Allison and Eliza want to get married. Can they pay their bills and still save up?
Author: Jenna Moon
Source: The Toronto Star
Wedding bells are ringing in the distance for Allison, 31, and Eliza, 30, who are looking to the future and hoping to start saving, with a combined annual income of $84,000.
“We are looking to pay off our remaining debts,” Allison says, adding they have a combined $15,000 left to pay off for their car and student loans.
Adding to that debt is $1,500 on a credit card that Allison says she is slowly paying down.
Allison, a lab technician, and Eliza, a graphic designer, hope to set up a fund for their wedding and future family planning. “We have about $14,000 in a savings account,” Allison explains.
During the week, the pair try to pack lunches to bring to work. Occasionally, Eliza goes out for pizza, “but never anything fancy.” In the morning, they usually have cereal for breakfast.
Allison, who works shifts, said that while they try to limit themselves to one takeout meal a week, “sometimes that gets forgotten” when Allison is too tired to cook dinner, she says.
Once a week, they use meal prep kits such as Chefs Plate or HelloFresh and take turns covering the cost.
We asked to see two weeks of the couple’s spending to see how they can save up for their coming nuptials.
Jason Heath, managing director and Certified Financial Planner.
Allison and Eliza are paying off student debt and saving for a wedding. They spend about 41 per cent of their take-home pay on their mortgage payments so are well below the 39 per cent gross debt service (GDS) limit that lenders use when you apply for a mortgage. Their gross debt service ratio is only about 33 per cent (mortgage payment divided by gross income).
They have a little extra cash flow each month and have squirrelled away $14,000 into a savings account to pay for a wedding. I might be inclined to raid the savings account to pay off their $1,500 credit card debt, as the interest rate is probably quite high. If the $7,000 car loan interest rate is low, I would be less worried about it. Likewise with the student debt, at least for now. They should develop a realistic budget for their wedding so they know how much they will need to pay before and after the big day. With any luck, there will be wedding gifts that replenish their savings, at which point, they could consider paying down their other debt.
Their tax brackets are relatively low so if they are going to invest, they may want to consider TFSA contributions over RRSP contributions. RRSP contributions are more beneficial at higher incomes to save tax today and take withdrawals at a lower tax rate in retirement. If they are conservative investors, there could be a case for using extra cash flow to pay down their mortgage more aggressively in time instead of TFSA contributions.
Their spending is modest and when they do splurge on food, it tends to be pizza or meal kits. I took some heat in a previous article for saying meal kits are OK and I still stand by it. If you order meal kit delivery and pay a premium, it’s more expensive than cooking from scratch. But it’s still cheaper than takeout or food delivery. Over time, you can develop your culinary skills and may cook more from scratch on your own.
One word of caution for Allison and Eliza is to avoid overspending on a wedding. There is no worse way to start a life together than spending a bunch of money on a single day. Inflation has pushed costs for events and food way up and, at the same time, guests may be pressed themselves so gifts could be less generous than expected.
They spent more. Spending in week one: $427.05. Spending in week two: $755.46.
How they think they did:
While they spent more in week two, Allison says she enjoyed keeping an eye on her finances. “It was helpful in seeing where I might be overspending,” she said.
Heath’s advice made the pair feel “much less stressed” about managing their debt and expenses, she added. Similarly, Allison thinks they have a better idea on how to invest their money.
“We plan on taking (Heath’s) advice into consideration when it comes to where we decide to put extra cash and what to pay off first.”
Allison says the pair plans to be more careful when it comes to spending on fast food and plans to reduce the number of nights they order takeout.
The couple says they’re going to prioritize paying off high-interest debts like the credit card first, before moving along to paying off their car and student loans.
Jenna Moon is a Toronto-based business reporter, focused on personal finance and affordability.