I know so many college grads with student loan debt who are eager to pay it off. One of the first questions I ask them is how hard are they willing to work to pay their loans off early and start living a life that isn’t bound by debt.
This week for the Debt Mindset Series I’m interviewing Whitney who’s debt free story has always inspired me. She paid off her undergrad student loans super fast and got her master’s degree for only $472.
Whitney stumbled into entrepreneurship after paying off $30,000 in 10 months and began helping others for fun. She didn’t even realize she could make money by helping others at first but since then, she’s been blogging, creating videos, and sharing free workshops at WhitneyHansen.com. Whitney also hosts The Money Nerds podcast. She has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and her masters in business administration and she is an adjunct professor teaching personal finance at Boise State University.
Describe your debt situation. How much you have/had and how you accumulated it.
The debt that was most significant to my life was $30,000 of student loans. For a 21-year-old with barely any income, that was a ton of money and felt very overwhelming.
But my relationship with debt actually began when I was in high school. My mom purchased a car on my behalf and I made the car payment. (Psstt… parents- don’t do this!)
My car payment was $120 a month. It was a darling little convertible with graphics on the side, back when graphics were cool. When test driving the car we heard an odd knocking noise, but the dealer assured us it was just the overhead cam. One month later, my engine blew. I was stuck making payments on a car that didn’t work while I scrambled to save $2,500 for a new motor.
After seeing that cars aren’t always reliable and degrees don’t necessarily guarantee a certain salary, I decided that the debt life is not for me.
When did you decide your debt was a problem?
My ah-ha moment came after graduating college and getting my first “big girl” job as an accountant. I was making payments on my student loan and found out really quickly that the degree I spent 4.5 years getting was not what I wanted to do long term.
I remember holding that student loan bill and feeling like an idiot because I took out student loans while blindly buying into the idea that a degree and a decent starting salary were all I needed to be happy.
I bought into the myth 100%. If I knew how common it is to get a degree in something you aren’t that passionate about, only to change your career path a couple years after being in the workplace, I don’t think I would have financed the degree to the extent that I did.
Did you implement a specific strategy to start paying off your debt? Why did you use that strategy?
The strategy I used to pay off $30,000 in ten months was simple, but it wasn’t easy. I worked as a nail tech as a job to get me through college. I knew I could survive on that income alone because I had been doing it for years. I kept working that salon job that I dreamed of quitting for 4.5 years.
I put every single one of my accounting paychecks towards debt. I cut out Starbucks completely and didn’t eat out once during those ten months. At one point I was so busy working 60-80 hours a week that I didn’t even have time to cash my check, let alone spend money on impulse buys. The strategy was simple. Sticking to the plan was really freaking hard.
What were some obstacles you were/are faced with? How did you deal with the days when you lost motivation?
One of the biggest obstacles I was faced with was naysayers. I remember telling my coworkers, friends and salon clients about my goal and they immediately told me it was unrealistic.
On top of that, I was constantly hearing that debt is okay and I’ll always be in debt, so I shouldn’t worry about it. I surrounded myself with inspirational YouTube videos, Success Magazine CD’s in my car, and even taped my budget to my debit card so I was reminded on my goal.
It worked. To this day I refuse to accept that debt is a normal part of life. So much so that when I went back for my master’s degree I conducted a plan and paid $472 in cash for my entire degree. Debt is only normal if you think you don’t have options.
What motivates you? What would you say to people who think they can’t get out of debt in an attempt to change their mindset?
Financial security motivates me. Seeing my savings accounts grow is a ton of fun. But even more than that, the thing that motivates me is being able to say yes to things that matter to me- like travel.
Since I don’t have debt and I live on much less than I earn, I now have the ability to take spontaneous trips. I recently found a great deal on a flight to Italy and two weeks later traveled there. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I had debt.
If you are someone who wants to get out of debt but doesn’t feel like you can, I would challenge you to think about what you truly value in life. It likely doesn’t align with debt.
Too many times I hear people say they value family, but they are stressed from working so much to pay for car payments and debt and aren’t their best self when they are with their family. Or people claim they value their health and are going out to lunch every day and charging it on the credit card. Whatever really matters to you is on the other side of debt.
You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have everything. Choose wisely.
Learn More About Whitney
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