Amy, 28, and Tori, 27, had a year full of major milestones.

The couple bought their home in September 2022, left their jobs in pursuit of better ones, and got married in September 2023, they recently told Ramit Sethi on his “I Will Teach You to be Rich” podcast.

Unfortunately, they weren’t in the best financial position to do any of these things the way they chose. Throughout the course of planning their “dream wedding” and going on a honeymoon in Greece, the couple racked up around $44,000 in credit card debt

Now, between making payments on that debt, adding an additional $17,000 in debt and a mortgage that is significantly higher than they anticipated, “you’re effectively broke,” Sethi told them.

The couple came on Sethi’s show knowing they were in a tight spot and needed help. Here are some of the missteps that created their situation and how Sethi recommended they move forward.

Underestimating the cost of major purchases

The idea that weddings are expensive is widely accepted in the U.S. But they don’t have to be. A marriage license runs about $100 or less depending on the state, and pretty much everything else that goes into a wedding is optional.

Tori and Amy only spent four months planning their wedding because Amy “fell in love” with a venue and they felt like they had to make quick decisions. They had an idea of how much they wanted to spend and an estimate of how much help their families would provide, but the quick timeline meant having to pay large deposits to a number of vendors in a short timespan.

Things added up quickly, and they ended up going over budget. Because of the quick turnaround, they didn’t have time to save up more, which led to charging many expenses to their credit cards.

“It was an inevitable drowning from how close the contracts were [signed],” Amy said on the podcast.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a big wedding, a nice house or another major purchase. But before you commit, get a good idea of what it will cost and expect to pay significantly more, Sethi said.

When it came to planning his own wedding, Sethi gave himself a large margin of error because everyone told him to “take your wedding budget and then double it,” he said. He still went over that generous budget, he said, but was closer to being fully prepared.

Amy and Tori ended up overspending on their house as well. They thought their mortgage rate was locked in when they went under contract, but it went up before they closed, resulting in a monthly mortgage payment over $500 more than expected.

“[It’s] important to add a healthy margin of error because once you start to overspend on these [large purchases], and you will overspend, because, again, most of us are mostly the same, you’ll have money set aside,” Sethi told the couple.

Lacking a specific vision

When unpacking their relationships with money, Sethi found Amy and Tori have pretty different backgrounds. Tori faced stretches of intense financial insecurity growing up, whereas Amy’s family was fairly comfortable and didn’t have to worry about money.

While Tori now airs on the side of caution when it comes to money, Amy takes a more optimistic approach, leading to periods of saving followed by periods of spending.

Good saving habits allowed Amy to pay for college and graduate debt-free. But “there were definitely a couple of times where I had $10,000 in my savings account and then frivolously drained it,” she said. 

When it came to buying their house, Tori said the couple was incredibly disciplined in preparation, but fell off once they got the house.

“We paid all of our debt off, we were very strict, we wrote smart goals, every week we’re budgeting,” Tori said. “Once we got into the house, it was a little bit more lenient, I think, because we finally achieved our goal.”

Sethi noticed this “episodic” spending and saving habit Amy brought into her relationship with Tori. It’s not uncommon, but it can be difficult to change, he said.

“The solution, of course, is not to simply try harder,” Sethi said. “It is to have a powerful, specific vision of why you want to change, and then it’s about getting help.”

What’s next for the couple

Ultimately, the best solution Sethi could offer Tori and Amy to bring their debt down to a manageable level and comfortably meet their other financial obligations was to work on increasing their incomes. They earned a combined $125,000 a year at the time of the podcast’s recording.

When they both left their jobs shortly after buying their home, it was to pursue entrepreneurship. But their current financial situation has made them realize now is a time where they need more stable incomes.

With nearly a $3,000 mortgage payment and another $3,000 going to credit card debt each month, the couple did not have a lot of room for anything more than the basics, much less emergencies. 

They weighed other options, such as selling their house and living with Amy’s mother or renting out their extra bedroom, but after playing around with their numbers, Sethi pointed out that a larger income is going to make the biggest difference if they want to get out of debt on a reasonable timeline.

Some good news: Amy told Sethi she just signed an offer letter for a new job that would increase her annual salary by around $10,000, giving the couple a little breathing room in the coming months. Both of their businesses are going well and they expect both to continue to grow. Tori plans to continue focusing on hers full-time, while Amy will work on hers on the side of her 9-to-5.

“Sometimes I think that when we have really big challenges in life, we dance around it, but sometimes the solution is just to walk through the fire,” Sethi said. “We need to face the problem and just own it. Go straight at it.”

Check out the full episode here.

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