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Today we have a guest post from Jacob, who runs his own personal finance blog over at Dollar Diligence. Through meticulously watching his money and extreme frugality, he was able to pay down over $25k in student loan debt in just 15 months. You can learn more about his story and follow him here.
There I was, in my 20s with a low-paying job as a high school math teacher, facing $25,000 in student loan debt.
I knew all the facts. As long as I kept making the minimum monthly payments, I would waste tons of money on interest. On top of that, even the minimum monthly payments cut into my disposable income, making it hard to reach my financial goals.
I stressed out over this for a while until I finally decided to take action. I was going to pay my student loans off once and for all, and I wasn’t going to draw the process out.
I made a goal to pay my loans off in 15 months, and I did it. The best part is that you can do it too. Use my own life as a blueprint to get out from under your own crippling debt.
Refinance Those Loans
I started the process by refinancing my student loans. I qualified for a lower interest rate, which reduced the amount of interest I had to pay. That allowed me to pay off the principle much faster.
The key is to find a lender who will refinance without charging a loan origination fee. The market is so competitive that it’s pretty easy to find a lender who will refinance without charging a fee, so that isn’t a big issue. I used this guide to help me find a lender that worked for me.
I live on the West Coast, so as you can imagine, I was spending a ton of money on rent while trying to pay off my debt. It didn’t take me long to realize that my rent was standing in my way of reaching my goals.
That’s when I decided to get out of my lease and move in with my aunt and uncle. They live close to my job, and they charged me significantly less for rent. That allowed me to increase my payments to the student loan companies.
You might not be paying West Coast prices on rent, but there’s a good chance that you’re paying more than you can afford given your current debt situation.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have an aunt and uncle with an extra room, check out Craigslist and other house sharing options to save money. You can find someone who is renting out some extra space. That should save you a few hundred dollars a month, and you can put all of that toward your debt.
Pick Up Some Extra Work
You can probably guess that high school math teachers aren’t exactly bringing home six figures every year. My salary was barely enough to get by, even when I moved in with my aunt and uncle.
That’s why I decided to pick up some freelance work. I found freelance writing and photography jobs online and used them to make some extra cash. I took all of the extra money I made and used it to pay off my student loans.
Suddenly, I was able to double my payments each month. I could finally see that debt melting away, and it felt great. Check out my guide to starting your own freelance business from scratch here, or my ultimate list of 60 ways to make money on the side!
I’m just like anyone else. I like to have fun, which means I enjoy going out to eat, spending time with my friends, and going on vacations.
Do you know what I like even more, though? I like meeting my goals, and paying off my debt was the big one. That is why I stopped having a social life while I paid off my loans.
I basically just worked at the high school, did my freelance jobs, and slept. I ate in and didn’t socialize much. It saved me a ton of money each month. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, but it was worth it.
Of course, if this doesn’t work for you, there are ways to have a social life without neglecting your debt obligations.
Follow My Blueprint for Success
This blueprint worked for me, and it can work for you too. When month 15 rolled around, I sent in my last student loan payment, and I was free from that debt. At that point, I was able to go back to living my life. My social life came back together, and I was able to do the things that I enjoyed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had done the right thing. Life is so much sweeter now that I don’t owe on any student loans.
It’s time for you to put this plan into motion as well. I know it will be hard for the first few months, but as you get closer to that prize, you will finally be able to see that your hard work can and will pay off.
Do you also have an amazing student loan debt repayment story? Check out my guest post guidelines and submit your story to The Wallet Moth!
Mrs. Adventure Rich says
Awesome job, Jacob! I like how you targeted big areas (reducing housing expenses and increasing income with side jobs) to help with the loan payoff. Congrats!
Jane @ Cash Fasting says
Great post! I find that, with debt payoff stories, one of the biggest strategies I see over and over again is lowering housing costs. Whether it’s downsizing your house, moving out of an expensive area, or moving back home with parents (or other family, in this case), reducing rent has such a huge effect on finances. Maybe because it’s such a big monthly fixed cost, but lowering rent by a few hundred dollars has a much bigger long-term effect on saving than being able to cut spending here and there.
The Wallet Moth says
Completely agree – mortgage costs seem to have a huge impact on how much people can save. That’s why my boyfriend and I are planning on living/travelling in a campervan when we’re back in the UK – much cheaper!