Well, it’s official. We no longer have to make payments on our graduate loan – because it’s DONE! Finito! Terminé!
It’s hard to believe that after 21 months of living the adventure of making financial freedom a priority, we are out from under our student loan! If you’re feeling discouraged, here’s a little pep talk:
Why We’ll Keep Going and You Can Too
- We only paid $2,011.30 in interest! It’s true! On a $29,000 loan at 6.625% interest (for most of the duration) we only paid a little over $2,000 in interest – that’s not so bad compared to the estimate for a ten-year repayment plan! And now all that extra can go toward our other loans, and then a down payment or some other wealth-building venture!
- It’s not over yet: Yes, we paid of our federal loan for grad school, but we still have two smaller debts to family for undergraduate, so we’re ready to put our noses to the grindstone for another year (or hopefully less!) to crush that $14,000. We’ll put our goal out there so you can keep us accountable and follow our progress: we want to have those wrapped up by the end of February 2018.
- This is life-changing: Even after that $14,000 is behind us, learning what it means to live for legacy with our finances has empowered us to build something worth leaving behind.
How You Can Be A Debt-Free Student
Here at The Debt-Free Student we encourage all our followers to take the “easy” road: just don’t take loans. But we know that that isn’t always possible, or that our advice might be coming too late for those who have already taken on debt. So here are a few thoughts to help you start or continue your own debt-free journey:
- Work while you are in school.
If there is one thing I did in undergrad (and grad school) that I could do again, it would be working while in school. Yes, it’s tough, but it did more than pay my grocery bill, it taught me responsibility, time management, how to choose grace and professionalism in the midst of hardship and pressure, and it helped me stay out of even more debt.
- Have a plan.
Don’t just swipe your credit card every time you want something. I wish someone had sat me down and shown me how to budget my money. My plan in undergrad was “just don’t spend anything.” It worked out ok in the short term, but it wasn’t a good strategy as I moved into marriage, work, and the phases after college. If you’d like a copy of the budget sheet I use now, you can find the free template here.
- Save for future expenses.
I always had an “emergency fund,” but it was mostly motivated by fear rather than simple planning and foresight. While that’s one aspect of mandatory savings, saving for future fun expenses, like a large trip, a family vacation, a car, or other needed (or wanted item) will help you avoid the temptation to just charge it when the time comes to make a purchase.
- Understand your interest.
If you do have a school loan, it’s really important to know what your interest rate is, when it is capitalized (added to the principal), how often it compounds, etc. It isn’t stupid to ask these questions, it’s stupid not to if you don’t know. I feel confident in that assessment because I was not confident enough to ask those questions, which led to me consolidating our loan, which led to a slightly higher interest rate over the last year or so of our loan. I’m still not quite over the fact that I made that choice, but hopefully the pain incurred will remind me to ask those seemingly tough questions next time.
- Make more than the minimum payment.
To the extent possible, when you are paying back your loans, you will want to make as large a payment as you reasonably can (this is where budgeting comes in handy!). This will significantly reduce the total amount of interest you pay over the lifetime of your loan. As you know, this has been the key to our success with our grad loan. As we both began making more with Josh’s promotion and my raise, and as we improved our budgeting skills and communication, our monthly payments went from between $200 and $600 a month, to around $2,000 a month. It’s not nearly as hard to knock out $30,000 when you’re throwing $2,000 a month at it.
- Decide what your priorities are.
Getting out of debt creates so much mental, physical, and emotional freedom – we decided it was worth it not to shop at brand name stores, not to pay full price, wait for sales, eat economically, eat out much less, not buy alcohol, etc. etc. so that we could accomplish our goals. You have to decide what you’re willing to give up if you’re trying to get out of debt. We certainly don’t advocate denying real needs, but the more you can reasonably tighten your budget, the more quickly you will have freedom to re-prioritize and invest in the things you really value in life.
And We Journey On
We still have $14,000 to go, but we’re getting closer and closer! We’re big believers that anything worth doing is worth doing well – and generally isn’t easy, and this has been no exception. Don’t get discouraged if this doesn’t feel like an overnight success. We’ve had our share of setbacks and failures, but we haven’t been knocked down and stayed down yet. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks we’ve gathered along the way as we keep marching on toward being debt-free and, always, we would love for you to join us!