How This Millennial Plans on Paying Off $30,000 In Student Loan Debt Fast

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Hey $avvy readers! We have a great student loan repayment story to share today from Lauren Hartnett. She is the creator of Common Cents, a financial literacy blog with a common sense approach to money management.  Her content covers everything from student loans to credit scores to planning a DIY wedding; she was recently featured on The Budget Savvy Bride and Loan Free Student and is currently employed as a professional Cost Analyst.  Lauren works to promote debt freedom, appreciates coffee & crosswords, and would love to discuss finances with you over a cold beer! – Enjoy T$C

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My Student Loan Repayment Story

In 2009 I graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree, high hopes for the future, and over $30,000 in student loan debt.

I’d paid my own way through school, working 3 part-time jobs in between my class schedule to keep up with rent, bills, and groceries; I received about half of my tuition in grants, and to cover the rest I took out federal student loans.

Leading up to the marathon that I was about to embark on to pay them back, I was in rough shape; I had no training to speak of, and no road map for where I was going.  What I did have was determination, which was about to be put to the test in the years to come.

 

The Starting Line

After a short stint in grad school where I deferred my loans for an additional semester, my grace period finally came to an end in November of 2010.  I’d taken a long, hard look at my finances and prospects, and decided that I was better off working than digging myself further into debt.

All in all, I had 9 student loans through 2 different services, totaling $30,970.00; at 23 years old, this seemed like an impossible task.

I was new to the job market with little experience to speak of, but I got a full-time job working for a construction firm making $15/hour doing administrative work, and I started tackling those payments one month at a time.

I didn’t know much about my student loans at the time, but I did do some research on payment plans to try to alleviate some of the burdens.  I settled on the graduated repayment plan, which started out low and increased every 2 years under the assumption that I would make more money over time.

This simple change helped me immensely; looking back I was barely scraping by, so having those lower payments up front gave me some breathing room to get my feet under me for the long road ahead.

Take away: know how much debt you have and create a plan to pay it off. 

 

Getting Into A Rhythm

By the time my first payment increase rolled around in 2012, I was at least ready for it; the increased payments still hurt, but with a couple of years of job experience I was making a little more money and could afford the change (barely).  I was making more money but had also moved and changed jobs, putting a strain on my already tight budget.

By 2014, I had a better paying job again, but once my payments increased it felt like I kept getting pulled back to the same place – living paycheck to paycheck and unable to get ahead.

I was making my payments and tracking my balance, but progress was slow; the interest that had accrued was eating up most of my payments, and every step felt sluggish and slow.

I was careful to keep up with the minimum payments but really couldn’t afford to put anything additional towards my loans – it felt like a long, slow march towards eternity, and I was sick of it. I decided to make a change and started treating my loans less like a marathon and more like a sprint.

Take away: find a system that works best for you and stick to it! 

 

Picking Up Speed

In 2015 I finally decided I’d had enough of the status quo and took an honest look at where my money was going.  I decided to cut back on some indulgences, skip a few coffees, and put a meager $50 extra towards my smallest loan.

It hardly made a dent, but there was something so satisfying about seeing that entire $50 come off the principal rather than just going towards interest.  I decided right then that I not only wanted to pay these things off, but I wanted to do it fast.

After another job change and a big jump in pay, I decided to put $100 extra each month towards my loans.  In August of 2015, I paid off my first loan in full – it was tiny, the beginning principal was only $875, but it was a victory!

Now that I could see actual progress, I started putting anything extra towards my loans; I used my tax refund in 2016 to pay off my next smallest loan of $1,000 and continued making additional payments every month.  Now that I could see things moving along faster, it only inspired me more to tackle these student loans with everything I had.

Now that I could see things moving along faster, it only inspired me more to tackle these student loans with everything I had.

Take away: make sacrifices and use the leftover money to make extra student loan payments. 

 

The Halfway Point

At the beginning of 2017 I set a couple of financial goals for myself, the first of which was having my loans halfway paid off by the time I turned 30 in June.  It was a realistic goal but only barely; I was going to have to dig deep to make it happen.

In March, I put my entire tax refund towards my loans, and paid off my third one; in May I received my bonus and used it to pay off another.  By the time June rolled around, I made an extra payment 2 days before my birthday and hit my goal – I was halfway there!

Reaching this point wasn’t easy, and a lot of sacrifices were made along the way; I can’t say that paying off my student loans has been fun, but it has been rewarding.

Looking back at those first few years when I watched most of my payment go towards interest is painful to think about, but seeing where I am now and how much I’ve learned gives me a second wind.

Tackling the second half of these student loans won’t be easy either, but now that I’ve got some miles under my belt I feel far better prepared for the challenge ahead.

Take away: Stay motivated throughout your journey, you got this! 

 

The Finish Line

While I’ve still got a long way to go before I pay off my student loans in full, celebrating the smaller milestones along the way has kept me on track.  I find that with each small victory, I get a new sense of energy and determination to continue forward.  Taking the time to appreciate where you’ve been gives meaning to where you’re going.

I know I’m just one of many out there with student loan debt to tackle, but if I can give any advice it’s this: know what you’re up against.  Having a game plan is key to tackling any obstacle, and the better prepared you are the more likely you are to come out ahead.

So take a deep breath and get over that hill; the view is great from the other side!

Take away: keep your eye on the prize and celebrate the small wins along the way. 


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Hey! We are Kelan & Brittany,

founders of The Savvy Couple. After years of struggling to find real purpose in life, God called us to help others manage their finances, improve their lifestyle, and most importantly, find their freedom.