A Relationship of Convenience

Brandon Heineman and Stacy Schuld met on Facebook Marketplace. He was on a shoestring budget looking for a pullout futon for visitors, and she was on the verge of moving and just wanted it gone. He paid cash the next day and took it home. “I wasn’t used to handling a ten-dollar bill,” Stacy admitted. “It was kind of intoxicating.”

A month later, Stacy’s apartment deal fell through when she didn’t meet the minimum credit score requirement, and she texted the only person she knew with an unused guest room. “If it weren’t for skyrocketing rents and stagnating wages,” Stacy confided, “I honestly don’t think I would’ve moved in with him.”

The couple wed in May in their backyard in front of eight guests under the watchful, unnerving eye of Brandon’s landlord, who looked like he was planning a significant rent hike. The bride wore something extremely old from Facebook’s Buy Nothing Sell Nothing group, something “new” that was obviously borrowed, and something blue that she will be returning for a full refund post-nuptials.

As wages continue to fall behind inflation, Stacy thinks there’s a long future with Brandon. “Also, I wanted my futon back, so it worked out well for me.”

These Lovebirds Both Graduated
from the Same For-Profit Culinary Institute

Morgan Franz and Joseph Eden graduated from Le Cordon Bleu the same year the school lost its accreditation and shuttered all its US locations. But as fate would have it, they wouldn’t meet for another four years.

Morgan first spotted Joseph at a bus stop as he drove past on his way to his third job from his second job.

“There he was, just standing there, a guy who couldn’t afford a car,” said Morgan. “I knew then that his lack of transportation and my financial insolvency were a foundation we could really build a relationship on.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Joseph said that what initially drew him to Morgan were his outstanding education loans. “I remember thinking that this man was absolutely fearless borrowing that much money against zero collateral,” he smiled. “His credit union must have believed in him.”

“When I saw his name next to mine on the class-action lawsuit against our alma mater, I felt an even deeper bond,” he said. Not long afterward, Joseph deferred his payments, and Morgan got a forbearance. “Getting a six-month reprieve from bills was really special, like having the winning lottery numbers but never cashing in the ticket.”

“We took a look at what we owed,” Joseph nodded. “Then I said to Morgan, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to legally combine all this as a joke?’ He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Screw it. Let’s do this.’”

Cheryl Johnston and Ross Montalban III
Knew It Was Fate

After just two months, Cheryl Johnston got engaged to Ross Montalban III. “I knew he was a hot property, so I had to act quickly,” she gushed. But with the wedding less than a month away, Cheryl discovered something that changed the trajectory of their marital timeline: Ross was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“All of a sudden, we couldn’t afford the wedding of her dreams,” Ross lamented. “So I did what any real man would do in my situation: I sold the three I’s in my name and replaced them with exclamation points. Now I’m just Ross Montalban!!!”

“I never wanted Ross to give up his I’s,” Cheryl said. “They meant so much to him. He would often talk wistfully about them over late lunches, and one time he took me to a safety deposit inside a bank vault and showed them to me. There they were, draped in black velvet, just as he had described so many times throughout our courtship.”

The sale of the family heirloom wasn’t a complete loss. Ross and Cheryl were able to hold on to a few luxury items, like their silverware and certain napkins. They can stay above water financially so long as they never have a family.

This Couple Figured Out a Way
to Have a Low-Budget Wedding in a Cornfield
Near a Highway

After two years of unemployment, Lexie Travers and Jake Schoen knew they had next to nothing to spend on a wedding, let alone a reception. So they decided to forgo hiring any professionals. “We were financially strapped after Jake’s hernia operation, so we used the only other currency we had: our friends,” said Lexie.

They leveraged their history with everyone they knew and parlayed that into a huge imposition. Lexie’s coworker was the photographer, and Jake’s ex was the designated cakemaker. Besties were in charge of decorations and flattening parts of the cornfield. The cleanup crew were their tier-two friends from high school. “The wife and I were completely stressed out, and so was every guest who attended,” Jake said. “So that was nice.”

“Even after cutting every corner and DIY-ing the entire event, we’re still complicit in the system that’s literally eating us alive,” they laughed. And laugh they did, all the way down the aisle in a monoculture crop next to a bramble patch near County Road 12.

Katie and Jason Paid Rent
Instead of Having a Wedding

The Baumbergs knew they had a tough decision: have a low-budget wedding or pay rent that month. “At first, we thought, a wedding is something you have forever that keeps you safe from the elements, but housing lasts maybe a day,” said Katie. “Then we realized we had it backward.” They decided that while a wedding is a lovely affair, they needed a place to live so that they could continue living.

Even though the couple has post-graduate STEM degrees, the skyrocketing cost of housing has a stranglehold over their consumption and enjoyment of life. “I’m doing so much worse than my parents,” Jason said. “And they’re dead.”