Don’t Go Into Debt After Getting Married

How to ensure you don’t go into debt after you’ve walked down the aisle.

Going into debt as a coupleRoughly 6,200 couples get married every day in the United States. Along with the laughter, smiles and well wishes, couples often walk away from the altar with thousands of dollars of debt — enough debt to equal the nation’s $72 million spent on wedding events each year. So what can couples do to avoid falling deep into debt?

Before the wedding

Savvy couples are choosing to plan debt-free weddings to avoid having long-term debt hanging over their heads. Todd Outcalt of Debt Free Weddings suggests couples opt for creative solutions, such as buying bridesmaids’ attire at local retail stores, instead of trendy bridal boutiques, and buying guest gifts and party favors that double as decorations during the ceremony. Couples can make table toppers and guest cards, rather than buying high-dollar designer place cards and guest comment cards for the memory book.

Managing credit card debt

Credit card debt is a real issue for many newlyweds. For couples combining their bills, balance transfer options that have zero interest for a year seem enticing. It is important to remember all balance transfer offers have a transaction fee from two to five percent, depending on the card company.

Couples should explore the total payoff before taking advantage of one of these offers. This option could save couples several hundred dollars in interest if they can afford higher payments and secure a transfer deal that nets a lower interest rate overall, including the transfer fee.

Combining technology

Almost everyone has multiple digital devices. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and big-screen TVs consume a large portion of the monthly budget when each one has an individual plan. Couples can save big money by combining bills with bundling packages, notes. A 2011 Pew Research study reported that almost three-quarters of people with a desktop and/or laptop get their news online. Couples can save money and avoid escalating debt by bundling and eliminating unnecessary services, such as cable if you use the Internet exclusively for “television” viewing.

Bank fees

Along with changing names, wives might consider changing banks. Bank fees add up quickly. However, many banks offer discounted or no fee accounts today. Bank of America offers a no fee option for customers who only conduct business via the Internet or through the ATM and have a minimal direct deposit. Many credit unions also offer no fee accounts.

Food budget

When considering the price of home-cooked meals versus dining out, keep in mind the price of grocery store food is rising much more quickly than the cost of eating out — about two and a half times as fast, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report. By using coupons and shopping ads, couples are more likely to have lower grocery bills than if they shop without a list. Scheduling grocery buying days also tends to reduce overspending.

Two cannot live as cheaply as one. Following a carefully constructed budget and planning ahead for large purchases will help couples avoid debt. One of the best ways to avoid spending money needlessly is to look for duplication. Combining bills for digital devices and bank accounts is a great starting point.

Have finance tips for newlyweds? Share them in the comments.