Thank you Navient for sponsoring this post.
Next month, I’m excited to share that I’ll be making my final student loan payment and I’m super excited about it! I’ve had student loan debt for my entire adult life and I’m interested to see how my life and identity will change without it.
Longtime readers know I started this blog at the beginning of my debt repayment journey. When I listed out all my goals for 2015, I referred to my situation as an uphill journey.
Why I Don’t Regret Taking Out Student Loans
I talk a lot about paying off debt and avoiding getting into debt on the blog, but to be honest, I don’t regret my student loan debt at all. Sure, it wasn’t fun to have to make payments after college and initially I wished that I would have applied for more scholarships and worked more to cut the costs of tuition, but I knew I had to take out some student loans in order to get to the next level in my life.
Becoming a teen mom was life-changing for me and it motivated me to earn a college degree even more. My parents had a low income and no money saved up for me to attend college so I had to rely on student loans and financial aid to help me get through. I didn’t take the funding I received for granted at all. I enrolled my son in campus child care and scheduled classes around him.
I never dropped a class and kept my attendance and grades up. I networked, landed two internships, and even got the chance to study abroad in Ireland for a month.
I took summer classes for 3 years straight and I was able to earn my degree in Journalism with a minor in communications within 4 years just like my peers. When everything was said and done, I ended up with just under $21,000 in student loan debt. I hate to say it, but without student loans, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish everything I had in 4 years.
Related: My Journey to Defeating Poverty
I don’t think student loans are horrible but generally, I don’t like debt and I believe you have to carefully look at your potential ROI before getting into any debt. I still use my degree now with my career as a blogger and freelance writer and I also use many of the skills I learned in college.
I’m happy to say I earn much more than $21,000 each year so in a sense, so I am definitely seeing positive returns within just a few years of graduating.
If you don’t know what you want to major in or do after college, I would highly recommend avoiding higher education and student loans until you figure it out. Once you do have a clear plan, consider student loans as a last resort and avoid borrowing more than you actually need. Pay attention to interest rates and terms and again, consider the potential ROI and how your college education will boost your career and earning potential.
Making the Decision to Pay My Loans Off Early
Right after graduating college, I decided I wanted to pay my student loans off early. I signed up for a standard 10-year payment plan and while it was nice to have flexible repayment options if I needed it, I couldn’t really see myself holding onto my debt for the next decade.
At the time, I had been reading many stories of people online who did it and I was very inspired. They were paying off their loans early and using the extra money to meet other goals and spend how they pleased.
I wanted more control over my life and my money, so I knew I had to become debt free one way or another. That epiphany moment also led to me starting this blog to remain accountable.
Paying off student loan debt is not easy let alone trying to pay it off aggressively. It requires a ton of motivation, dedication, and proper planning. Some days, you might feel like you want to give up or use your money for something else instead. When you’re at the beginning stages and staring at a huge mountain of debt, you may feel intimidated and overwhelmed.
Many times, I’ve had to go back to my initial decision and remind myself why I made it. Ultimately, I realized it was my duty and responsibility to pay off my loans since I agreed to the terms when taking them out. If I could get off the hook 7 years early by paying them off in 3 years or less, why not?
Necessary Lifestyle Changes
In order to meet my goal of paying off my student loans early, I had to make a priority and make a few necessary lifestyle changes. Simply put, I focused on lowering my expenses and increasing my income.
When I landed my first job post-college, I was only earning $28,000/year and had to support my son and myself off that income.
To make sure I could afford my minimum student loan payment, I committed to living like a broke college student even though I was no longer in college anymore. I commuted to work and remained in the 2-bedroom apartment in my college town for at least a year taking advantage of the $600/month rent payment while throwing extra money toward my debt.
With two-bedroom apartments near my job averaging around $1,200/month, my housing costs were essentially cut in half while I chose to live in my basic, cheap apartment. I also cut cable, started cooking more at home, bought used clothes or items on clearance, and shopped around for better insurance rates.
Cutting my expenses freed up even more money to put toward my debt.
In addition, I found that I loved side hustling to bring in extra money. I started monetizing this blog, picking up product demonstrating/brand ambassador gigs, and learned how to get into freelance writing.
By cutting my expenses and increasing my income, I was easily able to double and triple my student loan payments each month. If you want to pay off your student loans early, making extra payments each month is the key.
If you want to learn more about my debt repayment strategy, you can check out this post.
Related: 50 Expenses You Can Cut ASAP
New Habits For Life
While paying off my student loan debt aggressively has not been the most exciting experience, it has been life-changing and allowed me to adopt new habits and new mindset I can take with me for years to come.
I now know that having a low or even poverty level income doesn’t have to stop someone from being successful and reaching their dreams.
While I’m not in favor of debt, I know that it can be used as a tool just like money in general to get to the next level.
I know that if I commit to a goal I feel passionate enough about, I possess the strength, skill, and dedication to reach it. I also learned that I can live very well on less money and I actually prefer a frugal lifestyle over lifestyle inflation.
Finally, I learned how powerful it can be to earn more money and I even developed a new career (becoming a full-time blogger and freelance writer) based on my trying to work my way out of student loan debt.
Have you learned anything valuable from having student loan debt? Do you plan to pay your loans off early?
Thank you again to Navient for sponsoring this post. All content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Say Goodbye to Debt
Sign up today to receive free printables like my student loan repayment checklist which helped me pay off $10,000 of student loan debt last year and receive weekly email updates.