My private loans had been split, so I had six different ones to pay. And even though I was paying $800 a month in minimums, at the rate I was going, it would take me 112 months (more than nine years!) to pay off my debt—and that didn’t include interest. The loan with the highest interest rate was ridiculous at 9%! (Read more on why private loans can be a bad idea.)
But it was Rob who provided me with the biggest motivation to finally deal with my debt problem.
“If you pay off your student loans in three or four years, I will spend that time saving money. I won’t go out, and I’ll stay home with you,” he said. “Then I will have saved enough money so that we can start building a life together.”
How could I say no to that?
What I Did to Pay Off My Debt
My student loans ranged from $3,000 all the way up to $20,000 for a federal loan. On my spreadsheet, I categorized my debt from highest to lowest interest rates. The $9,000 in credit card debt was at the top, with the federal loans (at a 2% interest rate) at the bottom. My game plan? Tackle the debts in this order.
I started by making a budget for each of my expenses, and then made it a point to look at my bank account and my budgets spreadsheet once a week to categorize all of the money going in and out.
RELATED: Paying Student Loans 101
I also calculated my monthly expenses, and tried to determine what it would take to put $500 to $1000 extra each month–on top of the $800 in minimum payments I was already making–toward putting a further dent in my loans. Since I couldn’t do it based on how much I was earning, I got creative:
- Rent I gave up my Dupont neighborhood studio and found a roommate in a cheaper neighborhood, which halved my rent.
- Cable I canceled my subscription, and streamed shows for free on my computer instead.
- Gym Rather than pay $95 a month for health club membership (D.C. gyms are expensive!), I started using the free facility at work, joined a running club on Meetup and streamed free workout videos online during rainy days.
- Phone Bill I limited my data usage and calls, and switched to a plan that cut my monthly bill by $30. I even told friends not to text me!
- Entertainment Instead of relying on happy hours and dinners out, I found free events on Meetup, like hiking trips and book clubs. Or I’d invite friends over for food, and they’d bring their own beer. I also only ate out if it was beneficial to my career, like networking lunches.
- Travel I went to Peru in the winter of 2010, and this year, I’m planning on Malaysia—both countries where the exchange rate is great. I stayed in hostels, and ate where locals do instead of going to pricier tourist spots. Plus, I put a little aside each month, so the expense is built into my budget and doesn’t take away from my savings. (You can make travel a Priority Savings Goal in your own budget.)