Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Yes, thats a 100% true statement. My husband and I were able to pay off $105,000 of student loans in just 2 years, and I have to say that it feels AMAZING.
Although this picture was my husband (Alexander) & I jumping for joy after he proposed.. we also were jumping up and down after our last loan payment was submitted and we were officially debt free!!!
So how did we do it?
To be honest, I think that the number one factor was our mindset. Not very likely that you were expecting advice on your life perspective, but it's a major component to succeeding at anything in life.
3 years ago, my boyfriend at the time asked me about my student loans (I had just graduated and started paying my minimum payment (heck yah doing it right!...maybe?). He knew right off the bat that I was in debt.. but the real shocker was that it was over $100K. (The cost of private school is real y'all).
I came from a family that never talked about money; my dad worked hard (so incredibly hard) and my mom stayed at home to care for us growing up. My brothers and I had plenty of food on the table, and were involved in sports and activities. What more can you ask for?
On the other hand, Alexander grew up with a deep understanding of money. It was an open concept in his household, so he learned all about stocks, investing, business, loans, and budgets.
When it came time for college I received financial aid and took out a private loan so that I could attend one of the only colleges in the state that offers my program. I was SO LUCKY to be able to go to this college, and I would not be the professional I am today if I didn't. (Shout out to Columbia College Chicago's amazing ASL-English Interpretation Program!)
I graduated in 2016 with a 4.0 GPA, a job that I loved set up upon graduation, and a wonderful college experience. But what I didn't know was that I was graduating with 100K in loans and already $10,000 in interest.
Interest? Whats interest? Everyone told me to wait to start paying back my loans till I graduate... How the heck is interest being accumulated? How did I have no idea?
I'm a COLLEGE GRADUATE. I graduated with a 4.0. I'm a hardworking, organized, law abiding citizen that is CLUELESS about loans. CLUELESS about interest. Thank goodness my fiance isn't.
Our conversation quickly switched from me explaining that "I will continue to pay the minimum payment till the loans are gone because I don't want to give up living life" to "Holy shit, thats how much interest I will have to pay if I paid throughout the life of the loan?"
We then sat down, and had a long conversation about money. (I feel like I need to add that I was really great with money. I've had a job since the age of 15, I worked throughout college, had a hefty saving account, I paid my bills on time, never had any credit card debt, and had an exceptional credit score) -I simply just had no idea how loans worked.
We talked about our finances and after calculating all of our expenses (which was very low at the time) we decided that Alexander would pay for "life" and my income would solely be for loans. We talked about how we wanted to pay these loans off as QUICK AS POSSIBLE, so that we aren't paying tens of thousands of dollars extra.
Our mentality went from "Lets just pay whatever extra we have this month to our loans" to "our loans are the top priority and we need to make sure we are putting as much money as we possibly can to them each month".
And we did.
I was making anywhere from $2500 to $4500 a month freelancing. Because my hours vary, so does my income. BUT, at the busy times of the year I was working over 50 hours a week steadily, and sometimes even over 60. I worked nights and weekends, trying to make as much as I possibly could. Again, I am a HARD WORKER. (and when I have a goal in mind, I want to crush it. #1 goal = pay off loans)
Alexander's income fluctuated as well. But luckily he was steadily able to make enough to pay for all of our expenses (monthly, as well as extra activities and vacations) *We were still able to vacation to Hawaii, Florida x2, & Cabo!*
How were we able to do those types of things and still pay off loans? We budgeted. We figured out our monthly income, how much to save for expenses, and how much to save for vacations.. and then paid whatever was left to loans!! (and we paid this at the beginning of the month so that no money could be stripped away from our loans payment.
What we could afford to pay- we made sure we did.
Heres what to do:
1. Budget: Create a budget and stick to it! It really helps to see how much money you are putting towards rent, bills, entertainment, etc. & It also helps you decide how much you really could put towards your loans (before buying shoes and makeup :)
2. Pay while your in school
Yep! Although you don't HAVE TO.. you are accumulating SO MUCH interest. So if anything, pay off that interest while it's accruing. If possible pay more. If FAFSA sends you a check to "pay for books and other school supplies", DO IT. & then whatever extra you have - pay to your loans. (you might think its a good idea to keep it for extra spending money, but understand that you are paying interest on it, so you keeping this check means you are not only going to have to pay that back, but have to pay it back with interest!!)
3. Change your mindset
I said it before but if you have the mindset that you don't have enough income to pay your loans or that all you can afford is the minimum payment... Then you will be right. You HAVE TO figure out how much you can actually swing and change your mindset to "I can do this in x amount of time"
For us, we were aiming for 5 years. However, we also designated my entire income to loans. If I made more, then we paid more. Since I made way more than we expected in the 2 years, we were able to pay it off in half our expected time.
4. Have an honest conversation with yourself (and your partner)
Alexander and I are completely transparent about money. We have been since we started dating. We have talked about credit cards, loans, credit scores, stocks, bitcoin, savings, retirement and anything else you can think of.
If we disagree, we discuss. Until we come to an understanding of how to handle our money moving forward. We are however, lucky enough to agree on most everything money related. We are both pretty frugal people (unless it involves buying tacos or ice cream). So we never really question each others purchases.
And if there is a big purchase that is going to be made (and we aren't buying it together) then we talk about it BEFORE it happens.
Prime example is when Alexander wanted to buy a $500 drone. He brought the idea to me so that we could budget it, and talk about when and if it was a smart purchase at the moment. (I definitely thought it was a stupid purchase that would be a waste of money in the long run) But I saw how happy the idea made him so with discussion we agreed on budgeting it in. *And now he takes hella cool videos and I love the drone!!**
Key point of this: transparency and discussion
5. Pay off your loans FIRST and OFTEN
I don't care who tells you that you don't have to pay your loans off until you graduate- do NOT listen to them. I could go into depth about what interest is and how it works but the moral of the story is, the longer you wait to pay back your loans = more interest accrued (and this is real money that you have to pay back ON TOP of the loan you already took out)
Interest can be suffocating. You can continually make payments and never decrease the actual amount of your loan because you are stuck paying the interest. So do yourself a favor and use your birthday money, part time job money, or savings to pay your loans (and don't just listen to just my opinion- go talk to someone!
I'm positive your school has counselors and financial aid staff to help you (learn from my mistakes and talk to them) Let them guide you and teach you all there is to know about loans (because we all know even after paying over 100K, I'm no expert).
Also, pay your loans ASAP. It might not seem like a big difference to pay NOW or in 2 weeks. But, It is. And it adds up! Interest is accruing everyday, so if you have the money to pay, pay now. Remember, budget for other expenses so that you are able to do this and not be caught in a lurch.
A closer look into my loans, for those who are curious
I went to Columbia for 3 years, and my local community college for 1.5 years. (I graduated high school early so my first semester was just dipping my toes in the water) Above is a shot of my Financial Aid that I received for 1 year at Columbia (some of this was scholarships that I did not have to pay back). So $28,000 x 3 = $84K. Add on some community college for a total around $88K.
My first loan was issued in 2012, and each year more loans were added on. I started paying off my loans in March of 2017 (yes, my first loan had accumulated 5 years of interest before I even started paying!!) and my loans were paid off entirely in May of 2019.
QUE THE FIREWORKS! My student loans are gone!
Here's a look at the numbers:
Principal = $87,603
Interest = $17,875.54
Total Paid = $105,478.54
And there you have it folks. Now you know how I paid off $100K of student loans in 2 years and what my tips for paying off loans are. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and subscribe to my blog to stay up to date!
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