I am so happy to announce that I have paid off over $60,000 in student loans in 5 years. I now have less than $5,000 remaining. For some people who earn six figures this may seem like an easy task. I am a registered dietitian and I do not make a lot of money. I will not disclose how much I make, but trust me when I say that I got into this field because I love it, not because of the money.
The people around me comment on how much I have sacrificed to pay off this debt. Yes, this is true. I have not bought a new car and I don’t buy fancy new things or designer clothing. I doubt I would have done that if I did not have the debt to pay off.
In my opinion there is no such a thing as good debt. My debt has been a heavy weight I have carried around for 5 years and will continue to carry until they are paid. It is always with me and I think of it almost every day. Just like carrying a heavy weight, it slows me down. I often sacrifice other things because the discomfort of having that weight is far worse than the temporary thrill of a shiny new car.
People may wonder how I have been able to pay this debt relatively quickly and I have some simple tips that might be helpful. Keep in mind it is hard work and it is not going to be easy.
- You may have to work more in the beginning. The more money you can put into your debt, the quicker you will pay the debt off. For me it was working up to 5 part time jobs at once. That sucked, but I made a lot of money and was able to pay off a significant amount of my debt over a 2-3 year period. You will need to remind yourself that your hard work will pay off later when your debt is significantly less or when you pay it off completely. There was one point in time when I worked every day for an entire month straight. In retrospect that may have been drastic, but I survived.
- You will have to sacrifice. There is no way you can pay off debt and buy a new car or designer jewelry, unless you are a millionaire. I am pretty sure if you are a millionaire you are probably not be reading this blog. I suggest sacrificing on material possessions, nut not experiences. During this 5 year period I was still able to make a trip to Hawaii to visit friends and Vermont to see my mom.
- Stick to a budget. I did not create a fancy spreadsheet or anything like that. Although, that might be helpful for some people. I always had a good idea of how much I would need for food, fuel, rent, etc. I also had a goal for how much I wanted to put towards my loans. Sometimes I had a little extra money at the end of the month and at that time I would decide if I wanted to put the money towards the loans, my savings, or something fun. Most of the time I chose loans or savings, but every once and a while it is okay a splurge.
- Have monthly goals for paying off the debt. I did create an excel spread sheet for this. My spreadsheet included how much I owed and I created a monthly payment goal. I made sure to calculate my interest and created a payment plan. Most loans already require a minimum payment, but you want to pay more than the minimum of you can.
- Do make time for yourself. If you work all the time without any breaks, you will burn out. Trust me. I eventually had to simplify my life and 5 jobs was not sustainable. I am now working two jobs. My own business and my job at an outpatient hospital setting. After busting my butt for 3 years paying off my loans, I am finally able to do things I enjoy such as training for running races. I have also been able to do more fun trips and now focus on our land and building our non conventional home.
- Try to stay positive. It sucks having debt, especially the kind that is not tangible. There is no physical thing that I own. I have a piece of paper that says I have a degree. I just try to keep my eye on the finish line, but not let myself become consumed with the debt. That can lead to added stress, which is not helpful.
I am hoping to have my student loan debt paid within the year. Hopefully sooner if I can stick to my monthly payment goals. It will be so nice to have that weight lifted.