How Student Loan Debt is Affecting Our Marriage

Would you believe me if I said that paying off student loans has brought my husband and I closer together, and helped to make us feel more like a team? It’s true. Paying off debt is not fun, but keeping communication open and working together has made this process much easier.

Feeling Guilt Over Bringing Debt Into a Marriage

I want to address this before I go through the way that student loan debt has impacted our marriage. Our attitude and mindset is such a huge part of what makes this work.

My husband and I were married a year after I graduated from college and a semester before his graduation. In other words, we were combining our finances in the midst of debt rolling in from both sides.

Before we were married, many of the things in our lives were “mine” and “his”. Two of those things were our budget and our debt. When we said “I do” in front of our family and friends, we were cementing both a relationship and a partnership — and that partnership includes the handling and decision-making involving money and a budget.

With both of us bringing student debt into the marriage, it was necessary to remove the “his” and “mine” labels from our loans, expenses, payments, and incomes. I accepted everything that he brought into our marriage, the good and the challenging. He did the same for me.

Being Intentional About “Our” Finances

By being intentional about the way we view our finances, we’re able to cut off many of the potential threats to our relationship including: resentment, pride, jealousy, and guilt.

Nurturing and living in this mindset requires consistent practice. It’s difficult some days to think that we’re saddled with months and months of hard work and a tight budget. But we’re a team and guilt or resentment over finances has no place in a marriage. Any decisions are made together, and our challenges are conquered as a team. We make the choice to work on moving forward as a partnership every day.

I would argue that clearing your heart and your mind of resentment or guilt will not only make the process of paying off debt more pleasant, but also more efficient. It can be a relationship builder or a crack in the foundation. It’s up to you.

5 Ways that Student Debt has Impacted Our Marriage

That said, the student loan debt and our payment plan has definitely made an impact on our marriage. We’ve only been married for a couple years at this point, but starting our lives together with such a big project has certainly been an adventure. Here are the 5 biggest ways that budgeting and paying off student loans has affected our marriage.

1. We Communicate About Everything

We have always been and probably always will be very open communicators. This practice has only increased since we’ve begun working on our finances together. Whether it’s letting me know that he’s headed out for lunch with some coworkers, or me texting him that I’m picking up a gift for an upcoming birthday in the family, we keep each other in the loop about everything that involves our finances.

Because we run a tight budget, it’s important that we are both aware of extra money that is being spent. Some might struggle with this level of open communication, mostly because the wrong mindset can make it feel restrictive.

However, sharing small money exchanges like these isn’t the same as having to ask permission. It’s a mutual respect for the work we both do to keep our budget on track. It’s willingness to put aside the world’s view of money and to prioritize our marriage and our goals.

Examples of purchases we always discuss with each other:

  • Going out to eat (we try to limit this)
  • Activities and entertainment (golf, movies, etc.)  
  • Buying clothes or home items (anything over $5-$10)  
  • Car washes/vehicle maintenance

By sharing little details like this, we’re not only able to practice communicating about money, but it often strikes up great conversations about our day to day life and how we’re feeling about everything.

2. We Argue Less Often

Because we are sharing more with each other on a daily basis, there is less for us to argue about. Sure, we can still bicker over family holidays and household chores. At the end of the day, our finances are under control. With finances and money conversations being consistently listed as some of the toughest on a marriage, we count ourselves as lucky.

By sharing the responsibility of maintaining our budget, we take away from ourselves the opportunity to argue. There’s no built up resentment when communication lines are open and both parties are being honest and working together.

3. We’ve Become Experts at Saying “No”

Saying no to trips, events, and extra spending in general can make us pretty unpopular with friends and family. It’s not their fault that we are prioritizing paying off debt, so there’s no reason to expect them to move their plans and lives around to match our spending. However, it doesn’t mean that we allow ourselves to be suckered into spending more than we should.

Here are the questions we ask ourselves when we are considering saving up for an event or trip while we’re paying off student loans:

  • Do both of us feel that this event is a special opportunity to make memories or experience something new?  
  • Are we both in agreement on how much we are willing to spend on this event?  
  • Is this event going to negatively affect our student debt payoff date or goals?

If we are at odds with each other on any of these questions, we just say no.

4. We Enjoy Giving Gifts More

When there’s less spending money to go around, it means that we buy gifts less often. It also means that opportunities to splurge on a gift means more. When we spend less money on ourselves, giving something special to another person is more exciting, even if they don’t know that you are making a special budget commitment for them.

When you’ve set aside some of the very few non-loan-payment dollars for a gift, it makes the giving process feel more meaningful. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room in our monthly finances. When we get to pick out a new book or toy for our nieces or nephews, we are even more excited to see their happiness when they receive it.

When we find something that we know a friend or family member will love, we are less hesitant to make room for it in the budget.

Our marriage always benefits from encouraging a spirit of generosity. Sure, we get caught up in bitterness every so often, but giving a gift always reminds us how much our hearts grow when we share what we have. Not many feelings top giving someone a meaningful gift — and working together on our finances has truly made giving gifts more enjoyable than ever.

5. Time Has Become Our Most Valuable Asset

You can always find a way to make more money, but we can’t change the amount of time we have on this planet.

The need to find creative ways to have fun together has made any quality time feel more valuable. One of my favorite dates is when we go for a long walk around our neighborhood and stop to share an ice cream cone at a local coffee shop along the way. It’s affordable. It helps us to really connect and talk about our lives and what’s new, and it feels special because we’re spending our most valuable asset together: time.

Are there days where I’d love to go on a date that involved a fancy restaurant? Sure. But getting creative has definitely helped us to try new things, spend more distraction-free time together.

Need More Tips for Paying Off Student Debt?

If you are dealing with student loans and want to face the problem head-on, check out my other blog post:

17 Tips for Paying Off Student Loans FASTER

Saving money and living a lifestyle that encourages us to communicate about our finances has been a real gift to our marriage. Student Debt is a pain, but it has been a huge part of the reason why my husband and I are focused on setting and meeting life goals.

If you’re looking to become a better goal-setter, check out the Goal Setting category. You’ll find steps we can take to prioritize and get our lives on track.

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