Here, I have outlined exactly how I paid off my student loans in 18 months. I had more than $48,000 of student loan debt that I once thought would drown me forever– I still can’t believe it! I’m here to share the things I did that made it all possible– and surprise! I did it without earning a six figure salary. So without further ado, here is how I paid off my student loans in 18 months:
Once my student loans went into repayment, I made the commitment that no matter what, I was going to pay them off myself. I knew I had a lot of options, including student loan forgiveness using the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. I was a little on the fence at first, but given that I didn’t have an enormous amount of student loan debt (unlike my husband’s $550k!) plus the fact that I didn’t want to be pigeon holed into public service for 10 years (which is required for forgiveness), I ultimately committed to paying off the debt on my own, without student loan forgiveness. It was important to choose one path and stick to it. Once I made the decision, there was no more sitting on the fence because every dollar that I put into paying off my loans would have been waisted if in the end I went with the forgiveness route. In short, I went all in.
I read stuff.
I read everything I could about debt repayment strategies to make sure I was choosing the plan that was right for me. That lead me to reading everything I could about personal finance and how to make and keep money. It is now a passion of mine. Reading is good.
I prioritized my debt above all spending. And when I say I, what I really mean is we (me and husband Danny). We made debt a priority. It had to be a family affair. If you share money with someone, you can’t pay off debt unless everyone involved is on board, and willing to prioritize the debt above all else.
I went through our home and gathered every single thing that we no longer needed. Fortunately for us, that included a lot of weird dental equipment from Danny’s dental school. That weird equipment was really expensive, and we sold a good chunk of it on Amazon. We also sold some big ticket items locally, like an old DSLR camera. We sold smaller stuff too, like phone covers and books and in the end, we pocketed THOUSANDS of dollars that we were able to put towards student loans. (Learn everything you need to know about selling things on Amazon here).
After I was committed to paying of my loans, I refinanced. My interest rates weren’t crazy high to begin with, but having them lower obviously aided in the process of paying off debt as quickly as possible. If you aren’t aware, refinancing your student loans means that you basically sell your federal loans to a private lender, who lumps all of your loans together and generally provides you with a lower interest rate than what you are paying. It’s super easy and fast to check whether or not its worth it to refinance over at sofi.com
I got a job.
I didn’t worry about my student loans for one second while I was in school. But all of the sudden, the weight of my student loans hit me hard the day I graduated. From that moment forward, I searched high and low for the perfect job. Most of the areas I was interested in were not big money makers. On top of that, I had a new baby that I was interested in seeing. I also, however, wanted to practice law. In the end, I took a judicial clerkship that was PERFECT for me. But, as everyone in the law knows, clerkships are not huge money makers, generally earning about $40,000-$60,000 per year. When my baby was a little older and my clerkship was over, I took a better paying job.
I side hustled.
I started this blog. I took photographs for people. I use free cash back apps for all of my shopping. I painted houses, babysat, mowed lawns, and took online surveys. There were few things that I wasn’t willing to do for a little extra cash. And in the end, it paid off big time. It would have taken me MUCH longer to pay off my debt if I only had my day job.
We budgeted every penny that we earned. I started being more careful with grocery spending and other areas of our budget that were somewhat easy to control. We sat (and still sit) together every Sunday night and plan out how much money is going to go where for the coming week and month(s).
I gave money away.
I know it seems counter intuitive, but we paid 10% of our income as tithing to our church. I truly believe that if you are willing to give money to a good cause, it has a way of coming back to you. Aka karma. It just seemed like the more willing we were to help other people, the easier money came back to us. Hoaxy, maybe, but it worked for us.
I stayed motivated.
Probably the hardest part about paying off debt is staying motivated. It can be a long and grueling process. Even though we paid off my debt quickly (in 18 months!) we still have well over $500,000 of student loan debt from Danny’s dental school and master’s degree. Some days it can just flat out get you down, but staying motivated is key to paying it off. How to stay motivated? A few things we did– we checked the balance of our loans frequently. We had weekly money meetings to chat about our debt and budget. We reminded ourselves about interest and how each day, interest is accruing and accruing. We also set goals for things that we will do after our debt is paid off.
Have you paid off debt? What strategies did you use? We’d love to hear from you.