How We Paid Off $57,000 in Student Loans in 2017
A couple months ago I wrote an awesome article on “6 Things I Wish I Knew About Money After College.” The number one tip I had for college graduates was paying off student loan debt as fast as possible.
Student loan debt was at 1.3 trillion when I started my blog a few months ago. Now it is over 1.5 trillion, with no intentions of slowing down. Prior to enrolling in college back in 2005, college debt was about 250 billion.
The 600% increase of college debt has got many people asking this question – Can I ever pay off my student Loans? My answer:
Of course you can!
Over the last 22 months my wife and I have made it our mission to pay off our student loan debt. The good news is we paid off over $57,000 in 2017 alone. Even better news – the average graduate only has $37,000 (I say only, that is still a lot, but not like multiple six figures).
Chances are you area only a short year or two away from paying off your loans with just a few tweaks. Here is the breakdown of how much we paid each month towards our loans last year.
A quick disclaimer, my intentions are to never come across as bragging. Trust me, I would much rather tell you we put $57,000 towards savings not towards debt. I will also be the first to tell you that while rewarding, paying off student loan debt is challenging at times.
Delaying gratification is something you can develop in a relatively short amount of time. Honestly, you just have to be honest about your situation, realize that if you don’t act nothing will change, and start slowly reducing spending that isn’t getting you closer to your goals.
Breaking Down the Months:
As you can see, there were some months where we paid $3,000 and others where we paid $8,000. You might be asking why this is.
Just like you, we had life come up. For example, in March the student loan interest capitalized, the paperwork for income based repayment had not been processed so we owed more on the monthly minimums.
In April I had engine failure and bought a used Kia while the recall was done on my hyundai. Two months later I was able to sell the hyundai and put the cash towards extra payments in June.
Over the summer we also had to take care of some family matters that required income. My point is this, no matter what, even though we were not as consistent as we like, we still always kept the goal in front of us.
Once you have a clearly defined goal, ala paying off debt, saving, or maybe just getting on a budget, you will find a way to make it happen!
So here are a few suggestions, tips, pieces of advice to help you.
1. Mindset Shift
If you haven’t read our story I suggest checking it out here, but long story short we started with $300,000 worth of student loans. We were once kicking the idea around of just paying the minimum and using the Income Based Repayment option, or IBR, for the next 20 years (With IBR you can apply to have the remaining balance removed after 20 years, you are taxed on the remaining balance because it is counted as income).
Paying the minimum didn’t sit well, what is worse, that was the recommendation my wife got from her grad school where she got her doctorate…
Not sure if anyone has heard the horror stories about IBR or even worse PSLF, but public service loan forgiveness might not be as awesome as some thought. A U.S. News post stated PSLF could be eventually cut and in 2017 nearly half of the 700,000 initial enrollees were disqualified due to small bureaucratic infractions.
As we saw the interest accruing every month we quickly realized we needed to do something about our student loans. Not to mention, we signed up to go to college last time I checked and we were not going to wait until our late 40’s to hear some news that our loans were not going to be forgiven.
2. We Got on a BUDGET.
The next thing we did was we got on a budget. Simply put it is the most underrated personal finance tip of all time. A Gallup poll shows that over 6 in 10 Americans do not use a budget.
With 78% of people living paycheck to paycheck, the sheer fact that only 1 in 3 people use a budget is just crazy. If someone were to ask me how much money I spent on something I would know the answer.
Just looking at our loan payoffs from last year, we realized we needed to get more consistent. We made a decision to use my wife’s salary for student loans, my salary for living expenses. It keeps us consistent and on budget.
Lauren and I quickly realized if we wanted to pay off student loans that were in the six figures we could no longer compare ourselves.
Just like that we stopped. We did not worry about the size of our wedding, the cars we drove, or the house we lived in. Long term we knew we could do more if we did not have to worry about debt.
If you are caught up with constantly trying to keep up it will be more challenging to pay off debt. Like anything you might have a few fans and a few haters. In the end you just need a clearly defined why.
Which leads me to my fourth and final point when it comes to paying off debt.
Why are you paying off debt? Are you like us and want to have more freedom and control? Or are you looking to buy the home of your dreams but you can’t do it because your debt to income ratio is all screwed up.
I recently read a story on a friend’s blog about a couple with $600,000 in student loan debt! They have a goal of paying off by 2021. No doubt they will get there because they want to.
Like us, they have a reason to pay off their debt. Once you figure out your reason, you will stick to it and nothing will throw you off course.
At the end of the day, we just want options.
Most of my life the idea of being told what to do has not sat well with me. Being saddled by debt, whether student loan or consumer debt, takes away the freedom of choice.
I want to travel, I want to have a wife who stays at home with kids, and I want say yes to our kids more than I say no. Our WHY is crystallized. It is what motivates us to payoff $57,000 in student loan debt in 12 months. Our motives are clear and they are the reason we aim to pay off $100,000 this year alone.
You never know what can happen when you set your goals high and put your backs against the wall! As always, hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading.