Growing up, if you had asked me about marriage, I would have told you there was no way I would be married before I was 30. I had too much to do with my life before I was going to “settle down,” nor did I expect to find someone I wanted to spend that much of my life with.

Life doesn’t always go as you expect it to though, and I found myself engaged and then married at only 21 years old, almost a decade sooner than planned. And no, I wasn’t pregnant, though that was definitely the gossip at the time because no one else thought I would marry young either.

My husband and I first met at 14 through family friends and quickly began a summer fling that ended soon after we started high school. We stayed in touch occasionally after that, mostly through that mutual family friend, but we weren’t close.

High school graduation arrived, and I went off to college and he to Marine Corps boot camp. As is usual for Marines, he deployed, and we reconnected and started talking more frequently via email and Facebook when he had any down time. Once he returned to the states, we started talking on the phone occasionally as well.

We found ourselves both single that next winter and the tone of our now frequent conversations changed, and when he came home on leave, we became inseparable until we both had to leave to our respective homes once winter break ended.

My first trip out to visit. I squeezed in a 4 day weekend mid semester so I wouldn’t miss any class.

I was in my final semester of college and set to graduate a year early, and suddenly I found myself researching jobs in South Carolina instead of near home or school. A few months into dating (and one long weekend trip out east), I found myself preparing to move across the country at graduation.

At a friend’s wedding a few months before we got engaged

Straight out of college and he out of the military barracks, our apartment expectations were quite low, so we were able to find an affordable 2 bedroom and eventually moved in a roommate to drop the cost even more. $575/month split 3 ways ways affordable even to me on a below minimum wage naturalist internship (but I did end up finding a second job a month in to cover my student loan costs as well). And we ate a lot of ramen.

After living together for a month and a half, we got engaged, and planned the wedding for 4 months after that. Once I’d made the commitment to move cross country and we were finally in the same town, we were just ready to be married and didn’t see any reason to wait.

This was pre-Pinterest, and my one friend who had gotten married had also been to a military man, so I was able to keep any desires of a fancy wedding in check. While even now I wouldn’t want to blow a ton of money on a large wedding, I probably would have seen that number slip up quite a bit just from lifestyle creep.

Some things wouldn’t have changed though – we got married at my parents’ house and “catered” via Safeway and Costco (the Marines made it so we couldn’t count on a specific wedding date and put down a non refundable deposit, so that made the decision simple).

I borrowed the bridesmaids’ bouquets from that same married friend who would be my matron of honor (who just recently celebrated her 8th anniversary!) which kept the cost and waste down, in addition to being gorgeous.

My mother in law made my dress, my aunt made my necklace and earrings, and my other aunt and cousin made the cake, and that same cousin took the photographs.

My parents offered us $5000 toward the wedding, with the caveat that they would write us a check for anything that hadn’t been spent at the end (we of course took that challenge and got a $1500 check, which we put toward a future home down payment).

We had a wonderful time and didn’t feel that our wedding lacked for anything – except maybe a huge bill after the fact, which we definitely didn’t miss.

Cabin in the woods we spend our 5 night honeymoon. Bonus – deep discounts for traveling in November!

We opened our first joint bank account on our honeymoon and deposited all of the cash wedding gifts we received into a savings account that we would not touch until we bought our house a year and a half later.

By having a shared goal (and having married a spouse who was frugal by nature), we were able to buy well before anyone we knew, aided by the availability of a VA loan thanks to my husband’s military service. Having two people instead of one early on kept our costs low per person and definitely gave us an advantage over most of our friends and gave us a reason to save instead of spend.

Over the years we’ve traded off as main breadwinner, most notably allowing me to take the internship in South Carolina (which got me my first job once we moved back home) and later for my husband to go to school on the GI Bill and the GET program (Washington’s 529-like option that we won’t use for our son because it has so many limitations).

Home purchased, my student loans paid off, and no consumer debt, we were able to think about having a baby well before most of our friends had even settled down (many still haven’t), and I got pregnant when we were both 26 and had our son soon after our 27th birthdays.

Marrying at 21, we had time to get to know each other as a couple and set ourselves up in a good financial situation before jumping into the life altering decision to become parents.

Our first family vacation when our son was 7 months old

While getting married young isn’t for everyone, and most people aren’t lucky enough to find their person before they’ve even entered high school, it has really worked in our favor.

We will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary this winter with a weeklong trip to Hawaii, and I’m thankful to have such a partner by my side when we enter our 30s together.

48 thoughts on “Marrying Young Was My Best Financial Decision

  1. Love this story! There are no “rules” to follow. You just make up your own as you go along! Happy 8 years!

  2. We have a similar story. Met at 14, both served in the military, married at 20, son at 26, daughter at 30. We are now living in our third purchased house (one is rented out and we sold the second) and have minimal debt. I think the best thing for us financially was having barely any college debt due to the GI Bill. We just had our 14th anniversary.

    1. Thank you ❤️❤️ I can’t believe we thought we were all grown up and ready to get married at 21 though 😜

  3. Love this! My husband and I married at 18. We made it through college debt-free and had even saved $20,000 to put as a down payment on a house immediately after graduating college (despite having our first child at 20). Our oldest just married last year at 18, and she and her husband should be able to make it through their undergrad degrees debt-free. They will likely have some debt when he continues for his Master’s to be a Nurse Practitioner, but it will be smart debt because of the eventual income boost. Marrying young gets a bad rap, but it just made us more focused on our future goals.

    1. Aww, I love this story! Marrying young – as long as it’s to the right person – can be your best asset early in life ❤️

  4. I’m glad marrying that young has worked out for you! Seems you both has the same values (at least financially)! I don’t get what’s wrong with a back yard wedding, that’s perfect! I wanted that but went bigger as we each had one grandparent in the 90’s, so there aren’t too many chances to pull all family in the room so he can see them. That was our main motivation, and totally worth it.

    If compound interest and time are your biggest friends in finances, getting setup young is a huge benefit. Good for you guys!

    1. We actually had an in house wedding, because it was November in the PNW 😉 a large part of that was similar to what you mention – my husband’s older grandfather.

      1. My mistake, my mind is focused on willing spring to show up. We’re still getting -10C here. I did mean wedding at home generally, whether that was inside or out!

      2. Ha, I hear you there. Not quite that cold, but rainy and gray. Soooo ready for real spring as well.

  5. What a great story and proof that happiness is not bought. I am always inspired by your ability to be frugal without deprivation.

    Whether by accident or design, you have built such a great financial foundation.

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