How I Paid Off $28,000 in Student Loan Debt

This is the story of my debt-free journey and how I paid off around $28,000 in about 17 months.

Do you have student loans or credit card debt? Don't be too hard on yourself. Most people have been there. I officially became debt-free in November of 2016 and it was and still is the greatest feeling. I paid off a little over $28,000 in about 17 months. I hope my story inspires you to take a look at your finances and work your way towards gaining financial freedom for yourself.

I graduated from college in December of 2014 with a little bit of money in my savings account but no job lined up. At this point, I had accrued $26,996.48 in student loans over the past three and a half years. While I was in school, I did not pay attention to the loans I was taking out. BIG OOPS. You know, because you have to get a degree, so it doesn't matter how much it costs, right? Wrong. My first tip is to ALWAYS be aware of how much money you are borrowing and have a plan on how you are going to take care of this debt from the beginning. Yes, at 18, this is a hard pill to swallow but when you think ahead to where you want to be at 30, it should put things into perspective.

My journey to becoming debt-free started with a little bit of divine intervention. My church was starting a Financial Peace University class in January 2015 and my parents signed up and asked if I wanted to tag along. For those who do not know, FPU is a class that was started by Dave Ramsey to help guide people to financial freedom by using biblical principles. I will go ahead and say, if you are not a christian or believe in God, you can still greatly benefit from this class. I will also say, I do not agree with everything Dave Ramsey says and believe him to be a bit extreme. However, I do think he is onto something with the 7 Baby Steps. These are basic financial principles that will help guide you and make sure you are on track with managing your finances.

While in the FPU class, I went on many job interviews. I felt discouraged. Nothing was working out. I was offered jobs but they were commission only, minimum wage, or were just overall bad jobs. You know the ones I am referring to. Living off of savings and watching the amount in that account lower over time was not fun so I took a job during the 8th week of FPU just to have income again. This was the worst job EVER. I went in with a positive attitude hoping I could make the most of it while looking for something different. I only lasted about 3 months and quit because I won a trip to Las Vegas (and the company would not let me off work to go). How millennial of me...

The day I landed in Vegas, I was offered the job I currently have. This provided me with more income and better hours. So, quitting your terrible job for something fun does work out sometimes.

Thanks to the grace period, I was not required to make any payments on my loans until June 2015. I did go ahead and make a few small payments though. It is important to remember that these loan companies are NOT on your side. They make money when you are late on your payments or only pay the minimum amount required.

I busted my ass making money in 2015 and 2016. While working my regular job, I made money selling stuff online, getting rebates on groceries from apps, and saving every penny I could through couponing. Every little bit you make in addition to your regular paycheck will help you reach your goals faster. It is really easy making extra money each week just by using your phone. During this time, I greatly limited eating out as well as taking vacations and relied on a monthly budget to handle my finances.

My initial goal was to pay at least $500 towards my loans each month. Every extra dollar made went towards loans. If someone gave me birthday or Christmas money, it went straight to loans. I soon realized it was going to take a while if $500 was all I was paying towards this debt each month.

Dave Ramsey's debt-payoff plan includes sorting your debt from smallest to largest by amount instead of interest rate. While this does not sound logical to some math nerds, it did help me get the ball rolling and kept me motivated. I wasn't worried about the interest accruing on the loans since I was paying them off so quickly. When the first few loans were paid off, I felt awesome and nothing could slow me down. As you can see below, I was paying more than $1,000 each month and saw the total amount due dwindle relatively fast. I kept track of everything. This is so important. If you are not intentional about where you put your money, you will not reach your goal.

To be completely transparent, here is a rough timeline of how much I put towards the loans over time.

January 2015 to June 2015 - $781.07
July 2015 - $500
August 2015 - $500
September 2015 - $500
October 2015 - $1,010.09
November 2015 - $350.30
December 2015 - $550
January 2016 - $1,242.74
February 2016 - $2,074.77
March 2016 - $1,057.55
April 2016 - $1,550
May 2016 - $1,082.70
June 2016 - $2,004.61
July 2016 - $1,600.89
August 2016 - $1,901.74
September 2016 - $3,892.35
October 2016 - $3,174.42
November 2016 - $4,993.80

Total Paid - $28,767.03

In November, I was down to the one loan with a balance of $4,993.80. I had the money in my bank account so I went for it and paid it all off at once. I felt both empowered and broke at the same time. Then it hit me that every dollar I made going forward was mine. NOT Sallie Mae's. Financial freedom feels awesome!

I realize that not everyone will be able to put the same amount of money towards their loans each month so whatever amount you decide on when creating your budget is fine. As long as you are working towards your goal and paying off as much as you can, you are doing the right thing. If you have enough money sitting in your savings account, go ahead and pay off your debt. While it may seem scary, you will greatly benefit by not having the debt hold you back. If you are waiting on your student loans to be forgiven by the government in 20 years, think again. Remember, we are paying into a social security system that will not exist by the time we are old enough to retire. Wait, we probably won't even be able to retire. Hmm. Anyway, moral of the story is to pay off your debt!

If you were lucky enough to have your college education paid for by your parents, grandparents, or another family member, be thankful. If this person is still alive, tell them how much you appreciate their support. Not having this debt allows you to use your income for wealth building and that is something you should never take for granted.

Have you paid off a large amount of student loan or credit card debt? Let me know what your timeline looked like and how much you paid off! I would love to hear your financial freedom story. If you have any specific questions, ask them. I love talking about my journey and would also love to hear about yours! You have to start sometime and there is no better time than NOW!

No comments:

Post a Comment