I paid off $33,000 of student loans in just over 18 months…on a teacher’s salary.
So, here goes…I start my debt free journey
It was the fall of 2014 and I finally remembered my student loan account password after being on “auto-pay” for about 6 years after college graduation. I looked at the website and about fell off my chair. I owed nearly $33,000. You mean to tell me that 6 years after graduating college, with a “real” job that I had only paid down a few thousand dollars of my debt?
Uh, yea. I apparently didn’t take many math or finance classes. They don’t teach you this stuff in high school, or college. It was simple. I owed around $40k at graduation, paid the very minimum every month (around $180-230/monthly) and wound up barely denting the principle after 6 freaking years. After getting over the initial shock, I set off on about an 18 month journey to get rid of my loans. Inspired by the master Dave Ramsey (Uncle Dave as I call him) I went Gazelle Intense. I mean intense for about the next 18 months until I finally got everything paid off in May of 2016. I paid off over $33,000 in just over 18 months…on a Nebraska teacher’s salary.
*real screenshots of my payments from my student loan providers website.
I’m not sure what’s more amazing. How fast I paid off the loans, or how little I paid in 6 years following graduation!
Here’s a brief rundown of how I survived my debt free journey:
First of all: budget.
I never really used a “budget” before, but when I do something-I go all in-I tracked every penny. Immediately after I spent money on anything, I tracked it with an app and became amazed at how much I could save. There are tons of good apps out there, but I used Everydollar and Mint. I used the debt snowball method for the most part-paid off my smallest debt first, and then paid them in order of smallest to largest balance, again-I became a Dave Ramsey fan and disciple-still am for the most part.
I can not believe how much a person can spend on food if they don’t pay attention. I’m not a big dude, average at best, but I eat a lot. When I started tracking from the beginning, I was appalled at how much I spent eating out and on groceries. So I went extreme, I mean extreme. I ate freakin’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches EVERY day of the year (still do-like I said, I go all in!), I ate rice and beans, spaghetti, oatmeal, and deer-a lot of deer (I hunt). Once I got this figured out, I had it down to a science, I was spending around $100/monthly on food. I’ve loosened up a bit on this since I now live with someone-but there’s a simple lesson here-don’t eat your paycheck. I’ll have a whole blog post on cheap eating coming soon!
Other stuff I did on my debt free journey.
I sold stuff on Craigslist (kind of scary). I lived with roommates. I cut cable. I NEVER went out, kind of became a loner for awhile. I said NO to friends a lot-no trips, no dinners out, etc. I cut my gym membership and worked out at home or outside (who knew?). I didn’t buy new clothes-for a long time-still don’t. I took online surveys. And I had a side job along with my summer job-us teachers get “summers off.” I threw every extra penny at my debt.
Also during this time while I was paying off debt-I paid off my car (about $4000)-cash flowed a Master’s degree-$15,000 (*I wouldn’t recommend this during a debt payoff, but I started before I had my epiphany), and bought an engagement ring ($$$ those things aren’t cheap!).
And then it happened, I became debt free.
I looked up in May of 2016 and made my final debt payment. Since May I have saved up an emergency fund-saved a decent chunk of change for my upcoming wedding-and nearly saved enough to purchase a new (used) car. It’s amazing what you can do if you are diligent-if you are purposeful with your finances!
When I became debt free-I thought I would feel different. I really don’t-I want more.
I will have more and I will chronicle my path to financial freedom on my blog.
I will never, ever have debt again (besides a house *maybe, gotta work on the future wifey;)).
I will never buy anything I can’t write a check or pay cash for.
It’s a relief to be debt free, but I’ve only just begun my debt free journey.
Do you have a debt free journey to share? What are your thoughts on debt in general? Is there good and bad debt? Share below!
diligence: noun meaning careful and persistent work or effort.
Latest posts by Kyle Steinkuhler (see all)
- 5 Tips to Stop Eating Your Paycheck; How to Save Money On Food - February 6, 2017
- I Paid Off $33,000 Of Student Loans In 18 Months On A Teacher’s Salary - January 2, 2017