So Long, Student Loans! (+ Tips on How to Pay Them Off FAST!)
It’s been nearly a month since my last post, and during that time something exciting happened….Zach and I paid off our student loans! AHHH! CUE THE CONFETTI & POP THE CHAMPAGNE! I can’t believe that we finally did it! We paid off $44,000 in student loans in 4 years, which is a bit longer than what we were hoping for. However, during that time we were also:
- Paying off Zach’s car
- Starting a business (me) without taking out any additional loans
- Going back to school for a Master’s degree and a Specialist degree (Zach) without taking out any additional loans
- Got two adorable dogs (#noregrets)
Zach & I also purchased our first home together a little over two years ago, which required a significant down payment. We could have put it all towards the loans and gotten out of debt sooner, but we opted for the house to start building equity. We do not regret this decision at all! Our house has significantly increased in value over the last few years that we’ve been here. Looking at prices of homes now, we’re so glad we bought a property when we did.
*Also, as an additional side note: both the student loans and car loans were Zach’s, so I didn’t start contributing towards the loans until we were officially married. Because of this, Zach was paying on them for 2 years by himself until we were married.
Needless to say, it has been a crazy 4 years.
How’d We Do It?
With a LOT of hard work and dedication! There were SO many things we would say “no” to in order to pay off our loans faster. We only took a handful of inexpensive vacations. The ones we did go on were almost all centered around conferences Zach went to for work (so his plane ticket was paid for). Frequently, we stayed with friends to save on a hotel room.
In addition to all of that, we also didn’t buy too many frivolous things for the house. This was obviously a lot harder for me to commit to. So much of our furniture is still hand-me-downs from people or things we collected in college. It’s hard to be a married woman and not get to decorate your house the way you want!
Now that we’ve completed this crazy journey, Zach and I want to share some tips with you about how to get your loans paid off! Just as a small disclaimer — I am NOT a financial advisor! These tips are simply from personal experience.
7 Tips for Paying off Student Loans:
1. Make a Commitment
Deciding to pay off your loans early is the first step in this crazy process. By making this commitment, you are accepting that you will have MANY frustrating days of not being able to buy whatever you want.
Seriously…I can’t emphasize MANY enough….
This means that new furniture, non-essential clothes, going out to eat, vacations, and decorations for the house are off-limits until you’re done! (I do admit that Zach and I cheated on this a bit. That is one of the reasons it took us so much longer to get the loans paid off.) Some days, it is REALLY hard, but I promise that the financial freedom is worth it! Remind yourself that the faster you pay off your loans, the sooner you can enjoy whatever you want to buy!
2. Set a Budget (and STICK TO IT!)
Put together a monthly budget and stick to it (that’s the tough part)! Plan for the essentials. This usually includes rent/mortgage, electric, water/sewer, food, and transportation. If you have kids, you may need to budget for other essentials like school supplies, clothes/shoes, etc., but you decide what you need and budget for it. Going out to eat is NOT an essential! Having a $30,000 car is NOT an essential!
Anything left over at the end of the month goes straight to loans. Also — make sure you have at least $1000 in your savings account for emergencies.
3. Pay More than just your Minimum Payment
If you only make the minimum payment on your loans, you’ll more than likely be paying them off for at least 10 years. Yes…10 YEARS! That is too long to be making payments on your school loans. Take a minute to calculate how much interest you’ll pay on those loans. It could (and probably will) end up being more than you originally took out!
I promise you: financial freedom is worth the push!! Pay off the loans early. When you have paid them off, invest that monthly payment instead. Instead of paying thousands of dollars in interest, you’ll be making thousands of dollars by investing!
4. Make Weekly Payments Instead of Monthly Payments
Student loans compound interest daily. In the case of our student loans, they apply any payment you make to the compounded interest first, and then the rest goes towards the loan amount. We decided to pay $1000 per month to get our loans paid off faster. By doing weekly payments of $200 instead of one lump sum of $1000, we actually ended up saving money!
5. Pay Off the Smallest Loans First
Most student loans are taken out in chunks as you go through school. These different amounts will probably have different interest rates. In our case, they almost all the same rate, so it didn’t matter which one we paid off first. If you pay off the lowest amount first (despite the interest rate), you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. This is what you’ll need to get through the rest of the loans. I can’t tell you how good it feels to get each loan amount down to $0!
6. Pay Off Your Student Loans Early
I know so many people who bet on a 10 year loan forgiveness program. Even Zach wanted to do it originally. When I sat down with him and we crunched the numbers, it just wasn’t going to happen. We were not going to pay that much interest in the hopes that his loans would be forgiven. Besides, with the amount of student loan debt in this country, who knows what will happen in 10 years. Do yourself a favor and pay the debt early! You don’t want this hanging over your head for a decade!
7. Listen to Dave Ramsey
Everyone who knows us knows we are kind of obsessed with Dave Ramsey. He inspires us so much, and he’ll inspire you, too! Dave has a podcast and daily show on YouTube where he answers questions from people struggling to pay off their debt. He gives amazing advice, and he can walk you through any financial issue you have. I will admit we didn’t follow his plan to a T, but we follow his plan really closely, and it has been an amazing journey.
Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else so that one day, you can live and give like no one else.” That’s where we want to be. Financially free to do whatever we want! Now, we’re one step closer!
So What’s Next?
Since we’ve been paying off student loans, I haven’t been investing in my retirement account. Zach and I made a deal that whenever we paid off the loans, we’d make a greater push towards my retirement to compensate for the delay. We also want to bulk up our savings! After that, I think our goal is to save for a new car and then start pushing to pay off the house. I just love the idea of paying off our house super early!
What a great accomplishment! Congrats, Emily! All of your sacrifices paid off!