Money Talks, So Should You

Newlyweds on a Budget: Paying off debt when you’re broke

Erika Torres
by Erika Torres, Dimespring 30 (@newlywedsbudget)

In the three years since we got married, my husband and I have paid off almost $40,000 in debt. A combination of credit card debt, a car loan and a large chunk of student loans landed us in hot water, and we began our marriage in the red.

To think that on average we’ve been paying more than $1,000 toward debt every single month of our marriage is overwhelming. With only a little more than $6,000 left to go before we’re debt free, we can’t wait for the moment when that extra money finally goes straight into our pockets rather than toward debt collectors.

READ: From spender to saver in three simple steps

A big misassumption is that we must be raking in the dough in order to pay off such a large amount of debt, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. At one point, my husband was making only $8 an hour, and for about five months he was unemployed.

Here are some of the obstacles we’ve had to overcome to pay off debt:

  • Unemployment for four months
  • A sports injury that left my husband unable to work for four weeks (with no pay!)
  • Having only part-time job for three months
  • Paying for school during this time

Paying off debt has not been easy. But we realized it was important to us to make a commitment to get out of debt. In order to do so, we had to make sacrifices.

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Our sacrifices in our paying-off-debt journey included:

  • Downsizing to a studio apartment for 17 months to reduce expenses
  • Postponing our honeymoon for 2.5 years
  • Working side jobs to make extra money
  • Using our house down-payment savings fund to pay down debt instead

This is the list of the big ticket items we’ve had to sacrifice, but there are very many other everyday things that we sacrificed as well. We’ve had to restrict ourselves from dining out, we’ve had to pass up outings with friends, and we’ve had to scour for bargains. At one point, we would each get $40 a month to spend and that was it.

READ: 10 easy ways to avoid big college debts

We’ve have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to pay off debt and it hasn’t always been easy. But every day that we get closer to our goal, we know that we are closer to now owing anybody anything.

With only $6,000 left of zero-interest student loan debt, we know we are so close to being debt free. Already, we are saving an additional $250 a month just for paying off all our interest-accruing debt.

That’s an extra $3,000 a year in our pockets. Now to knock out the rest and we can officially say we’re debt free!


Erika Torres graduated from Wellesley College with dual degrees in English and Italian Studies — and $30,000 in debt. Since getting married in 2010, she and her husband continue to work at paying off debt and saving money, while still having fun and traveling. Erika is a member of the  Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, opinions and perspectives on personal finance.