February 28, 2024

When Corazon Ochanda-Eaton graduated from college in the summer of 2014, she and her soon-to-be husband, Curtis Eaton, sat down to look at their full financial picture before getting married. The biggest worry the couple had? Corazon’s $131,000 student loan debt.
Corazon tells Insider, “At the time, I was working in the nonprofit industry and making a minimum payment of $286 a month, which barely contributed to any of the principal payment.” She knew that she qualified for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but she knew that 98% of eligible applications get denied.
She adds, “In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to be bound to my student loan debt, hoping that the government would take care of it for me. I knew it was time to take action by making smart financial decisions early into our marriage.”
The first step was getting on the same page with Curtis about their shared financial goals and understanding what kind of life they were both working towards once the loans were paid off. Here are five questions the Eatons, who live in Columbus, Ohio, asked each other while strategizing to pay off six figures of student loan debt in just 14 months.
Initially, Corazon, who works for a Medicaid health insurance company, and Curtis, a development director at a nonprofit, weren’t on the same page about prioritizing paying off Corazon’s student loans. Corazon says, “Curtis wasn’t 100% convinced that it was possible to pay off such a large amount of debt.”
To convince Curtis to get on board, Corazon made a debt-payoff plan that included details about their debts, including the interest rate and principal balance of each loan, and how much they needed to contribute to pay off the loans as quickly as possible.
Once Curtis saw the debt-payoff roadmap, he was convinced. Corazon adds, “One of the things that got us on the same page was talking through how the debt was — and would continue to — impact us mentally and financially.”
Early in their relationship, the couple had to get used to sharing intimate details about their financial well-being. Corazon says, “We were open and honest about our finances, including our debt, credit score, past financial mistakes, and success.”
Learning each other’s credit scores is an uncomfortable conversation for most marriages, but, for the Eatons, it helped them set goals and measure their overall progress.
The Eatons asked each other what their strengths and weaknesses were when it comes to personal finance. If one partner struggled with keeping food spending down, the other stepped in to provide accountability and support.
Corazon adds, “This allowed us to implement strategies around our weaknesses, like taking out cash envelopes each month, updating our budget tracker, and mapping out our financial plans and goals.”
Corazon has had the same car for 10 years, which she paid off before they got married — one of her biggest money accomplishments. While creating a roadmap for their financial goals, she realized that paying off Curtis’ car note would help them redirect more money toward their student loan payoff journey. 
Knowing what each of them had done correctly in their past helped them implement the same strategies on their journey to becoming debt-free.
The biggest budget cut that helped the Eatons pay down Corazon’s $131,000 student loan debt was housing costs. Corazon says, “We eventually house-hacked and moved into a two-family property, allowing us to rent out the other unit and reduce our overall housing expense.”
To come to an agreement about that decision, the Eatons had to discuss their money values in detail so that they could prioritize what’s important to both of them. Says Corazon, “We made room for the things in life that we valued, like travel, and reduced expenses in areas that we didn’t value, like material possessions.”
Editor’s note, May 11, 2022: This article has been updated to include details about where the Eatons live and work.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Read our editorial standards.


About Author

Leave a Reply