I'm paying off $23,000 in credit card debt while also saving for my wedding 7 months from now

laura dunn and fianceCourtesy Laura Dunn

I started my wedding Pinterest board years before I met my fiancé, Johnny. And now that Pinterest has board "sections," it's worse. I have two boards (one private, one for my bridal party), 45 sections, and 968 pins, ranging from attire to DIY. I can't wait to marry Johnny next March.

I'm excited because we are definitely having the wedding of our dreams, and though we're not quite spending what the average US couple shelled out last year - $33,931, according The Knot's 2018 Real Wedding Study, let alone the $44,000 that so many other couples spent last year per Brides' 2018 American Wedding Study - the total cost of our wedding is $28,964 (we're splitting it 50/50 with my parents and our share is $14,000).

We're paying off $23,000 in credit card debt at the same time

My fiancé and I ran the numbers to figure out what we could afford before we made any wedding decisions. The first thing we decided to do was pay off my $23,000 in credit card debt. So this effort doesn't go to waste, we aren't using any plastic to pay for the wedding.

To pay off my credit cards, we're using the debt avalanche strategy. That's when you start by paying off your highest-interest debt while continuing to make the minimum monthly payments on any other debts, then working your way through your debts.

The other debt-payoff strategy is called the debt snowball - you pay off the smallest balances first and work your way up, which gives you some positive reinforcement.

The nitty-gritty numbers

Using the avalanche strategy, I'm putting $1,200 toward my five credit cards monthly. (Before this, I used to contribute $915 - when my car was paid off in June, I was able to add almost $300 more.) By the time our wedding day arrives, I'll have paid off all but $2,602 (compound interest notwithstanding).

In addition to debt, thanks to my side gig as a freelance writer, I'm able to contribute extra money towards the wedding. Between the two of us, my fiancé and I transfer $1,050 or more into a savings account each month. (This depends on how much extra income I bring in, but the minimum between us is always $1,050.)

How we're doing it all

To stay within my monthly budget, I've had to opt out of a lot of vacations with friends and family - such as our annual ski trip, summer tubing, and annual pass to a local water park - which makes me feel flaky. Thankfully, everyone has been very understanding, which makes it easier.

Plus, we've found ways to spend time together in free or low-cost ways, such as visiting coffee shops, hanging out at home, and making use of $5 Tuesday at AMC movie theater.

In addition to saying "no" more times than I'm saying "yes," I use Google Docs and a budget to keep myself in check. (I plan out my month based on what I can afford from my $50 entertainment fund.) But my best tool by far is the accountability I have with my husband-to-be.

Sometimes it's uncomfortable, but our relationship has blossomed as a result of our hard-core honesty and dedication to eliminating debt.

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