Last week we did the impossible, the holy grail of becoming an adult. As we pushed the “make a payment” button, a flood of emotions overtook us for the first time. Relief, joy, and pure happiness poured out as the amount due hit $0. We had accomplished what seems impossible for many millennials in today’s “rigged system”. We have finished paying off our student loans before the age of 25.
So how did we get to 60k in the first place? Like many middle-class Americans, our only options for financing college was loans. Not understanding the implications at the time, we signed on the dotted line and started our college experience.
Fast forward to May 2015 and graduation. With a newly crisp Political Science degree (Josh) and teaching degree (Julie), we set out to conquer the world to the tune of $60,000 in debt. Just two short years later on May 25th, 2017 we made our final student loan payment. Here’s how we attacked our student loan debt to take back our finances and start living life on our own terms.
Be Willing to Move Where the Jobs Are.
Before the spring of our senior year in college, we both accepted jobs in Arizona. We were both born and raised in Pennsylvania and attended the same college in Pennsylvania, so this was a drastically different experience for the both of us. Yes, it was a little bittersweet to leave all our friends and family in Pennsylvania, but we knew that this was a great opportunity that we couldn't pass up.
Often we tend to stay within the confines of what we know or feel comfortable experiencing. A big mistake many young people make is not being willing to move or relocate for jobs. Newsflash! Large companies do not exist to make it easier for you to find work, you must be willing to sacrifice some comforts to achieve the level of income you desire. If that means leaving behind friends and family, so be it.
Many companies will offer relocation services or help. Ask about these services when interviewing. Do some research beforehand and understand the full costs of moving. Relocation costs are also a lesser-known tax write-off, so you could see most of that money back come tax season.
Side Hustle Like There's No Tomorrow.
Making money outside of the 9-5 grind helped to accelerate our loan payoff schedule and provided multiple steams of steady income. When you are young you have the most free time you will ever have. Think about it, if you are overwhelmed with life or busyness at a young age, try throwing in kids, mortgages, and other responsibilities that come with age. There are hundreds of ways to make money. Often it comes down to pure effort and determination. Think about your business as if it were a giant wheel. Slowly, over time, as you improve, grow professionally and hone skills, the wheel starts to turn. Eventually, the wheel picks up enough momentum, and it begins to spin by itself perpetually driving revenue and progress before it.
Some of my favorite side hustles include paid survey sites, trading cryptocurrency, and social media consulting. All of these revenue-generating activities be completed from the comfort of the couch with a laptop. If you are already spending time online or in front of a screen (TV) why not at least make some money?
Related Post: How I Started and Build My Own Home Business Daily
Use a Financial Planner to Keep Track of Your Spending.
There are plenty of budget tracking tools available online for free. Utilize them to categorize expenses and set goals. Understanding your financial landscape is the first step towards freedom. Set up automatic alerts for when you start to approach your budgets each month so you can stay committed to your goals. One important tool that we used repeatedly was the “Net Worth Over Time” selector through Mint. Seeing this every day motivated us to continue pushing forward to hit our goals.
Are you ready to finally take control of your finances? Let my budgeting spreadsheets help!
Just fill out the form below and I'll send you the link to get the same exact budgeting spreadsheets that I use each month!
Included in the workbook:
- Monthly budget form
- Breakdown of savings form (for your sinking funds)
- Overview of your financial plan
I've been using these same forms since August 2011 and have grown my family's net worth 500% tracking our money using these forms!
If You Are Unhappy About Your Income, Take Action!
Everywhere we look people always seem to be complaining about money. We hear it on the news, from politicians, and our own families. Our society perpetuates a victim mindset to blame others for our unhappiness.
Not making enough money? Then it must be the fault of your boss or big corporations.
Cut through the negativity and start to taking responsibility for your actions and situation. Not happy with your current income? Look for ways to improve your work performance and generate more income. When was the last time you asked for a raise? Are you putting in more than which is required? Are you actively improving your abilities through reading and training on a daily basis?
Right out of college I (Josh) made $34,000 a year. To some people, this might be a lot of money. To me this was unacceptable. I understood that to hit our financial goals staying at this level of compensation was not an option. Only through hard work and diligence could we accomplish our goals we had set forth. Once I had gained enough experience I started actively looking for other job options. Not only were these better paying, they allowed us to enjoy proximity to family, reduced cost of living, and better benefits.
The Power of Dual Income
This one is mostly geared toward married couples who have a dual income. Having a dual income is great, but you have to be smart about it. A pitfall many individuals fall into is as their income increases so do their expenses. Write down all your monthly expenses and add them up, so you know what your minimum monthly payments will be. Then you can figure out what your total income will be each month after subtracting your minimum monthly payments.
Once you have that number, look at how much you’ll have left each month to put towards debt obligations or savings. It is also not only smart but very crucial, to have an emergency fund. Make sure you have enough money in your savings so that if one of you were to lose your job suddenly or an emergency were to happen, you would be able to survive on the other’s salary for at least six months minimum.
If you’re on your own and don’t have a dual income, you can still be smart about your money. Before we were married, we still made sure we each had an emergency fund of at least three month’s worth of our salaries in savings accounts. We were both paying more than the minimum on our loans each month, then putting whatever we had left after groceries and rent straight into our savings accounts.
Write Down Your Goals and REACH THEM
Ours are hanging on our bathroom mirror. It doesn’t matter where you choose to put them, as long as they are in a place where you can look at them every single day. Writing your goals down and posting them somewhere you can see them every day is going to help you stay focused on them and not just forget about them.
You always hear about the “new year, new me” fad that wears off in about a month or so. The gym is packed in January with all the new year resolutions people make. By February, sadly, half those people stop going. If you actually want to hit a goal and are serious about it, DO something about it. As the cliche saying goes, “don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.” If you say you are going to do something, DO IT. Tell your goals to a close friend, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or mentor to keep you accountable. You don’t need to tell your goals to the whole world, but it is nice to have someone who knows what you are working towards that can keep you accountable and ask you what you are currently doing to reach your goal.
Our goal after getting married in June of 2016 was to pay off our student loans by our one year wedding anniversary. We came up with our monthly minimum that we were going to pay off each month to reach our goal of being debt free within one year of being married. We both agreed that we were not going to pay anything less than that minimum number we came up with. Well, on May 25th, 2017 we were able to hit the “make payment” button that one last time and finally be free of the shackles that are student loans. We could not be happier to meet that goal.
Related Post: Giving Up On Your Goal Because Of One Setback?
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- How We Paid Off Over 60K in Student Loans in Just Two Years - October 2, 2017