Plan care­fully to have wed­ding, re­tire stu­dent debt

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - Bri­anna McGur­ran Ask Bri­anna

I’m 25 and I just got en­gaged. I want to pay off my stu­dent loans by the time I’m 30. How can I pay for my wed­ding with stu­dent debt hang­ing over me? nup­tials that leave you smil­ing so much your face hurts, not gri­mac­ing at the specter of credit card debt.

Your con­tri­bu­tion

You and your fi­ancé will be best pre­pared to start life to­gether if you for­tify your fi­nan­cial health be­fore the wed­ding, says Anika Hed­strom, a cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner at Vista Cap­i­tal Part­ners in Port­land, Ore.

That means tak­ing ad­van­tage of any 401(k) matches at work, cre­at­ing an emer­gency fund, know­ing each other’s credit scores and stick­ing to your stu­dent loan re­pay­ment plans. Once you’re on solid foot­ing, the last thing you want to do is add wed­ding debt to your love story.

“You will end up be­ing so thank­ful a cou­ple years down the road that you didn’t go into debt over it,” Hed­strom said.

De­cide how much you and your fi­ancé can save per month for the wed­ding, in­clud­ing any hon­ey­moon ex­penses, while keep­ing the rest of your fi­nan­cial pic­ture in­tact. Maybe you’re get­ting mar­ried a year from now and can save $100 per month. Put your­self down for $1,200.

Talk to your folks

You’ll likely have a few sources of funds: The Knot says cou­ples cov­ered 42 per­cent of wed­ding costs in 2016, the bride’s par­ents paid for 44 per­cent and the groom’s par­ents paid for 13 per­cent.

Not ev­ery­one will be able, or want to, re­ceive fi­nan­cial help from par­ents. But in­clude your fam­i­lies in the con­ver­sa­tion early. You’ll get a sense of what, if any­thing, they want to con­trib­ute and how much in­volve­ment they want in the plan­ning process.

“It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant, if get­ting money from fam­ily, to be clear about whether con­tri­bu­tions are gifts or loans, and whether there are ex­pec­ta­tions as­so­ci­ated with the money,” said Ariel Meadow Stallings, au­thor of “Off­beat Bride: Cre­ative Al­ter­na­tives For In­de­pen­dent Brides” and pub­lisher of off­beat­bride.com.

For in­stance, if your par­ents help pay, they might want to in­vite their work col­leagues. Make sure you’re OK with that, or come to an agree­ment on the num­ber of peo­ple they in­vite.

Stick to pri­or­i­ties

On a smaller bud­get, spend money on your three musthaves and con­sider elim­i­nat­ing things that don’t mat­ter to you, like flow­ers, Stallings says. Look for cre­ative ways to save. En­list friends to make wed­ding gifts of their ser­vices, such as food prep or event plan­ning, and col­lect RSVPs on­line in­stead of pay­ing for postage for re­turn en­velopes. The keys are cus­tomiz­ing sav­ings strate­gies to your val­ues and keep­ing per­spec­tive.

Take it from Ash­lyn Whyte, 26, of Ran­cho Cucamonga, Calif. Her 150-per­son wed­ding cost $23,000 in 2013. But if she were to do it again, she says she’d make sure the event cost half that by invit­ing fewer peo­ple and us­ing an iPhone playlist in­stead of a D J.

“I do think it was a great day, and it was beau­ti­ful and we love our pic­tures and have so many sweet mem­o­ries,” she says. “But it was just a day.”

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