solutions, couples with large amounts of debt tend to fight more, and money is still the #1 reason for divorce in our country:
Clearly, I’m not alone in hating the money topic!
It took months, if not years, of hard work – painful work – to get to a point where we could talk about money without me crying or Sam getting angry.
Awkward? Embarrassing? Yep, but I’m sharing this with you because the other side of all of those fights and late-night talks and slammed doors and tears is one heck of a marriage. I don’t mean to say that Sam and I agree on everything now, but getting to a place of understanding, trust, and respect was worth all the pain it took to get there.
I just wish we had gotten there sooner.
I’m sharing this with you today because understanding finances was a turning point in our marriage. It should have happened before the marriage, at least to some extent, but as I’ve shared before we were just two young, dumb, college juniors when we got married, and no one told us we needed to have these discussions.
So this is me, telling you now, you need to talk about money.
Not just what you both make. You need to know how much debt the other person carries, and you need to be honest if you have any, too. You need to get on the same page about debt – are you ok with it, or not? Your marriage is not going to work well if one of you is fighting to pay off the credit cards while the other one is wracking up bills on Amazon.
I am by no means a financial expert. I am an expert about my own finances, though. If you’re not, you’ll get there, but you have to put the work in first.
And it all starts with your wedding.
That sounds dramatic, but hear me out…
Years ago, I walked into the office of my favorite boss of all time to find her crumpled behind her desk, tears streaming down her face. I was only a freshman in college, but I will never, ever forget that encounter.
My boss was one of those people who was always smiling, even when she wasn’t. She had the purest, kindest heart and the best laugh you ever heard, and I have never in my life seen her get angry. Yet here she was, sobbing at her desk.
I shut the door and asked if everything was ok, fully intending to get the heck out of there as soon as I could because let’s be real, no one likes to have a meltdown in front of their employee, and I wanted to give her her space.
But she told me to sit down.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’m not feeling well.” Then she paused, and laughed a little – one of those mirthless laughs people do when they’re overwhelmed and not at all amused.
“Actually, I never get much sleep anymore.”
She told me she was working nights – on top of the job she was doing as my boss – at a UPS loading facility. She got up at 1 am every morning to get to UPS by 2 am, where she loaded boxes until 7 am, then got ready for her 9-5. Then she went home, briefly saw her husband as he was headed out the door for his side job, and watched their toddler son the rest of the evening.
She was exhausted, her health was failing, and she had acid reflux from all the stress.
Then she looked at me and said something that I will never, EVER forget:
“Rachel, whatever you do, DO NOT go into debt for your wedding.”
She told me that she and her husband had taken out a large loan for their wedding, and were now desperately trying to pay it off 4 years after the marriage. She only had 3 months to go before they could both stop working their second jobs, but the strain it had put on them, their relationship, and their physical health was evident.
Up until that point, I had never heard of anyone taking out a loan for a wedding, but years later, as Sam and I were planning our wedding, I could hear her words echoing in my mind – whatever you do, do not go into debt for your wedding.
And we took her advice.
In fact, we took her advice and ran with it – we’ve never gone into debt for anything (except our home, which we’re on track to pay off in a few years). We’ve made sacrifices. We’ve made hard choices. But we’ve never gone into debt.
Now, I know that your wedding is an important day. I KNOW that it will only happen once, and I totally get that you want it to be beautiful. But trust me, you can have a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime, look-back-years-from-now-and-still-smile wedding day without going into debt.
And think how amazing it will feel.
It may take some creativity. It may mean saying no to the swan ice sculpture (kidding, but you know what I mean). It may mean cutting your guest list down because you’ve been dreaming of that venue since you were a kid or, like me, opting for a good photographer and making the wedding cake myself (true story. It was freaking delicious.)
Here are a couple of resources I can suggest:
Free resources for planning your wedding with cost in mind:
- Twin Cities Wedding Swap and Shop Facebook Group
- MN Wedding Central Facebook Group
- Brideside Wedding Budget Planning Tool
Easy reads for learning about finance:
I hope this story is motivating for you like it was for me! I hope that if you haven’t yet, you gain the courage to talk to your fiancee about finances before you begin your marriage.
It can make all the difference in the world – like being able to have one parent stay at home with your kids one day, or having the financial freedom to leave a job you hate, or feeling safe during a financial downturn.
You know where to find me if you have questions. I love discussing finances and budgets!