Relationships, Work + Money

How Paying Off $50k of Student Loan Debt Changed Our Marriage

I’m not going to lie, managing money as a couple can be hard! There are no easy shortcuts to figuring it out (that I know of) except just biting the bullet and doing it.

The best way I know is to just decide that you’re not going to sweep it under the rug, no matter how ugly your situation may be.

Believe me, our money situation was UGLY when we first started talking about money.

Funny enough, talking about money consistently led me and my wife on one of the most rewarding and adventurous experiences of our lives.

But before I get into the details, let me give you a quick rundown on us.

We got married June 29, 2014.


When we got home from our idyllic Bahamian honeymoon, we realized that if we wanted to be real “adults,” we needed to work on managing our money better.

The problem? We didn’t have much money.

We both worked entry-level nonprofit jobs, and had over $50,000 of debt from student loans and a not-so-fancy Toyota Corolla.

To be honest, we still have that same car today, four years later…but the difference?

We’re debt-free and we own the car now—not the bank.

The short story is that if we could figure out our finances and pay off $50,000 of debt in 11 months, you can too.

That’s the story I want to share with you: our story of becoming debt-free.

So, how did we do it?  We followed the rules of personal finance and got clear on how much money we had coming in and going out.

If personal finance can be summed up in one sentence, this is it:

INCOME (how much you make after taxes) minus EXPENSES (all the stuff you need to pay to other people) equals CASH FLOW (how much money you actually have).

Our goal was to reduce our expenses and increase our income as much as possible.

That’s what we did.

We made a simple plan. We sold stuff we didn’t need for extra cash and continued to set and adjust new goals with our money each week during our weekly budget session.

We fought about money some days. We laughed some days. I’m not sure if we cried, although I can tell you that it wasn’t always easy.

It has been so worth it in the end, though. We feel a ton of pressure lifted off our shoulders.

Now, we’re debt-free and we have more freedom than ever before.

Below is a picture of Jen, my beautiful wife, in Banff, Canada. It’s a place we’d always dreamed of going. We finally made it happen. Worry-free.


I'm convinced that heaven is here|| Lake Louise, you are stunning. Happy 4th from ?? #banffcanada #lakelouisecanada

A post shared by Jenna McCullock (@jenmccullock) on


I’ll share more about this process in the coming posts, but I wanted to give you some quick encouragement that getting out of debt was one of the best things we’ve ever done for our marriage.

We have more freedom to do more of what we love, which is traveling cheap and eating lots and lots of amazing food.


– Zack


About the Author:

Zack is the founder and Chief Blogger at FreeUp, where he and his wife share weekly money tips that demystify personal finance for twentysomethings. Their story has been featured in Forbes, Yahoo Finances, and U.S. News. Want some help getting your finances in order? Click here to download their latest budget spreadsheet for free.

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