Paying off debt

The Best Part of Paying Off Debt

[ As part of my serial life, paying off debt was a life changing part of the journey. Today a  fellow blogger is going to share his experience with this.  Jacob Evans paid down $25,000 in student loan debt in just 15 months. He chronicles his journey to financial independence over at Dollar Diligence. You can learn more @DollarDiligence. ]

Like many college graduates, I started my post-graduation life with the burden of student loans. Entering the workforce $25,000 in debt — particularly as a relatively low-paid teacher — tempered a lot of the excitement that I felt about finally getting out into the real world.  Most of my paycheck would be eaten up by my student loan payments — leaving little behind for what I wanted to do with my life.

I quickly became depressed and overwhelmed by the amount of my student loan debt.  $25,000 seemed to be an insurmountable number to me: how could I go about paying off such a huge amount of money on a teacher’s salary?  I was anxious about my ability to afford basic life expenses, including rent, a car payment and utilities, on top of my monthly student loan payments.  

The reality of my crushing student loan debt brought with it a heavy psychological toll, leaving me in a constant state of stress over my finances.  I often had trouble falling asleep at night, thinking about how I would be able to pay off my student loans.

Being worried about my debt wouldn’t make it go away, however.  I knew that the only way to get out of my student loan debt would be to chip away at it, and to develop a game plan for paying it down.  Taking control over my finances would not allow me to relieve the stress and anxiety of having this debt — it would also help me come up with a strategy for getting out of debt more quickly.

How I Overcame my Debt

With the goal of paying off my student loans as quickly as possible in mind, I sat down to develop a game plan.  I started by gathering all of my student loan documentation so I knew exactly how much debt I had, along with the terms and interest rates for each loan. I then tried to learn about the different repayment plans and options I had for my debt. I refinanced my student loans in order to lower the interest rate, and changed the repayment terms in order to make it easier to repay my loans more quickly.  

I then began to trim my budget, moving in with my aunt and uncle nearby to save on housing and living expenses.  I lived frugally while during this time, sacrificing to make sure that I could put as much money as I could towards my loans.  At the same time, I picked up extra work as a freelance writer and photographer to supplement my salary as a high school math teacher.  By cutting expenses and earning extra income, I could add extra money to my student loan payments each month.  This allowed me to pay off my student loans much more quickly than I otherwise would have, saving me thousands of dollars in interest. I ultimately paid off the full $25,000 in loans in just 15 months.

The Psychological Results of Paying Off My Debt

Paying off my student loans had an immediate financial impact on my life.  Without student loans hanging over my head, I was able to enjoy life more — and was relieved of the omnipresent stress of that high monthly student loan payment.  Now, I know that if I need to buy a new car, decide to purchase a car or simply want to bump up my retirement savings, I can do so — all because I am not tied to that large monthly student loan payment.  

The financial freedom I have as a result of paying of my student loans has been amazing.  It has also eased the stress of having such a large amount of debt.  I no longer lay awake at night, worrying about how I will pay back my loans.  I sleep soundly, knowing that my debts are paid — and that my future is secure.

Final Thoughts

When I took out student loans to pay for my college education, I admittedly did not know as much as I should have known about money and finance.  Paying off my student loans early has been an invaluable learning experience, giving me an introduction into the world of interest, budgeting, loan terms and more.  

Through the process, I have learned a significant amount about the world of personal finance — so much so that I plan to retire by my mid-30’s.  I also have a keen understanding of how debt can affect you psychologically, and know that I never want to be in a situation where I am stressed out about being in debt again.  With that in mind, I am continuing to work full-time, freelance on the side, and make smart financial choices so that I can live debt free and work towards a secure financial future.

Photo Credit:  Horia Berca

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