(Edited to add: The Student Loan Planner is now a featured resource on this blog! Find out more on my Student Loan Advice page!)

It’s hard enough figuring out our own personal finances.  Adding another person into the mix can make it much more difficult.  Especially when that person has six-figure debt.

In my case, we both came into the marriage with student loan debt, with mine being the one to eclipse 6 figures (nearly $120k).  Mr. RLDVM wasn’t far behind with a mid-5 figure amount of student loan debt.  

With a lot of financial teamwork and dedication, we were able to get rid of this debt and build up our net worth.  The key word is “teamwork.”  This involved merging our accounts and treating all of our expenses as joint expenses from Day 1 of our marriage. It’s not a method that works for every marriage, but it was the best method for us.

That’s why I really enjoyed reading this particular student debt payoff story by Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner.  (He was my first guest post- check out his post “10 Tips for Veterinarians Paying Back Over $100,000 in Student Loans). What I particularly liked about his story was that he’s speaking from the perspective of the spouse that came into the marriage with zero debt, while his wife was the one that carried the significant amount of $124,000 of student loans as a result of medical school.  Usually we hear from the perspective of the person that originally carried the debt, so it was nice to get a look from his side of the story.  They were able to pay off $124k in 3 years. Here are some of the insights I gathered from his story:

1. He thinks of her debt as “our” debt.

I think this mindset is crucial for couple financial success.  This was not an issue that he thought she should figure out on her own with her own money.  He truly felt that it was their responsibility, together, to come up with a game plan in order to tackle this debt. You will notice that throughout the rest of the article, he continues to use the pronouns “we” and “our”. You will also see this wording in many of my own posts.

2. Sometimes, you need to spend a little more for peace of mind.

Their original car purchase, a $2,200 Honda Civic, apparently rattled when going over 60 mph.  Having owned a Honda Civic myself, it’s not the best performer when battling winter weather (I still loved my car, though!).  They decided to sell that car and upgrade to a newer car that made his wife feel more comfortable in inclement weather. When it comes to safety, I agree that spending a bit more is worth it.

3. Finances are about balance.

They were frugal when it came to their housing and car expenses.  Renting out one of the bedrooms in their apartment allowed them to throw an extra $1,000 a month towards their student loan debt.  They also used travel hacks and paid close attention to their grocery bill. Housing, groceries, auto, and travel make up a significant portion of an average person’s take-home pay, so reducing costs in these categories alone made a large impact.

But there were areas where they spent money more liberally, such as Amazon purchases, his business, and eating out.  They derived more pleasure and value from spending more in these particular categories. Everyone’s spending plan should reflect their own priorities- spending more in one category should also include spending less in another.

4. Settling differences

There will ALWAYS be differences of opinion when it comes to spending money.  He wanted to pay down the debt ASAP, she wanted to continue tithing 10% of their pre-tax income to their church in addition to paying off debt. He saw how important this was for her, so they decided to continue tithing 10%. 

“One of the reasons I was so attracted to Christine is that I don’t score high in empathy or religious discipline, and she completes me in that area.”

And then:

“Giving is a deeply personal decision. My suggestion is that you don’t neglect thinking about it just because you have a bunch of student debt.”

These statements really struck me. Rather than seeing their differences as something that could drive them apart, he simply accepts and embraces the differences. From his perspective, she’s filling a part of his life that was previously lacking, and she’s changed the way he’s thought about giving in general. Anyone else think of Jerry Maguire when they read that quote?

If we were to hear her side of the story, I’m sure there were times when she had to embrace their differences in order to reach their financial goals together.

5. Celebrating your wins.

They have planned a dream vacation as a way to celebrate their debt payoff. Hitting those financial goals involves a lot of work and sacrifice, so give yourself the freedom to enjoy those wins!

6. Even a student loan planner needs to plan!

He discusses his own sense of “now what?” after paying off his student loans.  They had been so laser focused that after it was paid off, there was a moment when they were left wondering what to do next. Paying off those student loans is a wonderful goal to have, but you should also be thinking about other financial goals that you want to accomplish at the same time.

7. His last point is so important: enjoy life now, wherever you are in your financial journey. 

This is so much easier to do if you have planned well.  If you have a set spending plan, you know exactly where your money is going and you have control over how you’re spending it.  This allows you to splurge in areas that you enjoy while cutting back in areas that are not as important.  The problem is that most people let their finances creep up on them, to the point where their spending controls them, versus the other way around.  The earlier you start, the better able you will be to enjoy life right now.


They are a newly married couple with a great financial future ahead of them.  The ability to pay off their student loans early and having a financial plan is arming them with so many more possibilities in the future. I think many of us that are older with more financial obligations would be so grateful to our younger selves if we had adopted this sort of mindset from the very beginning.  

However, it’s never too late to get started. You still have time for your future self to thank you. You can start by getting your finances organized: calculating your net worth is one way to get all of your accounts in one place. If you have debt, you’ll need to figure out a strategy for dealing with that debt. You can also work towards having a savings goal. Then you can work your way up to an actual spending plan.

If you want to connect with a community, consider joining my Facebook groups (Richer Life DVM- Money Talk). You just need to take a small step in the right direction, and you may be surprised where your journey will take you.

Do you have a debt payoff story that you’d like to share? Contact me here and let’s talk!



  1. xrayvsn on September 8, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    He certainly had an amazing attitude throughout the whole process especially with accepting her debt as theirs. That is huge. Sounds like he also was great at the art of compromise with things that may not be as important to him like tithing. They definitely have set themselves up for success in the future

    • Financial Wellness DVM on September 9, 2018 at 6:04 pm

      I’m a big fan of having couples go through some premarital counseling that would also include personal finance topics. It’s amazing what you don’t discuss prior to walking down the aisle.

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