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Weddings can be expensive, and it's not uncommon for the bride and groom to go into debt to cover all of the expenses. On average, a wedding costs $28,000 to pull off, according to The Knot, and that's not including the engagement ring.
Even if you've saved up for years, you may still leave for your honeymoon thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in the hole. If you're looking for ways to pay off your matrimonial tab, here's what you need to know.
Create a Plan to Pay Down Debt
Regardless of how much you owe, it's crucial that you take the time to develop a strategy that works for you.
If you pay off a loan on schedule or just make the minimum payments on your credit cards, it can result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars of interest. So, it's important to develop a plan of attack to pay down your debt as quickly as possible.
Debt Payoff Strategies
Here are a few different approaches you can take to paying off your wedding debt, particularly if you used multiple loans or credit cards:
- Debt snowball method: The debt snowball can help you accelerate your payoff. With this strategy, you'll pay the minimum amount due on all of your accounts. If you have some extra money you can put toward the debt, you'll add that to your payment on the account with the smallest balance. Once that balance has been paid off, you'll take the total payment you were putting toward it and add it to the minimum payment on the account with the next-lowest balance. You'll keep doing this until you've paid off all of your loans and cards in full.
- Debt avalanche method: The debt avalanche method functions similarly to the debt snowball method, with just one adjustment. Instead of targeting the account with the lowest balance first, you'll focus on the account with the highest interest rate. This option can help you save more money on interest, but it may not give the quick wins at the start of the process like the debt snowball method does.
- Balance transfer credit card: Balance transfer cards typically offer introductory 0% APR promotions, allowing you to pay off the debt interest-free for a period. Even if you don't pay your balance in full by the end of the promotion, you may still be able to save a large chunk of cash. That said, these cards typically require good credit to get approved, and you'll need to consider the upfront balance transfer fee to determine if the savings are worth it.
- Consolidation loan: With a personal loan, you can consolidate one or more loans or credit cards and pay them off over a set repayment period. This can be particularly beneficial if you're worried about being disciplined with a balance transfer card. You won't get a 0% APR, but with good credit, you may be able to secure a loan with a single-digit interest rate. As you compare options, watch out for upfront origination fees.
- Cash gifts: If you've received cash gifts for your wedding, you may consider putting at least some of the money toward your debt.
How to Create Your Debt Payoff Plan
There isn't a one-size-fits-all way to pay off debt that works for everyone, so it's important for you to develop a plan that works for you, your situation and your goals.
- Know what you're working with. You'll want to start by writing down the balance, interest rate and repayment term for each loan and credit card you used to pay for your wedding. This will help you determine which accounts will cost you the most money and which can be paid off quickly.
- Create a budget. If you don't already have a budget, take some time to create one. Take a look at your average income from the past few months and break down your expenses over that time into different categories, such as rent, groceries, eating out and entertainment. This process will help you understand where your money is going and how much of your take-home pay you're spending.
- Decide on your approach. Consider the different methods above and research other potential ways to pay down debt to get an idea of which options speak to you and can work for your situation. If you're considering a balance transfer card or a consolidation loan, shop around and compare multiple options to make sure you're getting the best deal.
- Set a payoff goal. It may feel premature to decide when you want to be debt-free, but having a goal in mind from the start can help you stay motivated. Depending on which approach you're taking, you may be able to use an online debt snowball or avalanche calculator, balance transfer calculator or other tools to nail down a timeline.
- Get started and make adjustments. Once you've settled on what you're going to do, get started on your plan. Track your progress over time to determine whether you're still on track and make adjustments as needed to fit your needs and your goal.
Cut Expenses to Pay Off Debt Faster
As you build your budget, look for areas of discretionary spending where you can cut back. You don't need to forgo all non-essential expenses, and it doesn't have to be permanent—just enough money and long enough to help you accomplish your objective.
Potential strategies for cutting expenses so you can contribute more toward your debt payments include:
- Canceling subscriptions or sharing them with a family member or friend.
- Cooking at home a few extra times per month.
- Giving yourself a cooling-off period on certain purchases to avoid impulse buys.
- Shopping around for auto insurance quotes to make sure you're getting the best rate.
- Negotiating with lenders to see if you can get your rates reduced.
- Adjusting your thermostat to use less electricity or gas.
- Carpooling to work to save on gas and parking costs.
Increase Income to Cover Debt Payments
Another way to accelerate your debt payoff is to look for opportunities to increase your income. Potential options include:
- Asking for a raise at work.
- Taking on more overtime hours.
- Searching for a new, higher-paying job.
- Starting a side hustle doing something you enjoy.
- Selling off belongings you no longer need or use.
- Consider a second job, such as rideshare, food delivery and similar gigs.
Even if you don't have a lot of extra time to earn more money, a little every month can go a long way.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit
As you work to pay down your wedding debt, it's crucial to keep an eye on your credit score. Your credit history is especially important for newlyweds starting a new life together. If you plan on making a major purchase, such as a new car or a home, or you want to finance a honeymoon, having good credit can help you qualify for low interest rates.
Experian's free credit monitoring service can help you stay on top of your credit by giving you access to your Experian credit report and credit score powered by Experian data. You'll also get real-time alerts whenever there's an update to your report, so you can see how your actions impact your score and also address potential issues as they occur.