Love & Debt

When I was 7 years old I had a yellow purse stuffed full of cash. I had a variety of little hustles to earn money – dog sitting, bracelet making, plant watering – and every dollar I made got neatly folded and tucked into that purse. Sometimes I would take the money out and count it, but rarely did I spend any of it.

One day my mom and her friend needed cash to tip the pizza delivery guy and asked to borrow from the yellow purse. She and the friend were amazed and amused by how much money I had managed to squirrel away in that little purse.

I was less amused. I didn’t like seeing my money spent and I reminded my mom for a week exactly how much I had lent her until the yellow purse stash had been made whole once again.

I have no idea why I was like this as a child, but I know that these characteristics stuck with me through adulthood. Earning my own money has always been a source of pride and being careful with how I spend that money is deeply ingrained. When I was 16 and wanted to go on a high school trip to Italy, I carefully calculated how many shifts I needed to pick up as a waitress to cover my expenses completely. A full tuition scholarship to an in-state university and a multitude of part-time jobs resulted in minimal debt upon graduation – an amount I was able to easily pay off a few years later. The biggest debt I ever took on was to go to business school in my mid-20s. But once again, using a combination of finding a program where my tuition would be covered and a careful modeling of how much debt I could take on with my earnings potential, I was confident the hefty price tag of a MBA wouldn’t derail my financial plans.

So how exactly am I sitting here 5 years after graduation with a six figure load of debt?

The short answer is I fell in love.

The longer answer is embedded in the winding path I’ve been traveling as I learn exactly what it means to be in a partnership. A marriage. Knowing my financial self as an individual was easy – my natural tendencies are favorable toward money. But navigating joint finances? The invigoration of shared dreams and the challenges of inherited obligations all wrapped up in a commitment to another person? So much harder.

If I had to characterize our approach to money the past few years as a married couple I’d say at best we’ve been on auto-pilot and at worst I’ve tried to force and cram my money disposition on him. Neither has been doing much for us. Well, that’s not totally fair. We have assets, we have savings, we have been dutifully paying off our consolidated student loans painful installment after painful installment – but we haven’t had a real purpose. We haven’t had that drive toward a goal that we both felt all in and driven by – a vision we shared and wanted to work together to accomplish.

Until now. And that goal is to free ourselves of this debt as fast as possible – all $165,923 of it.


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