Dump Debt Together for Financial Independence

Guest post by Elle Martinez, Republic member, host of the Simplify and Enjoy podcast and financial independence advisor with Couple Money.

headshot of elle martinez, financial independence advisor

Like many married couples, my husband Rob and I started off with two completely different views when it came to money.

Married with $30K+ of Debt

When we got engaged, he was a newly minted college grad, and I was wrapping up my senior year while working part-time at a paid internship. 

 On the plus side, we were both great at finding cheap eats and usually hung out at low cost and free events around town. On the down side was the debt we carried. 

I had two credit cards and a car loan. Both of us had student loans. 

One night after we got engaged we decided to share our ‘numbers’. It was a bit of an awkward experience, but we’re grateful to have laid it all on the table. 

After that chat, I was motivated to pay off my credit cards before the wedding. It felt wonderful to have that win.

Paying Off Debt Together

Once we got back from our honeymoon, it was time for us to figure out a budget that we were both happy with. It also meant syncing up with what goals we wanted to achieve. 

Looking back on those first years, we made some key decisions that had a huge impact on our finances and marriage. 

Live on One Income (Even as Dual Earners)

This choice was initially out of necessity. With my internship, we were taking it semester by semester. 

We kept all of our essential expenses under his income while my internship pay was used to pay down the debts, build our savings, and work toward other goals.

As you can imagine, we weren’t rolling in money when we first started, but even then, with this system we were making progress and enjoying ourselves. 

Go for the Big Wins on Bills

Another key decision we made was focusing our energy on big wins when it came to bills. Yes, there’s value in looking at your entire budget, but when prioritizing time and energy, we prefer to look at the three big expenses first – housing, food, and transportation. 

As I get into in my book Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money, it took real effort and honest discussion honing on what we really wanted. However it’s been worth it. 

Keeping your expenses on target in those areas can move the needle when it comes to your goals. 

Another area where we saved significantly (and many families can relate!) is with our smartphones. 

As I was hunting around for options, I discovered Republic Wireless. With their plan I could cut my phone bill in half. It was too tempting an offer, so I took the leap. 

Nine years later, I’m still a Republic Wireless member. Why? It’s all about the value. Not only were their prices really affordable, but they had some fantastic phone options. 

I quickly fell in love with durable and flexible Motorolas. 

That’s something we learned while paying our debt and saving – focus on value, not just on price. 

Monthly Expenses = Essentials + Things We Love

With some in the personal finance space, spending is bad. I’ve read some crazy stories of the extremes people go to reduce spending to the absolute minimum. 

We take a more nuanced approach. For us, we try to avoid unconscious or mindless spending. We’re okay with spending on the people and things we truly enjoy. 

Take our food spending. We do save quite a bit cooking at home, but we’re also spending on better quality produce and meats. We also are willing to host cookouts at our home for several friends. 

Traveling is also something we enjoy, whether it’s day trips, weekend getaways, or big family vacations. 

Whether it’s food, spending, or tech we do like hunting for deals, but we also see money as a tool and not the end goal. 

Enjoying the Financial Independence Journey (Not Just the Destination)

As we were paying off our debts and sharing our wins and lessons learned, I began to hear about the financial independence movement. 

While the FIRE gets much attention with the media, because of the goal of retiring early,  we were intrigued with more flexibility that comes with FI.

As parents with two kids under ten, we want to enjoy this special time with them. 

As I share on Couple Money and my podcast Simplify and Enjoy, SlowFI and CoastFI are two wonderful options for families wanting to carve out their path that fits their needs and timeline.  

Charting Our Own Path

By paying off our debts, saving, and investing, we’ve opened up options with work and have more flexibility with our schedules.

This past year has certainly had its challenges and not sure how this year will go, but learning to work together on our finances and goals makes me eager to see what’s ahead!