Want to start a business with your partner? Move into a van and travel the world? Save up for a down payment on a dream home? Get out of debt in under a year? It’s all possible — and these four millennial couples prove it.
Going after a big financial goal with a partner has its advantages — two incomes, two people who can do money-saving work like meal prep — and its disadvantages. You and your partner have to trust each other to make the right choices (no dipping into the savings to buy that shiny new video game or pair of shoes), and you have to come up with a budget and financial plan that both of you agree with. It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of communication to get out of debt together, save up for a down payment or start a business.
Luckily, you won’t have to do all of this alone. I interviewed four millennials, each of whom achieved a big financial goal with their partners:
- Rebecca Davidson, who co-founded Dash Coffee Roasters with her husband, Phil Davidson (pictured above)
- Christian Matney of The Matneys, who lives and travels with his wife Aubry Matney in a converted Sprinter Van
- Lauren Torres of Planting Pennies, who worked with her husband, Andrei, to pay off all their debt, including student loans, in seven months
- Mama Chang, a professional pseudonym, of Keeping Up With the Changs, who teamed up with Papa Chang to save up for a down payment on a home in Hawaii
Learn what these millennials have to say about setting financial goals, overcoming obstacles and working with your partner to achieve your dreams in this step-by-step guide:
Step 1. Set a big financial goal
Talk to your partner about your financial goals and dreams — and start that conversation before you tie the knot.
“Before we got married, we talked about our life goals and obligations, so we knew what we were getting into when we joined as one,” Mama Chang explained. “Being on the same page helped us avoid surprises and tension from assumptions we had about combining our finances. If, for example, one wanted to pay off their place first while the other assumed that they would simultaneously save up together for their joint place while paying off their current debt, that could lead to frustrations and pressures that would have hurt our relationship as well as our joint goal.”
These conversations helped Chang and her husband achieve their goal of saving up for a down payment on a home in Hawaii — and in their first four years of marriage, Chang also paid off the $50,000 mortgage remaining on her condo and they both helped Chang’s husband’s parents pay off the $125,000 remaining on their mortgage.
Lauren Torres agrees that communication is critical: “When we became engaged, we sat down and had a totally open and honest money meeting. We added up all of my husband’s student loans, my credit card debt, my new car, etc. It was overwhelming to think about how much we had to pay. It made home ownership in Southern California seem next to impossible. We originally calculated that it would take about five years to pay everything off.”
“I really did not want to wait five years to start saving for a house. I thought, there must be some way we can do this faster, Torres explained. “That’s when I started learning more about personal finance and paying off debt. I sat down, did some more calculations and figured out what we could cut back on. After cutting out things like eating out, cable, gym memberships and more, I realized that we would be able to live on one income and use the other to pay off the debt ASAP. We also created a rock-solid budget and we started sticking to it every month.”
Of course, you don’t have to begin your partnership with a big shared financial goal. Sometimes you’ll discover your goal together, as Christian and Aubry Matney did: “One evening we were driving home from my parents’ house after hearing they were selling their 12 passenger van and I suggested to Aubry that maybe we should just buy a van. Two weeks later we bought a van (different van — we wanted a Sprinter) and were living in it and traveling full-time within about eight months.”
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Step 2. Support each other as you work toward your goal
It takes teamwork to achieve a big financial goal with your partner — and that means knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, avoiding micromanaging or criticism, and working together to get things done.
“Being a husband and wife team has many strengths and a few weaknesses,” Rebecca Davidson explained. “We were able to split roles in the business in a way that utilized each others’ strengths. I took on the front-of-house responsibilities and managed our staff, product, and day-to-day operations. Phil takes care of the back-of-house and does all of the coffee roasting. It has been amazing in our first year to have each other to help balance the workload and be understanding when the other has a lot going on in the business.”
Being understanding with each other is one of the best ways to stay supportive, especially when you and your partner don’t share the same worldview. “I am more prone to anxiety,” Christian Matney noted, “so Aubry always knows when I need to be grounded.” Mama Chang suggests trying not to micromanage your partner, even when they’re doing something differently than you might have done. With trust and a mutual dedication to the cause, Chang explains, you’ll get there together.
If you and your partner happen to share the same weaknesses, use them to your advantage. “We are both foodies, so our biggest temptation was eating out,” Lauren Torres told me. “We were very aware of this and created a budget for 1-2 restaurant meals a month. This made us appreciate the times we did go out even more. It also helped us from feeling completely deprived.”
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Step 3. Stay the course as you run into obstacles
The path to your big financial goal will rarely run smooth. In addition to unexpected expenses that might delay your savings timeline, you and your partner will probably run into a lot of sudden spending temptation. What do you do when you start going over budget?
“Remember why you are doing this and keep your eye on the prize,” Lauren Torres advised. She suggests imagining what it might feel like to delay a big purchase until after you’ve achieved a financial goal, such as getting out of debt or being able to cover the costs of your next vacation in cash: “Think about how great it would be to come home from vacation without any credit card bills to pay.”
Mama Chang takes it a step further. “If asking yourself ‘Is this expense worth delaying our goal?’ is not enough to keep you on track, then try your best to physically remove those temptations,” Chang explains. “Target calling your name every time you drive by on the way home? Go a different route.”
Sometimes staying the course means changing direction — literally.
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Step 4. Enjoy the journey while you progress to the goal
If you and your partner want to start a business together, here’s what Rebecca Davidson suggests: “Set boundaries. Write our your job roles, so you don’t get into each other’s space or at least know who has the final say on things for each category of business. And take time for your personal life. When you really enjoy what you do, it’s hard to stop working or talking about work. Set aside a date night each week that is a ‘no work zone.’”
If you’re interested in getting out of debt together or saving up for a down payment, take Lauren Torres’ advice: “Don’t look at saving as a punishment, look at it as rewarding your future selves.” Torres also suggests celebrating small wins as you work towards the big ones. “Did you finish paying off a credit card? Maybe treat yourself to a budgeted night at the movies, or that bottle of wine you’ve been eyeing at the grocery store.”
Mama Chang reminds millennial savers that balance — and prioritizing the right purchases — will make the difference between success and failure: “Achieving big goals is not about 100 percent sacrifice. It’s about being intentional about your spending. We could care less about the type of shampoo we use, so we go with what’s cheapest. But I really wanted to complete a famous hike on Kauai or he loves playing badminton, so we paid the money that allowed us to do these things.”
Lastly, if you and your partner want to join the growing #vanlife movement, Christian Matney urges you to go for it! “We have met a lot of couples living in vans, many of which came from successful traditional environments and many of which who have had difficulties on the road and yet we haven’t met a single person who regrets moving into a van.”
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Nicole Dieker is a full-time freelance writer. Her work regularly appears on Bankrate, Lifehacker, The Write Life, and numerous other sites. She is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales. This article is sponsored by Haven Life Insurance Agency. Opinions are her own.
Haven Life Insurance Agency offers this as educational only, and the information provided is not written or intended as specific legal advice. Haven Life Insurance Agency does not provide legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own legal counsel.