Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How we paid off $38K of student loans in 3 years

It's an exciting day! We now have zero dollars. And that's way better than negative dollars.


Today we paid off the last of our debt!

$38,000 of student loans. DONE. FOREVER.

I want to run around my house in circles and scream with happiness!


I'm not trying to brag....but let's be honest. I am. Being debt free feels awesome. It was definitely a night of celebration!

***

First of all, we are by no means experts. Take the below with a grain of salt, but here's what worked for us.

Trent had $8,000 of student loans
I had $30,000

Now we have zero. *FIST PUMP*

HOW WE DID IT:


(1) We used a budget
Last fall I talked a little bit about my student loans and living on a budget. I've said it before and I will say it again: IT SUCKS AND I HATED IT. We have never been perfect at budgeting, but we always find a way to get back on track when we've strayed off, whether that be through the advice of others (thanks Jon!) or re-evaluating where our money is going.

The set amount of money we planned to pay each month had nothing to do with the minimum payments the loan company gave us. We decided what we could afford, and paid it.


(2) Lived like we were in college
For some reason, when you start seeing a steady flow of income, it becomes irresistible to spend it. At least for me it does. And I did so without even recognizing I was doing it.

For a period of time, Trent and I tried to live like we were in college. Because we could live CHEAP in college. What's for dinner tonight? Cereal. Mac & Cheese. PB&Js. What are we doing tonight? Netflix....using my parents' account.

It's amazing how much money you can save living this way. Of course, it never really lasts. So we just stuck it out for as long as we physically felt we could...living on hot dogs and re-runs of The Office.


(3) We have good jobs
I don't want to downplay the fact that Trent and I both have college degrees and good paying jobs. And we are really thankful for that.


(4) We gritted our teeth
It's hard. It's really, really hard to see thousands and thousands of dollars go to "nothing". Every month you pay, you just imagine all of the wonderful things you could have bought. It's the worst.


(5) We "made do"
We don't own a house (we rent). My 2003 Ford Focus is on its last leg. Trent only got a new car because he gets a car allowance with his job. Almost all of our furniture is pre-owned. Trent has only bought 1 new bike since we've been married (He wanted me to mention that because it's apparently REALLY impressive).


I'm not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, but it took restraint to not buy what we wanted immediately. We don't want credit card debt or loan payments that we can't handle. Furnishing a house takes time. Saving for a car takes time. Saving for a downpayment on a home takes time.


(6) We held each other accountable
We have definitely had some disagreements on how we spend our money. "But I NEED these shoes!!"
We aren't oblivious to the way each of us spends our money. That doesn't mean we hound each other either. Encouragement and gentle reminders of why we have the goals we do are important.


(7) We recovered after disappointment
In the 3 years we made payments, I was unemployed for a total of 11 months (I was still in school for 6 of those months). There were several months we made no payments at all. You've just got to dust yourself off and keep going.


(8) We put almost all of our extra money towards debt
This could have gone horribly wrong. Like horribly, horribly wrong. I don't necessarily advise this...but it worked I guess. See above about us not being experts :-)


(9) We tithed
Just because you give money to your church, doesn't mean you're going to be financially blessed. I want to be clear about that. But the bible says that God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7) Sometimes the cheerful part is hard.

Ultimately we serve God. Not money. It's good to have a monthly reminder of that.


(10) We celebrated
When we paid off our first $10,000, it would have been really easy to say "Welp, $28,000 more to go." But it was way more healthy and helpful for us to be proud of that, and celebrate the fact that we just paid $10,000! Just because you are paying off debt, doesn't make it less significant. YOU DID IT!


***

I know we aren't the only ones who took out major student loans. I'm sure a lot of you are in 6-digit numbers.

BUT THERE IS HOPE! Work hard, stay positive, trust God. There's a light at the end of the tunnel!



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