The end of our grad school loans is near. In one of my first posts, I shared that we had about $43,000 in debt at the end of my Master’s program. As of today, we have just over $760 left on our grad loans. That will put us at $14,000 left to pay off (or $29,000 already paid off) once we officially send in the last payment to our federal loan servicer.
One of the most unforeseen and interesting parts of this journey has been the discovery of my own impatience. I don’t dislike the way that we live. I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat, just waiting until we can use the excess cash we get each month toward something other than loan payments. I’m simply impatient to check the box.
This is interesting to me because I thought through this season I would learn patience; patiently chipping away at a big goal, patiently waiting to save little by little for things I want; patiently waiting to upgrade furniture from the post-wedding originals. However, I have found that the closer we get to our goal, the more I want to throw everything we have at the loan.
That sounds like a good idea… until you consider the wisdom of having an emergency fund or you look at the budget and realize that the landlord is going to expect $xxxx at the beginning of next month and that your May plane tickets to see your little sister’s graduation are going to require $600+ and there is no payment plan option. Just saying ‘no’ to finishing off the loan has been a challenge.
Saving is Hard
Saving is hard; especially when you’re impatient. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at our two accounts, poured over our budget, run the numbers, rechecked the numbers, and sighed. I just so want to be done! But you know what is harder? Missing your little sister’s graduation; your only vehicle having a major malfunction that requires more than $200 to fix; not being able to afford Christmas presents for your family; having a medical emergency that you can’t afford. Just saying ‘no’ to any of these things is either a real hardship or an impossibility.
When I look at the $6,700 that is just sitting in our account, it’s easy to get frustrated. But instead of looking at it as a negative, I’m learning to be grateful that we’ve been taught to put something away for a rainy day and to save up for future purchases. That sum means we have learned something.
Saying ‘No’ to Impulse Buying
One of the main ways we have been able to build that fund for emergencies and planned expenses is saying ‘no’ when we want something. That might sound inanely simple, but saying ‘no’ to an afternoon coffee when it’s all you can think about, saying ‘no’ to that super sweet pair of sweatpants at the outlet that are on sale, and saying ‘no’ to a nice bottle of wine and a Redbox film in favor of the cider and Netflix account that are already paid for add up to almost $50 of savings this week. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
Saying ‘no’ is so much easier if you make two small lifestyle adjustments:
- Using cash: Cash isn’t really convenient, but using the envelope system recommended by Financial Peace University definitely makes you think twice when you’re tempted to spend. During grad school we had an envelope for every variable line item in our budget; travel, groceries, clothing, date night, etc. We didn’t spend anything that we hadn’t saved up the cash for. There were a lot of ‘no’s in our life.
- Visualizing your dreams: This is something we did easily while in England, but it’s something I’m learning more about now. It’s super important to have a “why” that motivates the hard choices you have to make. I went to a professional/personal development course this week and one phrase really stood out: “When the ‘why’ is strong enough, the ‘how’ doesn’t matter.” I would probably say that the ‘how’ will take care of itself, but you get the idea. You need to visualize this though. Some people use dream or vision boards, some just have something on their fridge to remind them of their goals – whatever works for you, put it where you see it every day. It’ll help make the ‘no’s take care of themselves.
The End Is Near
So we won’t be closing out the loan this month I don’t think, but we also won’t be missing graduation. We won’t be putting Christmas on a credit card (or telling our families we aren’t doing gifts this year). We won’t be forced to rent a car we can’t afford if ours goes to the shop. Because we’ve said a lot of ‘no’s, our ‘yes’s are around the corner.