A Year Already?

This Sunday is my one-year anniversary.  I am not the easiest person to be around, so I’m glad my wife hasn’t changed her mind (yet).  Looking back at the past year, it didn’t really seem like a lot happened (other then the wedding and honeymoon in Cuba) that was different than any other year, but there were a couple of milestones that I thought I would highlight:

We as a couple became debt-free, other than our mortgage:

I haven’t carried debt of any kind for the past 5 years, since I paid off the last of my $25,000 in student loans.  My new (or as I like to say “current”) wife however had not read the same personal finance books that I had (or any at all) and had not received any financial advice from her family growing up.  Until we got engaged, we really didn’t talk about money all that much, I assumed that she had some debt (as most people do), but not a whole lot.  I was a little freaked out when I found out (after some coaxing) that the total debt was close to $20,000 – about half on a credit card at 19% and the other half on a department store credit card at 26%!  At the time, I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but after some discussion about spending and debt repayment, she was able to pay off her entire debt (on top of saving for our wedding) in about a year and a half.  As of this week, she not only has no debt, but she has over $3,000 in savings – something I don’t think she’d ever really even thought about, let alone knew how to do.  Money-wise, she is a lot less stressed – there’s just a lot less to worry about, although her new spending involves a lot less new clothes (a downside to watching what you spend).

We bought our first house together:

I had, up to the day I bought our house, never really thought I would be a homeowner.  Owning and having to look after a house had never really appealed to me.  Being a home-owner was very important to my wife (although apparently it had to be a specific sized house), and I warmed up to the idea, eventually.   Together, we have learned to do many new things that I don’t think I had ever really put any thought into before, like laying floor, wiring lights, painting, fitting trim around the house – we have also taken on the most debt that we probably ever will.  While the home improvement portion of owning a house is interesting and exciting, the paying off of the mortgage is daunting and boring.

So, those are the two main money things that I got up to in my first year of marriage.  Although the debt that I “discovered” was a bit of a shock, my spouse was able to (independently) pay it all off, and at the same time learn some personal finance fundamentals.

Did anyone else have any surprises like this when they got married?  How did you resolve it?

13 thoughts on “A Year Already?”

  1. My wife and I were pretty well reversed from what you described. It was me with the $30g debt coming out of school, and she had money saved.
    But I didn’t surprise her with it, I was always upfront when we were dating. I imagine it caused her a bit of discomfort before we graduated.
    But when I graduated, I pulled up my socks, worked hard, and paid it off in 11 months. Had to live apart for 1.5 years though. The reward was in getting married and putting 20% down on the house at the end of that time. We were married and got the house within a week of each other.

  2. I get married right after I finished college so we pretty much got into debt together. Nice thing to do as a couple 😉

    Good for her on getting out of debt! We’re going to start the up hill climb ourselves starting this May.

  3. @ Ben – Had my debt been due to education I would not have been embarrassed to let Dave know about the size of it. Unfortunately, I just had bad shopping habits and was living well beyond my means. It was my dirty little secret that I had $20k in consumer debt with no plan to pay anything back but the interest like I had been doing for the past 5 years. Dave knew I had debt, I just never gave an exact number until we were engaged and even then it was hard for me to admit that number. Having no knowledge of personal finance and having accumulated such a large debt was very embarrassing. Having to tell someone like Dave who is good with finances and does not enjoy debt in the slightest did not make it any easier. Having made such poor financial decisions made me feel rather stupid when I was shown what I should have been doing. At least I learned eventually I guess!

  4. Congratulations to Dave and his wife on both milestones.

    I guess it’s really true that spenders are attracted to savers and vice-versa. Well it’s good to have a balance in the money management department.

    I’m debt-free, but that was quite a hard thing to do, since I’m a spender at heart. Remaining debt-free is going to be the real challenge.

  5. I’ve been married for 8 months, and of course it is wonderful on many levels… but I have to say that I underestimated the financial benefits of a two income household. As the months tick by, we are constantly surprised how fast things are amassing… if we had a clue about investing it could be even better. Well, I guess thats we hang out on blogs such as this….

  6. @ Lynn Seidel: Thanks! The year has gone by pretty quickly.

    @ Financial Student: Good luck on your climb.

    @ The Personal Finance Blog: I think living with a spender keeps me from being “stingy” – as my wife so nicely puts it.

    @ Jon Snow – I think I’ll see more of the benefits of a two-income household in year two compared to year one, as much of that one of our incomes was going towards consumer debt:)

  7. Dave’s Wife: Don’t feel stupid for learning the right way to handle your finances.

    Stupid would be if you never learned/changed and still had the debt (or more).

  8. It’s funny, I never really thought about that when dating. When my husband and I got married, he was debt free and I was just wrapping up my student loans–I may have had about $5,000 still to pay off at 4% interest.

    I think that a big debt surprise would have been a shock for either of us. Being in debt is a way of life, after all.

    Also, the mortgage. My husband and I agree that we want to buy a home, but I tend to hope we’ll be able to buy something cash (most likely something small or to fix up) he often has his eye out on something larger! I think it’s because, being French, he’s never paid off a debt in his life (no student loans, no credit card . . .) I get all nervous when I think of a mortgage, sort of like having debt flashbacks!

  9. Firstly, congrats on your anniversary! My wife and I got married last summer and our first anniversary is due in a few months. We also got married in the sunny south and loved it. What was great is that we knew to the penny what the wedding was going to cost us b/c of the all-inclusive package.

    I never ran into any surprises after we got married. We had been together for several years and we paid off our debts when we first started living together.

    One of the things that I felt was important for us to do was talk about finances. She dreaded the idea at first because it doesn’t interest her one bit, but over time she has learned to appreciate the importance of it and we both realize its important for our relationship.

    A home has so many hidden costs, its unbelievable. The moment any renovations starts, expenses can fly in a lot of directions. Like your wife, my wife placed a high importance on being a home owner and didn’t overly enjoy moving when I sold our principal residence on two occasions; but she realizes it was well worth it.

    Nice thread!

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