Combining finances as a couple can more than double the amount of student debt you’re facing. However, when you’re working toward paying off student loans, two wallets are better than one.
Couples can eliminate student debt together as they find ways to pay it off smarter and faster. By working with your significant other and planning carefully, couples can find themselves in an advantageous position to tackle their student debt.
Setting financial goals as a couple
Before you start tackling your student loans, you and your partner will need to do some work to get on the same page. Couples need to align their priorities and efforts, or they could end up working against each other — and their shared financial goals.
Be honest and own up
First, couples need to be honest about where they are and how they got there. Together, catalog your financials: debts, incomes, bills, savings, and everything else.
If there are money issues you feel are holding you back, now might be a good time to discuss them.
Try to avoid getting defensive, and don’t hide anything. Instead, be willing to admit where you could do better and take responsibility for improving your own money behavior.
Focus on fixing, not rehashing, the problem
Stay focused on the future and what you can do next, rather than what you should have done in the past.
Instead of getting hung up on which student loan belongs to whom or feeling resentful that your partner brought student debt into the relationship, drop the blame game and take joint ownership of student loans.
Partners should also be honest but understanding of each other, and avoid judgment or shaming. This kind of reaction often just makes a partner more likely to be deceitful, finds a 2014 survey.
This process is about fixing problems and finding solutions, not doling out punishments for past mistakes.
Align your money priorities
Discuss each of your financial priorities and values. What do you want your finances to look like in six months? A year? Five years? What is a “must-have” for each of you, and where are you willing to compromise?
If you each share what you hope to achieve, you can discuss the importance of each goal and decide what to start working on first.
Strategies for couples to knock out student debt
One of your top goals as a couple is probably to pay down student loans, particularly if they carry higher interest rates. It’s challenging for a couple to build wealth with student debts and accruing interest to fight against each month.
If you both buy in to knocking out debt, you can get a lot closer to this goal together than you would apart.
If you’re going to share financial goals, you should also consider fully combining your finances as well. A joint, dedicated effort to pay down debts works best when no one’s holding back.
When you have two people’s savings, incomes, and brainpower to work with, you suddenly have a lot more resources to budget with. Throw as much as you can at student debt and you’ll be amazed at how fast you can pay it down — together.
Make a plan to smash student loans
Part of pooling resources is deciding how to spend all those dollars. Couples will need to make a “get out of debt plan.”
Start with the big picture: How fast can we pay down debt? How much can we pay each month?
Decide which student debts to pay off first (focus on loans with high interest). Make a spending plan to put extra money toward your student loan. Look into options like refinancing, repayment plans, or other debt management tools.
As a team, you can outline your roadmap to financial freedom.
Keep each other on course
It’s healthy to have a mechanism in place to check your money decisions. Couples have a very effective, external check on their spending: their spouse.
Knowing that you’ll have to justify your financial choices will give you a moment to step back and rethink a purchase. Getting in this habit can also prevent fights and spending disagreements.
Play to each partner’s strengths
Each couple will have to decide the details about how they want to manage their finances.
But they can play to each partner’s strengths to get further, faster. Working together also allows partners to compensate for the other’s financial blind spots and avoid mistakes.
Establish more income sources
When two people work together, there’s double the income. If each partner works on a side job too, it’s possible to quadruple your income sources. This additional income can be used to pay balances down on student debt.
Look into setting up a low-investment side job to start bringing in more money. You can also use unique skills to ramp up a side job that pays well.
Couples can support each other in these endeavors by taking turns covering other household chores or responsibilities. This will free up time so a partner can focus on working and earning more.
Encourage and motivate each other
As you take steps toward paying off your student loans, point out the progress you’re making. Even simply saying, “Look — another $500 is gone!” can be encouraging. If you see your partner stepping up to the challenge, let them know it’s noticed and appreciated.
For even bigger wins, like a promotion at work or getting rid of a high-interest loan, treat yourselves to a fun date night.
Seeing that your efforts are paying off will encourage you both to keep working toward goals.
Paying down student loans as a couple comes with a built-in reward system. Knowing you’re doing something that benefits your partner is a powerful and positive source of motivation. When you face student loans together, those debts won’t stand a chance.
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